Silent Breakfast

pleasure abounding:
up with the sun, kids asleep.
surreal silence
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I went on a short weekend retreat recently. It took place at Kripalu, a yoga center in Massachusetts – you’ve doubtless seen the beautiful pictures of it in the back of women’s magazines. I wasn’t there for yoga reasons — I’ll talk more about what I did in future posts. But since we were at a yoga place, we had to abide by one of their practices – silent breakfast.

I can honestly say that I have never, ever experienced silent breakfast before. Maybe, once… when I was single?? No, I’m sure the TV was on. And there was that one time in 2010 when both kids took too big a bite and spent 30 seconds chewing. Otherwise, nope, never. Regardless, I think we all can imagine a silent breakfast alone, but it is quite another thing to experience it with 400 of your closest friends in a spacious, airy cafeteria. Let me share…

I actually found it pleasant at times. Being fully present. Being one with the food. Ahh, the food. Did I mention it was yoga center? Think vegetarian meets hippie meets macrobiotic meets green – that about covers the food selection, morning, noon and night. It was tasty for the most part (I will never like kale, I should just stop trying), but not exactly recognizable for this mother-of-two-who-thinks-pancakes-for-dinner-is-a-solid-choice sometimes.

Anyway, back to the nothingness. The first morning I experienced it I frankly spent most of the time trying to figure out what to do with my eyes. Do I just stare at my food? Do I look around? Am I allowed to smile at someone if I catch their eye? Is it creepy to watch the person across from me eat? I ended up looking about a foot above everyone’s head and maintaining a banal smile in an attempt to fake contemplating-ness. I did ok.

The second morning was brutal.  I was totally annoyed by the people around me who, for some reason, seemed incapable of abiding by the rules. There was the guy in the serving line who looked like he should have been a puppeteer — felt shoes, wild, gray hair, a bouncing step. He could not quit talking to himself about the food. The worker stocking the line with more tofu and edamame ‘shushed’ him vigorously, but Muppet man continued. I kept my distance from him because he started to act more like a homeless guy who wandered in and less like a friendly creative type.

Next were two women, clearly friends, who sat at same table as me. They just faked it. They whispered. A lot.  It wasn’t like they just did it a few times – they did it the whole time.   I was looking around for Shush-man but he was nowhere to be found. I realized what a total rule follower I am — who do they think they are by talking?! How dare they. I was going to say something to them (or at least mime something so as to not stoop to their level) but I then noticed zen lady.

Zen lady sat on my other side. Her lack of talking seemed to create a black hole. She made no noise. No clink of silverware or tink of cup. She was a ninja. She also was part bird (clearly a yoga type) so perhaps that made her lighter than air. I suddenly became aware that although I spoke no words, I was breathing like a linebacker. When I raised  fork to mouth, I heard the sound of my forearm peel from the table. (No, I wasn’t sticky — this was just a normal flesh-meets-wood-and-separates-again sound. Try it. It’s a little loud, right??) I felt like my swallowing was disturbing her. Was that the sound of me blinking? Good god! I inhaled the last of my quinoa cream and organic nuts and beat feet as fast I could lest I stand on the table and shout “Okay, who farted?”

Prior to this, I would have told you that on a normal weekday morning, when the kids are whining about eating cereal (again…) and my husband has made himself hoarse repeating “put your shoes on” 100 times, a silent breakfast would be a welcome alternative. But trust me, I’ve seen the other side and I’m not sure I can take it.

Shift Eating

The sound of the whine
Drills into my brain, turns left,
Rappels down my spine.

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I like to make a nice meal for Sunday dinner. It was something my mom always did (still does), and as often as I have the energy and inclination, I try to do the same. Today I had a special treat in mind – leg of lamb. The kids will eat lamb, so we make it every so often. Tonight it was paired with home made mashed potatoes, pan gravy and some vegetables. I was having fun being domestic.

And then my little boy, AB, aged 5, started. “Mom, I’m hungrrrrryyyyyy,” went the whine. I offered several snack options but none seem to meet his desires (shocking). For 45 minutes he kept on me but I stayed firm: “You can have more fruit, but that’s it… no, that includes no hot dogs, I’m making a nice dinner.”

And at 6:45 I pulled the lamb from the simmering oven where it was setting up, cut its little string bag open and discovered it was half raw. Now, I like rare lamb, but there is a distinct difference between rare and raw; this was still very much on the raw side of that line.

So a decision was made: we’ll eat the potatoes and veg now, give everyone a bath, and then come back for meat and dessert. (Meat and dessert, now there’s a restaurant idea…)

And the whining continued. “I don’t want any meat… I just want dessert”… “Do I have to take a bath?”…  “But I’m fuuullllllll!”  Even my 9 year old girl joined the whine fest.

And it hit me: Now I know why people feed their kids at 6pm, put them to bed and then have a civilized meal without children. I’ve always known about such practices, but just had never fully appreciated the benefits of such tactics. (As usual, I judged them just a wee bit as inferior parents who don’t really like their children.) Now I felt a reluctant kinship with these people. Here I was in the middle of an awkward meal mishap. Why in god’s name didn’t I shove chicken nuggets down their gullets at 6pm and save myself the pain and frustration of a two shift meal with reluctant diners.

We’ll see what happens… Frank has the kids upstairs bathing them. I’m tending the roast and making cookies, armed now with my meat thermometer and a few bites of raw cookie dough, hoping that once the roast sets up the temp will rise. They better damn well eat at least a bite of the blasted lamb.

Post script: Lamb was perfect and yummy. Kids enjoyed it. They are now in bed… ahhh, the silence.

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