Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Day 5 Rumi: 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're 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 whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Translated by Coleman Barks
Me: My friend Faith, who moved last year to CO with her small son, favors this poem. When I found the poem in my book this morning I remembered her reading it to me in the small space of her kitchen which she continually rearranged changing it from dining area to study lounge to play space. I don't speak with Faith often, she's a full-time student and mother, but I remember certain things about her and the time we spent together. For example, I remember the way she greeted everyone with a smile and a hug, always knowing something of their life enough to ask after their mother, their daughter, their dog. We called this about her “people pleasing.” It got her into dicey situations like someone's bridesmaid for a wedding that was thankfully canceled.
I on the other hand was not keen on chatting up people, and had a difficult time withstanding the men that Faith would kindly entertain for moments when caught on Church Street (the downtown area of our town) until I would roll my eyes and drag her away. During the time we spent together, Faith and I, we were both single. It was shortly before I started dating and married my husband. We were both going through some difficult issues (divorce/break-up) in our life and she was pregnant when I met her. I was working at a coffee shop, and she, at a department store, and we had a lot of free time on our hands which we spent drinking coffee, going to the beach, and thinking up emails I could send to a man I had met and felt certain (wrongly so) that I was destined to marry. It will I think be remembered by me as the last of my “girlhood.”
In a way my girlhood was lost to marriage and partnership. I still keep my ladies incredibly close, but its not the same. The center of my intimacy is my husband. Before him it was with my lady friends. Faith knew this when I married him because she'd been married, and she cried once for her loss, though I didn't at the time understand.
We were relentlessly goofy: Faith would entertain any and every fantasy of mine and in a way this helped me have the strength to do certain things—write and direct a play, start graduate school, continue writing. She loved to believe in me. Part of this has to do with her desire perhaps to ignore herself and her own condition because she did and does struggle with demons, more I think than most. But she was there for me in the dramas of my misguided love, my sense of endless loss, and the intensity of my lust for adventure. She let me be ridiculous and never once questioned the legitimacy of my wildest imaginings—of course I should fly down to New York for the weekend to have breakfast with him!
The intensity of our bond was bound to go bust, how could it not? However, I don't think it matters that our relationship has changed; relationships need to change because we change. Even (or especially) a marriage evolves. Still, sometimes I wonder if Faith laments this change and this is why she doesn't call.
Faith understood that to be human is to be a guest house and she welcomed everyone she met; I do think, to a fault, but that doesn't dismiss her unique beauty or her love of people. I know often it was fake, often it seemed in fact to kill her, and she'd go “underground” for a couple of days or weeks, but I am not willing to fully judge this part of her as some psychological oddity. She like all of us is in the evolution of a lifespan/ soul growth.
A week after her son was born I spent an afternoon at her home. I lay him on my chest, he was so small, and he fell asleep there. Faith told me that infants fall asleep on your chest because the sound of the heartbeat comforts them, reminds them of the sound of their mother's heart in their former home.
Months later she and her son were visiting me and we decided to baptize him. I opened my Bible to the Parable of the Mustard Seed and read it...the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed...the smallest seed makes a big tree whose branches stretch into the sky and birds come to perch upon them....I trickled a few drops of water on his forehead. I think, perhaps, he giggled at us.
Since she's been gone, we've rarely spoken. Occasionally we'll send each other a card, email, or text. But we never actually speak. I don't exactly know why. But I know that she was and perhaps still is indirectly a “guide from beyond” in an atypical way. Perhaps, that is the best kind.