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I Just Wonder: When Will I Learn My Lesson?
A full week before everything went wrong I stood in the kitchen admonishing my roommate. It was the day before my birthday. The things I said made me feel so powerful. *Jackie wanted me to hear her side of the story regarding her theft of one of our other roommates’ belongings. I was having none of her excuses. She stood in front of me with tears in her eyes. I watched her hand move up to swipe at her dry cheek. My heart was cold as I stared at the glistening brown and white orbs in her smooth chocolate face.
To me she was just another sorry-ass ghetto-bitch that didn’t realize how much she hurt the people around her. On the day I moved in she smoked a cigarette in the bathroom we were to share. When our case managers came over that day to inspect the room that I was getting ready to live in, they were shocked. I was almost to blame. My case managers knew who had smoked in the bathroom though. They knew, from previous bragging, that I hadn’t smoked a cigarette in over a year. Jackie was written up for it. My first night she walked all around the house making barely audible threats.
In the beginning I found it best to isolate myself from the three women who lived on the first floor with me. It hurt to do this to myself. I wanted to be a part of my roommates’ lives. I had just come from a short stay at a sterile shelter where most of the residents were very sick. I had slept outside for three months before that. It felt so good to have somewhere to call home. I dropped my guard after a week. I wanted to give and receive love. I began hanging out with my roommates in the house we shared.
Our four rooms are situated squarely on either side of the common rooms. A wall separates our sunny living room from the kitchen. We share a flat screen with cable, and a computer desk with a PC and printer replete with internet and Wi-Fi. The kitchen is narrow with two doors on each end. One door leads upstairs to the second floor with the same set-up as the first. The other door leads to the basement. We have free laundry down there, storage, and room to do things at a full dining room set. There is also room to put extra food down there. All of the bedrooms are the same size as the one over or underneath it. Our rent depends on the size of our room.
Living in this Place is Such a Great Blessing.
The ladies I lived with had had a lot of negative experiences. That is to be expected since these ladies had once stayed in the Salvation Army shelter. I love all three of them and appreciate the perspectives that they bring to the personal experiences that I have had. However, because of these circumstances, I don’t think that these were the best people for me to be around.
My heightened level of sensitivity has not been mentioned yet in my blog posts. Here is a brief description of it. I can feel peoples’ energies and a lot of times I internalize those feelings. I can do this consciously or without any thought. It can seem that one day I feel good and am happy, yet the next day I could feel horrible and be in a depressive state and not know how I got there. There. I mentioned my sensitive nature.
*Shonda always had family troubles. She would argue with her daughter in between long gulps of her vodka. Shonda and I had had a few deep conversations that made me feel good to give her advice on her family. Unsurprisingly she didn’t take any of my advice and continued to play a malicious game of tit for tat with her daughter on Facebook, her cell phone voicemail, and to any others who would listen and possibly take her side of the story. When I heard her trashing her daughter’s parenting and dating skills in an hour long call with a woman from child services, I distanced myself from her. She didn’t understand and confronted me on it. I stood my ground and respectfully explained why I didn’t want to spend as much time with her anymore.
To be honest it was Jackie who called me out. Instigating shit was Jackie’s favorite pastime. Jackie had heard me tell Shonda that I was surprised that her daughter had sent her a photo of her new grandson. Jackie didn’t know I had a conversation with Shonda about the time I had spent in foster care and why I would never wish that on my worst enemy. I was thrown off guard when Jackie called me out but I was aware of her being hypocritical since I could remember the bad things she had said about Shonda just a few nights before.
I just wanted to keep the peace. I don’t think any of the ladies that I shared the first floor with believed in that. *Shannon, my third roommate, also had her wonderful qualities along with the negative ones. It was Shannon’s three-hundred dollar set of pots and pans that Jackie had tried to take with her when she moved out at the beginning of March, just days away from the day I stood in the kitchen with her. Shannon was super pissed about the whole situation. This is an outspoken woman who sexually favors other women, and is more testosterone than sugar and spice. Her heart is of gold, and even if she seems closed minded and biased on a subject, if one has a good argument she can be swayed. Shannon and I had many a philosophical conversation.
So when Shannon kept most of her anger about the situation to herself I was quite shocked. As were the other two ladies who had lived there longer and had seen Shannon openly irate before. She had such an awful attitude earlier in the year that she was put out of the house, only to be allowed back after two weeks following an appeal process.
When Jackie tried to take some of her pans, Shannon stayed calm and talked to the case managers. The case managers then relayed the information to Jackie. Jackie denied taking the pans and blah, blah, blah, Shannon decided she would just call the police. Shortly after she made the announcement that law enforcement was on their way, the pans mysteriously appeared in the living room closet. Shannon was ready to forgive and forget.
