One of the things I like about Creative Caffeine is the freshness and stimulating nature of the daily prompts. I am guessing, that for many folks, this prompt is juicy; we can all remember cheerful, fun, happy dinners with friends. Even so, today this prompt is not a fun one for me. Since March of 2020, dinner with friends has been a distant memory for my partner and I, since we are both at high risk for serious issues from COVID, as many are. On the other hand, at this point, I am guessing many, if not most, folks are reconciled to the fact that sooner or later, everyone will catch it.
We are not there yet in our house. It is a slippery slope from precautions to abandonment of prudent self-care in these times. We have done a good job of isolating and establishing protocols for ourselves that have worked, so far. Even as I write this, though, I am double masked in my own home, because someone is coming to fix the furnace today. We try not to worry, but we do.
My partner has a number of friends that have suffered through this virus in significant ways. Even a few who have died. I guess it makes a difference when you have a friend who has died from this disease. I have that, too. I knew Jean from both an academic and social context. Tragically, her husband died too. Such a loss to the world, she gave so much in a deep and poignant way, to entire communities. Both a psychologist and a meditation instructor, she had honed both skills over decades and offered them to the world.
But back to that dinner. Often these kinds of affairs are in a restaurant, and that certainly adds a bit of flair and carnival, on some level, to the experience. I am thinking that environment tends to leave two elements out though: no hosts, no guests. This ritual of entering another’s space for the mutual support of each other over breaking bread, is so ancient we can all feel it. There are myths and auguries about crossing thresholds that go back thousands of years.
One interesting question is: Would you rather be a host or a guest? I think, given the human proclivity towards controlling the environment, sometimes at almost any cost (think: climate change), most folks would probably prefer to be the host. In providing, we provide ourselves the security of knowing, for the most part, what is going to happen next. Then there is the immense impact of high visibility generosity. So many personal advertisements are included in our home style and how we display it and share it with others. In the role of host, our magnanimity is on parade.
But in being a guest we offer a different kind of generosity. We agree to be, at least as some level, out of our element, and mindful of some kind of eggshells we must step over, or tippy toe through loosely. Often, I think, we imagine ones that are not there. But I guess exploring that with humor, and feedback from the host is part of the fun. In my experience we don’t talk much about that unspoken awkwardness of being the guest, both for the above reason, but also because, somehow, through the roles and protocols of being a guest, we are trying to find our own way to generosity in the experience. We often go to the verbal on this one, and superlatives about the cuisine are “de rigueur.” Of course, this doesn’t seem like enough, so often we resort to offering resources or promises.
But being a perfect guest might be re-visioned into another kind of generosity: simple gracious acceptance. Noticing all that the host is trying offer and let them know we are noticing. Letting them take all the generosity that they want to offer. Allowing. Receiving. Letting go of playing tennis in the need to reciprocate. It feels like a bold move, sometimes, especially if we do not know these friends all that well. But especially then, but canoeing into observational mode, we can see all that is flowing around us, in the stream of activity, and on the shore of what ground the life of these hosts or hostesses is coming from. By looking around at the lives they have built, and which they are offering from, we can develop an even greater appreciation for the depth of the life story visible through their generosity.