Several weeks ago, I posted about why I’d decided to give up my oft-repeated, but never kept, resolution to “Entertain more.”
I decided that I needed to let go of this resolution. Even though I knew that in the long run, it would make me happier to have friends over, I realized I was feeling too overwhelmed to keep that resolution; it was weighing me down without prompting me to action; and I needed to let myself off the hook.
The funny thing is that about two days after I decided to give up that resolution, I invited my two (yes, two) children & young-adult literature reading groups over for a holiday party! Now, was this a coincidence? Nope.
This is what happened: the minute I went on the record saying “I can’t handle trying to invite people over right now, I’m not going to do it,” I let go of the fantasy of being the perfect party-giver, and then I could give a party. When I invited my friends over (by email, by the way, not with a mailed invitation), I stressed that the evening would be extremely casual and that I couldn’t manage a “real” party. They didn’t care! The party was last night, and in the end, I managed to do a good job. We all had a great time, I was a reasonably good hostess, my house looked nice, and I didn’t make myself crazy beforehand. (This despite the fact that my husband had to go out of town that week, so he couldn’t help.)
One of my Secrets of Adulthood (cribbed from Voltaire) is “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” My mother sets a high bar for me to consider – she does everything, including parties, absolutely beautifully. She enjoys doing it, but for me, it’s stressful. When I think about trying to have a holiday party the way she’d do it, I can’t cope. Telling myself that I wasn’t “really” entertaining let me do it in my own way, at a level that I could handle.
So if you’re having trouble keeping a resolution, consider pursuing it in a less “perfect” form; settle for the “good.” If you can’t make yourself go to the gym, try to go for a walk around the block. If you can’t tackle your crowded garage, clean out one corner. If you don’t have time to volunteer for the adult-literacy program, you can sign up to be an organ donor.
A nice thing about settling for “good” when “perfect” is too daunting is that achieving a small thing often gives you the energy to attempt a bigger thing. Having such a good time giving my un-party makes me more enthusiastic to do it again.
From 2006 through 2014, as she wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen chronicled her thoughts, observations, and discoveries on The Happiness Project Blog.