“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.”
The Disappointing Gift
“No presents please” my invitation stated clearly. I was turning 40 and had more material possessions than I could care for with the focused energy I was willing to spend away from my family and writing. But where there’s a birthday party there are gifts. It is our conditioning.
Like Rumi’s house guests, the gifts we receive stir, shake, move, confuse and delight. But whatever happens to us on the inside, we must accept them with gratitude but not without acknowledging to ourselves what we feel and why.
The presents delighted me with their beauty for I have a weakness for beautiful things, be they teapots, earrings, candles that smell of lavenders or an artist’s depiction of bees busily doing their work in nature.
I received them gladly, admiring them in earnest, all but one.
On my birthday, my toddler woke me up with a loud “Happy birthday mummy!”. She held in her hand two ugly taped up boxes straight from E-Bay and some other retailer that did not gift wrap. There, I’d already judged the contents of these functional but dull boxes.
I opened one to uncover a mug, nothing special, just your average, mass-produced style mug with mo flair other than having three photos of my girls from our Noosa holiday. Two of the photos weren’t even very good quality. The photo in the middle was Lucy’s smiling face. I’d already judged the mug totally forgettable but faked it.
“Oh Lucy, it’s so beautiful. How thoughtful of you and daddy to get me such a memorable mug!” came out of my mouth when I was really thinking “Oh, God, could it be any less tacky?”
The other gift is one I’ll never forget. It’s a new iPhone. These days smartphones are our second brain. How can I forget it when it’s always with me and I feel like a mindless person if I’m to step away from it? Yes, I have a problem. It might be good to re-train myself to function without technology.
But this is not a marketing piece for Apple, but a story of the mug that nearly became another Utku Family curse.
Beauty Is The Eye of The Beholder
“Promise you won’t judge and won’t give me a hard time?” I asked him. I was sheepish. There was no excuse for what had happened.
That was fair enough. He knew me too well. He’d already decided that whatever it was I was asking help for was something I needed to figure out for myself. I stupidly revealed what was bothering me so much that I couldn’t relax and fall asleep.
“I can’t remember what you got me for my birthday…I mean I remember the iPhone because I’m still trying to set up the bloody thing but there was something else…”
“Well think about it.”
“I can’t” I was starting to get hot and bothered. I was angry with him. Why wouldn’t he just tell me? He was going to withhold information from me.
After an hour of jumping through the hoops, following his instructions to check the cupboards, emptying out the kitchen cabinets and cupboards I was still clueless. My memory had failed me. I’d blocked out the present I’d deemed too ugly, without enough style for the likes of me.
I could recall the details of all the other presents but the damn mug never crossed my mind until I finally pulled it out of the dishwasher.
I took a closer look at the photographs. The first one was too dark but I could make out it was my two daughters sitting on a beach chair in the AirBnB house in Noosa we’d rented a few weeks ago. The second photo was my eldest, Lucy, at a beachside cafe. The moment that photo was taken, the little boy in the table behind us that Lucy was smiling and talking to had decided to look and his mug captured in our mug for all foreseeable future. The last photo was Zoe by the pool in her swimming costume and floaties, a constant reminder of how much she’s enjoyed floating in the pool, splashing around with her family.
The mug was beautiful. It brought a lump in my throat. I wasn’t as beautiful. I’d failed to consider it fully. It took me back to my childhood.
My dad had traveled to the U.S. when we lived in Turkey. American products were very fashionable in Turkey. Mum was expecting him to bring some American branded clothing, who knows what but he’d brought a little porcelain bunny with a blue cap.
To this day, that bunny is a loaded symbol of unmet marital expectations. Its fate I wish on no inanimate object yet I nearly allowed my birthday gift to become a source of heated disappointment. I was deeply unconscious.
But one good thing has come of it.
“It’s a beautiful backyard party” one of my guests tells me.
“Yeah but am disappointed that the jacaranda tree hasn’t blossomed.” I point to the tree that appears alive yet unlike all the other jacarandas in my neighbourhood flowerless.
“You should beat up the trunk”
“Yes, jacarandas blossom when they’ve been through distress.”
Like the jacaranda, I had to experience distress to come to terms with how judgmental I am for my consciousness to flower. Of course it would’ve been easy if my partner had just told me what the gift was instead of me getting angry at him (really at myself!) for “withholding information”.
If only I’d acknowledged that I found the mug ugly then had a conversation with the part of me (my inner child) that rejected such a gift to arrive at the truth, I would’ve never forgotten receiving such a thoughtful present.
And the truth? Men need to be appreciated as much as women do. We are all in this thing called life together.
To Late Bloomers
I see you. I’m one. As I’m maturing, I’m seeing more beauty in the world.
But it comes with a price.
Sensitivity doesn’t discriminate. I see more beauty in everyday life but I also feel my own frustrations and pains of friends, family and strangers who don’t listen to understand and be in a relationship, who instead play power games, wanting to have the upper hand.
Call it growing pains. Once you acknowledge those icky, uncomfortable, dark, gut-wrenching sensations within, Rumi’s house guests, you’ll see they’re the stuff of this party we call life.
Over to you…
What was something life gave you that caused distress initially but with more space and love became something beautiful and refreshing like lemonade (as in Beyonce’s album dealing with her hubby’s alleged infidelity)?