It’s no secret that my life looks a lot different today than it did two, three, five years ago, but – as is almost always the case – it’s the small things that have the most profound impact on me. Often, while lying in bed at night or running during my cardio work out, I think of the many hours I spent alone over the years. I especially think of the meals I ate solo, standing over the sink or perched in my living room, with no conversation or company.
I’ve always believed (and often perpetuated) the notion that being alone is not the same as being lonely: it is very possible to feel incredibly lonely when you’re surrounded by people, and vice versa. I often found eating my meals alone to be the loneliest part of my days.
When I accepted my first office job, I ate in the designated lunch room every day with my colleagues – not to get away from my desk and to give myself a break from my work, but to connect with people in a more intimate way. Occasionally, the need to eat at my desk would arise, but the opportunity to share personal stories and sometimes our food together at the staffroom table was so special to me.
As F grew older and went through a picky eating stage, I often fed us separately: he’d get his meal and I’d have mine afterwards. We sometimes sat at our table, or later our coffee table (when we sold our dining room set), but more regularly than not, he ate in one spot at one time while I ate in another at a different time.
Eating alone was the norm. And I hated it.
Today, ironically, eating alone is something I only do when I’m out and need some quiet time. Our dining room table is bursting at the proverbial seams as we share the details of our day each night. I don’t make two dinners to be eaten alone. Instead, two of us share the load of meal prep, and three of us sit down together. It’s not fancy or perfect, but it’s mine and I love it.
Food is central to so many of life’s events and our social gatherings. We look to food for more than physical nourishment: it nourishes our souls, comforting us as much as it sustains us. It’s one of the most basic things, and yet it can bring so much more than nutrients. It’s in the baking of a cake for a celebration or the offering of a meal to someone in grieving that we show up for one another, support each other, and show people we care.
I suppose that’s why I love the President’s Choice #EatTogether campaign. It hits home for me each and every time I see it. It’s why I reach out to new people in my organization to invite them for lunch; why I often bring lunch for both of us.
It’s a simple thing, really, and I implore you to do the same. Ask a colleague to eat lunch with you. Get up from your desk. Ask a stranger if you can join them in the food court. Host or organize a potluck. You will not regret the connection.