How ‘Bout We Give Up the Pressure?

Alan and I belong to a group of people who hold a once-a-month potluck. Each month, a different person hosts. Because Ruffles is a bit of a hooligan around food, we don’t have them at our house. I take care of emailing everyone instead.

But this past month, no one was able to host and we had a bit of down time at the bakery, so we thought, why not? January is usually slow on the potluck front. It should be manageable.

It didn’t quite work out that way. People were pretty excited about it being in the bakery and everyone who wasn’t on a cruise, in Florida or, sadly, in hospital, showed up. And we were running a little behind, so the counter that would have taken all the food was being used for food prep and the actual food just sort of landed wherever it could. And since it’s a bakery, there’s really no place to hang coats, so they just piled up wherever. And people kept their boots on and as the snow melted, parts of the floor got really slippery. Some friends brought in tables and chairs. Which no one wanted to sit at, so they just kind of cluttered up the place.

And then we ran out of plates.

It was, in other words, the most chaotic potluck I’ve ever been to.

And I was getting pretty stressed. Really embarrassed when the plates ran out and wondering what the hell to do. Until one intrepid soul emptied one of the serving dishes of its contents and used that for his dinner and a few people who had already eaten filled the sink and washed up a load of plates for the next round. And still hardly anybody sat down and one of my friends put a gentle hand on my arm and said, “It’s perfectly fine. It’s potluck. That’s what it means.”

So I poured myself another glass of wine and tried to calm the heck down.

People were having SO much fun! Bumping into each other and putting arms around each other, if only to make a little more room. Eating food right off the platters, where that was possible. Enjoying themselves immensely. It was like the party scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s only no one (to my knowledge) set their hair on fire.

Huge hugs at the door as people said goodbye and we had the most amazing thank you emails the next day.

What I would have judged an utter disaster of a party, if left to my own devices, was viewed by our friends as a total success. Go figure.

So why do we stress?

Why does the thought of having people in for dinner throw me into a round of rabid cleaning with dark mutterings of not wanting them to know how we really live? How horrified would anyone be by the fact that having a dog means that tumbleweeds of fur regularly roll through the place and build up in the corners (and I don’t clean them up every single day – gasp!)

What our friends are actually thinking when we invite them round for dinner is ‘Yay! I don’t have to cook!’ and ‘Yay! I get to spend time with my friends!’ And yet, my habit is to assume that they are judging my housekeeping, my lifestyle, my taste and incomelevelandabilitytoliveasagrownupand…

Exhausting. Silly. And completely unproductive.

Maybe we should try to let that go. Not just our judgements of ourselves, but our assumptions that others are judging us. Because mostly, they’re not. Study after study has shown that we’re all too busy stressing over what others think of us to even notice what we think of others.

I’m not likely to let my standards drop completely. I will still gather up the tumbleweeds before having people in, but maybe, just maybe, I can give up stressing about it. Give up the notion that people are judging me, or if they actually are that their judgement in any way impacts my life.

As I spend more time contemplating minimalism, as my pile of physical possessions grows smaller and more useful, I start to realize that the big work is in my emotions, my assumptions and my judgements about myself.

It’s not as easy as carrying a boxful of crap to the curb or donating all my unworn clothing, but I want to make a start. And I think if I can set gentle reminders in place, I may just be able to lighten up the inside of my head. And that will feel even better than lightening up the inside of my house feels.

How about you? Is there a thought or a belief that you’d like to let go?

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10 Responses to How ‘Bout We Give Up the Pressure?

  1. sandy says:

    Thanks for writing and sharing your life. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone. In that same vein, and since you asked, the thought I’d like to banish from my mind once and for all is “You don’t belong here.”

    I don’t know where this ribbon of thought started but it runs through my mind at all the wrong times – when I’m least likely to be able to counter it with “Oh yes I do. I have family, friends, meaningful work and volunteer life. I most certainly do belong here. So shut up.”

    Honestly, the things with which we torture ourselves.

  2. Deb says:

    Thanks. I needed that question right now.

  3. Alice O'Connor says:


    Once again you have hit home and described feelings and events that are going in my life. You have this uncanny way of doing this. I keep your Happy Simple e-mails in my inbox and have now added Happy Simple to my bookmarks. I read them and re-read them and they just seem to settle me somehow. The next time I see you in town, I will introduce myself. Keep doing what you are doing.

  4. Laura says:

    Exactly what I needed to read, at exactly this moment…

    Thank you!

  5. Monique says:

    Better not. Feel weird in this world right now. But I am glad you shared your moment with us. It really make me think about my life.

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