The anxious host

The days before I go back to work have dwindled to just three more and I’m starting to feel nostalgic about the holidays. I don’t even feel like it’s past Christmas and yet, it’s 355 days away again. That whole time speeding up as you age thing is no joke.

I had visions for my vacation from work this week and those visions were largely centred around my bed and some books. I’m on my second book of 2019 and I’m squeezing in as much reading time as possible, but my commitments are getting in the way.

Monday was, of course, New Year’s Eve so I did New Year’s Eve things – prepped food, tidied up, finally hung my HAPPY NEW YEAR banner. Yesterday, I went to the relatively early relegation game at the World Juniors and tomorrow I’ll do the same. Today, I met my Mom so that we could go and pay my aunt a visit for midday coffee. I am so glad I did/am doing all of those things, but I’m also a little disappointed that I never indulged in my fantasy of staying in bed with a book all morning.

One truly can’t have it all, I suppose.

It occurred to me today that there is another thing I’d like to work on this year – a late addition to the resolutions list – and it’s the act of entertaining. Perhaps some of it is related to being graciously welcomed into my aunt’s house this afternoon and it might also be attributed to my recent rediscovery of a post I’d written a few years ago while visiting Kevin’s hometown in Ontario. The post was celebrating how welcoming Kevin’s friends, family and neighbours are, inviting everyone in with a smile and a hug. That hasn’t been my upbringing, but I liked it very much when I experienced it. I know that I thought about nurturing that practice in my life after that trip, but if I’m honest, I haven’t truly followed through.

I have friends who have open doors. At the drop of a hat, they’ll say, “come over!” or “come in!” I love that and I harbour fantasies about doing the same, but I rarely act on them. As I pondered it today, I had to ask myself why not. It basically boiled down to me feeling some anxiety about it with it and I hate that.

The first time I ever hosted a dinner party, I was nervous. I had the meal planned – seafood cannelloni, salad and a chocolate cake. I had bought wine, a tablecloth, fancy napkins and favours for my guests (tiny notebooks with each one’s astrological sign on the front.) I spoke to my Mom on the phone that day and told her about how nervous I was feeling about the dinner. She shared some words of wisdom with me that I have never forgotten. She said,

They’re your friends, Carly. They’re not coming for the meal or for the dessert. They’re coming to spend time with you and as long as you’re there, that’s all that matters.

That was nearly twenty years ago now and, frankly, I’d envisioned myself as being much better versed in entertaining by now. Expectations aside, I still think of that advice every. single. time. I welcome people into my home.

Just about a year ago, we had my girlfriend Rebecca over for dinner and an impromptu paint night (props to Kevin for the arts and crafts idea.) As I served up steaming bowls of homemade tomato soup, she told me she wanted to have people over more, but said that she had never really developed her ability to coordinate food prep. As expected, I shared that story about what my mom had told me, but this time, in saying it again, or perhaps just saying it out loud, it made a deeper click for me. If I went to her house for dinner and a side finished cooking before the main or an appetizer didn’t turn out right or something else went sideways, I would laugh about it and assure her that it didn’t matter – and that would be true. If her house was messy, I wouldn’t even notice. If her furniture was outdated, so what?

These are the most common insecurities people reveal when they are having someone over for the first or fiftieth time and I feel variations of them all, too. In fact it surprised me that she spoke to me as though I wasn’t nervous.

I told her one of the beliefs that I hold from on is that most – not all, sure – people feel some degree of a self-conscious response to having people over. It may be a natural born talent for a select few, but the rest of us have to work at it. And I intend to work at it in 2019.

If you’re like me and feel like your hosting skills could use some polish, here is a must read to calm your nerves:

I’ve often wondered if hosting is another practice makes perfect activity. Does it get easier the more you do it? Does a host become more comfortable and confident with every visit?

Are you someone who invites others over often? Were you born with the ability to play host or is it a skill that you honed? What advice do you have for those of us who aren’t as comfortable with it?

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