This post originally appeared on Folk Rebellion.
Our phones are our telephone, cameras, our notepad, our email, our social media crack cocaines, games, our bank, and our shopping malls.
We can post a photograph of our morning coffee as we pay bills online, talk with a friend in France on Viber, tweet Rumi quotes, check weather reports, and publish an article on WordPress all at the same time.
It is not strange for me to have coffee with a co-worker and the number of cellphones, laptops and IPads to out number the humans at the table.
Our cars are not only our vehicles—they are our GPS’s, telephones, and even come with portable televisions for our children if we wish.
It’s incredible—with so much always at our fingertips to do, it means we are a society struggling with being present in just one moment.
A few days ago I was posting something on Facebook as I was eating lunch and my inability to be present caught up to me.
I swallowed some balsamic vinegar the wrong way and started chocking and coughing up a storm.
That brought me back into reality and the present moment real fast.
I often work while I eat, or drink coffee—it is a valuable window of time for me to get shit done.
I began thinking about my presence in not only eating food, but also preparing it.
Too many times I will start a red curry, be mincing vegetables, soaking prawns and get distracted by a notification or an email and end up eating a soppy, over cooked mess of a meal.
My body and my health pays for it in the end—biting me in the ass with my multi-tasking twentieth century disease.
When was the last time you cooked and ate a meal, uninterrupted with no devices nearby?
Do your cellphones take up seats at the table?
Do your kids bring Netflix to the dinner table?
Is the news on while you eat?
What boundaries do you have with you family/self at suppertime—a time that was at one point reserved for family to come together at the end of a long day and connect?
I grew up in a household with four kids who all did about eight sports. Family dinners were so rare, I feel my mother took the camera out every time they happened to prove we were a slightly functional family.
It’s hard to create a space in the day with multiple people to sit down for 30-45 minutes and eat. But it’s also an important opportunity to show up and have some quality time, to make tangible connection with the ones we love and care about.
Quality time means present time.
Eating dinner with the television on is not quality time. Eating breakfast while skimming Instagram and replying to emails is not quality time. Quality time means one on one— completely focused and present on one another.
To avoid phoning out the entire time I eat dinner/have drinks with my friends, we often will make a cellphone pile in the middle of the table (or leave them in a big Mason jar or bowl by the front door when we come in).
Whoever reaches for the phone first has to pay for the bill.
Perhaps this could be applied some day to my family. Whoever reaches for the phone first gets a wedgie/has to do all the dishes and give everyone foot massages.
Okay, let’s get serious--how do we resurrect family dinners?
It’s easy to like the idea of family dinners, just like we like the idea of New Year's resolutions and stick to them for a week or two and before we fall off track.
Agreements are incredibly important—if you wish to reintroduce family dinners, sit down and make an agreement with how many times a week is feasible and realistic with everyone’s schedule.
Understand in keeping that agreement and showing up to your chair at 6:00 pm, not 6:10 pm, that you are communicating to your family and children that you value them and their time as well as your own word.
Mark it on the calendar with a time, and how many days a week and then hold one another accountable.
We owe it to our bellies and those we love to show up and be present in the act of eating.
Janne Robinson is a poet, Elephant Journal columnist, bushwalker and activist. She cuts kindling with her teeth, eats Bukowski and coffee for breakfast and makes the habit of saying the word feminist as much as possible.
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