An Invitation In…

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“How many of us keep writing ourselves out of our own story, and kicking ourselves out of our own need for home…
Invite yourself in. You matter.”

Temperatures have hovered around and below freezing for days in a row in a place where the thermometer usually ranges between 40 and 80 degrees fahrenheit. The bay cradles the land, keeping us both warm and cool. But sometimes the unusual happens.

I layered silk long johns under my jeans before hopping on my bike.

The bustle of the kitchen had slowed down by the time I arrived. Everyone who had someplace to go, had gone. Those that remained had nothing. No tent under an overpass, no tiny room in an SRO, no couch, no bed, no money to camp out on the train or in a warm cafe. They huddled under coats and donated military blankets. Several gathered in the one tiny patch of sunlight near the women’s bathroom. The patch was shrinking.

Come closing time, I noticed that none of the volunteers were saying our usual chipper, “We’re closing folks, thanks for coming!” A few people lingered as long as possible, slowly gathering belongings and putting on layers. I bent my head back toward the table I was scrubbing down and paused. A wave of sadness washed through me. One moment of despair. There was nothing I could do for these people. Nothing except turn them back out into the cold. “This isn’t a personal failure,” I said to myself, though it felt like it. “This isn’t a failure of the kitchen. It is a failure of our culture.” And in the 10 billion year scheme of things, it likely is no failure at all.

The six members of the Walton family have one hundred fifty billion dollars. Six members of our local bay community have died from exposure in the last two weeks.

I tell this story because it is important. I tell this story also because it connects to you. To my students. Clients. Friends.

Too many of us are always putting other’s needs ahead of our own, while other’s aren’t doing that nearly enough. In either direction lies injustice.

The quote I began this piece with was something I wrote to a student last week.
I posted it on Facebook and Twitter yesterday, and sure enough, some people responded. Still later, a session with a spiritual direction client also steered in this direction. I wrote about this Thanksgiving week, but the aura of it remains, so here we go again:

Too many of us are in pain. Too many of us are locking the parts that are in pain – or the parts that are pissed off, grieving, fearful – out in the cold. Too many of us are forgetting that we ourselves need kindness. That parts of our soul need a cup of soup and a smile.5 of Pentacles by Pamela Coleman Smith

The Five of Pentacles shows two destitute people, one likely a leper, one with bare feet. They trudge through the snow, past a brightly lit window. What parts of you feel like this? Outcast. Hurting. Shivering. Not allowed in.

We don’t have to live in the Five of Pentacles, always shut away from bright lights and warmth. I invite you to find the parts of self that feel cold and lonely and welcome them into your arms. I invite you to offer them something warm and comforting to drink.

Even for the space of three long breaths, find a way to offer yourself kindness.

I invite you to find one small way to also do this for one other.

Even members of the Walton family likely need a welcome in from the cold.

Sometimes one act of kindness can change somebody’s world.

27 Responses to “An Invitation In…”

  1. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Thorn, this is so incredibly timely…

    I don’t know if you knew about this, but today is (according to one calendar from late antique Egypt) the birthday of Hestia/Vesta, and so I was reminiscing about the importance of hearth to home earlier today, which you can read here if you like.

    Coming in out of the cold could certainly do all of us good, I think…

    Reply
    • Cathie Rayes

      What a lovely reflection on hearths! Thank you for sharing it.

      When we bought That House, the gas fireplace (our only hearth) had been disconnected; it was and remains unusable. I resigned myself to a life without, but by the greatest stroke of good luck, my empty kitchen was gifted with an old broken stove. It was all I had, so I cleaned it up and used it. Eventually I was able to figure out how to work with the oven, and that’s when I realized there was a Hearth Spirit living in that old appliance. I don’t know her name, but she’s kind and loving and I appreciate her no end.

      The stove was a rescue; it had been destined for the scrap yard after the owner replaced it. I eventually replaced it, too–it really was badly broken–and the Hearth Spirit expected to go to the scrap yard with it, but I managed to explain to her that I wanted her to have a new home, and it is again my great good luck that she came to live in my new stove. I would love to have a fireplace, but it’s okay. I’m happy with my Hearth Spirit friend who lives in my stove.

