Fifteen years ago we wandered through stores like Pottery Barn and Bed, Bath and Beyond, scanner guns in our hands, zapping the items that we hoped would fill our house. This home we were imagining was going to be filled with people and dinner parties (which was obvious by the amount of place settings we registered for).
We didn’t choose any tablecloths because we didn’t know what size table we would end up with.
Here we are, 15 years later, and we still don’t have tablecloths because our table is temporary. It was a hand-me-down that is going to be replaced…eventually. And our abundance of plates and soup bowls are stacked neatly in the basement, tiredly waiting for our dinner parties. We have a gravy boat that’s never been used because (1) I don’t make gravy (not sure why I ever thought that I would) and (2) we don’t host big meals.
Our table is too small, our house is too squishy, our kids go to bed too early, our friends are too busy…
Once upon a time, my friends and I all lived in tiny basement suites, but it didn’t stop us from cramming in as many of us as we could to share meals or play cards. We plugged in a rice cooker in the bathroom, sat on the floor in the living room because none of us owned enough chairs, and balanced plates on our laps. We made it work because we wanted to be together.
I keep waiting, I think, for the longer table to be built, for a house that’s a bit bigger, for dinner parties that resemble the Braverman family meals to spontaneously unfold in my backyard. I keep waiting for the community that I imagined to show up. For friends who drop by to my (always clean) house, for a front porch where my girlfriends and I sit sipping our iced tea while a whole gaggle of kids run and play up and down the street, for other families to share life with. I keep waiting for friendship at this stage of life to feel something like it did years ago, when we all had the time to just be together.
Maybe you know something of what this feels like. Maybe you, too, have found the stage of life you’re in to not be quite what you were anticipating. Maybe you slow down every now and then, look around, and realize your friendships aren’t what you wish they were. Maybe you, too, find yourself waiting until things are a bit different before you really put time into community.
But here is what I’m learning: All of that waiting for just the right things to fall into place, to happen on their own, keeps us from cultivating the relationships we do have. While I’m busy wishing that my best friends all live next door, I’m missing out on getting to know the people who actually do live next door.
Maybe you’re familiar with the phrase, “The good is the enemy of the best.” I think we could also say, “Illusions of the best are the enemy of the good.” Our perfect ideals of what this life should look like can get in the way of noticing and living in the good that is.
Sometimes in order to have the community we long for, we have to just start living like that community already exists. That’s what I’m leaning into this year.