Marilyn Paul, PhD

Not Present At My Own Party


Not Present

When I turned forty, I was still single and I decided to throw a big party for myself.  I invited all my friends and family, friends from childhood and college.  A bash with great food and good wine.

I planned ahead – or so I thought.  I created a wonderful menu of delicious dishes, most of which I wanted to prepare myself.  I love to cook.

That evening, people started arriving and I put out the first courses.  I went back into the kitchen and continued cooking.  I could hear the happy buzz of a good party taking place.  And I kept cooking.  More guests came, a few left.  We gathered together for a few toasts.  I went back to the kitchen to work on the grand finale – a fantastic dessert.

A few more people came and soon, even more left.  The party sounds started to die down.  A couple of people were hanging around in the kitchen with me.  And, then, just as I put the final dish out on the table, I said good-bye to the last few guests.  I was alone with massive amounts of food and drink.

It had been a terrific party, I heard.  People met new people.  Some old friends who hadn’t seen each other for years reconnected.  And, I cooked a lot and got lots of hugs.  But I had missed it.

For me, the party revealed how my sense of time was shot.  How I couldn’t plan ahead.  How I rushed to meet deadlines, and frequently missed them.  My house was scattered full of random items.  I loved to entertain and I created wonderful Shabbat meals, but I labored too hard, made too much food and felt devastated by the clean up.  The faith I had that I could always pull it off – whatever the challenge was – diminished.  This event was part of my turning point for getting a little more organized.

It took years to sort myself out.  What is deeply important to me has not changed.  I love entertaining.  I enjoy hosting friends for Shabbat meals.  Yet, I do a little less.  I am less frantic, I am more present and I accept my limits with a little more grace.

Slowly I became a little less pressured, a little more organized, and by the time I met my husband, early the following year, I managed not to scare him off with my chaos and frenzy.  He is a neat and organized person by nature and background, and we have forged a very positive modus vivendi.

Getting organized was a path to personal growth.  I learned to accept that my overwhelming ambitions were too much for me, I learned to respect my limits.  I learned to love living with less stuff and fewer things on my calendar, and more energy and more a more genuine sense of connection.

One Response to "Not Present At My Own Party"
  1. Marilyn, it’s great to get your newsletter! I so identify with this article. I once gave a dinner party where everything was gourmet from the cream of pear and celery soup to the pheasant over mire poix entree to the mousse with homemade hazelnut brittle for dessert. I spent the entire party in the kitchen madly cooking, even though I had made the soup and dessert a day ahead. I finally served the entree close to to 10 pm. My friends were very gracious. But the next day, I knew how drastically I had missed the main point of entertaining when one friend thanked me by saying, “We had such a nice time getting to know your friends.” Since then, I try hard to keep the menu good but modest, and in general, to triage right off the list all those too-ambitious to-do’s that obscure what’s really important. It’s hard to do. I still make lists that are too long. It’s a learning process. Thank you for sharing your story. I always learn new things from you. It’s great to hear things are going so well in California.

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