      Reply
      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        That’s wonderful! I certainly think that hearths can be stoves and ovens in the kitchen just as much as they are fireplaces; because I’m not much of a cook/baker, though, that never quite has the deep meaning for me that it does/can for many others.

        Interestingly, there’s a Roman holiday in February–on the 11th, I think–that is specifically for honoring the grain-parching ovens, which is called Fornacalia (from “fornax,” the Latin for such an oven). I think that holy day can be expanded, though, to include any and all varieties of oven, stove, range, etc. that people use to prepare their food–perhaps even microwaves! :)

        Reply
        • Thorn

          This reminds me of when stoves actually had pilot lights and we’d light them from Brigid’s Flame, so were always cooking with that. The stove at the soup kitchen still does! But at home, alas, there is electric ignition.

          Reply
          • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

            I’m sure Brigid loves to be present in that fashion there!

            The stove at the residence I had in Oxford didn’t have a pilot light, it just had to be sparked each time we wanted it lit, and that always scared me a bit, especially when I couldn’t get it to light and the kitchen filled up with (what I thought was too much) gas…!?!

            Reply
            • Cathie Rayes

              Lovely thread! Interesting about the Roman holiday, thank you for that.

              My stoves have both been electric, but the Hearth Spirit doesn’t seem to mind. I’ve loved gas stoves in the past, too.

              This whole conversation makes me smile!

              Reply
  2. Hannah

    Hi, Thorn!

    Thanks for this.

    I once had the Five of Pentacles, exactly this one of the RWS Tarot, show up as “Past” card in a simple Present/Past/Future reading I did for myself. I vaguely remembered that there’s something about “Material Trouble” in the meaning of it and interpreted “material” to mean not only money or wealth (or lack thereof) but to relate to the outer, manifest world. And then, the card was and is spot-on for me. I had a difficult childhood and am still sometimes struggling with it. And this comes back to this post of yours: This leaves parts of mine in an inner desolation, and your invitation to welcome just especially parts like those is received and I hope I can sometimes act on it.

    Thanks,

    Hannah.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Hannah, I hope you can invite those desolate parts in, too. The work of integration is well worth it, though it takes time and repetition. Love. A welcome. A safe place to rest awhile. An inquiry of What do you want? And What do you need?

      (You might find some segments of Kissing the Limitless helpful for this if you don’t have other resources to draw on – or as an adjunct to those)

      I wish you all the healing and love you may need.

      Reply
  3. Cathie Rayes

    We are broken, Thorn; our culture is divided against itself but those on the side of compassion are so few compared to those on the side of judgment. I don’t know how to invite in the broken desolate parts of our culture, the parts that consistently side with harsh judgment and with greed. I can see that it needs to change. In this country, in this day and age, it is reprehensible that anyone at all should be hungry or cold. There is enough for everyone, but the distribution is flawed.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Cathie, yes. This is true – I don’t know how to convince those I might call the Oligarchs that working together is better than hoarding alone. That love and compassion are healthier for us all than fear and greed.

      But I do know that I can start cultural change within myself, by inviting my own parts back to the hearth. And that helps me to invite others, too. Change does begin, it just doesn’t always move as quickly as we might want it to.

      Let’s keep trying.

      Reply
      • Cathie Rayes

        Change Agent. *smiling* Sometimes it’s hard to see the very slow pace of change, especially when it’s a cold hungry face looking back at you. It’s easier when I can distance myself, tell myself I really am working for change–which I am, that is true–and take “the long view.”

        That long view totally breaks down when it comes to real people. *sigh* It’s very hard to be limited, to be unable to do what is necessary to ease suffering for those who most need eased.

        Reply
  4. Roslynda

    this was very touching, thank you! so many missed moments in life. I have a little lady friend that I visit, I ask her what se would like for me to do…..all she wants from me is to warm up her blanket and make her some tea and visit, listening to her stories and learning how to just slow down and paying attention to the timing of things in our lives, that is all! once again, Thank you!

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Roslynda – those moments of being present and human with another mean so much. I’m so glad you both have one another. It sounds like what she’s teaching you is valuable, and wow, what a gift you are offering her!

      I feel grateful at the kitchen all the time. I learn so much there.

      thanks so much for sharing this story.

