It is hard to change. Like really hard. And for me, it isn’t knowing what I have to change. Now, this isn’t to say that I haven’t been in denial. That is actually not hard. Because when you are denying that there is an issue, for the most part, you are unaware that there is really an issue. So there is no reason to change because there is nothing really wrong.
And life has done a pretty damn good job of popping the denial bubble for me. I have seen in ways that cannot be unseen a great number of things about myself and the way that I am living that makes it impossible for me to pretend that things are other than how they are. I am grateful for this but it has also been ridiculously painful.
Where I think I have the hardest time is with willingness. I mean, I can usually see where I need to change, but then finding the willingness to actually do the work change requires is something else entirely. And sometimes, as much as I want to change, I do not want to change more. And most of the time I sit in this awkwardness, this place where I am not in denial about something I am doing that is fucking up my life, or the lives of others, or both. But I am unwilling to do the actual work.
We all have been there. Like we know we need to work out, eat better, drink less, sleep more, spend a better balance of time in solitude or in company with others. Like everyone I know has something in their life that they are totally out of balance about. And they know it. And they want to do it differently, but they don’t…for decades. Me fucking too.
So I have been thinking about why I am often desiring of change but so unwilling to do the stuff that will actually make shit be different. And the most honest thing I can come up with is that I, on some level, arrogantly believe that my way, the way that I am currently doing things is better. I mean it really comes down to that for me.
I need order and neatness and clean. Like seriously. It is pathological. I have to have things be a certain way. And when things are out of sorts, or messy, I am kind of a mess too.
Now I have known this for years. Everyone who knows me, knows this about me. I am a neat freak.
And I have known that this fact causes problems in my life. I lose my shit when the people I live with do not live up to my standards. I am a pretty level headed person most of the time, but about this one issue, I do things that I am not proud of, and say things that are even worse. And this destroys my relationship with others. Like all of them…even the pets.
Now only a completely crazy person would have these issues and then get all these animals. I mean who does that? If you are a neat freak, live alone. No pets. No kids. Then all is well. But that is not my deal. And on some level, I think one reason that I have so many pets is like my own version of aversion therapy, like I have all these kids and animals to make me stop being such a neat freak…you don’t need to ask them how it is working. I will own the fact that it isn’t…working. I am still a nut and freak show and it damages my relationships. This is not a new revelation. I have known this for years…decades.
But instead of me changing, I have demanded that they change. This want of mine to live in a home that is photo shoot ready at all times, more important than anything else like people’s feelings, their wants and needs, sleep. I have allowed this one issue to create a crack in my relationships all under the guise of this is what I “need”.
I am not making light of this. I do need it. But when I have a need and it brings on so much angst and issue with others, I really should evaluate my need against the needs of others.
My thinking has been this:
I need this one thing. And I know it is a lot but I need it. I am very giving to others, so these others should be willing to give on this one issue to me. I give to them on so many levels, this is just the one thing that I need so they should and can and will give to me on the level that I need.
Nope. Not how it works.
What has transpired instead is that I am seen as this crazy person who is always pissed off about some mess in the house. I am not fun to be around, and I am sure my kids feel like the other shoe is about to fall because it is…like I have the shoe in my hand all the fucking time…just waiting for a moment to let it fly.
Now I do not want to create this atmosphere. I do not. And I also do not want to feel what I feel when the beings I live with do not, will not comply with my incessant demands for order. I do not like feeling uncared for, about and that I cannot get this one need met. I cannot get cooperation around this one thing. And instead of giving up, I have created this incredible circus that we all live in. Add kids, animals and then some sort of pathological cleanliness factor to create a home that looks good but is so tense that no one wants to be here.
The kids and animals live in fear of making a mess.
I live in fear of the kids and animals making a mess.
So while my home always looks perfect, it is not. Because once again, I have placed how things look as being more important than the quality of the relationships that are residing here.
