She flitted, dark eyes flashing, barks of high pitched laughter. She delivered a distracted tour of the newly renovated home, but not having known it before, I had no point of reference. Loads of nervous energy abounded. Lunch was served by the chef, her husband, she raced in afterwards and did a quick shuffle to get the correct number of plates on the table, serving spoons she had forgotten, salad dressing, then salt, and by the time she did join us with the gravy she had hastily made, some had nearly finished lunch while others were waiting politely with cold mounds of food. Total non engagement. Conversations around the table started and died. Some reminiscing on a shared past long gone.
Once seated she chitter chatted while she pecked at a small serving but it was when our eyes met that I saw the desperation of the proverbial deer caught in the headlights, it struck me instantaneously that this woman would rather have been anywhere else, but at that table, in that home, in that moment, with any of us. This was an exponentially difficult day for her. She was involved as the hostess but trapped in her life.
I happened to be at her table having been recently introduced to this old friendship of small town friends who have all over the years ended up in Cape Town and surrounds. It was a long Sunday and although I wasn’t well known to the hosts I did have some expectations. As hosts and hostesses we take pride in opening our homes and lives to people we care about. As a newcomer to this group I am more inclined to listen. On arrival she got my name wrong. The name of an ex girlfriend and it wasn’t speedily corrected, it was in fact tactlessly queried first, “Really, are you sure?” I did manage to convince her that my name was actually “Shan”. The husband did his best. He was totally committed to his luncheon. He dashed around first pouring drinks, and attempted other introductions around his tasks . He churned out pizzas from the pizza oven for children and cooked slithers for us while at the same time browning two fat chickens with crispy, perfectly cooked roast potatoes.
You notice things when you are a spectator, a listener, his drink was constantly refilled, his eye movements quick, the lack of intimacy between them palpable. I do not know the complexity of their joint story, nor do I need too, I did feel an instant empathy and it was when I chanced upon this saying about “going to the woods to live deliberately” that it reminded me of the fragility of our lives, how we need to nurture ourselves, live with gratitude, be impeccable with our word and how very essential it is to be present. Present with ourselves and present with the people we choose to be with. If that choice is no longer sustainable, well perhaps it’s time “to go to the woods.”
Precious and I used to entertain lavishly and often, we were good at it, we were both involved and committed to our guests. It elevated us as people and was truly the one thing we did well even at our most vulnerable times. Our guests became our focus and we moved well around each other, ensuring everyone else had a great time. In hindsight we should have been taking more care of our own lives, but I presume it became an escape to having to be alone together. I discovered I was not really living until I chose to live deliberately.
When you next eat an egg and bacon breakfast, think this thought; the chicken has been involved, the pig however is totally committed.