A few weeks ago I had a really beautiful birthday dinner party. After getting back from Cuba last month, my friend and I decided that we should create more spaces for our friends to gather and spend time together. It was something so striking in Cuba, the way they sat for hours chatting and laughing. No wi-fi, no phones, no distractions - just quality time together.
My birthday was coming up so I painted some birthday invitations and sent them out to a few friends - there were some couples that I knew from different areas of life that I really wanted to meet each other, so I figured it was the perfect opportunity. Plus, so many of them recently had babies so I wanted to celebrate their parenthood, the babes and let everyone enjoy themselves, together.
I dreamt up a tablescape and asked my mom to be on the lookout for mismatch plates and glassware. Heather Taylor Home just recently started renting out her beautiful linens for events so I knew that I had to have them on the tables. I had been dreaming of gold flatware for years and always imagined that I would ask for them as a wedding gift - and since that wedding is nowhere in sight, I decided that I would finally gift them to myself for my birthday (turns out they were so reasonably priced and SO worth the money).
On Friday I ran to the Los Angeles Flower Market (one of my favorite places in the whole city) and picked up lots of greens. I wanted something low to the table that could be paired with cacti in these perfect terra cotta pots that I had found at a thrift store. I got lots of eucalyptus and a few flowers and berries to mix in. My friend offered to bake the cake - we dreamt of a naked cake paired with flowers - not to mention dairy-free so that I could eat it.
It dawned on me that I was actually going to have to cook, which is one of my least favorite activities of all time, so I made a trusty old Brazilian dish - Moqueca de Camarao. It was all perfect.
That is until people couldn't find babysitters and babies were coming down with fevers and my curated guest list was falling apart a bit. So there I was having an emotional reaction to something that a) wasn't a big deal and b) I had no control over. This very old voice just kept repeating, "you see Erica, no one actually likes you." Oh that voice. Give it the slightest opportunity to feel unloveable and it will run with it for miles. There I was, 28 years old and having the exact same feelings that I had at my birthday party when I was six years old (I was the kid who cried every single year at my own birthday party - yikes!)
It unearthed this deep feeling that I am a) unloveable and b) disliked. In my head I knew that this was not rational, but that little girl in me was very sad.
My other friend, Jenna and I have been doing a lot of reading about the Enneagram - a tool to help in spiritual growth (Jenna gave me this book for my birthday and it's really awesome). Once you identify what number you are, you can see your basic fears & desires and key motivations. I have known that I am a two for a long time - in fact I am a 2 with a "wing" of 3 and do you know what the nickname is for the 2w3? "The Hostess." Ah it fits me so well. So if I know that my deepest fear is of being unwanted and unworthy of being loved then when those feelings flare, it can tip me off that I need to spend time in prayer and recenter myself. I knew that I had some work to do.
I had to talk to that little girl who grew up with this feeling, who never questioned this feeling or weighed it with reality and tell her that those were false claims. I had to tell her that all is well, that those feelings no longer serve me.
The dinner party was amazing and we had the perfect amount of people and personalities. We laughed and enjoyed each other and we sat for hours and hours around that table getting to know each other more. I felt so grateful for their friendship, for having a house that can welcome people, for food on the table and for all the love that surrounded me. And I also felt so grateful for the spiritual growth that came from recognizing old behavior, old feelings that I can let go of as an adult.
There are so many things that we develop as children, especially when we don't know the full story of something. We experience what we experience and carry it around for years and years, sometimes our whole lives. That is unless we seek the maturation of adulthood, of reason and digging deep into where they started.
When I am healthy, spiritually centered, then I do not act out of my deepest fear and instead offer gratuitous love for those around me. It really is a beautiful thing.