This post has been a long time coming. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot…
ADF Druids spend a lot of time examining things in light of the Nine Virtues, of which hospitality is one. It’s always been a quality I struggled with. Not that I don’t want to be hospitable. It’s just difficult for me given my own idiosyncrasies, upbringing, and society. Having a baby really got me reflecting on this challenge of mine because everyone I know wanted or wants to meet her. As my pregnancy reached its conclusion and Bee entered the world, I was really stressed, uncomfortable, exhausted, and, well, grouchy! I’m not ashamed to admit it. I had a wonderfully ideal pregnancy right up until the last couple weeks. The resulting cesarean immediately after moving into a new apartment only made me less interested in socializing. I wanted my mother and father – that was it. No doubt it was primal urge to be taken care of after having my abdomen sliced open. I posted on FB about not wanting visitors. Some may have viewed that as melodramatic at best or rude at worse*, but seriously – we all react to drastic life changes differently. As I recovered and grew used to having an infant, my husband and I ventured out to visit people on our terms. That meant we didn’t have to worry about cleaning, unpacking, or entertaining beyond our energy levels. When we were tired, we headed home.
I reviewed my DP essay on hospitality to help me reflect. Little has changed except that I now realize, in addition to my mother’s great hospitality, she has also been incredibly insecure about having people over. As a result, we rarely had people over except for special occasions! The home was never clean enough for her and, upon entering, our guests were greeted by an apologetic hello, complete with instructions that they shouldn’t look around. I feel that I’ve inherited this insecurity. Indeed, I’ve caught myself saying those very things now! With pets and now a baby, keeping the home “magazine clean” is harder than ever. And yes, I know real homes are seldom kept that tidy, but it’s very difficult for me to shake my nagging worries that our home is never clean enough, that the pet smells we are so used to are overpowering to our guests, that the furniture is covered in too much cat hair, that the living room is too cluttered with art projects and supplies, that there are too many dishes in the sink, that there are too many wires on the living room floor, that there’s not enough room for people to sit, that the living room is too hot because we choose not to have an AC, etc, etc, etc…
The insecurities about my home are only compounded by my own social insecurities that I’m only just realizing. My home is my safe place. It’s where I can relax, let loose, and recharge. It’s very difficult for me to let just anyone come in to begin with, let alone spend a day or two. I have to really trust people and click with them. I have to feel safe and free to be myself without fear of angst. Most times, I have to mentally prepare myself for having people over. I do not do well with unannounced visited at all. It’s something that has always stressed me out.
There’s also a fear of strangers. When I was younger, my parents put the fear of strangers into me. There’s a definite positive side to that in that I’m alive and well, but it also nourished a real fear that persists, for better or worse. Strangers could be thieves or could out my spiritual values to the wrong people! Letting strangers into my home brings in unpredictability – and my home is not supposed to be that way! It’s my safe place.
I both admire and tsk tsk groves, circles, and covens that welcome anyone into their homes. While on the one hand, it is the easiest way to start a group, especially if you have land, but on the other hand, it just makes me nervous. Most robberies are usually perpetrated by people you know, or so I’ve read somewhere. I’m also a believer in psychic vampires – people who, knowingly or unknowingly, feed on energy. I don’t want people who knowingly do that to others without consent entering my home either. In my experience, they create drama and feed off it or wallow in it. If people can’t keep their emotional shit together, I don’t want them in my home! And, unfortunately, I’ve met a lot of people like that in the Pagan community! It’s a big reason why Northern Rivers has membership levels. We occasionally do things at members’ homes but nobody wants strangers over. We keep our High Day rituals open to the community at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center. If, after getting to know you, we think you’re a decent, respectful person, we may eventually invite you over to a private gathering.
Having a baby has only made these issues come to the fore of my mind. With regards to just having folks over, taking care of an infant is hard enough! To entertain guests for a long time is, well… the thought is just exhausting right now! Especially when it comes to feeding guests. My husband and I live on such a tight budget and have so little time to prepare meals between feeding, changing, and entertaining Bee. When more people are added to the equation and need breakfast, lunch, and dinner – it’s just too much for me to handle right now! And I have so little me-time to recharge. Bee is the center of my universe. I love her but I spend sooo much time nursing her and comforting her, especially at night after work. I crave me-time more than ever**.
And in regards to having strange Pagans in the home with an infant? No way. You can bet I’m going to be even more selective of who can pass my threshold. Again, people may think I’m being crazy or rude, but that’s fine. The moment that baby came into my world was the moment my Mama Bear Mode was activated.
Yet the thing is, I so want to be hospitable! I occasionally pour over Pinterest for party inspiration because I so adore throwing them! I love to spend time with friends and I love making meals to share! I enjoy having the Folk of Northern Rivers at my home for meetings, small rituals, and general chatting. A couple years ago, I finally procured a lovely tea set that I enjoy taking out and I desperately want to have some of my lady friends over for regular tea parties!
What can I do to work through my insecurities? How can I be more hospitable while still maintaining the boundaries I so need for my physical and emotional well-being?
I’d like to, ideally, put aside time one day per week to clean the home to my liking. This will require equal dedication and help from those living with me, but it will making having visitors less of a stressful ordeal. I need to plan ahead when having people over so I’m not freaked out about the state of the home. I also need to just trust that my friends love me, understand that I’m a busy new mum, and won’t judge me harshly for some extra cat hair! I also need to be firm when I have people over and admit that I just cannot afford to make a huge meal myself and either suggest a potluck or that everyone contribute towards ingredients and putting the meal together. In fact, that could result in some wonderful parties! Taco day, veggie sushi night, pizza parties, etc…
To any dear friends or family reading this: I pray that this entry doesn’t come across as mean-spirited. Rather, I hope it shines some light on my hermit-crab tendencies. As we get into a better routine with Bee (and thus I get more sleep), I will feel more up to having people over regularly.
To my readers: do you struggle with any virtues?
* Thankfully, many friends and family were very understanding of my desire for quiet and alone time with my little one. Most who expressed this seemed to have gone through similar experiences or had a good sense of empathy!
** A big thank you to those who visited after Bee was born and brought me or made me food! My mother was a saint and made several meals those first few days. One of my girlfriends came over with homemade Indian food! Oh, that was fantastic! Another dear friend brought her special strawberry bread which was such a treat! If you know a new mother and want to visit her or just do something nice – MAKE HER FOOD! And do the dishes. 😉