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People Watching. What we can learn. Thursday September 1, 2016

I was eating outside at a restaurant in Spain the other evening and in my direct line of sight was a table of 7 people eating their dinner too.

I was fascinated watching them.

There were two young married couples, one with a small child in a highchair plus the grandparents, so 7 in all.

What I noticed, and this was a revelation to me, was that they hardly spoke to each other, they laughed occasionally but seemed totally at ease with one another.

I know they were an extended family, not a group of friends. However what struck me so forcefully was the contrast between how I would behave in such circumstances.

They didn't need to constantly talk as a way of reassuring each other, everyone was happy.
Cue me, I would not let a silence go on too long before saying something probably banal to make sure no-one was unhappy and everyone was enjoying themselves. One of the husbands occasionally looked at his phone and would show the others a photo. The child would cause the mothers to comment from time to time and the grandparents sat there, the grandfather talking every now and again to the son in law who was sitting opposite him.

It seemed to me to be just a content family meal taken at a restaurant.

I said to my OH that from now on I would not cajole people, family into talking if they didn't want to. From now on, I would allow silence! From now on, it wouldn't be up to me to keep the "party" going!

All those years when I've tried to be cheerful, feeling anything but cheerful (both with friends and family), I needn't have. I could have been myself (maybe?) but at any rate, not try to jolly everyone along. What an effort for nothing all these years! I laughed at the thought actually. I remonstrated with my OH to understand the comparison between this family (which he couldn't see as his back was facing them) and me and our family extended or not, over the years. He said that I shouldn't have bothered, that it was okay to be silent and that he was glad I was going to think about this for the future.

As we were walking back to our hotel, I said but you know, I know nothing about that family. They could have just had a massive argument or had a death in the family... I mean that's what it would have taken for me not to speak! We just didn't know what had gone on before the meal, but actually I did know. They did smile and laughed genuinely; they communicated but in an easy way. The child yawned and the parents laughed and talked kindly to him.

Well, I intend to put this into practice for the next 20 or 30 years and then maybe when I do actually say something, it will be a genuine comment and one I want to make.

Julia
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.


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Comments

Leah Thu, Sep 1st 2016 @ 6:27am

Julia,
What a delightful compassionate and thoughtful post.
I must admit I was so lost in the words "eating outside in a restaurant in Spain", that I took a while to focus. Lucky you!
I too like watching people.
I think all families have their own rhythms and customs.
The family I grew up with were loud and we would still be talking(shouting) at each other after someone had left the house and was walking down the street.
If I was ever silent my parents thought I was sick and later my children wanted to call the doctor!
Handling silences is one I too struggle with.
Good luck with your new approach to family gatherings.
Once again a great blog.

Lou Thu, Sep 1st 2016 @ 7:51am

This is a really thoughtful & thought provoking blog. Thanks for sharing :)

Claire Thu, Sep 1st 2016 @ 7:59am

I loved this blog. Thank you for sharing.

LillyPet Thu, Sep 1st 2016 @ 9:10am

I enjoyed your lovely description of the ease that family had together Julia.
It reminded me of a book called the seven laws of success, (not financial or business, just life!). One of them is the law of least effort. A bit like the "Keep it simple" that was mentioned in a blog recently. It's a concept that soothes my busy mind!
Be gentle on yourself about how you have been. People could well have enjoyed your company at gatherings! It's refreshing to get a new take on things though and it sounds like it'll be a relaxing relief to take a step back and just be.
Thanks for a lovely and insprational blog Julia.
More sunshine and smiles to all! ;) LP xx

Sheena Thu, Sep 1st 2016 @ 9:10am

I too loved this blog Julia! In the household I came from the female parent not only required 'cheerful' but censored in a very unpleasant way anything that was raised that could be considered a 'serious' discussion. This meant no real conversation, ever. Silence might have been a better option :) That woman compounded the discomfort by her own attitude to portion control overruling any 'no thank yous' or 'yes pleases' Sheena

Andrew Thu, Sep 1st 2016 @ 9:16am

Great blog Julia - we can learn so much from observing others.
I find the Europeans at table to be mostly very child friendly, and seem to manage to incorporate children into the whole social experience of dining far better than many British families, for whom eating is sometimes more of a chore than a pleasure. When dining is a pleasure, it can be enjoyed either silently or audibly, but always pleasurably! And usually, the better the food, the quieter the meal!
¡Buen apetito!
Andrew

Hopeful One Thu, Sep 1st 2016 @ 9:44am

Hi Julia- the picture you painted reminded me of a Leo Tolstoy quote'All happy families look alike . Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way' .

