Finding Freedom in a Somewhat Frivolous Way

Today, I made a seemingly trivial but important admission to someone I call Mama. For clarity we aren’t related, she is an elderly lady I check in on.

Now when I first started going to check on her, she cooked for me and I ate the food. I did so a second time too. When Mama started asking what food I like and saying she was going to make it for me, well of course I started panicking because I had already eaten two meals more than I wanted to.

I will set this straight, the food tasted good – it wasn’t that – I just don’t like eating at other people’s houses. Sometimes that feeling is heightened when I actually see how you manoeuvre in your kitchen. It may seem silly but I know a lot of people who read this will relate.

I’m watching to see if you use different sponges to wash up the dishes and clean the sink. I distinctly remember an auntie who would use a cloth to wash up (never understood – a cloth?), that same cloth to wipe the kitchen counters and the same cloth to wipe the dining table (that I’ve also seen her place shoes on – kids shoes, okay, but they were not new and the kid had just come from outside). Alright, I’m too far on this a tangent now.

Back to the situation with Mama, honestly I saw a few things I didn’t really like, I wouldn’t say it though – wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings at all. Everyone handles their kitchen their own way.

This morning I called to check on her… she mentioned that she cooked for me the other day (I had said I may pop in but didn’t get a chance to). What upsets me is that she often says she can’t be bothered to eat if people aren’t around her (she lives alone and friends/family visit on occasion).

On the call, I chewed her ear off about the importance of her eating more and putting more protein in her diet. Mama received it well, she knows I care.

When she spoke of the food she cooked the other day in anticipation of me visiting, she said she threw the rest away. I felt an instant pang of guilt and went to say my usual “Mama, I’ve said not to worry about cooking for me.”

I realised that this is too soft of an approach. I know I don’t like eating at people’s houses but yet I often put myself in positions of anxiety when people say “come and eat, I’ve cooked.”

Truth is, in a lot of cultures it’s rude to not eat when offered food but I’m not here to appease people. I’ve been tuned into other people’s emotions (and keeping them happy) since a child and I’m trying to unlearn that.

So I said “Mama, please, I hope this doesn’t upset or offend you but I don’t like eating at other people’s houses.”

“She responded “but I’m not other people.” This is ironic, yes I hold her in high regard but I’ve only know her a year. There are people I’ve known longer and I still wouldn’t eat at their house.

She mentioned again that her appetite is increased when someone is around, even if they’re only drinking water.

So next time I visit, I’ll be eating H20.

Jokes aside though, the freedom I felt by just admitting that “I don’t like eating at other people’s houses,” was amazing. I knew I’d immediately set myself free from future bouts of anxiety revolving around not upsetting Mama, eating where I don’t want to and figuring out how to avoid eating food that’s been unexpectedly “cooked for me.”

As I near the end of this post, I worry that it may seem insensitive but I have (now mild) OCD and the small details are important to me. Things like people making sure they wash all the soap suds of their plates, use different sponges for different purposes and don’t taste food and put the same piece of cutlery back in the pot.

I want Mama to be happy but I need to feel comfortable too.

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