The only thing you have control over at times is perspective.
~ Chris Pine
That is an AFGO for Tiffany. That’s my car. And what I believe is ceiling paint. Yay me. Lemme explain.
Cars and Life
My current car is the second car I ever bought new. The first was a Geo Metro I bought when I was 23. It was very small, very white and looked like a marshmallow. It was so small that people would stop me and ask me what it might look like when it grows up.
All of my cars in between were purchased used and most were soundly beaten up in the service of children: My daughter, the kids I worked with as a school-based therapist, random kids from the community. My cars were encrusted with a whole lot of yuck, some of which predated my ownership. But hey, they were just cars.
I bought my current car right around my birthday in 2018. I decided I was going to take this fresh start and do it right – Maintain it properly, keep all the receipts, address any schmutz or spills right away. This car was not going to be a trashmobile. It might even have some resale value if I decided not to drive it until it dies.
I’ve done well with that so far, in spite of a few dings and scrapes. Until yesterday.
A Moving Experience
As some of you know, my husband and I bought our first home last month. (For those of you who didn’t know, that’s why you haven’t seen blogs and newsletters from me since forever.) Virtually everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. They say that homebuying is one of the most stressful experiences we ever have. Our realtor affirms that this particular home buy was all of that, times 4 or 5 curveballs. We are raggedy beyond belief.
While my husband is not a therapist, he is a very wise and often psychology-savvy guy. (You kind of have to be in order to be coupled with a therapist. We are not an easy lot.) In normal-people style, he and I have been riding the roller coaster of doing well, not doing well, keeping perspective, completely losing our ish, in alternating currents with one another for about four months now.
Did I mention how raggedy we are?
The other day, while trying to work through our 19th or 20th complete crash and burn miscue, he observed to me that I seem to have been using perpetual anger to power through our challenges. I was exhausted enough to hear him. He’s right: All of this stress, on the heels of the being-a-traumatologist-through-a-pandemic stress, on the heels of five or so years of seriously threatening social and political unrest bounced me right back to my childhood homeostasis (people’s gravitational pull toward whatever is familiar,) of anger.
Functional and Dysfunctional Anger
When I was a kid, my anger was very unpleasant, and also, critically important. I was marking the plethora of things that were absolutely not alright and I was protecting myself with anger. I can say with relative certainty that my childhood anger is a big part of while I’m still alive. In addition to validating the part of me that knew my circumstances were not ok, I used the fuel of “I’ll show YOU!!!” to build a life.
Under all of this recent stress, I went back to that place where anger and “I’ll show YOU” kept me going when I was well beyond spent. It did work. However, it was excruciatingly expensive. I didn’t respect my own limits. I was adversarial with everything from lamps that needed to be put together to my husband. He had had enough.
So, Back to the Car
On the heels of that Come-Back-to-Sanity conversation, a very thoughtful, hardworking, dedicated person borrowed my car to take the 26 — TWENTY-SIX — paint cans that the former owner of the home left behind, (did I mention that this move was beyond crazy,) to a Waste Management facility. TWENTY. SIX. CANS.
Said thoughtful, hardworking, dedicated human did not realize that one of cans was not all the way closed. And not dry. It tipped over in the back of my car.
Remember my car? The grown up one that I’ve been working so hard to treat well and kept from being a trashmobile? Yah… that one.
The Road Less Travelled
Said thoughtful, hardworking, dedicated human let me know what happened. I chose not to default to anger. Lawd knows I’ve made much costlier mistakes. Paint happens.
The thoughtful, hardworking, dedicated human did the best they could to clean up the mess with a ton of Goof Off that night. We left the windows and sunroof cracked open to air it out some overnight as the thoughtful, hardworking, dedicated human reported that the fumes were overwhelming. The person was planning to work on it more today.
I saw it for the first time this morning when I moved it up the driveway to open the everything in order to address the smell. Lo and behold, there is a ginormous paint spill over about 40% of my hatchback area, and, said thoughtful, hardworking, dedicated human did not consider the effects of gravity on liquids. The paint dripped all the way down into the spare tire well, soaked the back of the seat and encroached its way around to the visible side of the seat.
With only the dogs to witness and having given myself gold stars for not blaming and attacking the person who’s humanness caused this… I admit that momentarily I *might* used that person’s name as a curse word. Homeostasis can be more fierce than the ocean’s undertow. But then I heard my husband’s voice in my head and stopped.
I put on the meditation music I had been listening to when I woke up, centered my body, let go of the no-longer-useful anger, and got to work on the car. It’s just a car.
But There’s More…
The aforementioned thoughtful, hardworking, dedicated human came to help with the cleanup. I was grateful. I heard myself being shorter with that person than I wanted to be and did a self-check. I wasn’t mad at the person.
What was this about?
More undertow: I have been societally trained to go out of my way to be sure someone in that other person’s position didn’t feel bad about what had happened. I was tempted to minimize my unhappiness about what had happened in case that person internalized it as shame or blame. I was tempted to tell them to not worry about it and to do the remaining job myself.
That’s why I was irritated! I was using the energy of irritation to keep myself from saying those things and from overfunctioning for that thoughtful, hardworking, dedicated human. What that person internalizes is their work. What I say and do is mine. #WINNING!
As it turns out, said thoughtful, hardworking, dedicated human had ideas about how to address both the paint extraction and the Goof Off smell eradication that I hadn’t thought of. Additionally, the work was going much better with two of us. And even more still, I was refusing to give over more of my time and physical stamina than I needed to, reversing my bad habits of the prior months.
All because I refused to let homeostasis drag me to my death. “I’ll show YOU, homeostasis! HA!!”
I’m going to go enjoy my new home now. I’m even going to enjoy my car. If we don’t get all of this out, I am going to choose to view the paint stains as a reminder that I don’t need anger to fuel me. I’ve got this.
I won’t cry (or rage) over spilled paint.
Are you struggling against the undertow of homeostasis? Contact Tiffany today and let’s find you a lifeline.