Fibromyalgia can be an isolating condition, which makes it important to spend time with family and friends whenever you feel up to it. Many of us no longer host parties or entertain much, often because the effort involved in the preparations and cleanup seem overwhelming. And when we do entertain, often we’re too tired from all the prep work to enjoy the fun. So in this section, we’ll focus on some ways to ease the entertaining burden.
Cleaning, Decorating – Then Cleaning Again
Hosting an evening affair? Trade your regular light bulbs for oh-so-flattering pink bulbs. Your guests will appreciate it, too!
An hour or so before your guests arrive, open your windows! Let the air freshen up your home for a few minutes, then close the windows again if you prefer. The circulating air will help to eliminate odors and staleness.
Consider asking friends to stop by for a glass of wine one evening. Using candles (or even a fireplace) can reduce the need for electric light – thereby reducing the need for you to clean quite as scrupulously as you otherwise might. [Flameless candles can make the evening a little safer, in case brain fog sets in.] Another great use for candles, especially scented ones: instant atmosphere. Candlelight is often easier on fibromyalgic eyes than electric light, and strategic candle placement will draw your (and your guests’) attention to those areas of each room that you particularly want to emphasize. Scented candles can also mask or eliminate odors – although if you are sensitive to certain chemicals, do a dry run first.
Ask for help when you’re ready to clean! Encourage your friends and family to do simple tasks, like scraping plates or gathering debris. They’ll usually be happy to help.
Hosting an important event, like a business function or a big family celebration? Consider budgeting for a little extra cleaning help to handle arm-killing jobs, like washing windows, scrubbing carpets, or wiping down the walls. You can find professionals in most communities, or try hosting a work party: your friends do the scrubbing, while you provide great music, a casual meal, and cheerful conversation.
Food and Drink
Looking for a low-stress way to host a group? Try a potluck. Tell your guests that you will be contributing beverages and ask each to bring a dish to share. Disposable or compostable plates, napkins, cups, serving dishes, and utensils are widely available, which can cut down on post-party cleaning. While you’ll still have to tidy up the areas of your home that your guests will see, this is a great way to cut down on the stress and effort.
Not up to the challenges of hosting a lengthy dinner? Dessert parties are always popular: you provide beverages and a nice fruit platter, your guests each bring a dessert to share, there’s little cleanup, and everybody’s gone by 9:00PM. Or invite guests over for a quick bite – maybe chili? salads and sandwiches? – before everyone attends a public event (concert, school play, film); you’ll take more pleasure in the party when you know there’s no danger that your guests will stay too long.
Much of the fun of entertaining lies in the food preparation: it’s fun to plan what you’ll serve your friends and loved ones. Unfortunately, it’s also a drain on your limited energy reserves that you’ll need to enjoy your own party! But you have options in addition to the time-honored potluck. Many groceries sell high-quality prepared foods, to which you can easily add a personal touch if so inclined. Local restaurants, if contacted sufficiently in advance, can prepare bulk orders of particular dishes for you to pick up. And catering isn’t always as expensive as you might expect, especially these days: even your favorite grocer might provide catering services. You don’t have to do it all.
When you first plan your guest list, make a list of food and drink that you plan to serve. Not only does that give you plenty of time to prepare for your guests, it gives you plenty of great answers when your guests call to ask what they can bring to your party. After all, people love to help out – so let them.
General Entertaining Tips
Hosting a social gathering during the summer? You’ll likely need more seating and shade than otherwise: people often prefer to sit when it’s excessively hot. Have sunscreen available for your guests, plus loads more ice and nonalcoholic beverages than you might otherwise offer. And skip the hot food in favor of easy-to-make cool dishes.
Spontaneity and flexibility characterize many summer get-togethers – but both can cause problems for fibromites. Keep a stack of disposable dishes and tableware set aside, and consider laying in a supply of versatile and quick-cooking foods. And ask people to bring along food or beverages or to run out to the store if a brief afternoon visit stretches into a leisurely dinner.
It’s great to host friends and loved ones, but it’s a lot less great when they stay forever. Try inviting people over for activities with clearly defined beginning and ending times. About twenty minutes before the party’s end, start tidying up – clear away uneaten food, collect discarded plates, and so on. If possible, enlist a close friend or family member to help with this: your other guests might not recognize that it’s closing time when they see you cleaning your own house, but they should understand when they see a second person pitching in. Circulate for a last word with your guests, thanking them for coming and expressing hopes of seeing them again soon. Most people will correctly identify these signs as an indication that you’re closing up for the night, although occasionally it might become necessary to be a little more direct (“Let me get your coat”, “We really enjoyed seeing you – let’s do it again soon”, things like that). Those who truly don’t get the message, especially on repeated occasions, might no longer be good candidates for attending evening events at your home.