The long weekend held a couple milestones for me. I actually asked for help, and I threw a party. Both centered around a shelf.
There was this lovely large space above the three kitchen carts I have end-to-end (counter space is your friend when you like to bake) and I had acquired and put together the perfect shelf to go above them. Two shelves actually, and a rail with hooks! It was awesome except for one thing.
I didn’t know how to put it up.
Well, to be absolutely fair, I had a good idea of how to…but I was afraid of doing so. The vision of yon bonny shelf and assorted breakables collapsing in a shattered heap atop kitchen carts (and my tile dining-room floor, big fun) danced before my eyes like a ghost of Christmas Whatevers. Intellectually I knew it was ridiculous. Intellectually I knew that finding the studs wasn’t that hard and the guy in the hardware aisle told me the wood screws I was about to purchase should hold it up, of course. Intellectually, I knew I was being an idiot. So I did the proper and adult thing.
Yes. I procrastinated.
Eventually I got tired of moving the assembled shelf around the house, and screwed up my courage. First, I asked Wonder Woman–the mother of one of the Princess’s best friends–if her big Strapping Cajun of a husband knew how to put up Ikea shelves.
“Shit yeah,” she said, “you got one? He’ll come over and put it up for you, no problem!”
I was not prepared for such generosity. During my childhood (not my fault) and several relationships (half my fault, I think, because I WAS THERE TOO) it was never safe to ask for help. As a child and adolescent, asking for anything showed a vulnerability to be exploited by frightening, inconsistent adults. Later, I dated (and married) people who raised unreliability (emotional or otherwise) to an art form. It’s taken me years (and therapy, but let’s stay on topic) and hard work to get to the point where I don’t immediately scramble away in terror when someone offers some kind of assistance. (The Selkie can attest to this.)
So I gulped, really hard, and said “Let me look at my schedule. I’d love to offer something in return.”
We negotiated that Wonder Woman, Strapping Cajun, and their brood would come over for Sunday dinner. The shelf would get put up, I would make coq au vin, we would have some wine and nosh and socialize.
I realized, belatedly, that I had undertaken to throw a party. Cue total panic.
Besides my natural, rather introverted bent, there’s the fact that growing up, family get-togethers were not safe. The pressure to have everything “perfect” was intense, and any fault or mistake, real or imagined, was a potential bomb that would detonate after the guests had gone home. Later, I rarely if ever lived in a place where I could host even if I wanted to; I gave birthday parties for the kids and only realized later how breathless with anxiety I’d been, waiting for someone to yell at me for not doing it right, or “ruining” the whole event “for everyone”. In fact, it was my daughter’s blissful assertion that every party she attended, her own or someone else’s, was the best EVER that made me start cautiously thinking maybe I wasn’t doomed to eternal ruination of every event I was present at.
So I fretted. I paced. It was too late to back out. I decided to plunge through it. Wonder Woman, with her usual perspicacity, knew I was nervy and reassured me several times before the event. The Princess and her friends who stayed the night (including Wonder Woman’s daughter) pitched in to help clean the house. The Prince ran back and forth, fetching and carrying and thrilled to be a part of it all. The guests arrived bearing flowers and a vegetable tray, and I…
…I had a good time. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I had a great time. Everyone laughed and had fun. The kids played downstairs, the shelf was on the wall in less than twenty minutes, and we all sat around and ate, and drank (except the Strapping Cajun, as he was the designated driver for the evening), and had an absolutely marvelous time. I was worried they wouldn’t enjoy themselves, but they did. Odd Trundles and Miss B were excited, the Strapping Cajun’s bulldog was brought over and had a wonderful time playing and sniffing (though Odd was in Durance Vile for some of that visit, because he would not stop screaming “MAH HOUSE! MAH HOUSE! MAH HOUSE!”) and, well, it went fine. Everything went fine.
Nobody screamed at me afterward, or pinched me viciously and said just wait until they leave or you’ve ruined everything, why are you even alive? There was no explosion, no raging, no sobbing, no breaking things. Instead, Wonder Woman is volunteering the Cajun for other household repairs. (I think she likes my cooking. And our giggly wine-fests. Heh.) I was tired afterward, but not overly so. I had thrown, and survived, an actual party.
Now every time I look at that shelf, I can take a deep breath and remember that progress is possible. I’m never going to be a social butterfly…but I think, sometime in the future, maybe soon, I might have another gathering. And it might, just might, turn out okay too.