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My Anxiety Didn't Stop Me From Throwing a 'Crappy' Dinner Party

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Once in a while, my husband, Lee, and I will sit down and do a relationship check-up. Just a couple of questions like “how are you doing?” and “anything you want to do differently?” Kind of like Festivus but without the pole.

Lee brought up that he’d like to entertain more. Like, people in our house entertain. Sounded doable at the time. Yes, let’s entertain more. Great idea. I’ve always loved magazine spreads showing reclaimed wood tables dressed with linens and adorned with flowers and candles. Cheese trays displayed with grapes, artisnal crackers and those fancy curved cheese knives (I have one and use it for my scratch-off tickets).

Then reality hit. He invited a neighbourhood family over.

Immediately I started making to-do lists. Grocery lists. Lists of lists. As the day approached I became consumed with how my house looked:

The kitchen needs painting…too many toys on the main floor…god I hate these chairs…

And as I looked around, I felt nothing was good enough. How could we have people over with so many scruffy baseboards?

The benefit of being treated at a mental-health facility, though, is that they teach you to think differently. What if my house was just fine the way it is? What if I didn’t exhaust myself on the Saturday of the dinner party? Could the evening be less than perfect and still be fun?

Off to Google to search “don’t want to entertain too stressful,” and like a beacon, the top link shone out: “The Crappy Dinner Party.”

Here’s the link. In my opinion, it’s brilliant.

So I decided not to stress.

I didn’t stress out about this:

Photo of deck in backyard with dirt on it

We dumped the X-mas tree out there. Mess, mess everywhere.

Or the piles of paper here and there:

Counter in home topped with plant, papers, crossword puzzle, and SodaStream bottle

What is a four-letter word for constant mess? Kids! Oooh! A crossword.

But I did use this:

Bottle of Febreeze spray on counter at home

Make the place smell nice.

Lit a bunch of these:

Lit candle

You, you light up my life.

And spent seven dollars on these beauties.

Vase filled with fresh tulips

Tulips on your piano.

The menu was also easy. Recipes I tried out the week before: Crockpot pulled pork on fresh buns, coleslaw and potato salad. Chips as appetizers. Apple pie for dessert.

The only things that are non-negotiable in my world are 1) a clean kitchen and 2) clean bathrooms.

So I got up on the Saturday, read the newspaper, took the dog for a walk, cleaned the kitchen and bathrooms and then had a nap. I had to stop myself many, many times throughout the course of the day when I could feel the anxiety rising. I silently yelled STOP when my panicked mind wanted to take over and cancel the evening. I breathed deeply when my stomach started twisting at the thought of entertaining all night. I certainly did not ask myself “what’s the worst that can happen?” because my mind is capable of catastrophizing even a casual dinner party. So I walked, I breathed and reminded myself that I was in control, not my thoughts. By the time the doorbell rang, I was relaxed and ready to go. The evening was a huge success, and I was able to keep my eyes open past 9 p.m.

I think a few things contributed to success of the evening: our guests were greeted warmly upon their arrival. I actually said “I’m so glad you’re here” because I was; I didn’t need 15 more minutes to make the beds. The food was good; not great, but good. Their drinks were refreshed promptly and there was lots to laugh about.

Plus, when you face your fears and anxieties head on with a successful outcome, it gives you confidence. I discovered that perfection is often the enemy of excellence, and that I need to remind myself of that on a regular basis. I realized that kindness sometimes involves extending yourself outside your comfort zone. Our neighbours had a great time, and I didn’t have the usual fitful night of sleep following a dinner party – wondering if everything was OK. I didn’t have to worry. Our “crappy” dinner party was really, really OK and I’m OK with that.

Follow this journey on Kindism.

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Originally published: March 27, 2017
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