Today's Vitamin L ( for laughs)

A completely inebriated man was stumbling down the street with one foot on the curb and one foot in the gutter. A cop pulled up and said, "I've got to take you in, pal. You're obviously drunk." Our wasted friend asked, "Officer, are yer absolutely sure I'm drunk?" "Yeah, buddy, I'm sure," said the cop. "Let's go." Breathing a sigh of relief, the wino said, "Thank God for that, I thought I was crippled."

G

The Gardener Thu, Sep 1st 2016 @ 11:09am

HO - reminders of Crisis at Christmas. One guy on the 'baccy run' looked like he had an encounter with a boxer or a wall. But he was proud of his 'war' wounds. Broken nose 'Got that when I fell out of the Lamb and Flag'. Gammy leg 'Missed the steps at the Red Lion'. People watching. In the London tube with such a huge range of races I was intrigued at the really sculptured heads of the African races - and how, even with large Jamaican Mammas, they seemed to have a pride in their deportment. I speak several languages, and poor Mr G used to be scared of my 'radar' ears as I unashamedly listened in to conversations. On my own in a Parisian restaurant during a scholarship tour I was intrigued at the drama on the next table. Wine flowed, tears flowed, as the pair, not English but only common language, bemoaned the fact that the girl's Pappa was against her friendship with the guy. When I got up to leave, I wished them 'Good luck'. Consternation. 'Did you understand all we were saying? Are you English? Affermative. 'But you were reading a book in French'. One does. Transpired that she was Finnish, he German, and her Pappa had forbidden the marriage. Real Mills and Boon stuff. After 36 hours of hell, and Mr G thinking I was his mother this morning (at the moment I look old enough) he is being kept in at respite tonight, so I can get some sleep and 'take stock'. At near falling over stage, losing keys, important papers - even worried about my alertness for driving.

Hopeful One Thu, Sep 1st 2016 @ 12:59pm

Hi Gardner- thanks for the Vitamin L.

Rosemary Thu, Sep 1st 2016 @ 6:30pm

Thank you Julia for sharing such a thought provoking blog. This is the first time I have ever posted a reply but I felt moved to because your words resonated so deeply within me I couldn't keep quiet (pun intended!)

All my life I have felt I had to be the 'life and soul' People would (no doubt unknowingly) magnify this by saying things like "Oh good now Rosemary's here the party's started" I have heard those words since I was a young teenager. This led me to believe if there was silence in a room, or a gathering was not going particularly well it must be my fault for not 'doing my job'

...your words have reminded me that I too have chosen a path of least resistance and now try to sit with silence - it is not always my job to fill it. In fact it was never my job - it just took me 40 years to realise it. :)

Jul Thu, Sep 1st 2016 @ 9:11pm

"Thank you for all your lovely comments so far. Sadly I cannot reply today as I'm abroad and don't have my password for logging in to comment. Aaaaargh! However I can read and know I will love all your replies. So a big thank you. Love Julxxx"

Ron Fri, Sep 2nd 2016 @ 1:45pm

Great analogy! I wouldn't even think for a second about putting on a jacket (cold outside) or getting my shorts and a t-shirt on (really hot). But I hesitate to reach for the right thing to do, or to ask for help when it's emotional discomfort. Need to rethink that.

Thanks.

the room above the garage Sun, Sep 4th 2016 @ 10:43am

I get this! I started to stop when I realised my mum does it and his it's not needed. I am still guilty but working on shutting up!!! Thank you Jul x.

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