If ever there was a time to return to the table, it’s now. As I type, it’s been an hour since California was ordered to shelter in place. Here I am “sheltering” reflecting on all of the input coming in yet finding myself at ease during these unprecedented times. You see, about a year ago, The New Primal (a food company offering a line of clean cooking marinades, sauces and meat snacks) launched a campaign to promote a return to the table. A calling of sorts to get people gathered around their dinner table. A return to a distant time in which families and friends met often to share a meal together, subsequently creating a sacred space of connection. Because of this, I decided I needed to make the effort to gather up my family at least two nights per week free from screens, talk of schedules and whatever other bad habits we had gotten into. It’s been about a year and my family has definitely made progress.
My family eats, don’t get me wrong, but not exactly around the dinner table. Until 24 hours ago the table, served as my office, the homework table and the dinner table. Returning to the table, of course, does mean an actual table, but it also symbolizes reconnecting or for some, connecting for the first time to what matters. Neighbors, community, our loved ones, even ourselves. Twenty-four hours ago, myself, husband, 2, 5 and 7 year old moved into our forever home. Last night our kitchen table was the living room floor with takeout. Today I find my continuous pleas of “If only I had more time,” coming to fruition in a very intense and abrupt way. In a matter of hours, I find myself going from working 60 hours a week, down to about 20, with 3 little human’s schedules of dance, sports, church, school activities, errands, obligations and school on pause.
This doesn’t scare me. I do worry of course about what all of you most likely are worrying about; the economy, our elderly, our president and his team of doctors, advisors, school and state officials doing their very best to keep a global crisis as short-lived as possible. My heart is heavy for all of those scheduled for an upcoming milestone moment such as graduation or a wedding, but I also believe that how we show up for these times is how we honor ourselves and our families. When we show up for our families, it positively impacts our community. When our community is strong, it has a positive impact on our cities. When our cities thrive, America thrives and when America thrives we remain in a position to deal with whatever crisis we are faced with which extends to our allies as well. So when you feel hopeless, uncertain, confused or scared; remember, you are stronger and have more influence than you know.
If you find yourself asking what you can do, know there’s a lot. Start with limiting the news. By design, news is very repetitious. Reporters use intense language, shout and look for controversy. There is a rhythm of questioning that creates fear and uncertainty. That is the goal. Our body isn’t able to distinguish what is real from what isn’t. When you expose yourself to constant panic and “what ifs,” your body remains in a heightened state of fight or flight. This causes your body to essentially go into protection mode. Your digestion slows down, your heart rate increases, your ability to reason and think clearly is negatively impacted and you are more likely to react emotionally than logically. This also contributes to a chronic state of inflammation which directly impacts your mental health as well as your physical health. The news will be an on going cycle of what went wrong, what’s going to go wrong, what might happen, who’s to blame and 1,000 questions later- none of this really changes your current situation. What it leaves you with is hours upon hours of time exposing yourself to information that doesn’t serve you. Other than checking in on occasion for critical information you may need to be aware of, do your best to limit the news.
When I begin to feel anxious my mantra, which you are welcome to borrow, is this:
Where am I now? I’m here, I’m free, I’m safe, I’m breathing and I’m present. I can’t change the past, I can’t control the future. When I remain present I add value to my life. With every day I add value to my life I have a positive impact on someone else. By honoring myself I honor those around me. This is powerful! More powerful than you know. The same way negative information can trigger a mind-body reaction, positive information and thoughts can trigger a positive and peaceful mind-body reaction. Choose the information you take in and put out wisely.
Another way I honor myself is through food, which brings me back to the dinner table. Food scarcity is familiar to many Americans and even more so to those globally. However, many of us don’t know what if feels like to be faced with uncertainty about where our next meal will come from. The fear of not having enough can trigger panic. Please keep in mind that there is enough to go around. Every meal does not have to resemble Thanksgiving. Take this opportunity to appreciate the ease and access in which you typically can get your meal of choice at any given moment. A time to reflect on when you didn’t think about tossing the extra napkins stuffed in your takeout bag, or using a glorious amount of toilet paper without a second thought. There is beauty in contrast. Don’t focus on what you don’t have right now; reflect on what you did and know you will again be blessed with plenty, but hopefully with a deeper appreciation and more conscious consuming.
You don’t want to wake up three weeks or three months from now realizing you wasted your most precious gift; the gift of time. When we return to our typical days do you want to be fulfilled, rested, achieved and ready to take on what the day brings armed with your full self or do you want to wake up depleted, sick (both physically and emotionally) from worry, being of no use to yourself or someone else? If things go as predicted, it may be a tough road back. How do you want to show up for that? For those in our communities that will be giving all of themselves, working over-time, being away from their families, going on little to no sleep, they are going to need the rest of us to show up in full force for them.
So take a moment and think about all of the things you would do “If only I had more time.” If safe and accessible to you- Do them!
Gather around your table in whatever form that takes. Look at your kids, talk with your partner or spouse, send a letter to a loved one, read an amazing book, write an amazing book, move your body, take the time to try out or practice mindful eating, anything that is going to build you up. This is how you can help. This is how you can do something about this pandemic.
Please take the time to honor and acknowledge this opportunity for clarity and reflection as you go into these next few weeks. I hope your table is everything you desire it to be.