And I have been unwilling to change this because I need it. I have been caught in and endless loop because I see the issue as theirs. I have conveniently defined myself right out of the issue all in the name of parenthood…
My son will be home in two days and he has historically been a severe offender to my neat freakishness. He tends to leave a trail wherever he goes. But I was so intermittently in denial about who I am and what I am doing that I just redefined the problem where I was not part of the it. I am the parent, this is what I demand, and that is the end of the story.
But I am the one who is constantly let down and pissed off and destabilized by my children’s unwillingness or inability to meet me where I need to be. And so the cycle perpetuates…
But I was driving home last night, feeling antsy about the condition of the living room and kitchen, and the drama that would ensue when I get home because my daughter always leave a mess somewhere. And I had a moment of clarity: what about this issue was mine? What about this issue was my part to address? I am after all the one that walks around mumbling to herself, sometimes loudly, often with profanity, about the status of the home. Why do I keep doing this to all of us?
I came to the realization that this has to be some sort of trauma response. That is now being perpetuated over my children and pets. That I have this compulsion and it is indeed a compulsion. And so far the only thing it has ever gotten me is FRUSTRATED. Like super frustrated and angry. And it blocks the intimacy and love that I really want in my life.
It occurred to me last night that I have to be willing to change. And I can do that. I am not willing to change my cleanliness standard because I do not want to live in a hovel. I do not want to live where I do not feel comfortable. It is my house. I own it, I pay for it and I want it to be a certain way. But, maybe I can change the expectation of whose responsibility it is to make it look the way I want. It is such a fine line as a parent, how much you get to set the rules and expectations and how much that can just be a cover for me behaving like a selfish ass. Sigh.
I like my environment to look a certain way. But I also do not want it to cause the issues it does with my pets and kids. I do not want to be irritated all the time. So I have to be willing to change. And I will own that right now I do not know what that looks like. Like at all. I walk around muttering to myself and being upset and irritated because that is my reality and I am completely unsure how to change that. How do I become someone different? Is there a way that I can be more easy going and less triggered and traumatized?
Fuck if I know but I am going to try.
Willingness is really a lot like hitting bottom. I mean we all hit bottom on something but it is never really a bottom if we don’t follow the suggestions of those who are not currently bottoming out, unless we follow their direction and suggestion. So I am asking for help. What can I do here? How can I relax and let this need of mine not be so straightjackety for all of us? Any ideas? Please. I really do want to stop my pissyness and stomping about like a crazy person. I just want to live in harmony with the beings that I love most in the world.
The idea of service comes to mind. Like every time I have to wash the curtains because the puppy just peed on them again, I could look at it as service. My service to puppykind. When my kids leave a spoon in the sink, I could just put it in the dishwasher in an act of service to teens everywhere. I could accept that I have ridiculously high standards when it comes to order and cleanliness and I could, as an act of service, decide to be who I am but allow others some other path. And I could take on the responsibility for my house looking the way that I want, without all the drama and trauma. I could just see the work as mine, not theirs. And that me keeping it the way that I want is a service to me. And it is not, in fact, their responsibility to make me happy or not triggered.
This feels like letting them off the hook. But what I realized driving home last night is that I do not want them on the hook. I do not want my pets and children on hooks. I do not like the dynamic that I am creating. And after decades of insisting it be a certain way, it hasn’t changed at all. Like at all. No one has changed their behavior. Not them. Not me. So the cycle of crazy just perpetuates on its own daily. And I do not like the result.
So I am going to change. I have found that ever elusive willingness and now will employ other skills I have learned to allow it to grow and hopefully eventually change the way that I behave. Those other skills are restraint, pause, forgiveness, patience, accountability, prayer and service. These are my tools for effectuating actual change. Once I have done the very hard part of finding the willingness for me to be the one that actually changes. I so want it to be them. But even as a parent, I have no way or ability to make them change. And living in a police state is not the way that I want to live. And I do not want to be on high alert all the time. I want to be happy, joyous and free. So I have to be willing to look at why I am not those things and then do it differently. Sigh.