— Steve Maraboli
Ah, Sunday. Good morning to you, you overcast, chilly day.
Sundays have become a favourite day of the week for me. Duder is usually away with his dad until the early afternoon, so Jo and I occasionally get the chance to sleep in a little bit and the normally bustling, busy street that our house sits on is actually… quiet?
This is an unusual occurrence in a typical week for our family; somebody usually has something on-the-go, somewhere to be, something to do… So we’ll sometimes try and pack a few things into our Sunday afternoon, considering it’s the only real “free” day we have to do anything fun with Broski. Most of the time though, he’s pretty wiped from his weekend away, Jo and I are feeling like we, too, need a break after a busy week — so Sundays usually result in a quiet, relaxed afternoon and evening at home.
This weekend has obviously been a bit different. As Jo mentioned briefly in Go back?, we had their mother staying with us for a couple of days so we could make the day trip to Stratford to house-hunt. Overall, I suppose it went well; Duder was great, as patient as an eight year old can be, and tackled what would normally be a “hang out with dad day” turned “5 hours of driving and boring meetings day” with the maturity of a teenager — still having blips of boredom but, in the end, being a relatively respectful, polite and well-behaved kid. For that alone, I am eternally grateful.
I think that the adults that were involved in the day, believe it or not, had more of a struggle than the bored kid. I have had a hard time all weekend; the driving, walking, getting up and sitting down, attempting to tackle stairs in potential homes to see whether or not I can realistically manage them — and, as much as I hate to admit it, it takes me a long time to adjust my living to newcomers. It’s a fault of mine that isn’t often an issue; Jo and I don’t have people stay with us much and I’ve had nearly the last two years to adjust my habits to mesh with theirs, and truthfully, when I have to stay with other people, I have no problem doing things “their way”. When it’s my home, however, and my routine — sometimes I can get a little sticky about it. It’s not even that I’m unwilling to adjust! I just need longer than four days to do so.
So, in recognizing this as a major flaw of mine, as well as taking the time to reflect on the weekend; I was kind of a miserable cow. I got short with Duder on more than one occasion, my patience was practically non-existent, and I ended up doing some things I probably shouldn’t have (ie: climb a 14-step staircase, twice) out of the desire for some space. I’m really not entirely sure what the issue even was, guys — I usually try to be far more agreeable than I was this weekend, but something about it was just… hard. I am the first to admit that, frankly, I have a bit of a short fuse. Not in regards to my temper — I’m usually pretty even keeled and don’t get angry at much, but to put it in layman’s terms: I have a shit ton more pet peeves than most. It makes me think of the recent surge of people admitting to their utter disgust and aggravation at the sound of people chewing (also a pet peeve of mine); but I have the same reaction to a lot of things; actions, habits and behaviours, that even I’m unaware of until I’m almost vibrating I’m so annoyed.
I don’t need to tell you that this obviously causes problems in my interactions and relationships with people. I am particularly sympathetic towards Jo in this regard; the amount of patience I have for them and their habits, tics, quirks, etc. is infinite. Additionally, they hold the unique position of seeing me in a parenting role and observing the areas where I struggle with Duderroo, but also the instances where I can dig deep and find an immeasurable capacity for tolerance towards him, regardless of how many times he and I have had to have the exact same conversation (pet peeve two). I realize that, from the outside, this ability to self-evaluate can look relatively effortless, and I concede to the bias that I have towards the two most important people in my life. Why can’t I find even a portion of that for people outside of my immediate familial unit?
I ask myself this question a lot, especially on days when I’m feeling particularly snappy. My irritation and annoyance are emotions that I find very difficult to disguise and this disadvantage has a propensity to manifest in the tone of my voice — I, admittedly, have a proclivity for sarcasm. Jo approached me with this earlier in the week, having noticed a change in my demeanour and attitude and I have since recalled that I had to address the same issue when I was last prescribed medication for my ADHD (as covered in my last blog). Jo mentioned that they think I have just become more assertive, which, in my opinion, is entirely uncharacteristic of me, and that it was just going to be a matter of them adjusting to the shift in my personality. While this may be true — I don’t suspect that the things I’ve had to accomplish and the list of potentially uncomfortable situations I’ve had to put myself in to do so would have been as successful had I not found this… “tenacity”, if you will — I tend to forget that sarcasm is a life-long defence mechanism that I have been tirelessly perfecting for twenty-six years.
