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.