Creatives need room to breathe, and let things be a little loose sometimes so that the creative juices can flow. I realized I was falling into a trap of over-planning and over-controlling the outcome. So this year, I took a cue from my husband, who had an informal gathering of friends, and did the same.
With not a ton of advance notice, I invited some Brooklyn-based friends to come meet up in a local bar/community space called 61 Local. If you've never been there before, do go! It's a bar, but also a community space, and all food and drink is locally sourced. There's always a ton of community-based activities, one being that folks come there to pick up their share of locally-grown produce.
The day before the party, I walked down to the Columbia Waterfront neighborhood to select some brightly-colored, whimsical hand-decorated cookies - mostly animals - from Margaret Palca Bakes.
When Mike and I got to 61 Local, we quickly moved in on a table that was being vacated by a group.It had always been my dream to have my own table to inhabit with friends at 61! I sprinkled some shiny birthday-themed confetti over the surface and set out the fun animal cookies. Someone walked by the set-up and remarked to her companion "It looks like a child is going to have a birthday party!"
One by one, my buddies started to arrive. Being at a community table in a large space allowed folks to move around easily from the eating area to the bar area and to talk to different people without being trapped in one seat. Just what I had hoped for! We ended up hanging out there for about four and a half hours. Mike and I were so wiped out (in a good way!) when we got home that we fell asleep while watching the Charlie Brown Halloween special.
Several days after the party, on the day of my actual birthday, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do. I hadn't planned anything in advance. I decided to let go of the need to plan something specific, and just let something come to me. I decided that I wanted a pastrami sandwich from a local meat shop. While I was ordering the sammy, I noticed that the shop carried Steve's Key Lime pies. I had an image of inviting my neighbors over that night to share the pie.
After lunch, I mozeyed over to the new location of my friend's very whimsical store called Grumpy Bert. And then walked in and out of a few shops, including Paper Source and Jonathan Adler, that were brightly decorated and stocked for the holiday season. It was fun gathering that much visual inspiration.
That night, I did go back for the key lime pie and loved having my neighbors respond to a pretty last minute invitation to come over to share the deliciousness. After their departure, I returned happy birthday phone calls from far-away family members, and continued to enjoy all the sweet Facebook messages coming in from folks, even people that I barely ever see.
I'm really glad I did not over-plan and over-control this time. It left room for serendipity, and for things to happen in a more organic way that honored creativity, imagination. It made it more possible to notice and be thankful for all the wonderful people in my life.
I'm going to remember all this for birthdays to come.