I envision life to be like one of those large, rectangular dining tables that you see at palaces.You know... the kind they only have for heads of state that seat like a hundred people. With this in mind, let me take you on a little journey...
Allow yourself to picture YOUR enormous table, however you'd like to see it. Maybe it takes up an entire wing of a castle, or fills a dining hall in a mansion. It can seat any number of people, and be in any setting. It can be simple, or opulent. There is a full staff of chefs, servers and caretakers to tend to your needs, and the needs of your guests. The guests are all of your choosing - each with a reserved seat at the table.
As you enter, the room and the table are empty. You are alone and looking fine in your best attire. You are the host. Walk around the room and notice what is important to you. You may notice the room itself, the artwork, place settings and centerpieces. Note the smell of food from the kitchen, or the flowers and candles in the room. What does YOUR dining hall look like, feel like and smell like? Hear the sounds and the voices of your guests lining up outside preparing to be announced one by one.
First, take one last look around. This is your room! This is a dinner in YOUR honor. All the people you value - whether you know them personally or not and whether they are alive now or not - are lining up in the hall. Is everything as you would want for it to be? Does the centerpiece reflect things you love and your whims? Have you requested a personally commissioned sculpture, gifts for your guests, special menu, or otherwise? Think through these things as you imagine yourself alone for one last moment in your room.
The staff lines up. Those who are there to serve you are there at their request, so do not give any thought to who they are. Your guests will enter in order of seating. The first to enter will be at your right, the next person in the next seat, and so on. The last guests will be at your left. As they enter, you'll greet each one and they will move along to their reserved place. Take a deep breath - now motion for service to begin.
As the door opens, your first guest in announced. Who is it? Is it a loved one? A celebrity? A long lost friend?
Notice them, each in their finest attire and looking their best, as they enter and take their seats. How are they interacting? How are they reacting to this grand setting? What are you feeling? One by one, the guests fill the seats. Who are the last people to enter and be seated to your left?
Stand and get their attention. Do you make an announcement? Have you arranged for entertainment? Is there a guest speaker, a famous poet or musician? Let them know they are here because they are all an important part of your life and signal for dinner to be served.
As their favorite foods are delivered, course after course, watch how they interact with each other and you. What are the topics of conversation? How are you feeling?
After dinner, you conclude with a grand gesture. Did you ignite fireworks outside, or arrange for some legendary performer to get the party started? It doesn't matter... this is your event. Make it what you want it to be! Enjoy dinner, have conversations, laugh, eat and relax.
Now... stop. Allow the sounds in the room to go on mute, and bring focus back to you. Look around the room and notice who is there. Are you surprised by any of your guests? Is someone there who you might not expect to be? Your third grade teacher or a childhood friend? Or, who is missing? Whom did you omit or forget - maybe even intentionally?
THIS is your life. Your guests may include a combination of acquaintances, friends, relatives, celebrities, famous authors and spiritual leaders. Regardless, these are the people who have influenced who you are and what you believe in.
Your dinner guests are the 'defining people' who have walked with you on your path. This is your true family.
I won't go through my personal guest list, but I allowed myself to walk through through this fantastical dinner. I was shocked who didn't make the guest list. I was also shocked at who did walk through the door. It made me think about my relationships with the people in my life right now. It helped me see where I need to look closer and to whom I need to pay more and/or less attention. It helped me see gaps - where I needed to continue being inclusive. Finally, it helped me think about WHY I excluded some people, and made me question why they are still in my life at all.
Take this as you will, but I think we need to pay more attention to who we bring to our table. Not everyone deserves a seat... and some deserve a seat closer to me. The bottom line is that it's OUR lives. We may choose to open the doors and allow everyone in. We may close the doors and not allow anyone in. But, in the end... there will be quite a few people who have helped us become who we are. who is on your guest list? Who is YOUR true family?