Ha! das boot is on the other foot…
It’s hard to relax when you invite people into your home, but if you don’t? You make a massive rod for your own back.
Everyone has different ways of living, none is right or wrong: but it’s when you get a glimpse behind a closed door into someone’s home that you realise how territorial and protective we are of our personal space. The very place where we should be relaxed, a safe bolt hole from the rest of the world, is sometimes as tightly controlled with rules as those environments that are out of our control. There has to be joy in sharing my home, or I will be lost!
On the yacht race I noted that as the 10 month race went on, our team, a small boat community of 18, established more and more rules as we went along to make sure that we all knew how to behave. We chose these complicated rules and obediently policed them ourselves. It’s a strange thing that people seek out the safety of rules in new or fearful situations so that we understand the boundaries, and can enforce them on others.
I’m starting to understand the mirror reflection of my own fabulous neurosis, and thinking how they often backfire.
Last week I was a paying guest at a one-person-at-a-time B&B home. I felt a little sorry for my hosts. They assured me at the outset that one of them would be home at all times during my stay, and it was the case. I shared a bathroom with the host couple and we all used the same bath mat. They crept around at night and early in the morning so that the bathroom was free for me, and there were hushed whispers from the bedroom down the hallway.
At 8:30am every morning I went down to the dining room where deflated croissants in a basket were laid out next to a copy of the Times, and the BBC Breakfast news was on a giant TV opposite my place setting. They both come in to say hello during breakfast and it’s all fine. But privacy is the greatest luxury of all, and in this set up I felt like I couldn’t blow my nose loudly.
I‘m hearing a voice inside my head that I heard someone say to me recently: why make it so hard for yourself?
All they need is a lock on the kitchen door and an en-suite bathroom to make a vast improvement to the situation. There is space, and they seem to have money. Once you start off in a certain way, it’s hard to step back, re-evaluate and invest in changes.
It’s also hard not to judge. I couldn’t help but notice the mean little butter and milk sachets, and my duvet and pillow limp cast-offs in 80s male-purchased linen covers. Perhaps scrutiny is really what we are all most aware of when we open up our homes. I paid the hosts for a room and they provided a service, but it’s under the terms that they can live with, on the strict understanding between themselves that the requirement is to be at home all of the time and available in case I need them, or the worst happens. What is the worst? I’m sure our imaginations are far more effective than likely. I’m not lighting candles, playing trampoline on the bed or squelching jam into the carpet. I’m starting to understand the mirror reflection of my own fabulous neurosis, and thinking how they often backfire. It all comes comes down to what conditions we decide we can live with. Maybe I should reassess my terms occasionally, when each lodger arrives rather than put the fear of the sun into the boots of each new foot that lands on my door step.
Alice left this week and I’m busy cleaning the curtains and preparing for our new lodger, Henry. I notice that the carpet is stained and I decide to buy a new rug. When someone leaves, it’s an opportunity to look at the house with new eyes, but I’m sure I don’t see what others see. The B&B website looked really swanky, but I realised when I chatted to the hosts that they are internet business types and of course the whole site looks super slick and plush, that’s what they do. Expectation, reality, and the day to day living and breathing together as human beings. It’s all in the mix.
The moral of the story is that the home has to be a home. It’s a place of privacy and let up from the rest of the world. Making it profitable loses it’s overall benefit for a better lifestyle if it is run with too heavy a hand, lodgers, or guests, or none. My preparations for a new lodger are mental too. Henry is a word for possibility.
At the end of my stay the B&B hosts said that I had been a perfect guest. All of their fears had been dispelled. Mine were all activated.