Monday, July 30, 2012

The Guest House


In my new condo (I've lived here a week), I have painted a large section of one wall with chalkboard paint. Once the paint has 3 days to cure, I will be able to write on it. I plan to cover it in the quotes that remind me of the things I need to hold in my mind.

The first thing I want on that wall is the Rumi poem 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

It seems to me as though this Rumi guy summarized the biggest lesson of my life in this one short piece.

When I try to judge each event in my life as good or bad or wrong or right, I lose touch with reality and get lost in worrying. I miss out on what's happening now as I try to categorize, judge and second guess.

Instead of meeting the dark thoughts at the door with a laugh and inviting them in, I shame myself for having them and try to push them away. This makes everything so much harder than it has to be.

It's making me think that there's a chance that when I dwell on Dave's death as this terrible thing that happened to me (and it IS, objectively a terrible thing), I push it away, rather than accepting it and letting myself feel it. When I do this, I might be prolonging my pain unnecessarily.

This is MUCH easier said than done, but I notice that when I do, for one split second, allow myself to think, "Yes, he died. Now what?", I can see my future opening up in front of me. It terrifies me, but it fills me with hope.

I can get lost for days in "Why did he die?" and "How could this have happened?" and I lose sight of hope. But when I face it head on and then ask myself what I want for the rest of my life, I find a little balance again. I find myself in a place of hope once more, even if it's for one dizzy second. I also know with certainty that he'd want me to be in that state of mind as much as possible.

So, that quote is going on my wall, as big as I can make it, so that every few minutes when I forget to treat each guest honorably by letting go of the past and focusing on the future, I will hopefully be lovingly smacked in the face by Rumi's beautiful words.

I'll let you know how that goes.


  1. Cassie, Love this quote so much.
    It is so true.
    Rumi - is full of wisdom.
    I read his words often.
    This is the hardest part but we never know

    "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."

    Perhaps we see differently - the smallest of things.
    I sit at my laptop typing, the sun is setting on the water at the lake, everything shines - as if the light has illuminated everything.
    His death makes me stop and look and wait and appreciate every moment. Even if at the same time "a crowd of sorrows" surrounds my heart.
    come in ~
    come in~
    let me know . . .the truth.

    Thank you for this beautiful reminder.

  2. Love a good Rumi quote ;)
    It has taken me nearly 2.5 years to process some of the things about Greg's death. I couldn't handle it all at once, but a wise woman (who is also fond of quoting Rumi) told me to deal with a little bit at a time and to let my mind have a break from the grief when it all gets too much. I find that I am now able to process things that had previously sent me spinning into a black hole.

  3. I was in a grief group with a woman who used to say "My husband died. I didn't." almost as a mantra. At the beginning, it seemed harsh and was hard to hear but as time went on, it made more and more sense to me. It helped me to "find myself in a place of hope once more", as you wrote.

    1. Wow, GG. That's incredible. It seems as though I've needed to use that mantra too. It's so hard to process sometimes that I get to live, but he doesn't that chanting that might help it sink in a little bit at a time.