It’s dark and I feel something small and light jump up onto the bed, a mew or two and then paws walking up the length of me, a sniff in my face, and a gentle push against my shoulder. I roll over and pull the covers over my face. He mews again, walks up onto my side and nests between my arm and side.
Just as I’m about to fall back asleep, he gets up, walks over my head and mews again. That’s Abe’s way of telling me it’s time to get up. 4:15 a.m. Sometimes he lets me sleep until 4:30. I’m not sure why I need to be up with him at this hour, but he’s relentless.
As I pull the covers off and swing my legs over the side of the bed, he leaps off the bed and strolls into the bathroom. I follow.
Today is the big day. The holiday my family has been looking forward to for months. I cleaned up the house extra all week, went shopping for party supplies, pre-cooked the meatballs, potatoes, and cake yesterday. Everything is ready. But I’m not, at least not mentally ready.
I started dreading the day earlier in the week but tried to set the feeling aside. I always feel this way before people come over. It’s just anxiety, I tell myself. It will pass as soon as people start to show up. But the feeling builds all week and I have yet to learn to let it wash over me and fade away.
I remind myself that I love having people over. I love cleaning the house, getting food ready, inviting everyone over, and seeing everyone arrive. I love going from one end of the house to the other, talking with friends at the pool table, jumping into the kitchen and bringing out more food, watching my friends’ kids pull out all the games and toys from the shelf behind the couch. I even love cleaning up after the party the next day!
So why do I get more and more nervous as the date approaches? Why is that I wake up the day of the event, dreading the next twelve hours? I’ve spent a lot of time exploring what might make me feel this way, but I’ve come up with nothing other than I might be a bit on the crazy side, slightly unstable shall we say.
I follow my cat as he leads me through the kitchen to his food bowl, meowing and looking back to be sure I’m there, as if it needs to be filled but jumps up and eats happily once we’re there…together. I grumble and get a drink of water and a hot cup of coffee, grab my book off the counter and head to the couch. My husband, who’s been up for an hour already (I swear the man barely sleeps), greets me as I come in, “Ready for the big day?”
“Maybe. Or maybe no one will show up and we can just eat meatballs in peace.”
“Maybe! But I doubt it. At least three people have confirmed they will be here.”
My anxiety peaks here. It’s where I start to wonder, why do I even bother trying to keep friends? It seems that everyone is always too busy to visit. Everyone is wrapped up in something so important that they can’t make time to play. Or is it just me? I think I’ve had two or three invites to parties in the last ten years. It’s strange to me. Hosting parties is the fun part of life to me and it seems no one else wants to do it, and they rarely want to make the time to go to any either. Or, again, maybe it’s me.
Ugg. This sucks. I if I would only stop inviting people over, I wouldn’t have to deal with this. I tell myself I only need to get through the next twelve hours and then I’ll somehow never fall for this “Let’s have a party!” thing again. Why do I do this to myself?
Because I love it. Because once people start to arrive, I’m having the time of my life. I’ve learned over the years that my feelings aren’t trustworthy; anxiety lies to me on a daily basis. It tells me that no one likes me, that they don’t really want to be around me, that they have far more important things to do than come over and play with me. I know this isn’t true. In reality, I’ve experienced the opposite too many times to count.
I sink down into my spot on the couch and sip my coffee as Abe jumps up, rubs against my arm, curls into a ball beside me, and goes to sleep. Why couldn’t we do that in my bed?! Stupid cat.
I’ve got everything prepped and ready to go and my “day of the party” to-do list is very short, so I have plenty of time to relax this morning. I open my book and settle in to read for a few hours before the sun comes up.
The party doesn’t start until 2pm but I’m ready at noon, so my husband and I shoot some pool and have a couple of beers on our own. I love hanging out with that guy. If he were the only friend I had, I’d still be happy. We don’t always have a lot in common, but we do have this; we both love each other very much and want the other to be happy. Even if no one came to the party, between us and our teenagers, we’re enough. I decide right then to stop the downward spiral. Fuck this, poor me attitude!
After a couple games, I look at my watch 1pm. I can’t believe it’s only been an hour. My son arrives with the strawberries he promised from the Farmer’s Market, so I head back to the kitchen to clean them up and arrange them on the cake. My other son shows up with his girlfriend a few minutes later. He’s brought Red Vines and Rice Krispie Treats, party staples since he was a kid. When your kids start recreating things from their childhood, you know you’ve done well.
Before I knew it people began to show up and I relax into the “hostess with the mostess.” It wasn’t the biggest turn out we’ve had, but it was certainly fun. It was just what I needed, a small gathering of friends, eating, drinking, and playing games. Once everyone was gone, I sat on the couch and sighed.
“See?” my husband said. “You always pull it off as if you were born for it.”
Every year I say I’ll invite people over more often and every year I start to do just that. Then I get discouraged or overwhelmed and let it slide. Then winter comes and we get busy with other things. Here we are in Spring again. The weather is getting nicer and we aren’t as busy with the kids as we used to be. Will I start to open up the house again? We’ll see. I need to recover from this one first!