When I’m feeling insecure, my normally light-hearted, playful, humorous, though sometimes backhanded satire can quickly become caustic and hostile. Though I never have the intention of offending anyone or legitimately hurting their feelings, I notice the blatant similarities between my behaviour and that of the quintessential bully of my childhood. I have vivid memories of my mother sitting me down, quickly mopping up the puddle of tears I’d turned into; quieted my uncontrollable sobbing after the mean kid that lived across the street had angrily bulldozed me into a rose bush. “People who bully others; people who put others down are only doing it to boost themselves up”, she’d said; and I think she was right. I mean, it’s been proven time and time again that the majority of people who pick on others suffer from low self-esteem, or have negative feelings about themselves for one reason or another.
I don’t consider myself a bully and I know that my sarcasm and the defences I put up are not malicious. I used to be the type of person that would insult my “friends” as a means of “showing my affection”… I know this practice seems to be today’s norm, with a new “Roast Of…” premiering on a regular basis, inflicting physical pain on others being a recurring theme even in “kid’s shows”, and, one that really grinds my gears: prank videos — and the terrifyingly high number of adults creating said videos who are now involved in child abuse/neglect/exploitation lawsuits, all for the “enjoyment” of their subscribers.
[ side note / random facts: apparently, over five million youtube videos are watched each day. I’ll save you the math and just throw out this number: one trillion eight hundred twenty-five billion — which is a very loose estimate, but is the rough number of views youtube receives in a single year. In 2015, prank videos alone accounted for 17.7 billion of those views. ]
I think the normalization of abusive language, obscene and abrasive behaviour as a show of friendship and/or endearment as well as our desensitization to it, and acceptance of it as appropriate interaction within our society overflows into countless other areas — the doofus that is in charge of running our province, and the other doofus in charge of our neighbouring country are both perfect examples of what happens when we, as a society, laugh off offensive and inappropriate behaviour. In saying that; on a smaller scale, I realize that I have also been desensitized to the level and intensity of sarcasm that I use when I’m feeling threatened, overlooked, unheard, etc. and that those feelings lead me to behave in a way that doesn’t necessarily speak for who I am otherwise. And I have to admit, moments are coming up more and more often that make me wish I could find some way to teach this capacity for self-reflection on a broad scale. Imagine what the world would be like if we could eradicate the concept of ego and, instead, people weren’t as resistant to acknowledging their flaws. When we aren’t feeling self-conscious and defensive of traits that we perceive to be “less appealing”, we are less likely to project that onto the people we interact with — and when the feeling of being “lesser than” no longer exists; the covetous emotions like jealousy, envy, greed, etc. are also quickly disqualified. In my case, I get my knickers in a knot when I believe that someone else is perceiving me as less than. Whether this means not including me in discussion, interrupting me (pet peeve three), brushing off my input, etc, etc.
It’s ridiculous, right? I get antagonistic because I’m not feeling confident in my position, opinion, physicality, whatever… Then project that onto the people I think are most likely to feel the same way; this weekend, for instance, that included Jo’s mother, the realtor we worked with and even Duderroo, at times. It’s a lot easier to be sharp and terse with others, blanketed under this predetermined (though inaccurate) belief that those people are opposed to you for some reason, than to take a moment to sit back and recognize that the only person responsible for your feelings of inadequacy is you. It takes some serious mindfulness to be able to notice these things in the moment, but I’m trying to at least recognize my trip ups after the fact — like having negative feelings towards Jo’s mom, literally with no cause other than that she gets nearly all of Jo’s focus when she visits and we spend the majority of our days together; so I was jealous. Still had nothing to do with her, but I twisted it around in my mind to look like she was being too demanding, or whatever. Or, when we spent the entire day walking around, getting in and out of cars, etc. and the only person who checked in specifically on my back was the realtor so, irrationally perceiving that my pain levels just “weren’t a priority”, I proceeded to trek up and down as many flights of stairs as possible, it seemed. I wish you could see me rolling my eyes at myself right now. What a cry baby, hey?
(I also want to add in here that this previous statement is more than likely false; I guarantee that Jo checked in on how I was doing physically on more than one occasion, but there was a lot going on and when I fall back into old tendencies — specifically, dissociating when I sense tension, get overwhelmed, feel anxious, etc. — I almost “black out”, per se, and my memory and awareness of what is happening in the moment gets convoluted. So; I wanted to express what I was feeling at the time to give you an accurate and honest image of my perception of the situation, but also nip any criticism in the bud.)
There was a lot of tension swirled into the super-exciting-but-overwhelming combo of flavours we had going on. Having had a schedule mapped out a couple of weeks in advance (Jo’s doing; no surprise there), we felt reasonably prepared. This plan was kind of unexpectedly kiboshed at the last minute when an exciting part of our day was axed, which was disappointing, to say the least. I’m still trying to figure out how to sum up my thoughts on the delivery of that particular information, but it’s bubbling around in my brain the way an idea does just before the proverbial light bulb illuminates. The elusive Eureka! moment is coming, friends, I can feel it — when it does, you’ll be the first to know.
