If you counted all the tables you found yourself around over the years how many would it be? If you were lucky to grow up with your parents, your first table was your family kitchen or dining room table. Maybe as you grew older you retreated to your room or preferred to have your dinners out with friends.
With your growth in the world came new tables. There were boardroom tables, sales meeting tables, tables at restaurants and bars to relax with friends and colleagues, your in-law’s table for Easter or Christmas and your very own dining table for your spouse and children to come together at the end of each day.
The level of comfort you felt at each table was always different. In some, you felt engaged, entertained, nourished, energised and was present with ease. In others, you wanted to be elsewhere and were bored out of your skull looking for a way out and maybe even anxious, with sweaty palms, fast heartbeat praying under your breath “please don’t pick on me, I have no idea what is going on. Please do not let anyone discover that I don’t deserve to be here.”
But the worst is being at a table where no one seems to see or hear you. You start to wonder if you even exist.
I’ve been lucky to have experienced all of this, survived and formed some ideas on what makes tables attractive. I’m not talking about just the food, though that’s a part of it. The food and drink at any table is a physical manifestation of the deliciousness of the energy around the table in my view.
It’s fair to say that mum and dad couldn’t be more different. They are both Turkish but come from two totally different family cultures. Mum’s family are like the proverbial grasshopper in the Aesop tale “Ants and the Grasshopper” enjoying the warmth of summer months with no thoughts of the winter to come and dad’s are like the ants with their strict adherence to discipline and structure who have a hard time sitting back and enjoying the moment.
Growing up in our home, the dinners were never particularly delicious despite mum being an exquisitely creative cook who could put together marvellous food if she took the time to plan and prepare. The dinnertime conversations weren’t spectacular despite dad being a talented storyteller.
Majority of the energy at the table was either mum or dad trying to prove themselves right. My brother and I wouldn’t try to offer our views because what did we know? So as the years went we all got further and further away from each other until one day we were spread out on four different cities in three different continents.
It’s an interesting shift that happens when as a teenager you discover that your parents don’t know everything and you distance yourself from their influence to experience life for yourself. Then once you have kids of your own, you feel this need to understand where you came from, why your family isn’t as close as other people’s and how to avoid this fate of growing apart. I know, it’s not useful to compare but I could spot many differences in how my partner’s family comes together every Sunday for dinner and how mum, dad and my brother couldn’t for so many years.
The key difference is this; a matriarch who allows herself to enjoy life. While in my home neither mum nor dad enjoyed life, complaining often how they sacrificed themselves for us, the children with dad slaving away at a government job he hated because he wasn’t appreciated enough for his contributions and mum complaining how little any of us appreciated her efforts.
If mum and dad stopped complaining long enough to appreciate their own life and perhaps made some changes, it would’ve been unfortunate because I wouldn’t be here typing these lines today.
So, I’m committed to following my bliss, this writing thing, wherever it takes me. I know that no matter how much time I spend on it and carve out my space away from my family to do it, it will bring me to this sense of inner peace. From that place arises the inspiration to play with my kids in a way that draws them in, the art projects and cards for special days and food that’s delicious.
In my nine years in Sydney, I held nine jobs that were meant to be full time and permanent roles. One of the jobs was with a company that was “like a family” in the words of the director. I found it to be like a family alright. A dysfunctional one.
In Turkish we have a saying, the truth speaker gets kicked out of nine villages. My tenth village is freelancing, that is working for myself. I can’t for the life of me keep my truths bottled up. If I try, I find that it’s bad for my physical and mental health and those two things are the highest priority for me.
I hope if you hear anyone describe their employees as being “like a family” with shiny, dreaming eyes, know that they’re delusional. How is a group of people who aren’t related, who had no previous knowledge of each other before signing an employment contract under a for-profit structure be a family? It is bullshit. As soon as the business heads south, employees will be fired. Some family…
It’s another matter if it’s a partnership or an employee-owned company. I haven’t experienced being a part of such a group yet but I tried an experiment to set up my ideal work table.
Inspired by the legend of King Arthur, whose roundtable united knights of all ages, from all walks of life including a Saracen (a Muslim), I started my own roundtable back in 2014. The table was for writers and we called ourselves, surprise, surprise, WritePublishGrow and it was a glorious way to fail myself and others.
I became obsessed with my Holy Grail which was getting published and I dragged others on this ego-fueled, time-consuming and frustration building exercise that ultimately killed all that’s good and creative within a person. I now have faith that once the writer has learned how to show up, has built the discipline to write on a regular basis, the publisher will appear.
I’ve taken the pressure off myself and am enjoying all writers’ groups I attend as a humble writer. I know that the only voice I and all other creatives answer to is the sound that emerges from the stillness that points us in the direction of what to explore in our work.
David Bowie said it best:
“Always remember that the reason you initially started working was that there was something inside yourself that you felt if you could manifest it in some way you would understand more about yourself and how you coexist with the rest of society.”
Over to you…
How will you build your own table? Will you host a Zoom get together for the friends you haven’t seen for a while? Can you see yourself creating a WhatsApp group for long lost cousins? Will you invite your flatmates to have dinner with you?
Let me know, eda@WritePublishGrow.com