The Reluctant Participant

I slowly opened the envelope and stared intently at the words on the invitation while a flock of conflicting thoughts flew hither and thither inside my mind.

There was a minute or two of pure mental chaos! My first thought was to accept and go to the party, but ……….

Here it came! The dreaded “but”.  Of course you know the sentiment that follows a “but” usually contradicts what precedes it. The words after “but” seem to be more powerful and they often cancel out what was previously expressed.  Like “I really like holiday parties but ….”.   

In this case, an entire family of “buts” rushed into the white space in my head.

Disguised as excuses and reasons not to attend, these “buts” began to compete for my attention, talking over each other and rudely interrupting one another as they competed for dominance, using my head as their battleground.  Worse still, the clatter from these thoughts began to dull my initial desire, which was to respond in the affirmative!  The “buts” planted seeds of confusion causing me to doubt my positive reaction.  I was already fully booked during this holiday season, should I commit to one more thing?  Should I go, should I not go?  What would you do?

As for me, I took charge of my thoughts and quickly sent the “buts” packing.  I RSVP’d in the affirmative and squeezed one more event into my bulging holiday schedule.

“I can do this! I want to go! Well, don’t I?” I found myself saying.

The day of the party arrived. It was one of those days! I wasn’t exactly sitting around primping, pampering or painting my nails to look pretty for the festivities. My original plan for the day had sadly gone awry and I found myself on mental and physical overload.  Pretty much chasing my tail all day thanks to one or two unexpected side swipes that threw me behind the power curve. So, as I drove away from my last commitment of the day, all I could think about was getting home to sit by the cheery bright Christmas tree. That was a comforting thought on this cold December evening. To slouch on the couch with my honey, staring aimlessly at the flickering fire while sipping some hot mulled wine was an attractive proposition. I was ready to put my feet up, relax and be home!

As I pulled into the garage, I suddenly remembered! The invitation … the party. OMG! Anthea, you’ve got to show up at that party tonight! You accepted the invitation, you can’t bail out now. 

And so, the internal struggle with my racing thoughts began … once again! 

Another tug-of-war rant raged in my head! The battle of the yay and nays was in full force. Yay … go!  Nay … stay! My gut was encouraging me to go, but I was jaded from the demands of the day and not enthusiastic about turning my social switch on when I felt unsociable.  Nor did I relish the thought of braving the cold night air again.  While my instinct was saying “go”, the “buts” tuned in with … “ but your hosts will understand!”.  

The ‘buts’ pressed the point. “With the day you’ve had, it’s justifiable to call in your regrets. There’ll be plenty of other people there, they won’t even notice your absence. It’s a cold windy night, not a good idea to risk your health in this weather. They wouldn’t want you to overextend yourself. It’s okay to stay home.”

Then my conscience weighed in with my gut and the buts! Thanks a bunch for yet another voice in my head.  I really needed one more point of view, didn’t I?  Another opinion! This time a should! The worst kind of guilt accompanies a “should” doesn’t it? Don’t you just hate the parental tone coming at you?

Anthea, you should always do what you say! You should keep your commitments! It’s who you are. You were raised to be responsible! You should step up and go. You should, should … SHOULD!! 

Ugh! I screamed in my head! Okaaaaaaay!!  I’ll go.

“Darn it” I thought. “Goodbye to the tempting vision of tranquility and a night at home”. I took a deep breath and headed to my room to freshen up. I was raised to do what I say I’ll do. If anything is true of me it’s that I am one to keep commitments.  I knew I had to go … so I bucked up, dressed up and showed up.

But, you might say I was the reluctant participant. Sorry to confess, but true.

The chatter in my head continued as I drove to the party. I scolded myself on the way for being so quick to accept the invitation in the first place!  I chided myself for not listening to the “buts” point of view, which provided me with plenty of valid reasons not to go when I first received the invitation. 

I wondered who would be there and where conversations would go. Truthfully, my expectations of enjoying the evening were not that high. Not because of who would be there, or what we’d say to each other, and certainly my low expectation was no reflection on my delightful hosts, whom I dearly love.  No, it was everything to do with my own poor attitude, internal struggle and the infernal reluctance. I took another deep breath as I slowly cruised past their brightly lit home looking for a parking spot.  Too late now Anthea, you’re here, I thought. You must park and go in. 

I got out of my car with the host’s gift in hand, adjusted my attitude, marched up the driveway, rang the door chimes, and was greeted with a warm welcoming hug and a blast of Christmas spirit that smelled of gingerbread, pine cones and hot apple cider all mingled together. I crossed over my friend’s threshold … and stepped into one of the most enjoyable evenings. 

Can you relate to this experience?  Has it ever happened that way for you?

You accept an invitation and then when the time arrives, reluctance sets in for a variety of reasons. You look for excuses not to go, you argue the pros and cons of bailing out. You’re really torn by the argument in your head. You may even succeed in persuading yourself to skip the event.

Human nature can be strange at times. If I’d not gone to the party, I’d have missed a really, special time that included meaningful conversations with friends both old and new. Not just superficial chit-chat but deep conversations that blessed me, while I had opportunity to touch others in a special way. One never knows where one is destined to be … to touch someone’s heart and make a difference, or to receive a blessing that impacts one’s life … long after the party’s over.

The moral of this story is to conquer reluctance and enjoy life full out.  Decide to be the eager participant! Overcome the annoying chatter in your head and force yourself to boldly embrace all of life’s invitations. That opportunity may never come again. You may well discover the most wonderful time, as I did that night a few years ago.  Maybe the best time ever … because you were right where you were destined to be. 

What are your thoughts?

“There is a strange reluctance on the part of most people to admit they enjoy life.”  William Lyon Phelps

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