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Welcoming Others into Tears, Laundry, and Need
The hosting that gets left out of Good Housekeeping
Today at noon eastern, I’ll be joining Erika Bachiochi, Alexandra DeSanctis, and Serena Sigillito for a discussion of Erika’s new book The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision. I really enjoyed the book, and you can register for the discussion here.
On July 27th, I’ll be in Central Park as part of Plough’s launch party for the newest issue. My piece for the issue is “Let the Body Testify” on the limited ways women are allowed to give voice to pain.
I asked you about how you plan to open your home again, as it becomes safe to do so, and whether anything has changed in your approach to welcoming others during the pandemic.
I appreciated this story from Sophia about receiving care from others:
The last couple of weeks I've had people in and out of my place more often than usual—the twist is that they've been coming over to help me, because I've been in a pretty rough spot physically. Most times thinking about how to arrange things for them coming has taken the form of kicking piles of laundry into a room they won't be using and closing the door. I haven't fully-formed words for my thoughts about it yet, but as I learn to let people help me I'm learning that most of them are glad to be allowed to help, so it's like I'm serving them in my need for service. Which, said out loud, sounds terribly selfish and "you all should be grateful that I let you have the privilege of washing my several-days-old dishes", but that's not how I mean it.
She’s right that it can be a gift to others when you ask for help. It lets them give a physical shape to their love.
Jordan wrote about the friction she encounters when a friend offers to host her, and then balks at what her needs really are.
As a family with multiple food allergies and sensitivities, it would be nice to have someone offer to host us or bring food over without freaking out over the requirements. Every time I have to describe what we can't eat, the normal response is "so what CAN you even eat?" I get so sick of describing and answering questions about what we can or can't eat that I just don't even bother anymore. I offer to host just to avoid feeling like I'm forcing a menu on someone else.
I recognize myself in this story, unfortunately. I can get attached to my own plans for an event and then get internally frustrated with a guest whose needs feel like they’re spoiling the event.
Except, of course, the point of hosting is to serve the guests, not for the guests to tastefully fill out my home.
One way I try to keep this tendency in check is to reflect on whether I’ve hosted anything recently that grated a little against my own preferences or first draft of a plan. If the answer is no, I have to wonder if I’ve actually served the needs of my friends or asked them to reshape themselves to suit me.
I want to give people the gift of knowing that it's OK to tell me they're not OK; and knowing that it's OK to not be OK. In the past month or so, the stress created by Covid has been amplified in my life by a new phase in the reckoning of my country (Canada) with its genocidal past in the form of abusive residential schools for Indigenous children. This is affecting me deeply both as a citizen and as a member of the Catholic church, which to its shame, operated about 70% of residential schools. Pile on top of that the death of a dear friend and teacher, and I am rubbed raw. I have been surprised to find, though, that there is an occasion for self-gift in my current sadness. I believe my heart is becoming more tender, more and more a heart of flesh and less a heart of stone. My defenses are defeated, and it turns out to be a good thing. Everyone who asks me lately how I am doing gets maybe more than they bargained for!
I hope and think, though, that my earnestness and honesty, and sometimes my tears, are an invitation for my friends to open their hearts as well. Honestly, who is OK? As the world slowly returns to normal, whatever that is, I think a lot of people are going to be bearing wounds. It's my hope that I will be open enough that people around me don't have to pretend to be happy if they're not.
One thing that my husband and I have found comforting in hard times is that the Catholic Church offers a Mass specifically as a petition for “the gift of tears.”
Offering a respite to a friend doesn’t have to mean hosting a polished and chipper gathering. Mourning with those who mourn is part of the work of homemaking and is one of the greater gifts we can offer a friend.