I won't lie: we're feeling downright heroic about the fact that we hosted our seventh Sunday supper in a row last night. We had pork chops, roasted butternut squash with sage, a big fall salad, mashed potatoes, and the applesauce made a return. There was Ichabod and red wine and cider, and there was great conversation -- first date stories, babies-being-born stories, and a round of "Where would you want to live if you didn't live here?" -- all the staples of a memorable fall dinner with nine people squished around our table. There was pumpkin cake for dessert.
As our friends were getting ready to leave, one of them asked, "So, how's this all going?" She waved her hand around to indicate that by "this," she meant all the hosting, all the Sunday supper-ing, the cleaning and the clean-up and counter full of dishes it entailed. "Not that you're going to say it's not going well while we're right here, in your house," she laughed.
I paused for a second, wanting to be honest and kind. "It's good," I said simply. "We're never sorry we did it after we close the door." And that's true. As Jason and I finished the dishes last night, he said how glad he was that we were doing this, how it was hard and worth it at the same time.
Since we started this little project, I've had so many people reach out and say they do this, or they wish they did this, or they used to do this growing up. One friend remembers 60 Minutes at her aunt's house each Sunday night; a neighbor told me about the particular way his grandfather expected the table to be set; another friend calls from states away to tell me about the first time she let a neighbor into her messy house. One person told me she was inspired to host her parents after a football game and try cooking something new. There are lots of you, I think, who feel the tug to work more of this "connection around the table" stuff into your life, which is great. I love it. I want to hear about it when you do.
But there are surely some of you who would rather impale yourself on a brush (that's a gratuitous Marcel the Shell reference, by the way) before undertaking this kind of weekly cooking and hosting, and I get that too. Maybe cooking is not your thing. Maybe hosting is not your thing. Totally understandable. But listen: I think, no matter what we do, we need to give ourselves permission to stop, be lazy, and do something to nourish our souls at least once a week. Maybe that's Friday Night Meatballs, maybe it's your long Saturday morning run, maybe it's your standing Thursday night wine with the neighbor girls, maybe it's your yoga class, maybe it's a few hours on a Sunday morning to paint or dance or hike or play the guitar or read. Maybe it's church, and maybe it's not.
I have a friend on Twitter who I've only met once. She and I found ourselves (with our families) at the same small resort on the far side of Jamaica one winter, and over the course of a week in the sunshine we talked books and motherhood, among other things. Now we're both raising our girls states away from each other, connected only by the Twitterverse, where we mostly still talk books and motherhood. We had this exchange a few days ago after she posted about an award-winning book she was having trouble slogging through:
If you're a rule-follower in life, you probably know this feeling. Even if you don't read much, surely you have a sense that there is work you "should" be doing, a commitment you "should" be fulfilling, a project or to-do list you "should" be tackling. If you've ever read a book to the end even though you've disliked it all along, you're my people.
Here's one thing I've learned after seven consecutive Sundays of supper: the prep work for hosting Sunday supper will expand to use up exactly the amount of available time before our guest arrive. Hasn't this always been true? If you have one hour, you get the food going and the table set, which is all that really matters. If you have two hours, you might at least clean the bathrooms and light some candles. And if you have three hours, you suddenly find yourself dusting, cleaning out the kitchen junk drawer, sweeping the front steps, watering window boxes, crafting napkin rings from pine cones, and creating a playlist.
Life is like this too. Unless you have a strict 40-hour work week and absolutely no electronic tether to after-hours issues, the work, whatever it may be (parenting, photography, teaching, managing, building, lawyering) will expand to use up exactly the amount of life you allow it to. Because the work can never really be done. There's always one more thing to research, one more email to send, one more list to make.
So this is me, giving you permission to stop, both in person and on Twitter. I don't care if it's to gather around the table to eat food with people you love, to take a nap, or to set out on your road bike with thirty miles ahead of you. Whatever it is, and I'm paraphrasing Mary Oliver here, let yourself do what you love -- not because it's productive, not because you're checking it off your to-do list, but simply because you've done enough for now. Hard? Yes. But also worth it. (Our cat, Pickle, agrees.)
Tao Te Ching:
If a country is governed wisely . . .
People enjoy their food,
Take pleasure in being with their families,
Spend weekends in their gardens,
Delight in the doings of the neighborhood.