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Five Lessons in Lunching: I learned from the best (dishes)

I have one cabinet full of dishes I’ve collected and don’t often use. Recently, the pieces invited me to explore; the loudest voice coming from the goblets.

My grandfather commandeered these long-stemmed beauties from a castle in Germany during World War II. I don’t know if my grandmother used them or just displayed them. My mother inherited the glasses, but I never saw her drink from them or invite anyone else to do so. Before she died, she left specific instructions about dividing this precious glassware between myself and my siblings.

The three that became mine spent time in a box on a shelf in my brother’s garage until last year. I retrieved them last fall; now they stand on a shelf in my kitchen, holding only their own stories. I’ve often wondered under what circumstances I might use them. And I’ve wondered who might inherit them when I leave the planet. I wonder if anyone I know even wants them. (The dish question is real for many of us.)

My pondering in full force, I pulled each of them down, cleaned and drank from them. There were discoveries! Here are some life lessons taught by dishes:

It’s Monday

Gingerly, I lift the first of three from the shelf. It needs to be washed and I’m nervous. I’m worried it’s fragile, worried I’ll drop it, worried some unimaginable thing will take occur. The bottom line is: What if I break it?

I fill it with store-brand seltzer and a splash of pomegranate juice and set it up with the most ordinary lunch in everyday dishes. But the glass doesn’t hold much and I don’t trust carrying it around as I sip and refill. I clean and store it again, and finish the seltzer from the can. Nothing bad happens.

Lesson One

In imagining the worst, I also realize there is no one on this planet who will care very much if I drop this heavily storied glass and shatter it into a million pieces. I’m guessing I would be disappointed, and I would probably tell my siblings. But who would really be shaken up? Not much hinges on the survival of this precious thing or on the stories it holds.


There are other dishes I never use. I decide to eat from those, the choice of a lovely large plate activating my design sense. As I rummage through leftover food, the color scheme becomes the most important factor in choosing my lunch. I make a beautiful table.

Out comes the engraved silverware my mother-in-law gave me. The cup calls for tea; I fill a teapot made by Heather Stearns. (I’ve used this daily for several years.) This meal seemed barren without a soundtrack. I choose Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.

Lesson Two

The joy is in the journey—and joy is good for you! I had as much fun putting the table together as I did eating the coordinated meal. No . . . it was more fun. And, in this happy effort, I was building my resilience. (Specifically, I did so by bringing about positive emotion and being fully engaged in what I was doing.)


I am my own boss, and I want to be a good one. I include professional development in my master schedule.

Still enjoying the dish game, I stand on a chair and reach to the back corner of the top shelf. I find a gorgeous plate. I don’t remember where it came from, but it beautifully held the easy lunch I ate in front of the computer. And, yes, I made a personal challenge of getting a dish into this screenshot.

Lesson Three

Prioritize growth and try new things. Lifelong learning has numerous benefits. You can shake up something simple: Explore a genre of music or movies other than your usual; learn to cook a new dish. Or, you can go big: Travel to place you’ve long wanted to see; take a course or music lessons; build relationships with people outside your usual orbit.

Bonus Lesson: Don’t skip the macaroon. Just. Don’t.


This is a busy day, and I decide to let someone else make my lunch. I can easily walk to Delicate Decadence, so I combine this with another errand downtown. Along the way, I celebrate with another person on the sidewalk that dress weather is here, spark a brief conversation with a store clerk, get some exercise, and renew my perspective by taking a break.

Lessons Four

You don’t have to do everything yourself. And, in reaching out, you may be supporting a business, letting a friend, partner, or family member offer their best, and/or eating better food than you know how to make (definitely the case for me).


Beyond the dishes, what other luxuries do I store rather than use?

For years, I’ve wished for a place to wear a certain dress as it continues just to hang in my closet. I decide the dress and the third goblet belong nowhere if they do not belong in my garden. I create a party platter and head outside. I’m careful with the glass, but realize how much greater a chance I’m willing to take just since Monday.

Lesson Five

Create your own occasion—especially when another one isn’t coming your way. How often do we wait for the right time, place, or opportunity to present itself? Bronnie Ware identified one of the top five regrets of the dying as “I wish that I had let myself be happier.” Start today!

Questions From a Life Coach

What have you inherited that might serve your current circumstances? Are you enjoying all that you have? When and where are you too careful? What might happen if something you’re holding on to were to break? Is it easy for you to accept help? How might you change the reality of this moment? And, most importantly: What questions does this blog post bring to your mind?

About Susan McDowell
Four Principles of Whole Person Coaching®