Saturday, September 09, 2006

Learning a lesson about teaching lessons

I have decided, despite the anxiety attacks, that my experience this week with my former roommate Tera has been very good for me. One thing it has illustrated is that I am not assertive enough. I will let things slide that bother me (I think at the time, that I am just being easy going) and then someone takes it too far, I explode and I want vengeance. It's not vengeance, exactly, that I want, I just HATE not being taken seriously, and since I don't expect to be taken seriously very often, when someone doesn't, after I have asserted myself, I want them to realize who they are messing with.

A roommate once decided to stop paying rent, stopped sleeping in our house, and left all his stuff. So what did I do? I got mad. My stuff was in storage, and I was sharing the room with him, so I brought my stuff into the room and put his stuff in storage. He shouldn't have messed with me.

A coke-head roommate who we were allowing to stay with us while he “tried to get clean” let his friends smoke weed in our living room. We lived in a corporate run building that had a security guard walking the halls, not a smart or respectful idea. We were doing him a favor by letting him stay with us, I came out of my room and told him to be out by noon the next day. In the morning when I got up his stuff was still there, so I packed it up and put it on the porch. He shouldn't have messed with me.

Now my former roommate Tera has pushed me too far, I feel strongly like doing something to teach her she shouldn't have messed with me.

I have doted on this girl like she was my little sister. I ended up not liking or respecting her, but I still was really kind to her, I told myself I should be compassionate. I didn't want to seem like a bitch, which I would have been if I called her on every thing that she would do. I would make comments like “I think it's different to allow your boyfriend to carry your crew bag, then to expect him to carry all of your stuff while you are moving” but all it would accomplished was her shrugging dismissively, and me respecting her 10 times less because of it.

I said on Aug 28th “I think I could be comfortable with not charging you rent if you can be out by the 3rd” she said her goal would be to finish before she left on a trip on the 1st. On the morning of the FOURTH she was sitting around watching a food network marathon. She moved one carload of stuff that day (this is total, she hadn't moved a thing yet) and informed me she would get the rest the next day. I expressed calmly, but angrily, that she wasn't paying any rent for the room and later in the day called her and told her to also pick up the furniture I had promised to hold on to until October, because I was sick of her taking advantage of me. This morning, the 9th, she still hasn't gotten any of her stuff, and she hasn't returned one of my five calls.

I was REALLY enraged before. Mostly because I didn't want my new roommate to see this incident as her first impression of the apartment, but I had to tell the new roommate, and she was really cool about it, so the rage is subsided a little bit. However, Tera was rude enough to take her time when she knew I was eager to move into that room (as I mentioned in a prior post, she wouldn't even carry her boxes into the hallway- that was her boyfriend's job because he is a “gentleman”) Now she isn't returning my calls and thinks she can get away with leaving her stuff for over a week without paying any rent.

She might have been waiting for me to leave for my trip to come get her things, so she doesn't have to face me, but my secret hope is that she doesn't, because I am changing the locks and putting her stuff in storage when I get back. I suppose I will be happy if she comes and gets it now, so it is over with, but it would just feel so good if I don't let her get away with it, if I taught her she “shouldn't have messed with me”
Here is the fact of the matter. As a pattern, people have not taken me seriously. It is in my nature to be very sweet and gentle, and to really want to help people, which I have always defended as being a good thing, but something isn't working. I am not comfortable with the pattern of having to teach people the lesson that they “shouldn't have messed with me” I would rather they would just respect me in the first place. So what have I done wrong?

I think the big one is my need to be liked. I hate being in the role of “bitch,” which is how Tera would see me if I called her on all of the things she did. “Tera, if you want your computer attached to the printer it's your responsibility to set it up yourself” ; “Tera, your sister's boyfriend is doing you a favor by letting you borrow his truck, you don't have a right to get mad at him for not dropping everything to bring it to you right away”; “Tera, you aren't willing to use shampoo they sell at Walgreen's, so don't feed me this bullshit that you relate more to inner city black people than you do to your suburban white peers.” Okay, that last one may be bitchy but you can see the character I was living with by those three statements. Anyway, the word “bitch” isn't a title I should accept if I am being assertive, not aggressive. If I am telling someone something they don't want to hear, they may think I am a bitch, but I am not one if I am calm, tactful and fair, so who cares what they think.

I know now that what I should have done (but didn't, out of fear that roommates were hard to find) was kick her out when she stopped paying rent. What I did do was threaten to kick her out if she didn't pay rent and pay me $200 a month extra for what she owed me, but I didn't follow through when she only paid me $100 extra, and then nothing extra the next month. This is an important lesson for me to learn for raising kids, you have to set ground rules, and stick with them firmly. If roommates don't take me seriously, how much would my behavior, if it continued, screw up my kids?

This tendency to not speak up so I avoid conflict also is because of “learned helplessness” from when my dad drank. I learned, from years of kicking and screaming to my dad that he shouldn't be passed out drunk every night, that nothing would change, no matter what, so I quit trying. I can see that I sometimes don't speak up, or do certain things to improve my life, because I think it will do no good. I can see now that this is an inaccurate way of thinking.

I am so glad I am in therapy. I can say “I want to be happy” and “I want to change my life” but everything will remain exactly the same, or compound and get progressively worse, unless I change my thinking and my behavior. Yes, I want everybody to like me, so I can continue the behavior of not being assertive as a way to avoid conflict, but then I will receive the same results, people using and not respecting me. I am going to have to endure the discomfort of changing the behavior I am used to, or my life will remain the same, and I will remain unhappy.

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