When I was younger, between the ages of two through twenty-ish, my parents did a lot of what was affectionately known as ‘entertaining’, particularly throughout the Christmas/holiday season. My Dad was an accountant and my mom stayed at home with my brother and I. Christmas was about parties at our house, mostly involving my Mom spending many hours cooking and preparing, and my Dad manning the ‘cocktail bar’ (which I seem to remember containing scotch, whiskey, sherry and port). My Mom was reminiscing with me about those entertaining days. There wasn’t money to go out for fancy parties or hosting or treating clients (nor were there many restaurants to hang out) so everyone came to our house. This was also because my Dad was highly social and always loved a good party. He was also someone you liked having at parties because he was kind, humorous, easy going and friendly. Because of the social cultural climate of the time, it was also necessary to have ashtrays and cigarettes on hand. I have mostly fond memories of those parties: people laughing, drinking, eating… As my brother and I got older we were taught how to correctly greet guests at the door: with a firm handshake (certainly not limply as that would give the wrong impression) and a pleasant and friendly, ‘Hello, so nice to see you, may I take your coat?’ This being taught by my Dad. We were also taught how to clear dishes, empty ashtrays, wipe up spills and load the dishwasher. I also remember taking bites and tastes of all the delicious food that my Mom cooked: coquille st. jacques (a scallop creamy soup that we learned to ladle into these large shell shaped dishes), and vanilla, chocolate and strawberry pot-de-cremes desserts (I at least consumed quite a quantity of these before they made it to the table). As we got older we were paid a small sum to assist with the guests: the priority being that all would feel welcomed, be well fed, and enjoy their stay.
I was pondering this today after reading the following quote this morning:
“This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor…Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. 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.”
I love this quote by Rumi as it helps me hold ‘entertaining’ in a different light. What if I were to practice greeting myself with all my dark thoughts, shame and malice and welcome them. Greet them all with a firm handshake, a welcoming hello and ‘may I take your coat?’ Holding the intention of, ‘please, come in and stay awhile.’
I wonder: What emotions and aspects of myself can I practicing welcoming in this holiday season? Dare I hope to become more self aware and grounded? More kind, and compassionate? What about you?