Sometimes it takes a while. To understand why I react strongly to something. Is it based on history or personal experience, or reasons I don’t yet understand? I suppose an example or story or anecdote may clear up this murky introduction.
I currently live in a house with 7-8 other people, including the landlords who own the house. On the whole, it’s a surprisingly great setup. Whenever I mention this to anyone, the first thing they usually respond with is, “How big is that house!?” or “That must be a huge house!” It’s not though. It’s a ranch style home with a basement. It’s just divided in a way that there are seven rooms. Mine, I believe is the smallest. Which makes sense of course, me being the tallest person in the home! I’ve lived with somewhere around 40-50 different people over the years, and despite this being the most in one place, it, so far, comes with the least amount of drama. Everyone is for the most part, courteous, respectful, and friendly. Even with a fair amount of turnover that occurs from time to time.
Now speaking of turnover, this is really where the crux of this awareness-boosting anecdote stems from. A couple weeks ago, someone new moved into one of the rooms upstairs. (I live in the basement. And yes, I have a window, because having no natural light is as good as living in a grave! ) The only thing about this guy moving in, is that I had no idea he had done so. I hadn’t met him. I hadn’t heard of him. There was zero communication to me. I’m pretty good at rolling with the punches of life for the most part. This felt kind of invasive to me though, and I didn’t really think about why, I just found myself being slightly on edge about him and his ‘suddenly Seymour’ entry into my home.
Fast forward a few weeks, I’ve accepted that this new person resides in my home, have had a chance to meet and speak with him, and I’m good. One evening after work, I’m out in the parking area tinkering on my motorcycle and a work truck pulls in front of the house and parks in the street. He goes up and knocks on the door, to the home I live in. No one comes. He returns to his truck and slowly moves toward me as he starts asking me questions.
“Do you live around this neighborhood?”
“Yeah” I respond, wondering who this joker is and why he feels the need to know where I live.
“Do you keep your motorcycle parked here?” he asks.
I squint my eyes with a tainted look of distrust, wondering why the hell I should tell a complete stranger where I park my bike. Does he want to know so he can steal it? “Yeeeaaaah” I remark with distrust ballooning around the word.
Well, it turns out he had looked at one of the other rooms available, and was trying to get a hold of my landlord all day, and was there to pay rent. I found the landlords significant other and handed off, and went back to my business. Once I was back inside, I was very on edge and annoyed that I had no clue about any of this, and that I had to meet a possible resident of my home in such an abrupt way. I did not like that at all, and as confrontation is not a facet of my dna, I made my disapproval of the methods very clear by way of passive aggressive prowess. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it does feel strangely …..good isn’t the word. It definitely doesn’t feel good. It feels powerful maybe? Like I’m garnering a false sense of control in my circumstances again?
I felt gross about that reaction for the rest of the day. But I still didn’t know why I was so on edge. It’s a dumb thing. I love strangers and talk them up all the time wherever I go. But then this happened: Someone was coming to look at the room adjacent to mine. Only this time, one landlord informed me as soon as I got home from work that she was coming and followed up with when exactly. And then later, both landlords pulled me in and told me about her and her interests and what she was like. I appreciated them taking the time to fill me in and inform me. It felt good and inclusive and like I wouldn’t be blindsided by a stranger living her life essentially just feet away from me.
I left for a few hours to help some friends who were moving. And by time I had gotten back home, it hit me. I understood why I was reacting so strongly to these seemingly relatively petty scenarios. And the strange thing to me is that it took both the poor and the well-executed approaches to the same situation, and my awareness of my response patterns to each, to see it.
This was a big deal to me, becaaaaauuuuuuse…..wait for it!……….
this is my HOME!
This is my trusted place of security. Of protection. Of safety. A place where I know who is there, and even though I might not want to talk with them every time I see them, I know if I have to, that they are okay. It’s a place where I can hide in my room by myself to recharge if I’m peopled out. It’s a place where I can wear my jammies to the kitchen to cook or make snacks. On and on. I would bet that this is a familiar feeling for anyone who is fortunate to have a shelter, a home to abide in regularly. And because my home is such a sacred place to me, any disruption, especially an unexpected one, can be perceived or processed as a threat. Threat, until proven safe. Maybe that’s a good home motto. Maybe it’s not. But it’s mine. Apparently.
I wonder if this is common? This way of finding out why for me or you personally. Is it fairly normal to have to experience both good and bad to determine what is really going on? Or is that more a personal operation thing? Comparison and contrasts are indeed an excellent way to make sense of the world.
I am pleased to have learned how I perceive things in this specific context of home. However, I think I’m more intrigued with hope that more broadly, in future situations in which I react strongly to something, that I will have the adaptability and freedom to consider what the alternative response could be, and what might cause the difference between the two. It’s preemptive problem-solving right? By nature, I am a person who anticipates problems. I have done this in my jobs along the course of life, and typically it ends up saving me a significant amount of time. Instead of waiting until things escalate, and having to put all of my capacity and energy toward fighting a fire head on, I can clarify and interject useful information or in some other way, dig a ditch 20 yards from the fires’ direction so that when it would get there, it doesn’t have the fuel required to make any ominous, destructive leaps.
So here’s to understanding ourselves better. May it be a never ending process that we all engage in regularly so that we can be the best versions of ourselves and interact in the most ethical, humane, kind, and loving way with the universe and people around us. Salud.
Loveland, CO ¦¦ June 16, 2019
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