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consider yourselves invited

July 6, 2011

[Welcome to the latest installment of Chasing Maybes, or “Daring Myself to Do Stuff I Would Never Ordinarily Do.”  Have I pigeonholed myself without reason?  Have I rejected entire segments of existence without cause?  I’ll explore these questions, one Trivial Pursuit category at a time.  During the month of June, I traversed pink Entertainment waters.]

Before our wedding, my husband and I were asked to participate in a weekend premarital workshop at the church where we would marry.  While I was happy to comply with this request, I didn’t feel it was necessary.  After all, Steve and I weren’t exactly rushing into this marriage thing — we’d long ago hammered out our thoughts on finances, child-rearing (as if we knew a single thing on the subject), and managing conflict.  We shared the same religious beliefs.  We are both slow to anger and rarely argue.   Frankly, I didn’t think we had much to learn from such an event.

I remember sitting in the ornate church meeting room, distracted by visions of centerpieces and bridesmaids’ shoes (incidentally, I would like to issue a blanket apology to any bridesmaid who might be reading this for the floor-length sage gowns and dyed-to-match shoes I foisted upon you), when the minister said something I had never heard before:

“You’ll hear that most couples argue about money and sex.  You may believe that parenting issues will cause most of the conflict in your marriage.  In reality?  What you need to pay the most attention to is how you spend your leisure time.  You don’t have to like all of the same things, but you need to share sources of entertainment.  You need to have fun together.”

Looking back on the minister’s statement, I think the reason I hadn’t thought about the importance of shared fun with my husband was that, back then, pretty much everything was fun.  I was twenty-five, for heaven’s sakes.  We both had jobs and friends and enough disposable income to do what we had to do and what we wanted to do.  “Having fun together” defined much of our shared experience.

In the ensuing years, like every other couple who has children and/or other pressing responsibilities, shared entertainment has required more effort.  Still, I’m amazed by how true that minister’s words ring — when Steve and I share a run or a laugh at an Onion headline, our connection is reinforced.  We are reminded in small ways why we love each other.

As I look back over Month 1 of my Chasing Maybes project, during which I pursued entertainment experiences I have dismissed in the past, this idea of shared fun permeated my thinking.

While every one of this month’s experiments enriched me in some way — I’m actually sharing classical music with my occasionally-willing children now and getting trounced in Words with Friends when I have a spare moment — those exploits I pursued as an active participant, rather than as a mere agent, were most meaningful to me.  After all, the primary aim of this project is to challenge my own prejudices, and that is far harder to do when I am sitting alone in my car listening to Ravel or poring over a late night unicorn book at my desk.

In part, it is more difficult to challenge myself when I am alone because I am so comfortable with solitude.  I am an introvert (a word which often gets muddled up with shyness, but truly defines someone who needs time alone to recharge), so reading by myself — even Magic Bites — doesn’t feel all that difficult.

Where I gained the most, this past month, was in shared, kinetic experiences.  Engaging fully by putting myself in another’s comfortable space, I was able to both draw a larger circle around myself and allow myself to be drawn in.  In my religious community, we talk a lot about “radical hospitality,”  a term that comes to mind as I think about the difference between learning in isolation and learning in community.  Practicing radical hospitality means intentionally extending myself to those I do not know and welcoming them in.  It means shunning the lazy tribalism I often slip into and opening myself up.

When I attended the Heroes Comic Book Convention, I encountered this radical hospitality.  I was stunned into gratitude by this community’s unquestioning welcome of me.  It really got me thinking about how small my circle had become, and how dangerous that progression might be.  Bolstered by that success, I went to the metal-inspired-by-science-fiction show with my friend Christina.  It was my full participation in that event that not only reminded me that there are worlds beyond my window worth exploring, but also that radical hospitality can live everywhere — in my approach to music, in Christina’s approach to the metal fans, in PRF’s approach to me.

It reminded me that the world is issuing me a daily invitation — it is just begging me to participate — and that it is my job to accept that invitation.  It is my job to share it with the people I love.

So, that was Month 1.  Month 2’s category is (wait for it…) Geography.  I can’t wait to get this one started.

Today, I hope you accept whatever invitation life might toss your way.  I hope you have fun with someone you love.  Thanks, as always, for showing up.

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