Thoughts: Feeling Left Out

I just got an invitation to a (rare anymore) catered work lunch and ended up working through some thoughts and emotions before I could decide how to reply.

I realized that I didn’t feel the way I expected to feel and, given that I’m quite prone to moments of strange introspection and self-analysis, I got some tea and sat down to see if I could dissect just what I felt and why.

I used to really enjoy these sporadic lunches with my teammates. Once upon a time my old team and I went to lunch as a group on pretty much a daily basis. We talked while we ate our lunches, laughed and joked and had a good time. It was nice to have time to talk about something other than work with the people I spent such a great deal of my time with. We’d occasionally have more formal lunches where work would cater in a lunch for long meetings or sometimes just as a treat. The food was never predictable and you never got a choice, just whatever the admin decided to order, but it was free and fun and pretty carefree.

When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, this all changed for me. No longer could I just get any old thing for lunch and be content to eat it without thought while I chatted and laughed. A lot more work was involved in just finding something I could eat at all safely and a lot of times I would bring food from home to be safer. But I felt suddenly left out and strange. I don’t think my co-workers ever did anything but be supportive of my dietary issues but I felt like it was a drag on everyone. I couldn’t eat whatever the dish of the day was anymore. I had to take time to give the 3rd degree to the staff on how something was made if I wanted to eat from the cafeteria. Otherwise I had to haul my own lunch over.

I didn’t go hungry but I felt left out. Left out of the flavors and ability to pick and choose from an array at any time or change my mind at the last minute. I felt left out of the social aspects because so much attention had to go to my meal that I couldn’t just relax and laugh. Some part of me now had to always be on guard at all times. In group meetings with catering, I had to keep an eagle eye on the food to watch for cross-contamination or anything that could introduce gluten.

Even though my co-workers try hard to include me, I do feel excluded. But how much of this is me excluding myself?

A lot, I fear.

I decided I needed to change my expectations of what these events should be to me. If I wanted to socialize, I needed to either see if my admin could order a gluten-free meal for me that I would not have to worry about or bring my own food and suck it up.

My tea cup empty, I returned to my email and accepted the invitation with a note to the admin asking for a gluten-free meal. I made a note to check back with her the day prior to see if that was possible or not so I’d know whether to pack a lunch for it.

I need to let my food be FOOD, something that nourishes my body, and not a social lubricant or sticky spot. Maybe I can turn my desire for more options into more time to bake and experiment at home. Maybe that way my food can also feed my creative soul a bit.

Comments are closed.