House Pests

Last week, Charlotte commented on a post I wrote called The Price of Ego. It seems that she’s been challenged in her living situation, because she has an unconscious person visiting for about a month. I’ve found, as many of us who are always working at becoming more whole and more aware of our aliveness that there’s nothing more bitter to the ego than having a house pest underfoot.

We know that’s what they are: house pests. We say, “Oh, I have a house guest for a month,” but the roll of the eyes, the tone of voice, and the shrug of the shoulders indicating the awful weight of the guest all combine to mean house pest. Yet, in the spiritual kingdom, they are God-sent gifts, intended to cause us enough suffering that we may break free from the shackles of our little selves just long enough to see how controlled we are by externals.

I’m talking about myself, of course.

The Price of Hospitality

Over the years of our marriage, my husband and I have opened our home to scores of different people. Sometimes they’ve been relatives; sometimes strangers. Sometimes the people have been tiny babies that we’ve fostered; other times they have been angry teenagers or embittered, middle-aged wanderers. Like many other people of faith, we’ve housed addicts, drunks, righteous people, preachers, teachers, the physically and mentally ill, the homeless, the wounded, orphans. Sometimes, they’re just normal people who need a place to stay, or a place in between their past and their future. They have stayed for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years.

They’ve driven us crazy.

We have loved them, and we’ve hated them.

We have served them dinner, given up our physical space, trusted them with our children (or not–and slept as a family in one room), welcomed their relatives, their pets, stored their belongings, adapted ourselves to them, trying to help. Our pests have driven our cars, worn our clothes, used our water, gas, and electricity. They have never given back to us an nth of what we’ve given to them, and I’ve come to see that they are not meant to. They are in our home and in our lives to receive, and even to take, from us until we feel pain right where we are attached to our stuff, or our egos, or our own self-righteousness and greater-than-thouness. They are there to get what God is after: a heart of flesh, in place of our hearts of stone.

It always happens that the irritation begins. The honeymoon is over within hours or days, maybe weeks or months, but it always ends. We begin to notice that the house pest has bad breath; they talk too much; they chew their food with their mouths open; they don’t use deodorant (not healthy, you know); they eat special foods and drink special drinks (ours are not good enough); they sometimes offend by being too loud; other times they are too quiet; they snicker at us sometimes; we make asses of ourselves just for their benefit, and then we hate ourselves and them. They roll their eyes at us, they use a certain tone of voice; they complain about just how awful it is for them to have to live in this situation (this situation that is costing them nothing but their pride, while it is costing us our pride AND a pretty penny); they make themselves available to us when they want to, but we, on the other hand, must be available to them whenever they want us.

We do not have lives of our own, when we have house pests.

Yes, they drive us mad.

And yet, I love my house pests, because they provide handy targets for my projections, and as such they help me to look into the mirror.

6 responses

  1. Your old nemesis that you describe sounds so much like me, like a part of me and probably a part of all of us. Made me think though. I have a sister I don’t write about, she is narcissistic and hurts all of us in our family. She also has a brain injury and I’m aware of that but it still hurts, mostly because she hurts my mother. And yet I know I am not so different from my sister, perhaps that’s why it bothers me so much. I can see a larger image of myself and I dislike it, dislike having it displayed before me, in all it’s glory, or not.

    The big problem with all this introspection and self reflection is that it requires so much time and energy and it’s uncomfortable to do. I can see why so many people prefer not to look too closely. But I’m starting to see the rewards. The more I do, the more psychic energy gets freed up, the less tired and unhappy I am. But it’s like starting to exercise, it takes commitment and practice, lots of practice with very little payoff in the beginning.

    And of course I’m a zealot so I want everyone to try it but I’m learning to keep my mouth shut and listen to others more. I’ve never been a very good listener and I’ve been practicing that as well. Stopping myself from thinking while listening, stopping my constant interrupting and just paying attention.

    As always, you make me think. Thank you.

  2. Wow Eve! That was a very timely post. I find my husband pesky sometimes. But, I’ve been working hard to change me.
    Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. “Yet, in the spiritual kingdom, they are God-sent gifts, intended to cause us enough suffering that we may break free from the shackles of our little selves just long enough to see how controlled we are by externals.”

    Sounds like my kids, to me. They are “just the right medicine” for me too, if I can only remember to let it work on me.

    I really like that image of having a branch for the irritation to land on, that we ourselves give the situation power over us. I can see that a lot when I have “bad” days with my kids–they’re just being kids, hungry or tired or whiny, and I’m the one that makes it a big deal.

    Breathing is good. Loving ourselves is good. As you said, if we want something, we have to give it first.

  4. Charolotte, I am my own best pest, so I know that if I can just shut up and be still, miracles will happen.

    If only.

    Alida, all my house pests are related to me (including myself, sigh). It’s not easy living with a lot of other people.

    Or myself.

    I keep saying that, don’t I?

  5. You always seem to write the perfect thing. Our is not a house pest or guest per se. She is my oldest who moved out and then back in.

    Such a challenge sometimes. Yet, I to feel that I’m learning so much about myself. She is good for me…a blessing in fact. Only good can come from these challenges.

  6. Good luck with your season of stories, Eve. And I hope that any medicine that comes in human form isn’t too hard to take.

    As I’ve just commented over at your last post, I tried being loving, silent and non-judgmental with my house pest, and a miracle happened: the first tiny shards of self-awareness splintered through the ego in my guest. The running commentary of judgment in my head was holding her back. By stilling that, I gave her space and leeway to grow and she did.

    After listening to her ego talking for 15 years (and mine commenting in my head!), it was nothing short of a miracle. We’ve both grown.

    I am stunned, and happy.

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