I, on the other hand, was letting Jackie know exactly how I felt about what she had done just the day before. Jackie couldn’t understand why I felt uncomfortable with her in the house now. I had heard her enter my bedroom by the door that opened to our shared bathroom a few times since I had moved in. She and Shonda would freely talk about Shannon around me and I knew that they didn’t say nice things about me behind my back either. So I let Jackie have it.
“I just don’t understand why you’re so mad at me Dee.” Jackie began, pleading at first. “She lucky I gave her back her stuff. I didn’t have to. You should be lucky that I was so nice.” Jackie’s voice was strong when she said this. I knew the tears she swiped at were just for show.
“If you wouldn’t have given Shannon her stuff back you would have gone to jail! You cannot continue to say that you care for others or even yourself when you make these types of choices that you wouldn’t allow someone to do to you! You did no one any favors! If you wouldn’t have gotten caught you would have taken that woman’s things! How can I trust someone like that? How can I when I live just feet away from you and you know how to pick my room lock?!”
For the most part I was calm when I said this. My voice had gone up an octave so I knew I was just as pissed as she seemed to be. At the time, it felt as though my heart really needed to say those things to her.
Talking to her this way reminded me of a time, way back in two thousand-two, when I lived in a shelter for women and children in my hometown of Champaign, IL (CWIT). That particular shelter was a house. On the first floor there is a room for the single women with three single beds in the middle of the room and two bunk beds flanked the row of single beds. Windows performed the job of headboards, and a long closet lined the walkway at the feet of the beds. I have a friend that I met there that I have contact with to this day.
While I admonished Jackie in the kitchen a different person came to mind as my ego stepped forward. I thought to myself that I had become as emotionally healthy as that woman. That woman’s name is Ann. I’m going to give her real name because I know that she would encourage this learning experience. Ann loved me. Ann is made of love. Her whole energy was warm, electric currents that made bright yellow streaks from her being when she looked my way with a huge smile over her beautiful face. My eyes well up as I remember the times she would tell me “no.”
“I’m sorry baby. You know I love you, baby. But you just have too much drama girl. Get rid of all that and maybe we can hang out. Take responsibility for what you are going through. Just know that I am still here for you but I can’t sit here and listen to your excuses. Either you want to get your son back from the state or you want to smoke weed. By the looks of your eyes it seems you’ve already made your choice.”
In Ann’s presence I felt whole. I was never angry at her. No matter what she said because I could feel the love she had for me when she said it. I had no love for Jackie. This didn’t stop me from thinking that I had reached the realm of emotional maturity that Ann had demonstrated to me so many years ago. Directly after Jackie and I’s conversation I ran back to my computer to write a new entry about the encounter for this blog.
I started off strong, yet as the memories from CWIT flooded back to me I knew I was not close to the commanding emotional presence that Ann was. I’m not doing all of the things that Ann did to achieve and maintain such a state that seemed close to nirvana. Ann would go to meetings every day to address her recovery. She was learning how to use exercise, among other things, to combat stress. She would stay in touch with her NA sponsor and make sure she paid attention to things that may trigger a relapse and would call her recovery mentor when those occurrences would happen.
Recovering Ann would never isolate herself. Emotional mature Ann would not take Jackie and Shannon’s situation personally and would refuse to give her opinion on it. Unlike Ann I was still participating in all sorts of behaviors that would self-medicate the pain I was feeling. As I sat at my desk staring at the letters of the two page entry, I knew that I couldn’t keep writing it. It didn’t feel genuine. I was bragging about being a healthy person. My heart told me healthy people didn’t need to do that.
Things fell apart then. The screen to my Mac went black as I tried to start it up later that night after an update. It won’t budge from that screen to this day. On the first of March Jackie moved, and I readied the bathroom for our solo time together. Three days after Jackie moved out, I did too. It hurts to admit my mistake.
It hurts to admit they put me out. I know Ann would want me to take responsibility for my behavior. For the stupid decision to smoke weed in the bathroom knowing the case managers could stop by that day. I could have put in an appeal like Shannon, however I now that I still won’t be readily willing to follow that certain rule again.
Although I have made progress eliminating other toxic behaviors, I know now that I really need to stay humble and work more on not being so judgmental. As much as I love those ladies, they did not help me distance myself from certain toxic behaviors that will never be allowed in my life again (hard drugs, negative attitudes, sex with strange men). My relationship with marijuana will never end. Although I have learned to have some restraint with it, I know I could be doing better with admitting the problems it has created in my life.
When I am depressed it really doesn’t matter what I use. Whether it’s sleeping all day, spending all my time on social media, or eating copious amounts of sugared snacks, if my heart is aching from that hole that won’t heal yet, I will find a way to fill it. By any means necessary.
Yet, all of these experiences that I have had and will have with people are teaching me that somewhere, sometime, I will need to become a bit more thick-skinned so that I am able to be more of my own person. Following rules on the other hand, will be a life-long journey to learn!