Scene – Thursday night:
A’s first day back to work after a week off. Unbeknownst to me he is mad stressed out, realizing that the work he thought he had a few weeks of grace to finish is due, like, yesterday. Coincidentally, this is the night I decide to implement my long-awaited plan to live intentionally by increasing our intimacy and enjoyment of the time we spend together over dinner. My plan was three-fold:
1. Taking the suggestion of a featured chef in Runner’s World to take time to savor a glass of wine with a light snack – in this case spiced nuts – before dinner.
2. Heat dinner – in this case yummy leftover carrot ginger miso soup with pain de levain and butter – while we enjoy wine and snacks.
3. End with a tasting of good cheese – in this case a 5-year aged gouda from whole foods ($3.62 for 5 oz.) with rosemary flatbread crackers – as a dessert alternative to finish the meal on a decadent and satisfactory note.
I felt this plan was very French; spread the enjoyment of a meal over a longer period of time, eat less because you’re less ravenous, and reap the benefits of an evening filled with good food and conversation instead of spending another night rushing through dinner before watching the newest episode of Biggest Loser.
Act 1 – my car, between school campuses. I dial A on my cell. Split screen to show conversation.
Me: “Hi sweetie! How’s your day?”
A: “Fine. Busy.”
Me: “Oh, sorry. I won’t keep you then. I just wanted to let you know I had an idea. Tonight we are going to do an experiment to increase our intimacy and enjoyment of dinner!”
A: “I’m here. That sounds…nice…”
Me: (Not sensing the tone) “Great! It’s going to be really good, honey, trust me.”
A: “Ok…I’m going to try and work out when I get home, so I’ll be later for dinner.”
Me: “That’s fine! We’ll make it work. I love you.”
A: “Loveyoubye.” (click)
Now, for the uninitiated, A gets pretty hungry after a workout. I briefly thought about putting off my experiment since A tends to come in from workouts hungry as a bear and lingering over a glass of wine and a bowl of nuts just might not cut it. However, I decided to trust in A’s love of snacking to get him through and get on with the plan.
Scene – Our living room.
A comes in sweaty after a workout. He asks me if he can shower before we sit down to eat (yes, please!) and heads off to get clean. I insist he eats a banana before he showers to ward of the hungry bear effect, which he does. While he’s scrubbing up I set out a small bowl of spiced nuts, two glasses of a yummy pinot grigio, and put the Feist station on Pandora. (I told you I was obsessed. It’s the perfect soundtrack: mellow, yet interesting with a touch of whimsy music for an intimate evening in.) A gets out of the shower and dutifully asks if he can put a load in the laundry before sitting down.
Fast forward 30 minutes:
A and are sitting in the Talking Chairs, feet up, wine in hand. Our glasses are mostly empty, and the nuts have done their job. A’s shoulders aren’t hunched with tension as they were when he came through the door. We talk about our day and share anecdotes and thoughts we’d had that would interest the other. Just before I get up to take the bread out of the oven, A heaves a deep sigh and says “you know wife, I was sceptical about this ‘intentional night’ of yours, but this is really nice. I was stressed out today, but now I feel a lot better.”
We start dinner, nothing special since it’s leftovers, and a funny thing happens. Since we’d already talked about our days, we get to talk about other things. Goals, dreams, plans for keeping our spiritual intimacy while A’s going the rigors of tax season. Thanks to the pre-dinner wine and snack we’re not ravenously chowing down our food as we usually would – we’re tasting, savoring, and enjoying both our time together and the conversation that’s flowing like honeyed wine between us. Adele, The Postal Service, and, of course, Feist is playing in the background, adding to our mellowness.
I clear the plates, put away the leftovers (both usually A’s job since I ‘cooked’, but I was feeling very mellow and loving towards A.) and set out the gouda and crackers. We both have three small satisfying bites (even though there is much more cheese to be had) and declare ourselves sated. A gives me a more in-depth view of how stressed out he’s been all day. He tells me that the workout helped, but coming home to this purposefully relaxed evening really undid his tension.
Usually we rush through dinner, or even eat it in front of the tv, then watch different shows to unwind before ultimately getting tired enough to go to bed. That night A suggested that after dinner we just read together on the couch for awhile. He didn’t say it, but I knew what he meant: he didn’t want to break the tranquility of our evening with canned laugh tracks and a contrived plotline. So we curled up on the couch with our two lazy dogs and read. After awhile A got up to change the laundry and do the dishes without me having to ask, with a smile on his face and relaxed shoulders. All in all, the night turned out better than I’d hoped.
It wasn’t my intention to de-stress my husband (mostly because I didn’t know when I planned this that he was stressed), but I feel my intentional evening did exactly what I wanted it to:
– Brought us closer together emotionally and spiritually.
– Created an environment of intentional enjoyment, of each other and of the food God has provided.
– Gave A a respite from his day.
Now before you think I’m all pie in the sky, I’m a realist. I know we’re not going to be able to do this every night. But on the nights we’re home with enough time to sit down to dinner, I want to work on making a habit of taking it slowly, enjoying our food, our evening, and each other. This is especially important since A’s heading into the worst tax season he’s seen in his career.
I figure I’ll continue with my experiment for the next two weeks – a good trial period to see if the wine-before-dinner-cheese-after thing can be sustainably successful – but if Thursday night is any indication, we are well on our way to making 2012 a year of intentionally enjoying each other.
And we didn’t even miss the tv.