Friday, May 31, 2013

Learning the non-art of hospitality

What my kitchen really looks like

I'm not sure about you, but it's a great temptation of mine to want to look like I have everything together all the time. As a bit of a perfectionist (Tom would laugh at "a bit"), I don't like people to see my weaknesses, and I like to do things well.

But the thing is, being a perfectionist stops you from being able to really open yourself up to people. It means you're less likely to be spontaneously generous, because you want that home-cooked meal to be perfect, or you feel you can't give that thing away without wrapping it nicely first. And it means you tend to intimidate others and make them feel like they have to have everything together to be around you.

I know I've stepped into houses where everything is perfectly aligned and dusted, and thought, ok, I can never have you around to my place. Or times when I've been embarrassed to give someone a lift in my messy old car.

But what is this communicating to people? And what does this mean about my heart?

Recently I've been forced to put my anxieties around having it all together aside and be OK with reality. The first incident occurred when Tom decided to invite some friends of ours over without warning. I was delighted to have them over, because we'd been meaning to catch up for ages, but I wasn't so cool with the 5mins notice.

Because they were coming straight from church to our place and Tom needed to buy some extra food to make our planned dinner go further, I had to drive one of them to my house while the guys went and bought  food. I couldn't even steal 2 seconds to pick up the washing off the floor, or sweep up the kitty litter in the bathroom. I actually felt quite worried and stressed on the way to the house wondering how bad we'd left it.

As we drove towards home, I expressed my embarrassment to my friend, and she kindly told me how she's had to learn to be less worried about how her house looks, or the meal she's cooking when people come around, so that she can be more hospitable. Her empathy instantly made me feel OK about the way our house looked as she stepped in the door.

That said, I couldn't help but sweep up the grains of kitty litter Iggy had flicked around the bathroom.

And then today, I met a friend and her kid at a local cafe for a coffee, which was nice because I didn't have to think about tidying up. And then just at the end of our coffee she asked to come for a walk back to my house so she could feed her baby. Of course I said yes, but once again, there was an element of anxiety about the state of our apartment. As we walked in, I picked up that jumper, explained away some mess and apologised for the state of things. She kept assuring me it was fine, but I felt pretty embarrassed, still.

It's really quite silly, because I know when I go to other people's houses I don't judge them if their lounge room isn't arranged at perfect right angles and I actually feel more comfortable if the environment isn't so squeaky clean I feel like I'm destroying the zen. And yet, no matter, how much I remind myself it's the act of hospitality and the friendship that matters, I still angst about this stuff. Gosh I can't wait till I can get over myself and be OK with the mess that is me.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. Can identify with a lot of it!

Loving having you back in the blogosphere, Mrs. T. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Me and You. We understand each other

Pigsly said...

I like this site. Great job.

Chan Ichiban said...

This post put into words the exact panic i feel every time someone drops by and im still in pyjamas at 3pm with half empty mugs of tea and papers strewn everywhere. we are kin

Lucy Burne said...

I feel the same. Ok to give hard to receive the don't worries about it. More calm less stress yo.x

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Talib Hasan said...

The photo on the post was amazing :), totally represents me