I was a bit less anxious this time leading up to the session. It was a big week in many ways but the one thing that came up last time, and that I was determined to at least experiment with if not carry through at every turn, was to practice assertiveness. I know, how typical, right? Doesn't it always seem like everyone is therapy says stuff like this?
Well, maybe it is a pervasive issue in the human psyche. Or at least mine. But we talked a lot last week about how confrontation and assertiveness can seem like a really scary thing to practice. It can cause discomfort and humans do not like discomfort. Well, most don't. I am part of the most don't.
However, I am trying to build awareness of when the need to assert myself is a must and practicing this very delicate art. I'm trying to do it in a different way. The old way that I am trying so hard to break away from is like this: avoid it until it is entirely uncomfortable and messes my mind up completely, then finally say something in a way that leaves me feeling like apologizing afterwards because I came off like a bitch with pent-up rage.
So that old way will not do. I would rather go to bed at night knowing that I made my needs or my kids needs known, in a fair and kind way. The reaction of the other party doesn't matter as much as feeling comfortable with the way I delivered the message.
I stumbled through this task a little bit this week. I can count one time where I didn't do this correctly, one time where I think I did alright, and another time with stellar results.
The stellar results incident was when I had a decent, human discussion with my landlord over this stretch of carpet at the top of the stairs. The dogs like to think of it as an extended version of the yard and, well, it smelled and looked like hell. The tenants before me either used it as a toilet or the designated coffee spill station and it was just horrible. Every night I would find myself carpet shampooing it to no avail, and every morning when I walked over it to use the bathroom it was a sharp reminder that I was a renter with less control than a home owner.
So I asked him if I could tear it up. No big deal to the rest of the world, but I have always had a very...interesting relationship with my landlords. Always fearful of speaking up. Always not wanting to rock the boat. I know, it's weird and it's all wrapped up in my avoidant personality and my desire to really not be a tenant and to rule my own kingdom (aka HOUSE).
He was thrilled with the idea and basically scolded me for even asking. His words were pretty much this: You are a good tenant, a good woman, and you know how to take care of a house. Do whatever you want and don't feel like you have to ask. Well, alrighty then.
His affirmation and this small gesture, plus a lot of sweat, swearing, and bandaids has taken me miles away from feeling like a person trapped by circumstance to a person who just might be able to enjoy the next couple of years here, before Sadie graduates and it's time to settle back down into my own home again.
I know that ripping up some carpet feels like a silly thing to be so joyful over, but it's huge in my world. We talked about this at therapy and came to the conclusion that it is a small victory in enjoying my life now. My life has revolved around modifying my environment to make it more beautiful and comfortable for so many years now that it made me feel powerless to think that I was unable to do so in a rental. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know of my penchant for ripping down wallpaper, spackling, painting, clearing debris, planting things, and basically controlling my own domain. I have missed it and it makes me feel very good to gain some of that back.
My landlord is awesome. My desire, wherever I go, is to leave a place a little bit better than the way I found it. I can do this here and it makes it feel a little bit more like a home.