I am forever wondering if our quest for self-exploration has become burdensome, backwards. Enneagrams, Myers-Briggs – the idea of whittling down our complex personalities to a number and a few letters. Are we placing boundaries where they weren’t intended; living within confines that needn’t be there? While I love nothing better than a tidy definition and simple explanation, I sometimes fear I’m placing too much stake in the label.
A few labels, specifically: Introvert and Enneagram 9. Drawn to white space and margin, boundaries. Avoider of conflict, chaos, mess. Give me a book and a sofa, an open window and a rainy day. Shh, quiet please. Let there be peace.
It’s the way I’m wired, I’ll justify, and yet – the way in which we’re wired is always available for tweaking.
And so: in my efforts to be less selfish this fall, I’ve been tweaking.
More last-minute invites, more dirty dishes. More inconvenience (more joy). More mayhem, more adventures. Less time to myself, of course. Less energy. But energy is like manna, isn’t it? More arrives in the morning, doesn’t it?
Best not to save it for later.
And so: if you’re an introvert like me and need a few friendly pushes toward practicing hospitality this fall, might I suggest a handful of tips to make the transition a bit less rocky?
Cook one dish.
Come up with one foolproof meal that you can’t possibly fail at (mine is breakfast-for-dinner, because even if you burn the potatoes and the sausage and the eggs, you can smear the whole plate with ketchup or hot sauce and call it a day). Something you cook often, something you love to eat and is simple to share. My friend is always serving her famous cilantro pot roast, and we never get sick of it. Another friend servers a killer grilled cheese at least once weekly. And of course, there’s always Friday Night Meatballs. Whatever your dish is, stick with it. Refuse to let recipe anxiety keep your front door shut. Instead, think of your same-old recipe as your signature dish — someday, it will become a comfort food associated with you, your family and your home. A worthwhile legacy, if ever there was one.
I’m a forever fan of weekend brunches, because dinner parties with kids are less “dinner party” and more “grab-a-breadstick-whilst-standing-and-yell-out-the-backdoor-to-watch-out-for-the-broken-tire-swing.” But brunch? Brunch is the sweet spot. Pajamas and pancakes, hot coffee, bedhead. The kids are still in good spirits, freshly rested. Full bellies and full spirits before everyone heads out to start busy days of soccer games/grocery runs/birthday parties. It’s so simple it’s impossible to over-think, so all energy can be preserved for the conversation, the hosting, the unexpected. My standby rule? Morning-of invites. Simply send a few texts to your neighbors early that morning – Want to come over for sweet potato hash? After all, you’ve got to eat breakfast; might as well crack a few more eggs.
Game the system.
Games offer the perfect playing field for introverts and extroverts alike. (We love this one, especially.) My favorite hospitality trick? Keep a jigsaw puzzle going on the living room coffee table. It’s an instant connector for all ages, and gives the quieter crowd something to do while they’re recharging from the buzzing energy in the kitchen.
Switch the venue.
Hospitality doesn’t need to start at home, or even involve cooking. When we lived in L.A., we had a standing Tuesday night kickball game at an abandoned baseball diamond in our neighborhood. Everyone brought blankets and drinks and the kids took turns on the monkey bars. After a game or two, part of the group would leave in search of tacos while others headed home for bubble baths and story time. It was free, and fun, and hospitable as ever.
Sometimes, up-front communication diffuses any anxiety for hosts and guests alike. If you’ve had a long week and are low on energy, it’s perfectly acceptable to offer a “closing time.” Dinner from 6-9, brunch until noon – whatever works best for your schedule. And if you forget to establish an end time up front? No worries; just offer tea. My aunt famously suggests tea to her guests when there’s a lull in the evening. It’s the perfect exit for friends to decline if they need to leave, or a simple pick-me-up if they’re in it for the long haul. (Favorite teas here.)
Tell me, what are your go-to hospitality tricks? Or: what do you find keeps you from hosting friends/family on a regular basis? I’d love to hear, fellow introverts and extroverts alike! (And if you’re in the podcast mood, I chatted with my friend Tsh about hospitality earlier this year! Feel free to listen here.)
p.s. Want to kick it up a notch? Throw a resource party.