Tonight I surprised myself by having a remarkably good evening while hosting a BBQ. For the first time in recent memory I felt like me rather than the torpid shell I’ve been for the past few years since the collapse of my social life. I didn’t expect it to be a good time, let alone as great a time as it was, and I think that bears exploring—so many of my Self-Reflection posts are focused on negative emotions, I want to take the time and recognize good emotions too.
The last BBQ I attempted to host was canceled due to lack of attendance. Since it was something of a pop-up event I decided this time to give people well and full warning of my plans for this weekend. Last Saturday I let 9 close contacts know I was hoping to have a little shindig at my home today (the following Saturday). Of those few, only three responded in the positive, one of which dropped out later.
My wife invited a few people and though I tried to remain optimistic, I always feel unsure and unsteady about my ability to host an event; doubly so since I’ve become numb to so much of late. With such a small group, I worried that people would be bored or otherwise find excuses to leave. It’s hard to call something a “party” with only two guests, after all.
Though the party itself was small, with no more than five guests in total, we had a great time eating freshly-cooked tri-tip outside in the warm, early evening air. It was low-key and most of us took the opportunity to share stories of our past, our future plans, and our opinion on all matters social. It felt really good to have open and accepting people, about half of whom I’ve known for a decade or more, all sitting down and just having a good time.
We ended up playing some laughably bad card games (both in design and taste), with some relaxing lo-fi music providing a nice background. we cracked open some very rich cupcakes someone thoughtfully brought, and all in all enjoyed a calm evening of stories and laughter.
As the night started winding down and just two guests remained, one of whom I’ve known for 18 years now, my wife volunteered to start cleaning up as we once again took to the back yard, sitting under the vast star-decked expanse, swapping more stories. We discussed movies—and adaptations of books into films of varying quality—and talked quite a bit about the “old days” of the theatre group we were all involved in, and in which the two guests still are.
Normally I feel a bit cagey and uncomfortable talking about the improv group, owing to the nature of my departure and the many unresolved feelings I have thereby, but for some reason tonight it was simply fantastic to reminisce about stories we once told and the many continuing threads that wove through years and years of performances. We shared treasured memories that were new to some, and others that were good for a laugh all around. It felt good to tell those stories, to remember the good times, and to share my own take on those experiences, some of which one or both of my guests were present for.
Even though the party ended up being quite small, we had the perfect amount of food and a great atmosphere where it didn’t feel like people were talking just to speak, or listen to others just so they could go next. I did more talking than I have in a long while and while I worry a bit that I dominated the conversations, it was a very nice self-reflective moment when I realized that I was comfortable and at peace with the group, even with strangers who were my wife’s friends making up a large portion of the group.
It didn’t feel like I was performing, it didn’t feel like I had something to prove; from start to finish I largely felt like I used to, or at least the positive parts. I’ve been incredibly passive, almost motivationally listless, over the past year and change, and I think a lot of that is just a reaction to stress in my work life and diminished social circle. If I don’t have high expectations, it won’t hurt as much when someone doesn’t message me back, as one example.
Some years back I described depression as a leaden blanket, weighing down every action, thought, and feeling, making everything—no matter how mundane or simple—a trying experience. For the first time in a long while I was able to spend an entire evening without even the hint of that blanket looming over me. It felt genuine, it felt deeply connective, and it was a thoroughly great time.
I feel bad that my other closest friends weren’t available to attend, but less so for the thought that they had somewhere “better to be—they were all very apologetic in saying they had made previous plans— it because they missed out a great night of initiating, forming, and strengthening the bonds of friendship which we all enjoy.
It was a really, really good night, and I sincerely hope I can have its like again soon.
Title photo credit: Storytellersummit.com