I’m the emotional type. On any given day (sometimes any given hour), I experience every feeling of the emotional rainbow. I might feel happy and hopeful in the morning, anxious in the afternoon, nostalgic and sentimental in the evening. There are times when I’m wrought with sorrow, other times I’m flagrantly joyous.
Some may dismiss my wide range of emotions as crazy, irrational, abnormal. I call it passion, character, soul.
My dad always said the most ingenious writers, artists and creators are often the most tortured. He said creativity is the progeny of struggle and sorrow and of strife. And maybe that’s why I feel most creatively driven when I’m feeling most distraught, confused or rejected. When I’m happiest I don’t search for answers nor call on my faith; I float on the surface, not seeking anything deeper because happiness doesn’t demand an antidote. When I’m hurting, however, I’m inclined to seek remedies, compelled to look for truth within — therein lies my creativity, my compassion, my soulfulness.
Oftentimes we try to escape our emotions. We hide from our hurt, temper our sorrow, and medicate our anxiety. Although emotional torment can be overwhelming, even debilitating, the best thing we can do for ourselves is lean into it, feel it, embrace it. Pain exists as a teacher; pain is monumental in showing us the depths of our hearts and the expanses of our consciousness. Pain is the predecessor of creation and of awakening.
When my dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, he was connected with a brilliant and well-loved neurologist, Dr. Tom Chippendale. Dr. Chippendale deeply bonded with my family, encouraged and uplifted us. He sent my mom poetry for comfort; one poem was called The Guest House by Rumi.
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 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 whoever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Rumi refers to our feelings as visitors, our lives as guest houses. However unpleasant a visitor may be, we must graciously welcome them in because each is “a guide from beyond.”
Within a few months of meeting Dr. Chippendale, he too was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and passed away three months after my dad. But like a pleasant, albeit brief, visitor in our guest house, Dr. Chippendale was a guide from beyond, and we are so grateful for his company.