I meet with two friends every two weeks. We switch between two of our houses, and take turns making dinner, pouring the tea, lighting the candles. We’ve gone through several books, but we are currently early in reading Embracing the Body by Tara Owens. We discuss different aspects under the topic of being created as embodied persons, and what that means. I often process ideas or what I’m thinking out loud, so this group is helpful in helping me sort through the ideas about a book, or what’s going on in a relationship, or how I’m doing in motherhood, or with work. I often don’t know what will come out of my mouth until it does, and then I sit with it for a minute and think, oh, that was it. The thing that so desperately needed to come out, to be said, to be realized.
The last time we talked, I realized that I’ve been fighting my old enemy lately, Perfectionism. As someone who loves and values quality and beautiful things, who loves a well-curated moment and has a sensitive, artistic spirit, I sometimes am challenged by this phase of life, especially, and allowing others to see me as ‘less than.’ Motherhood doesn’t often feel ‘natural.’ I have less energy for ‘fun,’ or my body is doing weird things.
For example, some friends watched Estella last Saturday while Frans and I painted our stairs. Because we couldn’t walk on them, we stayed at the same friends overnight. I was fighting a bad cold, and also have pregnancy snoring issues (poor Frans). In the morning I awoke to find out that my tonsils were the size of lemons, and I could barely breathe. They were so, so sore. I also learned that I had been snoring…loudly. That when one of our friends came downstairs to use the bathroom in the night, they heard it and pitied me, mistaking my snoring for Frans’s snoring. The next morning I owned up to the snoring and also spent ten minutes in the bathroom gargling hot salt water – loudly. These are friends who we don’t know too well yet, and yet who graciously took care of us a weekend that we really needed someone to help us out. I was so embarrassed by the snoring, gargling escapade, and it exposed my tendency to want to be perceived well: as a strong woman who although 30 weeks pregnant, painted stairs, only to cutely fall asleep with her mouth closed and wake refreshed and thankful for their hospitality. Instead I was owning up to snoring and had to say the words ‘I need to gargle’ out loud. Sounds ridiculous, but I guess perfectionism often is!
(Photo featured on Cup of Jo…represents my perfectionistic ideal.)
My perfectionistic tendencies also mean that sometimes I struggle having people over. In my mind, I cannot rest until the floor is vacuumed, toys are picked up and put away, I am bathed, and we have some delicious foods simmering away on the stove. There is no child tantruming, I feel well-rested and ready to pour our friends drinks, charming in my bare feet with painted toenails (I’m often barefoot at home, even in winter…not typically Dutch); in fact, I’ve had the day to prepare and it’s been a joy. In reality, often Frans and I are running into each other after a busy day, communicating at the last minute who is picking up the groceries and even doing the cooking. Estella needs our attention and is whiney, and there are toys scattered everywhere and maybe even a poopy diaper that’s been thrown from the upstairs onto the back lawn to be put into the trash can when one of us gets a moment.
I realize that the ‘ideal’ in my mind is not bad: it is a way of honoring people, of saying, “See, I’ve been preparing for you, you matter…” but often it’s also a bit about pride, “See, I can do it all…I can handle all things well.” And some people simply have the gift. I know these people and I watch how they do it and I try to imitate it. Just not me. I am starting to learn that for me, hospitality (something I desperately want to be ‘good’ at) although a learned skill, often just begins with letting people in…as I am. I am busy fighting the unhelpful perfectionism that tells me I am not enough. I am enough, and I am learning hospitality. Plus, our friends are not coming over to judge our house or the food, they’re coming to see us (we hope). Cue the article I read yesterday…it’s too good not to share and is titled “5 Rules for Hosting a Crappy Dinner Party.” I sourced this article from Cup of Jo, but it’s from another fun website, theKitchn.
Here are the rules:
- No housework is to be done prior to a guest’s arrival.
- The menu must be simple and not involve a special grocery trip.
- You must wear whatever you happen to have on.
- No hostess gifts allowed.
- You must act like you’re surprised when your friend and her family just happen to show up at your door (optional).
I love this quote: There is an old proverb that says, “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”
I’m so ready for less tension and more relaxation in my life.
I’m so ready to let people in on who I am, and give them the space to do the same. Anyone with me?