Last Saturday I had a dinner party, a small one, only nine of us, which was a good thing since I only have nine glasses. This was quite different for me. Usually my social SOP is to throw really huge parties two or three times a year, to which I invite absolutely everyone I know. And since my social life also operated as an extension of the Catholic young adult ministry I’ve been doing for the last ten years or so, that was a lot of people, most of whom I liked, but some of whom I didn’t. Plus there’s the swing dancers, but I have a curse that the night I plan a party is inevitably the same weekend as that awesome dancing event out of town that I couldn’t afford to go to, and forgot was happening. Anyway, all kinds of random people show up, and usually it’s a very good time involving much food and drink and possibly games and/or pinatas. Afterwards, I’m generally exhausted, and I don’t schedule anything else for a while.
However, recently I’ve been rethinking things. The thing is that I’m tired. My job is getting more and more demanding, and I can’t sustain the pace of committments that I used to keep up. My old routine of having social/ministry/other obligations every night of the week, which used to just about keep me pleasantly occupied, is now far too much. As much as I love the various activities that used to keep me going, I like being able to pay my bills more. So I’ve got to cut back. At the same time, I’ve come to realize that I need a social life that actually feeds & rejuvenates me. While using my social life as an extension of young adult ministry has brought me a lot of gifts, it also means that too often I haven’t had any respite from caring for other people.
So I’m making some changes. For one thing, I’m planning to step down from my position as the Servant Leader of our group by the end of the year. When I told my Leadership Team about this, they sweetly tried to tell me there was absolutely no need for me to do so, but I figure it’s best to quit while I’m ahead. I’ve also decided to switch my focus from huge social gatherings to which absolutely everyone must be invited, to smaller, more intimate gatherings. Sure, I can’t invite all the people I’d like each time (see above: only nine glasses), but I actually get to talk to the people I invited. And if someone can’t come, or I couldn’t invite them one time, there will always be another dinner. Plus, I’m not completely exhausted the next day. And if last Saturday’s dinner party was any indication, this plan is going to work out really, really well.
It’s so funny to think of having a real dinner party. The very idea reeks of High Society, and the kind of ettiquette you have to dig out of the kind of dusty books that also contain the protocol for things like mourning stationary. I’m modern enough to be quite happy to jettison the formal ettiquette (particularly the convention that says your guests must come evenly paired in gender-balanced couples), while embracing things like getting out the good china, and the vintage damask table linen. Plus, I got to plan a menu like I haven’t in years. It was a lot of fun contemplating exactly what kind of starch would best go with Roasted Pork Loin with Thyme, Garlic and Tomatoes (in the end I went with Hasselback Potatoes), and whether both stuffed celery and deviled eggs might be too much for pre-dinner munchies (I decided to do neither in favor of simpler veggies with hummus and an herbed cheese spread with crackers). I decided not to make a dessert – I don’t eat things with added sugar, so I don’t make them either – but The Duchess volunteered to bring a wonderful apple cinnamon salad she’d put together. That, with a dollop of unsweeted whipped cream, was a perfect to the meal. We had good wine as well – a bottle of Seaport White from Woodbury that I’d been saving for a long, long time (a souvenir of long ago summer vacations), plus half a bottle of Cincinnatus from Vinoklet Vinyards, where we celebrated Mariah’s birthday the weekend before. The original plan was that we would play games after dinner, but we had such a good time sitting around the table together and talking that we never did get to the games. And that was just fine.
My social life isn’t the only thing I’m rethinking. Last night I let my fellow teachers know that this will be my last year teaching for UD Swing Club. Longtime readers of this blog will know how much of a big deal this is for me. My enforced injury-induced time off from dancing this summer gave me the space to really think about what dancing does for me, and to balance what it has given me against the demands it has made both on my time and on my emotional energy. It was so surreal even thinking about not teaching, and possibly not dancing. Being a swing dancer has been part of my core identity for a long time, pretty much since I took that first lesson almost seven years ago. However, the joy I still find in moving to music in communion with a partner has been overshadowed by the difficulty of fighting through way too much relationship and community dysfunction.
There might have been a time when I would have taken this as my wake up call to charge forth and Change Things For The Better, but I’ve seen what happened to others who tried to do just that, and it wasn’t pretty. There aren’t a whole lot of good choices. I am still working through what I am willing and not willing to do regarding swing dancing in general. However, I do know that, as much as I have loved teaching, it’s time to step away from it. And I’m proud of the fact that there are others willing and ready to take my place, dancers whom I taught, who have gone on to far surpass me. I think one of the marks of a good leader is that they are willing to nurture others, so that when they leave, they are not irreplaceable. It makes me feel good knowing that UD Swing Club will do just fine without me, in part because I was willing to love them for a little while.
This seems to be a season of change for me. There are some other changes coming down the pike, things I’m not quite ready to blog about yet. Some of the changes are hard, but I think on the whole they’re good changes. And I know one thing isn’t going to change – I’ll let you know all about it!