The Guest House



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.

Dr. Thomas Chippendale (1949 – 2014)





31 thoughts on “The Guest House

  1. Pingback: The Guest House — Hannah Jane Nancarrow | The Nancarrow Project

  2. Hannah, thank you, thank you, thank you! This was needed today. Again, you are brilliant, kind and magical. Thank you for sharing your gift so publicly and enhancing our lives by sharing your gift. God speed and please continue to share your thoughts. You never know who you will lift that day!

  3. Deep, well written and from the hip. I too have been a guest from time to time, sometimes unplanned and uninvited, definitely unwilling but to get through we must go through though painful.
    Thank you so much for sharing. Do acknowledge your faith even when things are going great, but I understand, we all tend to do this. Peace and blessings ☮🙏🏼

  4. Having loved knowing and working for Tom Chippendale from the late 80’s until his passing, I can appreciate what he means to your family. You lost two amazing men in a blink of an eye. Thank you for the memories,

  5. Beautiful post Hannah. I love the comparison of feelings to guests in a guesthouse. Very poignant post, from an obviously sensitive soul. You were put here to touch people with the beauty of your words. Keep it up.

  6. As usual, Hannah, a great Post. You are so talented and reach us where we sometimes can’t reach ourselves. Thank you

  7. Hannah, I met your dad only once early in
    his career (at a get together for local media peeps)
    and was happy for his continued success. It was with hope
    that I followed his blog at the same time my
    baby sis was diagnosed with cancer. She died
    in late 2013 after a valiant fight. Your blogs are a terrific reminder
    that life begets life. Your Rumi poem struck a chord. A dear friend uses
    “The Guest House” on her website:, if anyone has an interest
    in this modality of learning to deal with “all the natural shocks that
    flesh is ere to.” You are a wonderful writer, and I look forward to
    each of your heartfelt, insightful blogs!

  8. Here’s one I love. Perhaps you’ve read it already? As the husband of a gifted, creative person with wide-ranging and rambling emotions it helped me to learn how to just be with her while the storms blow in and out and the rainbows come and go. And it’s made all the difference for us.

    The Invitation
    It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
    I want to know what you ache for
    and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

    It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
    I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
    for love
    for your dream
    for the adventure of being alive.

    It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
    I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow
    if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
    or have become shriveled and closed
    from fear of further pain.

    I want to know if you can sit with pain
    mine or your own
    without moving to hide it
    or fade it
    or fix it.

    I want to know if you can be with joy
    mine or your own
    if you can dance with wildness
    and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
    without cautioning us
    to be careful
    to be realistic
    to remember the limitations of being human.

    It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
    is true.
    I want to know if you can
    disappoint another
    to be true to yourself.
    If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
    and not betray your own soul.
    If you can be faithless
    and therefore trustworthy.

    I want to know if you can see Beauty
    even when it is not pretty
    every day.
    And if you can source your own life
    from its presence.

    I want to know if you can live with failure
    yours and mine
    and still stand at the edge of the lake
    and shout to the silver of the full moon,

    It doesn’t interest me
    to know where you live or how much money you have.
    I want to know if you can get up
    after the night of grief and despair
    weary and bruised to the bone
    and do what need to be done
    to feed the children.

    It doesn’t interest me who you know
    or how you came to be here.
    I want to know if you will stand
    in the center of the fire
    with me
    and not shrink back.

    It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
    you have studied.
    I want to know what sustains you
    from the inside
    when all else falls away.

    I want to know if you can be alone
    with yourself
    and if you truly like the company you keep
    in the empty moments.

    `Oriah Mountain Dreamer

  9. Absolutely beautiful. I love Rumi. His writings often make sense when nothing else does. Thanks for sharing this poem with us. Onward!

  10. Oprah posted the Guest House in her magazine years ago and I was so taken by it. I love when it resurfaces and lets other welcome it in.And thank you Randy Baker for a new guest in my home 🙂

  11. Thanks for this. I was wondering when I saw the title if you were building on the Rumi poem, and I’m so glad you have had it to reassure you, as I have so many times myself. And I’m glad someone posted Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s poem. Thanks for your warmth and courage.

  12. Wow! Amazing post and great replies. I can so relate from the very first sentence…”I’m the emotional type.” I felt like I was writing that myself. I like to think that I am passionate, deeply sensitive and now I will add soulful. With those deep feelings come enormous joy with even the smallest of details, and also the pain and vulnerability of a hugely open heart. But aren’t we lucky to feel so much of life instead of skimming the surface!

    I also tend to write or journal mostly when I’m down or struggling with something. Not often when I’m blissful… why take the time, I think. I was comforted to know that you do the same. Creativity does flow with emotions.

    I love The Guest House because it reminds me that another “guest” is right around the corner ready to knock on my door. Feelings are fleeting… I try to remember that when I’m down and cherish the moments of happiness and joy. Life is one long series of transitions.

    I got goosebumps when you talked of Dr. Chippendale’s passing. What a one-two punch! Sometimes life doesn’t give us rain, it throws us a full-blown storm!

    Lastly, I did work briefly at KFMB with your dad back in the 80’s. Although I didn’t know him well, he was always friendly and with a smile. I continued to watch him over the years, because I did feel like I was watching a friend on TV. He was one of the most down-to-earth broadcasters that I had met during my career.

    Great job with your blog. I love your honesty and vulnerability. Keep up the good work Hannah!

  13. Hannah — I think of your father at least once a wk. I do not know why — other than to say he had an affect on many , many people . He made people feel important when a great many public figures could care less about us “regular” joes .. U are blessed to have him as your DADDY !!

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