Change, change, everywhere there’s change.
I am a fan of change. I know that sounds weird. After all, we are taught that change is scary and should be feared, right? We see articles and news posts, and memes all talking about how change makes us nervous and messes with our plans and and and …
But I rarely feel that way. Big changes, yes. My divorce was scary. Buying my house was scary. Moving my then boyfriend into my house and getting married again – scary. Going to the dentist – very scary. Other changes though, not scary for me.
When I got laid off in 2014 from the job I had held for the prior seventeen years, I was exhilarated. Anticipating the “what’s next?!”
Before the ink was even dry, I was texting one of my mentors. Overjoyed with possibility. Excited at the opportunities now laid out before me. I had her laughing at my sheer giddiness and unstoppable, excited chatter. My fingers tripping over each other as I bombarded her with messages.
I realize that I am an anomaly in this. That having the ability to get excited about what is around the next corner is a tad unusual.
Even the somewhat sudden prospect of moving this summer was exciting. Overwhelming and exhausting because of the amount of work. Triggering to ALL of my lazy genes. We weren’t planning to do this for five years! And I had close to five years worth of work I wanted to do on my house before that happened. But here we are.
And while I am able to take these big changes pretty much in stride, I find that I am not at all able to take small changes in any sense of the word.
My kitchen, for example, is organized in a very specific way. Cultivated over years of learning organizational tips and tricks. The dried parsley is always exactly here. The mayo is always exactly there. Ketchup in this spot. Coconut water nestled in this nook. I designed this to suit how I cook, so I could reach and grab, use and put back. All in one smooth move. Like a dance. Efficiency is important to me. I also designed it this way because I hate to shop. If everything is in it’s place, I can quickly open doors and cupboards and make a list on the fly. Mentally, I can be in the store and envision if that space is empty or not. Everything has a place and everything goes in it’s place after being used.
But now, the big changes have impacted the little changes.
I have gotten married and my husband has moved into this space. His children have have moved in. We have become a blended family.
Things no longer get put back in their place. And it is painful for me. It brings me actual, real, physical pain. Then I hear the screechy old woman voice coming out of my mouth and am unable to stop it. I am constantly mumbling, “this doesn’t GO THERE!” My palms sweat and I get a little shaky when I reach for my Berbere and it isn’t where it belongs. Thankfully, the Cinnamon has a different label or my eggs would have been quite nasty that day when the two bottles got switched around.
Blankets are not folded the same. they don’t tuck into the couch and chair quite as nicely as they once did. Towels get folded in all different directions instead of in the direction that allows them all to fit in the cupboard. If they get folded at all. Yes, I have seen the meme….. Thankfully I do not share my familial obsession about the direction of the toilet paper or we might just have mayhem over here. I am grateful when the new roll actually makes it onto the holder instead of being set on top of the old tube (or left empty altogether).
These may seem like little things. And they are little things – the littlest of things. These are what my mother used to call “Toothpaste Cap Crap” things (let’s call them TCC for short). Those itsy bitsy annoyances that turn massive. That feel like little pokes and pins. Because no matter how many times you communicate them to the other person or people, these things are never as important to them as they are to you. When they don’t get done “right,” no one else understands why you are suddenly a screaming meamy. There have been many nights where my new family is staring back at me with blank faces not at all understanding why I am upset to learn that we have three open, stale, (expensive, local) bread packages because three different people opened bread and put them in three different places – none of which are the one place bread belongs. (side note: I do find it interesting that these same people will look for items in the place where they should be, but will not put them back there when finished. this is not logical to me in the least little bit).
Coupled with an impending home sale and move, a race to find new housing before our summer vacation ends and school begins, and major drama at my current corporate job – these minor TCC issues have become massive. They are becoming the outlet for all of my stress. I am full daily. Add to that the nuances of children who are out of their element and having responsibilities they have never had to have before and I am becoming the very embodiment of the Wicked Stepmother from every Disney movie ever.
I have practiced detaching, releasing, communicating. I have pulled out all of the tricks I know. And now find myself asking my new family to explain to me what I need to say or do so that they actually hear me, understand what I am saying, and either follow directions or propose a solution. More blank faces, shoulder shrugs, and “I don’t know” answers.
Honestly, it was beginning to feel like these were personal attacks. Refusals to follow instructions or provide an alternative. That’s what we are taught, right? I read in books and magazines that if we have communicated clearly, effectively, confirmed understanding, checked comprehension, and the person still does exactly what we asked them not to – then it is an unequivocal personal attack. It is intentional and it’s purpose is to inflict pain or frustration.
But what if it’s not?
What if we choose to interrupt that script?
Having a house for sale and frequent showings requires that our house be immaculate at all times. This is a challenge for children in general, but especially challenging for kids who are in a ‘new to them’ house and who haven’t really had a chance to create their spot for their stuff. Not to mention they are not used to picking their own things up at all. “Tornado hit the playroom” is their normal paradigm but not one I would allow even if the house were not for sale.
We have set, communicated and enforced the expectations. My husband makes me a more consistent parent to my own child, which I appreciate. Having been a single parent for many years has made me lax in which things I choose to enforce and when – usually based on volume of energy in the reserves coupled with the adage “choose your battles.” but children do need consistency so I appreciate his assistance.
We have tried practicing making the beds repeatedly while I sat and watched, explaining why bunching the sheets up here, or not tucking that in was leaving that lumping the middle. We have set kids in front of open closets with the clothes spilling out of drawers when I reached my limit and my husband suggested a different approach. We have taken furniture away from them altogether when they refused to respect my antiques.
I have done research, read books and articles, ‘interviewed’ my own bonus mom and friends of mine who have bonus children. (we don’t use the word “step” around here – look up the meaning of a step parent and you’ll understand why). We have had to sit one of the children down and have the “you don’t have to like me, or respect me, but you will NOT disrespect me in my own home” conversation when I refused to tolerate anymore of her nasty behavior, snide remarks, body slams and shutting the door in my face. I realize and appreciate that I am blessed that her father was supportive of me during that and he even did most of the talking.
Clearly, CLEARLY, this is personal. Right?
But what if it is not?
Who sold us that script anyway? And why do we want to keep running it? It’s painful. It is painful to think that your closest people really do not love you after all simply because they hang their shirts backwards. Or have their underwear hanging out of the drawers. Or whatever. Why would we choose to feel like this?
What if we all, collectively, try this for a few weeks: the next time someone does something you have asked them not to do (within reason of course, I’m talking toothpaste cap crap here, not a complete violation of trust and boundaries) what if we ask them, kindly, what they were thinking or feeling when they did it? What if, instead of assuming they meant to do us harm, we assume they did not mean to do us harm? Human nature being what it is, many of us will need an explanation for the behavior though. So go ahead, I encourage you, have a conversation. two ears, one mouth. You might learn something.
I did. I learned a lot.
I am going to insert a disclaimer here… do not beat yourself up for not being perfect at this any time in the near future. That script has been running a long time, it has dug deep grooves. But I strongly encourage you to see what happens when we knock it out of its tracks.
Just my pennies ~
p.s. I’d love to hear how this works out for you. Come on back and comment.