      Reply
  5. Ealasaid

    Oh man, I have been chewing on this a lot lately. I am always on the lookout for signs I don’t belong. There are a lot of things I see that I’m interested in until I find they’re “for women” or “a woman’s [whatever].” It’s really easy for me to see that as a “Girls Only!” club sign and turn myself away, even when that’s not the intent at all (for example, Jennifer Louden’s stuff is almost all “A Woman’s [thing]” but she talks about how some men have found her work helpful! Clearly she isn’t trying to keep folks out based on gender, it’s my own issue that’s tripping me up.)

    Havi Brooks has written about this stuff too: http://www.fluentself.com/blog/stuckification/the-clan-of-the-outsiders/ It’s important for me to remember that the dividing lines between me and others are all too often drawn by me, or hallucinated by me when it’s really just a metaphorical shadow or crack in the sidewalk.

    For every person who really IS trying to keep me out, there are probably a lot who aren’t, I just assume they are. I shut myself out in the cold and then feel self-righteously pitiful about it. It’s a comfortingly familiar sensation, while going inside is threateningly UNfamiliar. But, as usual, that discomfort is a sign of growth and healthy movement, so … yeah. It’s a definite growing edge for me.

    Thank you for writing about this, Thorn!

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Ealasaid,

      thanks for bringing all of this to us. There are two things I read here: one is your point about yes, the ways we assume we are not welcome but the other is that sometimes we might be offering something and remain unaware of the ways in which we give off a message of exclusion. Sometimes, as an introvert, I *know* I’m giving off a message of exclusion rather than openness. Some days that’s just the way its going to be. But I try to make it my practice to return to generosity.

      What I’m trying to say is, yes, there are a lot of ways in which we exclude ourselves preemptively, but some days we also can offer one another a lens, a new view, by simply asking “did you mean to exclude someone like me?” Asking that question can be a generous act. It enables the rest of us to learn, to think, to change. To connect.

      Reply
  6. Labrys

    Thank you for this. We are taught that broken things are discarded; and we throw away treasures. We are taught that mistakes are failure and forget how to learn. I always wonder what sort of terrible fear makes the Waltons of the world SO grasping, so afraid to give? So afraid to gamble with generosity and love?

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Labrys, yes. I wonder that, too. It helps to remind me to think compassionately even in the midst of my anger at injustice.

      Reply
      • Labrys

        Yes, it is the only thing that keeps compassion possible — to realize that degree of grasping greed can only come from some horrid fear. I’ve lived poor, I’ve done without food. I am not hungry now, and I sure will not succumb to a fear of those things sufficient to keep me from helping others ESCAPE that life.

        Reply
  7. Sea Serpent

    Ealasaid, you sound so much like me. I have spent so much of my life assuming that I don’t belong, I have gotten so I like it. I love being an outsider, an outcast from society. It makes me feel so smug, so superior. If anyone is excluding me, I can just say screw them, they’re not worth my time anyway.

    But then I remember the times when I’ve run away from people who did want to know me better due to a deep-seated fear of intimacy I’ve had ever since childhood,, and I don’t feel so smug any more. When I consider the possibility that I might have done this more than I realized, it can be quite sobering.

    For me, issues like this are a big part of my shadow work. I’m very good at seeming like I’m the life of the party; I’ve been told I’m so fun to be around. If they only knew. Underneath it is this scared little girl who’s been told she can’t do anything right. Perhaps if I work with these shadows more, they will help offer all of us kindness and a sense of home.

    A song that sums me up perfectly when it comes to this:

    http://bit.ly/1ekUTo1

    I have helped others, and volunteered for and contributed to humanitarian organizations. Recently, I donated generously to a homeless prenatal program.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Sea serpent, thanks for sharing this. It feels important. The old “reject you before you can reject me” pattern is a way to keep vulnerable parts safe, but you are correct, it also shuts us away from deeper friendship. Blessings to that little girl inside you. And to the rest of your parts as well.

      Reply
      • Sea Serpent

        Absolutely! It is a way to keep vulnerable parts safe.

        Thank you so much for all you do, and many blessings to you and everyone else here, and all your parts, too from me and the little girl. =)

        And I loved Havi Brooks’ essay. It is hilarious and so on target. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend that you do when you get a chance.

        Reply

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