“Self-care also means not arguing with people who try to misunderstand you.” ~ Aishat A. Akambi ⠀
It was late June 2020 in the evening. My housemates and I were eating sushi in the backyard, surrounded by crickets tuning in to the evening symphony.
To our right, towering voluminous green trees, imposing in height but with their texture (furry and cuddly, like Sesame Street characters), are friendly I saw.
I wish I had used a really friendly creature back then.
A few hours earlier, I learned that my housemate (who contracted COVID-19 while on vacation with a fourth housemate) was due to return home the next day.
I have expressed my displeasure with this in clear terms. But my housemates fired me and still maintained plans to move back home.
I considered my options. One would be to stay home. Even if your housemate didn’t transmit the virus, the CDC recommended isolation (if you live with someone who tested positive for COVID-19). With the fear of catching the virus, I lost my income (my job as a freelance Spanish interpreter hadn’t moved to Zoom yet) and was put on hiatus for two weeks.
*This was pre-vaccination, with minimal knowledge of COVID-19 and its long-term effects. People (including young people) were dying every day from this disease. At the time, I was suffering from a mysterious health condition that made me feel particularly vulnerable. A few months later, I found out the cause was celiac disease.
Option 2 is to stay in a motel. I plan to put some of my savings into it while continuing to pay rent on the apartment I left, but my health spares me. It also helps cover these costs because you can continue to work.
I leaned towards the latter, so I shared my thoughts with my housemates while eating outside.
There was more nuance to this exchange than I can capture here, but basically the news of an uninvited COVID-19 houseguest didn’t upset this housemate, and she It seemed clearly frustrating that the decision was causing me anxiety.
Here are the highlights of our exchange:
“Hotel maids can catch COVID-19,” she says. “The hotel is not safe.”
“Isn’t it safer than sharing a house with someone who tested positive for COVID-19?”
Her face stiffened, sensing my irritation and disbelief. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” she said firmly, and her tone suddenly turned cold and sharp.
A butterfly has just landed on my chopsticks. To calm myself down, I focused my eyes on the softly flapping orange wings. I kept my focus on them as my housemate got up to pick up the sushi wreckage and walked home.
After packing, moving out, and moving house, my emotions fluctuated throughout the week. The internal tug-of-war played out over and over: “Accept the decisions they make and leave them alone/No, stop, your needs and feelings are legitimate and it’s not okay.”
If one of my housemates contracted COVID-19 at work, in the supermarket, or in other circumstances largely beyond my control, I would understand. Or if they were already home, I would never have asked them to move out.
But it all changed when they got sick in another county and deliberately took it home, despite strong and desperate appeals from the CDC to keep people from traveling.
After being away for five days, I brought up these concerns again during a video call with my housemates, only to again be dismissed. My housemates said that if I didn’t like it, maybe I should find another place to live (even though I lived there before them and chose them as my housemates). .
After the call ended, the room spun around me as I sat there processing it. Nowhere in my housemates’ shared consciousness seemed to acknowledge my reality or justify my point of view.
Moving certainly seemed like the most rational and mentally healthy option.
A few weeks ago I left home feeling like I was running from a burning building. During my time away from home, I realized that if my roommate had recovered and continued to live with me long after the threat of COVID-19 had passed, the fire would have continued to burn.
It’s probably because the trust and emotional security I have now has been broken. When installed they bring light and warmth. When destroyed, its light turns into flames. It felt like my only option was to keep wearing the armor forever or leave the burning house alone.
Certain problems (if small enough) can be hidden under the carpet. Some mere annoyances are best dealt with simply by letting go. I was worried about my housemate’s previous behavior, so I did.
However, this felt too big to fit in.
The day I returned home to pack, I thought about how different things were from just a few months ago. At the beginning of the shelter life, the four of us seemed to get along well. If not friends, then at least they became friendlier.
How suddenly things changed for the better.
The mentally stressful situation taught me two important lessons.
One is that each of us must be our own best protector.
My housemate described the decision to go home as a boundary, and I think that technically it was a boundary (a toxic and uncaring boundary in my opinion). bottom). They had a right to go back and I could not physically stop them.
And while they had a right to that line, I’m fine with setting such a line despite the obvious impact it has on the people with whom they live. I had the right to decide that I was unsafe to be with people who I felt were unsafe. I had the right to decide that their boundaries were incompatible with receiving the care, respect, and care that I needed and would give in return.
When others disrespect us or disregard our well-being, we can decide that our hearts are not safe with them. We can remove them from their reach.
If they’re not interested in considering your point of view, don’t try to explain it so they can understand. They don’t deserve the ego boost that you seek their acceptance.
We cannot and will not change the behavior of others. We can only take care of ourselves.
I now spend less time defending my views to people who simply don’t want to be heard. I try to spend more time making decisions that are healthy for my mind, body, and spirit.
Spend more time with people you don’t want to over-explain. Because their concern and consideration for me prevents that urge from activating in the first place.
We all deserve to have such people in our lives. But in order for them to surround us, we must distance ourselves from situations that hurt us.
The second lesson I learned is that people who harm us are not worth our time and mental energy.
After this incident, I had a lot to say. There was a comment that my ex-housemate thought deserved to be heard. There were character reviews that made me want to start working their way up.
But in the end, I saved energy and only contacted them about practical issues like getting my deposit back (which they were trying to withhold from me at first).
After finding a new living environment, I put all my effort into my friendships. For long phone conversations and Zoom calls.
I immersed myself in the work of interpreting.
I made a nutritious and healthy meal.
Pet the cute cats that roam the backyard.
I wrote, spent time with my nephew, worked out what happened with my therapist, devoured books, and tried my best to heal the emotional pain the whole situation and its bitter ending had caused me. I was.
I also paid attention to the good moments. The morning I left for the motel, I remembered approaching the car with my bag and the back window broken. The glass scattered on the sidewalks around me seemed to symbolize what was happening to my living situation.
A neighbor asked me if I needed help. He wore a mask and came out with a broom and a dustpan. He helped me sweep the glass. That spike was still hanging from the back window. We broke it together so that I wouldn’t run around with the shards.
A small audience of neighbors watched the spectacle. The kids watched as the glass shattered and hit my car seat. They watched the rain pour down on the pavement.
In other words, I turned the energy I was spending on revenge on improving my life.
I want energy. I seek equanimity and mental tranquility. I don’t think they deserve to be content with taking those things away from me.
As Carolina de Robertis notes in her novel, president and frog:
“Resentment and vengeance may have hoped to lift you out of the quagmire of your past. [her character] I didn’t have time for that and I have too much work to do here. ”
Sometimes it is better to choose peace over justice. Above all, it is your own heart and mind that benefits the most.