I’ve said it before: we buy and consume to fill up our own scarcity. That latte will make me feel better. That new pair of shoes will make me feel young again, or attractive, or at least put together. That new book holds out all the promises of transformation that I yearn for. Stuff, stuff, and more and more stuff. And it all piles up and collects dust and breeds more dissatisfaction. And we’re overwhelmed and tired from the cycle, and oh so very alone.
I think our North American culture really values invisible women, women that don’t take up too much space, physically or in the public sphere. Women who don’t have an ounce of extra fat on them, women whose jawlines have become taut again through surgery, women who say the right things and do the right crafts and don’t mess up. It’s becoming an epidemic — this stepfordization of women — where we feel we only make a difference if we can fit into a plastic mold.
What if we could break free from this cycle of wanting and envying and feeling like we just don’t measure up? Where we snatch sly glances at the mirror to see if our bodies look alright, or where we blame others for our emotional messes. What if we could break free?
And here’s where life around the table enters in. It comes rushing in with “yeah, me, too”, with mess and softness and the mercy of daily gifts of food and sustenance. It’s the antidote to consumption and the tyranny of self-evaluation that we have as our daily handmaidens.
You guys, I want to start a movement. Or join a movement. I don’t mean to get all Les Mis on you and start chanting at the barricade, “Will you join in our crusade, who will be strong and stand with me?”…but I kinda do, too. Point is, I want so much more for us. Here’s my vision and it’s simple: I see homes filled with tables around which people come and join together to eat real food regularly. At these tables (where perhaps the homework piles have just been cleared off), people gather. They invite their families and friends and neighbors and even, the stranger, to partake with them. They put down their phones. The meal doesn’t need to be Instagrammed or the pithy quote Tweeted; instead, they begin to focus on each other. And stories are finally told.
Can you imagine that? Being invited in to a meal that not only fed your body but your soul also? And this isn’t just some fancy Martha Stewart-esque night of entertaining where you get out your precious plates and dress up — no, this is a daily, weekly or monthly thing. With the freedom to wear your yoga pants, even if you’ve never done yoga a day in your life. With the space to breathe, to try out new recipes and fail and end up ordering pizza. To laugh and ask questions and finally be present — really present — with one another. To stop talking about your To Do list and start living now.
We’ll just do life together, around the table.
The table becomes the vehicle for real community. Shauna Niequist has a great talk on hospitality where she gives her audience a simple formula for inviting people into your home: 15 minutes, baby wipes and bacon (or onions if you’re vegetarian). (Check it out here; she’s the second one). What is remarkable about Shauna’s talk is that it’s really pretty easy — just inviting people in. I get it, inviting people in — and we’re talking more than just inviting people over — is scary. Because inviting people really into your mess opens us up to truth and vulnerability and then who-knows-what. And we fear that when we invite people in that we’ll be judged. So we set up our homes like fortresses instead of havens of safety.
So here’s my radically simple idea:
1. Invite someone over to your home. Give yourself a goal (a once-a-week coffee date with another mom; a family in your house once a month, etc.). Make a plan to do it; pencil it in on your calendar.
2. Have them help out. Cook together or clean up together. But start to abolish the hierarchy that comes from a dinner guest feeling like they’re there to either impress or feel insecure.
3. Let them in. Practice vulnerability; make not only your home but yourself a safe place. Ask questions. Start with something simple: maybe it’s about how challenging your work is because it brings up your own desire to compete with others in unhealthy ways; maybe it’s how excited you are to have them in your home but that it’s also a bit scary; maybe it’s how you’re looking forward to an event because you’ve just been tired, or depressed or anxious. The point is to practice vulnerability, because it never happens on its own.
4. Repeat. As we practice being present regularly and as we eat together — as we use time with others intentionally — we’ll see growth and change. It’s not a magic pill, it’s often a slow walk towards community and being known.
Invite. Help. Vulnerability. That’s it.
Will you join with me in doing hard things? Simple things, but still hard things. Please share with others and comment below if you’d like to be a part of making other people seen around the table. Because I think that there’s something good and right and freeing about eating together; and it’s only in breaking bread together that walls fall down.
You guys, this world is only gonna change if we do small things consistently with great heart. So come back and share, too, once you’ve done it. I’ll join you. Let’s do this! And please spread the word by sharing, pinning or telling your friends about this.
This month I’m writing on life Around the Table. I hope you’ll join me, cook with me, and invite others in to your real and virtual spaces. Please take time to comment below and share this post if it resonated with you.
*And if you haven’t read them all yet, please read Shauna Niequist, Glennon Doyle Melton and Brene Brown; they have been writers who have shaped much of my thinking on vulnerability and living life around the table.