the guest house


here we are, at the last of november.  wrapped in bed, with the window cracked just a little bit, so i can feel the new winter wind come in, imagine i can smell the coming rain.

at the edge of this holiday season, i find myself wondering at so many different things. this is the time of year i lose my friends to their families, and i lose myself to mine.  every once in a while, it catches me: delight at the thought of a pretty new cake recipe, excitement over the perfect present idea, images of baking up a cozy dinner for everyone and settling in for the night, candles lit, twinkly lights twinkling, heater turned on full blast.  but then i remember: come mid-december, my friends will quietly scatter, houses will empty out, and it’ll just be me. the sense of home i made for myself will dismantle, like it does every year, because the truth is, it’s a mock-up.  a stand-in.

i have a family, they have a house, and  it’s not half-bad.  nice, even.  but it’s not home. and i have to return to it this time every year.

there is a lot of guilt mixed in with this grief. can’t i make the best of it? is it even really so bad? what do i know.  in the absence of others, this poem has been a comforting voice.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi
   translation by Coleman Barks

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