The new plan supposedly meant that we were going to be able to zip through some houses quickly, break for lunch and be home hours before we’d originally expected, but also meant we were starting the day sooner and, therefore, needed to hit the road a bit earlier. Waking up at six thirty in the morning is really only ideal for one person in our house — me — and even then, I have to be the one choosing to wake up at that time. I used to have a habit of throwing alarm clocks; hence why I no longer have one. The house we had set our sights on ended up accepting an offer a few days before we were due to drive up, which was a bit of a downer, we were quite ahead of our new schedule nearly the entire day, so there was a lot of idle, sit-around-and-wait-for-the-next-one time (though I will say, our realtor took us out for coffee and lunch, which was very generous and left the four of us feeling well taken care of). The first house we walked through was adorable (and, based on photos, our number two pick), but tiny for the four of us; the second house we saw, Jo and I had to walk through alone because the smell of smoke was so overwhelming we didn’t feel comfortable having the young or elderly members of our unit in the house at all.
The third house, however… Guys. Just wow. The owner is an incredibly talented artist, so her design style, though a bit old-fashioned for my taste, was so warm and welcoming — we walked in and it immediately felt like home. There’s some work to be done; we’ll have to renovate the basement a little bit to add in an extra bedroom, but I’m looking forward to doing that work possibly more than I am to move, period. After some awkward and snippy banter back and forth, a(n adult) tantrum or two, a bit of visualizing and then some carefully strategized persuasion, the four of us came to the conclusion that this little home was a near-perfect fit for us. Jo and I are moderately superstitious, so that’s all of the details I’ll reveal for now as I don’t want to jinx it for us, but my fingers and toes are so crossed for this to have a positive outcome that I’m worried I may not be able to uncross them again.
In conclusion, the last few days have made me reevaluate my ideas and interpretations of family, if I’m to be honest. Familial relations are these ambiguous concepts that I can no longer comprehend and I don’t know how to build a place for myself within them. I have now been left out of more than one family get together without explanation, the people I had perceived as my “unit”, however spaced out they were, no longer take me into consideration unless they need me to facilitate their contact with Duder, Jo’s family is threatening to evaporate — but, on the other side of the coin, our little unit of three has been steadily fortifying and toughening, the progress in making this relocation happen has helped Duderroo and Jo reestablish their awesome step-parent/kid relationship and overall, the three of us inherently know that our lives are about to get so much better.
Getting my shit together was the start. Getting my mental health under control allowed me to talk to my ex, inform the other members of my “family”, get myself semi-organized and manage a stressful weekend full of information, emotions, scheduling changes and the like, without having a full-blown meltdown. I’m proud of myself for that and grateful that I didn’t flare up while Jo was also experiencing the same, if not worse, agitation. But part of what I love about becoming more motivated to write for this project, and writing for this blog in general, is that I try to commit to authentically and honestly contemplating my behaviour and actions, because I feel like it helps me become a better person. I love that writing about our four day foray into the world of first-time (for me, anyway) house purchasing also brought my shortcomings into focus as far as my temperament and my approach to uncomfortable situations are concerned. Addressing these flaws and picking them apart, piece by piece, is what helps me identify my triggers retrospectively and recognize the moments when I’m at risk of going off the deep end. Maybe it’s years of therapy coming back to me in the moments I need it most, because this tactic doesn’t feel alien to me, but regardless, I appreciate having the insight, as well as the patience with myself to peel back the layers upon layers of learned self-preservation to just be comfortable with experiencing this life for what it has to offer.
Yowza; before I get caught up in getting philosophical, I’ll wrap this one up. I’m constantly learning about the many ways we, as people, function and relate to each other and how quickly that unity can turn to disconnect, even if only caused by something as subjective as our perception of the situation or the people involved. I, too, am guilty of this — obviously — but refuse to reject my potential for improvement. I think the excuse of “this is just who I am, deal with it” is a cop out; everyone has the capacity to be a good person, so rationalizing and excusing the fact that you’re an asshole only because you’re uninspired to do anything about it is no longer grounds for bad behaviour. The desire to stagnate needs to be made obsolete, not turned into an art form. We must strive to be better, whether or not the people we surround ourselves with are on board — because when you become better, the people who gravitate to you will be better; better friends, better lovers, better coworkers… Better people. End of story.
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”— Albert Einstein