Newman and I hosted a cocktail party over the weekend. At some point during the preparation process, I realized that he and I have been living together for exactly six months. I find it fitting that we threw our first party together at our half-year cohabitation anniversary. “Cohabitation” and “life-partner” aren’t sexy terms, but I’m going to grab any chance I can to celebrate them anyway. Newman and I haven’t had a lot of visitors or house-guests yet; I’ve been trying to respect that having me and Free move in is quite enough for him to adjust to for a while. We wanted our first party to be small and feel intimate, so we only invited close work friends with whom we feel totally comfortable, two of my sisters who’ve previously met those friends, and everyone’s partners.
And so it came to pass that on a chilly but clear January night, our house was lit up with candles and some very good cheer. I found myself taking some mental notes as I wound my way toward and through the party. I’m working on attending to the positive more routinely so as to become more present to the present. Here are some of my appreciation annotations.
Newman and I negotiated the stress of the party prep quite well. He isn’t a stereotypical male partner who doesn’t contribute equally to all the duties involved in a partnership. He automatically assumed responsibility along with me for every step, only stepping out of tasks that he knew I would enjoy or prefer control over (like laying out the dishes and decorative details because that’s where I have the most fun). He initiated food preparation while I vacuumed, shared shopping and chopping duties, and generally weaved his way fully into the fabric of the party. I know it’s what we hope for and expect from a good partner, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it when it happens. I felt like we were a team.
The co-parenting agreement that my ex and I have means that I got a whole day free of childcare to devote to cleaning, shopping, and setting up for the party. I didn’t have to worry about her for a second because she was with her dad. That is an unexpected boon of my divorce. Not everyone gets so lucky to be able to trust that the other parent is doing the job well and their child is ok, but I am, and I appreciate it deeply. Newman’s children were equally covered by their mom, and we had our time to kick back a little with friends.
Knowing that our friends had all taken the time to drive (quite a distance) to see our home and share their company with us made me feel very…glad. Whatever actually happens at a party, for me there’s something so lovely about the moment where you welcome someone into your home and accept the gift of the effort they’ve made to see you. One sister drove three hours to come to the party. Another friend bundled up her four-month old to see our new home. Our guests hired babysitters and drove far and showed up with wine and treats and good wishes for us. It warmed me more than the perfect fire Newman built to warm them.
Seeing that we have started to build quality relationships with others as a couple was also lovely. The party felt organic to me; I didn’t get to connect fully with everyone, but I let go of my expectations and enjoyed myself and the company of our friends. Newman and I found each other occasionally and touched base, but mostly we moved around and just went with the flow. It was a good flow.
At the end of the night, we tidied up and hung out a little longer with my sister and her boyfriend who were staying over. The next morning, we got to snuggle up and sleep in. Unexpectedly, my ex kept Free for that day too, and I lounged around, visiting with my sister and then my mother who dropped in on her way to a retreat. Later that evening, Newman’s kids came over for their regular movie night. We ate dinner and settled in. Downton Abbey was returning for Season 3, and I knew I’d be up later than I should be before returning to my first full week of work after the holidays. I had unfinished work to do. I hadn’t made it to the gym as planned. Monday would be brutal.
Life isn’t perfect. The January lull is just setting in. The urge to hibernate is currently stronger than most other urges. Still, our home is clean and warm. I spent yesterday with family and the night before with friends. I got some me time and some time with my partner. Since we’re cohabitating, we get to snuggle up again and again. I staved off the Sunday night blues. Monday morning hit hard, but as I type now, Free is tucked sweetly into her bed, curled up in the kisses I gave on her way to dreamland. Newman has just finished with the mando; the silence means he’ll be on his way upstairs soon to find me. I got a run in tonight while Free was in her gymnastics class, and tomorrow’s class load is a little lighter than today’s.
Lulls are ok; they help us recognize and navigate the hills and valleys. The trick, I think, is to let them be—not resist them so much. Ride them out with a little wine or snuggling. Know that perfection is just a matter of perspective. July is so golden because January is so silver. I just have to let myself feel its particular sparkle.