September has humbled me. This month’s goals have not turned out as I expected logistically, emotionally, or spiritually. At one point, I wished I hadn’t set them. Now I’m glad I stuck with it for another month rather than just glossing over them and moving on to something else — something more within my control. I was tempted to do that: Set new goals that were just about me and my personal development, rather than goals that involved actually inviting people into my home. But I didn’t, partly because I knew that this was an important project, but mostly because I had a glamorous picture of how this book club would go. A big group of my most bookish, intelligent friends gathered in my tiny (but spotlessly clean) apartment, laughing and drinking and sharing brilliant observations.
Instead, I cleaned all afternoon but was dismayed that my furniture still looked slightly ratty and lumpy. I baked a cake that didn’t set all the way through and I had to dump it in the trash. Many people that I thought were coming didn’t come. I worried about whether I picked a good story and if I was being a good discussion leader. My friends, of course, were brilliant and helped me see the reading in new ways. But after it was all over I sat on the couch and cried because it’s hard to invite people into your home when you are mostly focused on your own vanity. Does my apartment look nice? Am I a good host? Is everyone having fun? Why didn’t more people come?
I fretted over all these things for a while before I realized that I was a) judging the enterprise based on the first meeting and b) getting upset because I wanted this group to meet my needs and my expectations. Or what I thought my needs were. Hospitality isn’t all about the host, though, is it? Genuine hospitality is about the guest. And so I decided that I would continue to open my home to my friends, but this time with no agenda. Just some great stories and baked goods. If it fizzled, well, at least I tried.
And on the second meeting, everything was brilliant. Again, just a few folks came, but it felt like just the right number. We ate. We talked. We laughed. This time I was left with a feeling of contentment because I wasn’t putting as much pressure on myself or my guests. And I’ve extended the invitation to some new people, people that I don’t know as well. I’m not going to lie — that makes me nervous. What if we get too many people? What if someone shows up and dominates the conversation? Etc. etc. and so on. But I’m working on it. I’m working on being more open and acknowledging that I’m not in control of any given situation. And that if I want real community, it’s up to me to set the stage. It’s exhausting and challenging sometimes, but it’s better than unintentionally turning into a hermit.
Today I’m grateful for: my friends.