This article was first published on tinybuddha.com. You can view it here as well.
I got the call late one Sunday afternoon while sitting at work. “Babe, your toilet tub and shower are backed up.” What?
“It’s bad babe, and getting worse.” Okay, I thought, I’ll call my landlord.
“Hello, this is so and so and you’ve got my voicemail. Please leave me a message and I’ll call you back as soon as I can.”
Damn. Answering machine. Message left.
Text message time. Left that one too.
I wrapped up work and raced home. Yuck. It was bad. And like my partner mentioned, getting worse by the second.
Another call to my landlord gave me another voicemail. Another text followed this time by an email. Still nothing.
“Babe, you should call a plumber.” My landlord doesn’t like the idea of me calling a plumber on my own. I know this from past experiences.
“But babe, she’s not returning your texts or calls.” Good point. And it was getting worse. For all I knew my landlord was on a plane heading to Europe.
Plumber found. One last text to my landlord before I called, saying if I didn’t hear back from her that I was going to call a plumber on my own. Fifteen minutes later I made the call. Anxiety rising.
Plumber said they would be there in thirty minutes. Ten minutes later my landlord called. No exaggeration to what I’m about to quote.
“You’re threatening me!?” I wasn’t threatening you. “You call and text and call and text and threaten me!?” I didn’t threaten you.
“I’m at a Christmas party and I have to deal with this!?” I was shaking. Like a scared little kid getting yelled at by an angry parent.
“Maybe you should find a new place to live!” I couldn’t even get a word in. “If that plumber comes out that’s on your dime, not mine! It’s probably not even that bad.”
The plumber showed up. Said it was that bad. That it was a health safety hazard and he couldn’t leave me like that, even after I told him about my landlord, who by the way showed up ten minutes later. Still pissed and blaming me for interrupting her evening.
“I’ll have someone out in the morning,” she said in a not so nice tone.
Someone did come. Problem was fixed. Life went on. Comfortably uncomfortable.
Earth to Zachary. Come in Zachary. This is your wake up call.
Do you copy? Zachary, do you copy? It’s time to move out of your apartment!
You don’t deserve to be treated like this! Deep sigh. I copy. I think.
My girlfriend asked why I didn’t end the phone conversation while the landlord was yelling at me. She said most people wouldn’t let someone speak to them like that.
I’m not like most people. In fact, for the better part of my adult life I’ve stayed in and returned to painful relationships.
Four months later and I’m still here. Still comfortably uncomfortable. A prisoner in my own apartment. The apartment I pay for on time each and every month.
I’m a good tenant. Probably too good, as I allow myself to get pushed around. Almost like I’m bullied.
Instead of my milk money, I’m giving the bully my rent money. Same thing. Different age.
Where’s my voice? It’s time for me to stand up for myself. To show up as a man.
See, I’m always afraid of how the other person is going to react, in this case, my landlord. I can see clearly how fear reverts me to a child like state, afraid of the angry parent. It paralyzes me.
I have to remind the precious inner child that he did nothing wrong. That he wont get spanked for being a bad kid.
Okay. Moment of truth. I’m about to send an email finally giving them my thirty-day notice.
Check in time.
My body has a surge of adrenaline racing through it. My fingers are almost shaking while I type. Heart beating quickly. Head feels like it’s in a vice.
It’s just an email Zach. Just an email.
My landlord can’t hurt me. I’ve done nothing wrong. I have the right to pick and choose where I’d like to live, as well as how I’d like to be treated.
Deep breath. Let it out. Press send.
Sent. The part of me that lives in fear is waiting for a quick response. For punishment. “How dare you!”
I don’t like this part. It’s where I wait for the repercussions of my actions, the part where I drift off into assumption. Like this random thought: My landlord showing up at my place and changing the locks on my apartment. Why? Because I’m leaving and she’s mad at me.
Wow, that’s a whole lot of assumption. A great big ugly pool of it. Yep. And if I’m not careful I’ll be swimming in it for hours.
Zach, it’s okay. You sent a kind and heartfelt email thanking her for letting you live there. Someone else’s thoughts and feelings are not your responsibility.
How is this growth for me? Hyper sensitive to another’s feelings, I’ve stayed in relationships way longer than I should have. A lot of us do.
Out of fear. Fear of someone being mad at us. Fear of someone being hurt and disappointed. Folks, when we do this we’re only hurting ourselves.
Bottom line, we can’t be the best person we can be if we are always putting someone else’s thoughts and feelings before our own. What the other person thinks of us is none of our business. If we can detach with love and our side of the street is clean, the rest is up to the other person.
All we have to do is suit up, show up, and walk through our fears. Lean into our discomfort if you will. Walking through our fears will set us free from the bondage of our minds.
It’s called having faith and knowing that we are enough, just we are. Faith that we will be just fine so long as we show up and do the work. It’s an everyday practice, and we are worth it.