House Guests


It is always amazing to me how much can be learned just by paying attention to the ways that the most obvious occurrences in our lives relate to larger themes around how we are with ourselves, and with one another.

Recently, we had a house guest come to stay with us while he was in the area working on the new home he is building. As it was a night that I teach yoga, I came in on the later end of my husband and our guest finishing up with dinner. As I was sitting down, our guest asked if I would like some wine from the bottle he had brought with him as a thank you to us. I actually did not want any, but in an attempt to make him feel comfortable and show appreciation for his thoughtfulness, I said yes. To which my husband responded that he also would take a little, even though he had earlier declined.

The next morning I woke up feeling a little off. What’s going on? Am I getting sick? No, I realized, it was the wine. Despite the paltry amount that I had imbibed, what was leaving me “off” was the taking in of something that I did not want. It was the agreeing to something that did not suit me in order to stay in the good graces of another. It was the story that I had told myself about who I would be if I said no to his gracious offer.

Later that day, my husband mentioned that he had woken up that morning with a bit of a sinus headache. He attributed this to the wine. To the handful of sips that he too, had taken when he actually did not want any; getting into it only because I had taken some, and he didn’t want to seem ungrateful in light of my saying yes. He then went on to tell me that when he had seen our guest that morning he had asked him how he had slept. “Not good,” he was told, “I think it was the wine.”

Round and round and round we go with one another. Doing things we really do not want to do in order to please another. We do not want others to think we are rude, selfish, ungrateful, anti-social, or some other characterization that we have whipped up in our minds that we do not want them to label us as. It’s all so ironic. And sad. For in denying who and how we really are, we deny what we most yearn for; authentic and satisfying connection with others. And because we have not given ourselves permission to be as we are in any given moment, we cannot give permission for others to be as they are. Which leaves us coming together based on something that none of us are.

What if we leaned into, banked on, had faith in, that when we speak our truth in the company of another, no matter how difficult, awkward, inconvenient, or socially inappropriate, that it will always be for the best of all concerned? Despite any difficulties or hesitations that we might encounter.

In our home that night a domino effect was created. One that parallels what we do with one another on a regular basis. Our house guest brought something to us possibly because he felt like that was the thing you do when you stay at someone’s home; that we would  think him a thoughtful person for bringing us something. Or maybe un-thoughtful if he didn’t. My husband and I took something we did not want because we felt obliged, wanting him to feel at home with us and included; believing the false gesture of taking something we did not want would pave the way for him to feel welcome.

While there is nothing wrong with offering appreciation to another through a gift, there is most certainly something amiss when we allow ourselves to be locked into habit patterns with one another that keep us from allying with the truth of our experience. Whatever that truth may be. Whether or not that truth is convenient, inconvenient, easy to say or hear, hard to say or hear. It takes tremendous clarity, conviction, and courage to stand in the truth of your experience when in the company of another who has expectations of you. Or who you believe has expectations of you.

Can you imagine, though, what might happen if we all took responsibility for our own experience while in the presence of another, and acted on that as thoughtfully and straightforwardly as we could? Could you imagine letting go of the social “niceties” that keep us pinned to the wrong things? Can you imagine how good it would feel to not have to fake your way through an interaction?

And when we get hung up on how relating in this way is not possible for one reason or another, can we remember that, maybe, just maybe, we would all be doing one another a huge favor. That maybe over time, we would all let out a collective sigh of relief around the fact that we that we no longer had to act in ways that left us feeling “hungover” with one another.