I decided that I like freaky Friday instead of throwback Thursday. It needs to be something abnormal if recounting memories of passive aggressive crazymaking. Feel free to add a freaky story of your own!
Years ago, a therapist once asked me what personal space I had, what ‘thing’ or what ‘space’ was uniquely mine. I couldn’t think of anything. Even my purse (unlike my mother’s) was not sacrosanct. I had a rolltop desk that particularly would get raided (many items like the stapler, tape, stamps etc. ‘borrowed’ by him permanently unless I tracked them down). Respected space for me was an issue that my therapist initiated and pursued, not me. My therapist requested that my husband come into a session, and a good part of it she spent explaining to him the importance for me to have my own inviolate space. (You all can guess how long that lasted.)
Years later from the time I’d seen that counselor, that session about my own space came up in a conversation with my husband. By that time, at some point I’d abandoned the desk as ‘mine’, not unlike a bird abandons a nest. Occasionally, my husband would make a comment about the desk needing to be cleaned up or dusted, and I’d look at him as though he’d just spoken to me in a foreign language.
One of those times, I’d replied to his comment about ‘my’ desk needing to be cleaned, by saying that it wasn’t really my desk. He insisted it was, and I said that as long as he would take items from it, or put items on it, if he would even move things around on it, then it wasn’t ‘mine’. For whatever reason, he went into a full-blown puppy dog sincere monologue about how he understood that, and he would respect that, how he’d changed.
I thought and thought about it. At some point, the idea that I could reclaim the desk as personal space began to intrigue and appeal to me.
I said, “Husband, are you sure? Do you mean this?”
He replied ever so sincerely that he meant it with all his heart.
I said, “Do you understand what I’m asking? Even if I get mail addressed to me, I don’t want you to set it on that desk. If you need something, you can’t take it from that desk.”
He said he understood clearly.
I said, “I don’t want you to put ANYTHING, absolutely not one thing on that desk, or take anything off of it. Don’t even move anything on it. Are you really agreeing to this?”
He replied, “I understand! You have my word that I won’t touch that desk or go near it!”
Finally, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, it wasn’t a big thing I was asking. It took me hours to sort through the years of dusty piles and scraps and accumulation. Much of that dusty stuff had nothing to do with me. He’d used it as a kind of super junk drawer to plop things on. I cleaned and oiled the wood until it shone, then placed everything exactly where and how I wanted it. Towards the end of this process, I started to feel this strange golden glowing feeling within my chest. It was pleasant. I think it was happiness.
It was a happiness that I expressed to him, along with gratitude and hope. Could this be that small safe space I could build on?
Later the next day, we were at the grocery store to pick up a few things. This was back in the days when we actually still went on pseudo date nights, which usually consisted of seeing a movie together. I’m one of those popcorn addicts that meld the words movie-popcorn or popcorn-movie together. I was trying to lose some weight, so while we were in the grocery store, I said I was going to pick up some of the straight stick pretzels and try munching on those instead of the theater popcorn.
Not a big deal, right? While I’m getting that bag off the grocery shelf, he commented that we’d have to write my name on the bag so the kids wouldn’t eat it.
umm Passive aggressive alert.
This was an old issue between us. I believe in sharing, not marking food. He and I had had this discussion many times over the years. My adamant feelings came from my childhood. My mother was a generous soul, but she grew up in the Great Depression, and besides lots and lots of stuff she held on to, she hid and hoarded food as she grew older. It wasn’t that my mom wouldn’t share her food, she just always had special snacks and treats hidden. Part of that was because she’d become diabetic, and wasn’t supposed to have them. The end result was my wanting a clean and straight forward approach to food. I’d told my husband many times that if we couldn’t afford a treat for everyone, we couldn’t afford it for anyone.
I responded, “No, I’ll just get two bags. There should be plenty left for me to take a small baggie to the movie, but if they get eaten, they get eaten, no big deal.”
Gee. You know that was like waving a red towel in front of a sneaky bull. I suppose in his world, I’d just defied him and spit on him or something equally heinous. Something that needed to be thwarted and dealt with. Punished.
We came home, ate dinner, and shortly before bedtime, I went to my desk to check my email. Guess what was on it?
Such an easy answer. Two bags of pretzels. Naturally, it was a huge trigger for me. Of course, he’d ‘forgotten’ and ‘misunderstood’ and had ‘good intentions’ to make sure I had pretzels when we went to the movie.
Yeah. Screw the movie. I had no interest in going to that movie anymore. I took a look at that gleaming and organized desk as a snapshot of what could and should be. Then disconnected from it. It was now back in the camp of things he could use to get at me, and I let go of it again for good. Later down the road, I gave it to one of our sons. My computer now just sits on a utility table. I’d love to have a desk of my own some day.
Another ‘someday’ goal is to have a room of my own. This room would be enter-by-invitation only, and it would have a lock and key. A vintage desk for my computer. A sink-into chair with ottoman for reading with a sweet unique little side table to hold tea and dark chocolate. I’ll decorate in absolutely any way I wish. There will be tables and shelves with projects spread out that don’t get moved, an easel that won’t be touched, my own personal file cabinet (that was another invaded and ‘borrowed’ thing I once had), maybe even a mini-fridge and tiny pantry so I’d have water and snacks handy if I was writing and didn’t want to be disturbed. A comfy inviting couch I could sleep on! A skylight I can open or close. A quality music system so I can be enveloped and lost in the beauty of some pieces. The ability to burn incense if I want to.
I do now have a coffee mug that is mostly respected as just mine.
Space that he respects? His own space and stuff.