A disclaimer: the impetus for this post came from a dinner party that I went to a few weeks ago, where I was reminded of the importance of living in the moment, of how certain experiences cannot be had without spontaneity, of how the real human connection that comes from being in the physical presence of others cannot ever be replaced completely by moments happening through and amongst the internet. And it prompted me to think a lot, and to therefore write a lot of words.
A not-at-all-shocking confession: I spend too much time in front of screens. Some of it is necessary; some of it is for fun, personal growth things (hi, blog! also learning to code more); some of it is just wasting time; and some of it is connection masquerading as wasting time (see: maybe 1/3 of time spent the internet; if I were pressed, I’d say 1/3 learning/growing/reading, 1/3 connection-maintaining, 1/3 idly spending time). The more I’m trying to prioritize what I’m interested in and the more I’m trying to connect and disconnect and write, the more I’m realizing that finding a balance isn’t a simple, one-step process. There’s a lot of trial and error, as well as a surprising amount of anxiety around self-applied pressure to figure it out correctly the first time, to suddenly be able to do All Of The Things while also having free time (and also trying to find time to Visit All Of The Friends without all of the failing; haven’t had success with that yet).
So I’m cutting myself some slack. I’ve been holding myself to impossible standards, and because of that, I haven’t been able to fully appreciate what it is that I’m actually accomplishing. And I’m accomplishing a lot. I’ve made time, tangibly if only occasionally, to write (see above image, which was taken while I was spending my lunch hour writing and drinking coffee at the North End location of The Thinking Cup, which I should do a post about one of these days, because it is lovely), and I’m keeping up with my Q&A a Day: 5-Year-Journal. I’ve been (with only a few exceptions) much better about getting enough sleep, and on work nights I’m (almost, but not always) in bed by 11:30. I built a website as a gift, largely because I thought it would be a great gift but also in part to see if I could. (Realization: as much as I’m ehhhh on fully mobile responsive, mobile-first websites (I’m a dinosaur, I know), Bootstrap is great.) And I’ve been going climbing on a fairly regular basis and getting better about my nightly routine (morning is okay, working on making it better). Basically, what this translates to is that for the first time I can think of recently, maybe ever, it’s three months into the 2015 and the resolutions I made are being put into practice constantly. But it’s still hard not to lose perspective, to feel like I could constantly do more, do better. So I’m reminding myself, here, publicly, that I am Doing Things, and doing them well, even if there is – and always will be – room for improvement. Because that’s what life is: constantly, continuously, improving and growing.
I have noticed, however, that I’ve been stretching myself a little thin, so I’m working on that. Because I’m busy in general and I’m trying to form new habits and routines (writing more, creating more, etc.) and I’m also working on Doing Things More, which is good (wonderful, even!), but I’m finding it hard to let myself schedule down time: time where I can write if and only if that’s what I feel like doing, or read, or maybe just be, focusing on life out the window or thoughts via my ceiling (to be honest, whenever I think that I cannot help but feel of I’m trying to be a variation of Stephanie Plum, who frequently describes her thinking position as laying down on her bed with her eyes closed). Sidenote: if you’re ever looking for a fun beach/summer read, I highly recommended – with caveats – the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. The first twelve books (One for the Money through Twelve Sharp) are great. Beyond that, they…are less great, so I am not wholeheartedly recommending those, but they’re still fun to read (well, kind of) if you been into the series from the beginning. ALSO: one of my most entertaining book reading memories, in hindsight, is reading Hot Six in study period in middle school, and having the boy next to me loudly – and indignantly – ask what I was reading because he, ahem, misread the title, and the teacher, from whom I was sitting about a foot away, do a hilarious double-take. That was in eighth grade, so while it was super awkward at the time, now just makes me laugh. Probably shouldn’t have been reading that book in eighth grade, though, because while I was able to very convincingly say that the title was “SIX, like the NUMBER”, the play on words was not unintentional, title-wise. But I digress.
My digression, though, is also my point: I haven’t
had made enough time to just let my thoughts wander and see where they go. Granted, in this case, those thoughts are tending towards beach reads and the thought of future warmth (17 days until spring!), but there’s nothing wrong with that. My lack of making time is on me, and I’m going to work on it. I just need to focus on finding a balance.
That’s where the dinner party – which happened a few weeks ago now – comes in: the mother of some friends was throwing a dinner party, and my boyfriend and I were lucky enough to receive a spur of the moment invitation. The guests came from different age groups, different life experiences, different cultures; and we all just clicked. Given how varied and diverse the group was, the night really got me thinking about the importance of finding middle, common ground; how that applies to life in general just as much as it does to relationships or opinions or politics or what have you.
The night started with conversations and drinks; conversations spilled into (absolutely delicious) dinner, accompanied by wine and candlelight. And then! And then there were performances: spontaneous piano and guitar playing by hosts and guests alike; singing opera and pop songs spanning decades; poetry reading. I hadn’t realized dinner parties like that – nights like that – existed outside of the 1950s-ish. I come from a small family with limited social circles (this generation, anyways: apparently my grandma could throw quite the dinner party, but those years were long gone by the time I entered the picture). It was a wonderful, wonderful night. At face value, it was just a night of conversation, food, wine, and music, but it all blended into something bigger than the sum of the parts. And it got me out of my head and into the bigger picture. I was inspired by so many of the people there on so many different levels.
I recently came across an old article in The New York Times about how dinner parties are “endangered”, about how they’re no longer the dinner parties of bygone eras. The article is from 2012, but it’s more relevant than ever, discussing how we’re too busy and overscheduled to possibly find the time. But what the article touches on, but doesn’t really delve into, is that what is under threat are the formal dinner parties, the ones with rules and assigned place-settings, because the social dynamics and norms are shifting. At its heart, though, the article is optimistic, implying that dinner parties – in some form, at least – will never go away, because they evolves as we evolve; because there is middle ground:
There is no leveler quite like a dinner table, said Mr. Hitz, a longtime bicoastal whose dinners at his California digs, an aerie perched high above Sunset Boulevard, tend to be populated by Hollywood types from across the demographic spectrum. “The 20-year-olds enjoy the 90-year-olds,” he said. “And I can assure you the 90-year-olds enjoy the 20-year-olds. …. “If anyone tells me, ‘I’m freaking out, I have six people coming to dinner, what do I do?’ ” Mr. Hitz said, “I say serve chicken potpie and a salad, make sure there’s plenty of wine and keep the lights low. How can it go wrong?”
And that’s precisely what I’ve experienced: dinner was simple, yet excellent, and we enjoyed spending time in each other’s company, holding conversations that sparked other conversations, and, later, a long train of thought that led to this post.
So this is my reminder – to myself, to anyone who reads this – to find inspiration from those close to you, from the events you happen to attend at the last minute (upcoming post, by the way: the performance of Cassie & Maggie we attended last weekend at Club Passim because those same friends had two extra tickets), from what you’ve accomplished so far. Because there are so many things by which to be inspired, and mostly it comes down to letting yourself appreciate what’s in front of you.
Have you been to a dinner party, in whatever form? What has recently inspired you?