Today is Julian‘s tenth Angelversary.
Ten years since his life ended way too soon.
Ten years of creating new normal.
Ten years ago, I couldn’t imagine living without my youngest son.
Yet, here I am.
Not because I’m “strong” or “brave.”
Not because I’m resilient.
It’s because I have no other option.
It’s also because, as the 13th-century Sufi mystic Rumi says, this “being human” is a guest house.
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.
— Jalaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks (The Essential Rumi)
You can also listen to this poem in a song called “Arrival” by Hiatus, an Iranian ambient musician. (I had it on repeat as I wrote this post.)
The first time I heard this poem was when a dear family friend read it at Julian’s Celebration of Life, and it’s taken me this long to really appreciate the truth of it. Like a Cosmic Joke, it really is as simple as that. This “being human” is a guest house. Our experiences and emotions are our guests, sent as guides from beyond.
It’s natural to want to fight it. But, like it or not, our souls are here to learn from each “unexpected visitor” that arrives at our doorstep. We all have different visitors; we all have different soul journeys.
Our souls didn’t sign up for an easy ride. We learn a lot through love and joy, but we learn MORE through loss and heartbreak. It’s the full spectrum of experiences — *especially* the negative ones — that provide the lessons that we most need to learn in this lifetime.
Rumi wrote The Guest House in the 13th century, when life expectancy was under 35, and child mortality might have been as high as 50%. The earliest audiences of this poem would have been intimately familiar with trauma and loss.
Today, thankfully, our human journeys are longer and healthier. And yet, the challenge is the same: we must be grateful for whatever crosses our path in this lifetime, because each experience has been sent as a guide from beyond. And each one is necessary for soul growth.
I will always have a Julian-sized hole in my heart. I will always mourn my family’s indescribable loss. But when I remind myself, “this being human is a guest house,” I feel a glimmer of peace. Even when those guests are “a crowd of sorrows / who violently sweep your house / empty of its furniture,” I do my best to treat them honorably.
Everything I experience in this lifetime has been sent to teach me the lessons my soul signed up for in the first place. On my best days, I meet them at the door of my guest house and respectfully invite them in. I welcome each one as a guide sent from beyond.