I still remember the first party my husband and I threw in the first house we ever bought. Since the house was a complete dump inside, we spent several months working on it before we felt comfortable having a house-warming party. We knew that most of our friends and family thought we were nuts to buy the house in the first place, and we looked forward to showing everyone how nicely we had fixed it up. The final touch was the new carpeting we were putting in the living and dining rooms, scheduled to be installed the afternoon before the party. I wasn’t happy with that timeline, but the installer had promised me it would be done in one afternoon, and being young and naive, I believed him.
Naturally, the installers arrived late and didn’t finish that afternoon, which meant they had to come back the morning of our party to finish the job. I was panicked, sure we’d never get our furniture moved back in and everything ready on time, and I would miss the chance to show people that it hadn’t been a mistake to buy such a dumpy house. Thinking about it now, I’m embarrassed at how much I cared what our friends thought of our house, and how anxious I was to get their approval of our choice.
Fast forward to last Thursday, when my brother-in-law and his family were in town and were coming to our house for dinner. That same day we had a handyman scheduled to replace the kitchen sink faucet, an HVAC guy coming by to check the slow leak from our furnace hose, and the dishwasher decided it was a good time for a break down. An hour before everyone was supposed to arrive, we learned that the furnace hose was not leaking, but the hot water heater was. A lot. What had been a few drops of water suddenly grew into a steady stream flowing across the basement floor, and the box fan we had running to keep the floor dry was right in the middle of it.
Naturally, I was flustered (I find it hard to think about more than one thing at a time), but I certainly didn’t panic, and it never occurred to me to either cancel the dinner or move it to a nearby restaurant. I knew the important thing was just to spend time with family we don’t get to see nearly as often as we’d like to, and there was no need to try to impress them. It was just about having dinner with people who are important to us, and so what if everything didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped? We had a great time, and watching my 26-year old son playing Barbie dolls with my niece’s 3-year old daughter made the evening memorable all by itself.
Middle age hasn’t erased all my faults (not by a long shot), but it has helped me feel much more comfortable with who I am, faults and all. I used to spend so much emotional energy trying to make sure everyone approved of me and my choices, but thankfully, I seem to have outgrown that self-destructive habit. Which just goes to show that there really are some advantages to growing older….