We had our annual Thanksgiving pot luck at work today and I have to say the donations this year were probably the best one we've had since I've been here. Usually the 'luck' really isn't... one year we had the potato feast - 6 people brought mashed potatoes, and a couple brought scalloped potatoes (and yes, they all put that on the sign up sheet!)
Most years it's the roll & dessert feast - the easiest thing to grab at the store to meet the requirement of 'bringing something' without having to put a lot of thought into it. The first roll & dessert year I learned the very hard lesson that while 1 dessert is good and 2 can be tasty... 5 is badbadbadbadbad. I sent my sugar crashed cranky butt to bed shortly after getting home because even my cats didn't want to deal with me!
This year we had a nicely balanced cornucopia that was enjoyed (for the most part) by all.
As part of the organizing/set up crew, I was in the thick of decorating, getting food out and ready and being sure the buffet flowed smoothly, as well as partaking in the festivities. In the midst of it, I was transported out of the office and into the middle of any random big family gathering that I had been to... and realized that really, it's all the same - family, friends, work. Group events always bring out certain elements in peoples behaviors and create an interesting dynamic.
Observation: There's always going to be the people who are going to act like they're in charge, whether they are or not. They have their agenda, way of doing things and expectations... and they better be met or there will be heck to be paid. Thing is, most times they don't tell you what the expectation is, but if you don't meet it, and it's not perfect, you'll know... usually because they're following you to re-do what you just did.
Lesson Learned: Let go of the perfectionism. Accept help when it's offered and let the task be _done_. Done is better than perfect, especially when 'perfect' takes you 10 times as long.
Observation: OMG the rushing and the stress and the busy work! Yes there's a flurry at the last minute trying to pull everything together... getting food to the table and people through the line while the hot stuff is still hot and the cold stuff is still cold. Tempers flare, orders are barked and people can get really snippy.
Lesson learned: if nothing else, be the first one to say thank you. Doesn't matter to who or for what - thank you for handing me the spoon. Thank you for moving every single table in the building 3 times for me. Thank you for coming.
It doesn't matter if the deed is expected to be done, saying thank you is a way of saying, "I noticed you, and I appreciate that it's one thing I don't have to worry about doing."
"If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is "thank you," that would suffice."
Observation: If there's food involved, there's usually the handful of people who are /always/ first in line, chomping at the bit to dig in... wanting to get the best selection... and filling up their plate past the legal structural integrity of the dish. By the end, they still have food on their plate and are moaning about how full they are.
Heck, I used to be that person! I'm not shy, I'll dig right in! But that's not the point.
Lesson Learned: Take a breath. You may be about ready to gnaw your arm off - and really, you're never quite as hungry as the moment before you /can/ eat... but never as satisfied as the moment you are /able/ to eat - but let a few people go before you. Make conversation with the people around you.
When it comes down to it, any gathering that involves food is the same as a gathering without food... To quoth the lovely Deb: IT'S NOT ABOUT THE FOOD. It's about sharing time and space with your fellow humans. Communicating face to face, not with your thumbs (and a few text-o-phobes have no idea what I'm talking about. ;)
Fill your physical plate with what you would normally eat, or pick the 1-2 things that are really, truly special dishes, and then eat sparingly. Instead, fill your emotional plate with laughter, love, good conversation. Fill your mental batteries with an extra helping of hugs, and a small piece of Memaw's fried pie.
There will always be another meal. There will be more food sometime, somewhere. But moments of connecting with the people and world around you (ESPECIALLY the ones you like! ;) are far too few, and far too important to be upstaged by a feeding frenzy.
As we enter the final 40+ days of the year that mark the 'festival of eating', think of this: in 1, 2, 5 years, which will you remember: What you wore? If the tree was decorated in greens or reds? If the manorah was on the bookshelf or the table? If you served ham or turkey or if you laughed until you couldn't breathe at a story your friend told you? How dusty the shelf is or warm and cozy your home felt when it was filled with the people you love? What dessert you had or how amazed you were at finding out your quiet co-worker teaches belly dancing on the weekend?
Focus on the things that you will be thankful for when you look back on today, and let the other details work themselves out.