Last night as I lay in bed, the images of those certain people swam before my closed eyes. Those people who represent the theme in my life story right now. I am being pushed from many different directions to learn what I hold important in my life.
Only my close friends know about me that I am confrontation averse. Why it is so much easier for me to smile and say mmm-hmm than to share my real opinion is a mystery to me. But for the past several years I have noticed with increasing intensity that threshold guardians are popping up, pushing me to stand by or abandon my principals. The universe is getting serious with me and we’re reaching a breaking point, she and I.
It started with the birth of my daughter when my sensitivities and insecurities were the rawest of my whole life. I was like one big exposed nerve and the threshold guardians began to flash the drill. Would I stand firm and strengthen my sense of self, or collapse? Often at first I collapsed.
I remember being at a restaurant with my fussy two month old who would not give in to the sleep she so desperately needed. I had already balked at the many relatives who offered help, insisting that I must be the one to hold her. As I paced the halls at the end of a very long night (I couldn’t just say: “this isn’t working, I’ve gotta go!) an elderly woman approached me. She had had a few and smelled like cigarette smoke. “Can I hold her?” she smiled and reached into my arms to extract my infant baby.
I could have turned away, I could have said quite simply, “no.” But these things seemed impossible. Instead I allowed my finally sleeping baby to be taken by an old stranger. I was angry with myself for days for not standing up in this small and seemingly easy way. What is it about me, I berated myself, that cannot stand up to a total stranger in defense of my baby? What kind of mother am I?
I didn’t learn the lesson that the universe sent that crunchy old threshold guardian to teach me. Instead of absorbing her power or making her an ally, I was defeated by her subversive strength. And the universe stepped up her game.
Over the next three years, friends made unfair accusations; attacked my choices, clerks overcharged me, sold me broken products and subpar food, family members made unreasonable assumptions and created higher and higher expectations until we simply could not live up to them. And I could see the writing on the wall. I was going to be pushed harder and harder by these colluding forces until I learned to say what I mean even if it makes people upset with me. Because that is the real reason we don’t say what me mean isn’t it? We are afraid of people being unhappy with us.
We hired a plumber a few months ago who came and replaced our two toilets. The guy was nice, if his physical appearance left something to be desired. He was huge and his clothes were not as huge as they needed to be. He had long stringy hair and his fingers and nails were filthy. You know: a plumber. He was kind to Twila and let her watch the work he was doing. She was very interested in the process and asked lots of questions.
My husband had mentioned more work that might need to be done and in the days and weeks that followed, the plumber emailed almost daily. Ryan asked if I thought it was odd that at the end of every email he asked how Twila was or asked Ryan to say hi to her for him. I said I thought it was…maybe. Is it?
The plumber was cheap and did good work and Ryan’s brother hired him to do some work on their house. The next time Ryan’s brother came over he had a packaged cheerleader doll that looked like it was from 1984; a bizarre doll with blue and silver legwarmers and stars for eyes. It was for Twila from the plumber.
Less than a week later a pipe burst in the basement of our rental property. We needed a plumber fast. We began searching for someone new but also dropped an email to the plumber. In his immediate response he asked, ‘how did Twila like her doll?’ And our hand has forced. Do we acknowledge the doll that he donated the day after it arrived in our house? Do we tell him it was inappropriate and risk his anger? Do we thank him for it and tacitly say that it’s okay for a strange man to give our three year old gifts? And thus feed the relationship. Suddenly I couldn’t believe it was even a difficult decision. How could I let this questionable situation go on? How could I ever risk the possibility that someone potentially unsafe would again have access to my child? We ended the relationship. And in a small way I stood up; I told the universe who I am.
But the universe is not done with me yet. More conflict has been abounding in my family and I am in my quintessential role: the peacemaker, standing in the middle and telling everyone what they want to hear to try and make peace. And as I lay in bed last night, the images of these threshold guardians swum in my mind. Before my eyes, swam the plumber, the old lady, the publishers, editors, agents, relatives and friends, pushing me to decide. If not now, when will I decide who I am and what I stand for; what is important and what I am working toward?