My roommate often stops my speech at the dinner table and helps me figure out where my brain is going. She quizzes me at every opportunity, about topics ranging from politics to the string theory to serial killers. She particularly likes to know I like to watch The Wire; obviously that’s news to her.
The brain-checking doesn’t always work, though. I don’t know quite why this happens, but it has made me start to realize that when I sit down to a meal, the way I eat affects my mood and my ability to talk.
If my idea of a fine meal is pick-and-choose instead of a full meal, what does that mean for how I feel? I can feel much happier when I go out to a restaurant and have a full plate of food instead of a choice of spaghetti, broiled fish, one piece of steak or one slice of pumpkin pie, to name a few. If I’m stuck watching one channel at a time, what does that mean for how I manage my emotions and deal with my stress? It doesn’t bother me that I’m watching game shows; I like and enjoy it.
But when I’m watching a movie or getting bored from a different show, that may not be the best option. When I go for a walk, what does my tired body do to my mind? We can talk on long walks but sometimes it helps to kick and relieve tension. If I don’t have much time for a walk, does my mind think about mindless things like people, places and/or friends? If I’m bored in a movie theater, is my mind dazed, daydreaming, or disoriented? To what extent does not watching TV or a movie affect my relationships and happiness?
To what extent does interacting with people while eating affect my mood? It depends. I can feel happy and relaxed when surrounded by people. But how much longer will it last if my roommate and I start hanging out at the same time, even just for an hour or two?
Of course, if we do stay home for dinner, this might just be another dinner conversation, with everyone having a slightly different opinion on everything. Sometimes this ends up sparking fruitful conversation about topics and ideas that might never have happened before.
My roommate and I are best friends with the benefit of a mutual language and getting along pretty well. And with our shared interests in everything from poetry to ice cream, we usually have fun together.
But we’re so busy all the time, we often don’t have enough time to do other things that might benefit us, like go out to dinner.
We think about all these questions as we eat lunch at the dinner table, or at the table for dinner. We do a good job of talking through the problems or even problems that arise during that meal. We tend to figure things out because of what we learn about one another, not because we just want to get to the conclusion we’ve decided to come to.
We get a lot of that from our mentors, family and even friends who are also able to share their experience with our roomie.