Sittin’ in the middle of it


My landlord left me a voice mail on Monday evening.

“Hey, LB, listen a termite inspector is coming on Wednesday and he needs to come into the house and have a look around.  I can let him in and show him around, but I need to know what the protocol is with the rabbits.”  my landlord said rather gently.

My first reaction was relief that the bunnies in the middle of the room have finally been acknowledged.  I mean, with all the work he had been doing on the house, there was no way he couldn’t have seen the bunnies in the sunroom. I was expecting him to, at the very least, be concerned. But this phone call signaled I need not keep my bunnies in the closet any more when he or an inspector come into the house. (And yes, I literally put my bunnies in the closet when some bank guy came in and inspected the house.  Imagine his surprise when he opened the closet door.)

My second reaction was my usual one whenever someone, besides the boyfriend and a couple of close friends, is going to be coming into my house: panic.  Neurotic old tapes start blasting in my head.  I’m going to be judged. People are going to know what a dirty, bad person I am. I am not good enough.  I must hide the evidence of my slothful ways.  Shame.

And no, my house is not that bad (though, admittedly, with the advent of shows like Hoarders, the bar is now set pretty high). I’m not going to win any awards for my housekeeping skills. And I am certainly not one of those people who think cleaning is stress relieving, or even fun.  But, I don’t need my house to be immaculate in order to feel comfortable.

So, Tuesday night and Wednesday morning I throw myself into a cleaning frenzy in anticipation of the termite inspector and my landlord coming into the house. The termite guy is scheduled to be here at 11:30, so at 11:00 I finish up and mop myself into a corner where I can finally collapse into my comfy chair.  With the floors clean there is nothing else to do but wait.

On the side table next to my chair is a nice collection of reading materials, plus my iPhone.  Plenty of things to do to bide my time and take my mind off the impending disaster I’ve created in my head.  But instead, I opt to just sit with it. Look at it.  Sense it.

My body is vibrating.  The anxiety feels like an electric charge running throughout my veins. I stop to sense my heart beat. A bit fast and irregular. In fact the more I focus on it, the more irregular it seems. I stop focusing on my heart beat.  I notice the urge to pick up my iPhone and distract myself with one of my favorite games, Bejeweled.  But no, just sit with it.

What is this story I am telling myself? Mostly it is a fear of being judged. Normally, not a huge fear of mine, yet when it comes to my living quarters, it’s huge. It’s like when I open up my home, I am opening up me. Come inside. Look around.  Here is my private self. Judge me judge me judge me.

Going deeper. Where the hell does this come from? Am I really that insecure? I don’t think so. Memories of growing up ashamed of where I lived. Wrong side of the tracks. And all of my friends came from the right side of the tracks. Hiding. Lying.  And my mother’s shame. She grew up with more. She never wanted that house. Her depression deepened when we moved to the little shack next to the freeway.  Don’t invite your friends over. She just gave up.

So, this is the story that is running through my head.  And it’s not even my story. It’s my mother’s.  And every pore in my body was in it at that moment. Damn.

The termite guy finally shows up at noon. Lovely man. My landlord doesn’t join him on the inspection. It took all of five minutes. We probably spent more time talking about Mr. Binkles who ran over to check out this stranger in the paper booties.  He doesn’t see any sign of termites.  Have a good day, ma’am.

I change the channel in my head from the History Channel to more reality based programming.  It’s all just one story or another.  Some pleasant, some unpleasant and some neutral. Some are mine and some I’ve inherited. Just another day.

6 responses »

  1. I love the way you were aware enough of the channel that was playing to know, in the end, that it was OK to change it and realize it was not YOUR story. Well done.

    Oh, and congrats on the landlord easing your mind about the bunnies!

  2. luv this ~ plus

    “I change the channel in my head from the History Channel to more reality based programming. It’s all just one story or another. Some pleasant, some unpleasant and some neutral. Some are mine and some I’ve inherited. Just another day.” . . . inside my head =

    yup everybodez gots stories a lots ovem as fur as eye kind tell – an all ovem is true and eye don’t belief a single won – S specially MiNe OwN

  3. I’m that way about unexpected visitors, too. Nice to know someone else feels that same anxiety when someone unexpected comes and then there is all that judgment that creeps in from hidden and buried crevices….

  4. Nicely told. I have that anxiety about people coming over to my house.
    I invite very few people to my house. Once, a “friend” came over and
    was very critical and not nice about it. She is no longer a friend.

    I’m glad you were able to change the channel. I need to do more of that.

  5. I have the same level of anxiety – so I keep my place maniacally tidy and then have a cleaning frenzy on top whenever someone might pop round. And I, too, know this is related to the shame I felt growing up – my mother is not a housekeeper in any sense of the word and has become worse as she has got older – plus I boarded at school and so got into the habit of keeping my stuff tidily out of the way because all spaces were shared. But, no matter how much I clean, its never quite clean enough – there is always a skirting board or cupboard that hasn’t been ‘done’ which niggles at me.
    So, I feel your anxiety. I’m glad Mr Binkles protected you from the man in the paper shoes. 🙂

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