It’s been 7 weeks now since the house I lived in flooded due to a burst pipe. I visited it last weekend, and although the demolition had been completed, the restoration work had not even begun. It is a house without floors, without drywall in most cases, empty, except for one bedroom where most of my furniture and stuff is all crammed into a small space.
I’ve spent this time between two hosts; one family, the other friend. I’ve had offers to come and stay various places, but we (my dog and I) would have to get in the car and travel, again…and here’s the thing: you have to pick where you guest very carefully—because of what it’s like to take up another’s space with the sound & fury of who you appear to be. The utmost respect for others, for their preferences, their quirks, their need for personal space, is imperative. And without even thinking about it, even the idea of my preferences, quirks, and needs must necessarily not only become secondary, if not irrelevant, they also most humbly come up for review. What is needed/offered as a guest? You discover very quickly the answer is very little is needed, and what is offered is the only currency. What I thought I needed has shown up, over and over, only to be discarded or disregarded—as a kind of blessing.
The hosts, my family, my friend, have been extraordinarily accommodating and welcoming. I cannot complain and only give thanks in that regard. And that is perhaps what this is about—the nature of complaint, and the idea of home. And how those two concepts go hand in hand.
I have no home to retreat to right now. What does that mean? It means I cannot complain (beggars cannot be choosers), literally. The gift is seeing how little there really is to complain about, how minimal one’s needs actually are, when held up to the standard of living as a guest, or an interloper, in someone else’s home. All the avenues of comfort, of routine, are seen for what they are—just ideas, not absolutely necessary for peace of mind.
When you have no home to go to, to hide, to be alone, to live as you please (notice the newly discovered definition of home), to hang your ratty old hat, you live according to new rules. What is required to be comfortable, and the idea of maintaining a routine, are seen as illusions, unnecessary defenses against complete intimacy with the world as it presents itself. I had to look, in a new light, at the circumstances I thought were required to be comfortable, at what heretofore were seen as basic needs.
I could be a grateful guest or a tip-toeing interloper. Perhaps both, because it I can no longer maintain the illusion that any of this living is up to me. It never was. There was simply a mind/body who used to believe that things had to be a certain way, and now there is this body that finds its comfort with whatever is given. And giving back becomes a way of life, not a moral injunction, not a way of being “good,” not giving to get. It has never been any other way, do you see? I mean, do I see? Yes.
Home is not always where your heart is, but how you put your heart into it. It is, in the broadest sense, how you give to, and thereby co-create, the environment around you, wherever you find yourself. Home, relatively speaking, is an idea of ownership, of sanctuary and security.
When I stop looking to find security in a sanctuary that I call mine, I find gracious hosts, and my own imperfect ideas and sometimes bumbling, sometimes appropriate, actions that follow, in regard to giving. If I have the perspective of being an interloper, a body that shouldn’t be here, then I am stealing space. If I am a guest, I’m keeping, holding, the space the hosts have created.
Any complaint, even if only heard silently in my head, creates a hell for me and for others, and guest becomes interloper. Having any complaint with the way things are, is and always has been, the difference between heaven and hell. I am a guest in this world. Always have been, always will be—a grateful guest, grateful for what is given however it appears, and grateful to have seen the nature of my complaint with that world. No complaints here. What is left to be seen is can I match the graciousness of the Host?
“A person needs air and nutrition and love. You can see these things poetically, metaphorically. You can see these everyday needs as clues to your nature, as met by your nature as awareness.” ~ Greg Goode
Host and guest are interchangeable roles. Living this life brings out the interloper in all of us. I step outside and hear a meadowlark’s song, a harbinger of spring. That is all.