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So I Just KatnissEverdeened my Neighbor…
March 22, 2016
Probably when Suzanne Collins wrote "The Hunger Games," she never expected that the nameKatniss Everdeenwould become a verb much like Macgyver has. You know. When you say, "I macgyvered it," people who are familiar with the show Macgyver know that you probably fixed your vintage Volkwagen with a stick of chewing gum, a paperclip, and some pencil shavings. Or whatever.
Well, for me, Katniss Everdeen has become synonymous with the woman warrior who reluctantly gets pulled into a fight, but pity the person who makes the mistake of pulling her into that fight once she's in. And excuses don't cut it. If you pull Katniss into battle, be prepared for her not to back down. She didn't want to be there, but now that she is, well, you know how it played out.
So, yes, today I made Katniss Everdeen a verb. It was about a parking issue of all things. I have had an on-going problem with the neighbors parking in my spots. I pay for them. Although I don't own a car, I use them for visitors and for the occasional book client that comes over to discuss whatever current projects we have going on. I don't want to have to hunt for the person in my spot and ask them to move so a client can park. Nothing like asking for permission to use your own stuff...
Granted, this isn't the arena, but sometimes a spat over parking can become at least verbally violent. And it did.
Here's the thing. The guy in question -- who I'll call Mr. Shouting Match -- you'll see why in a minute -- doesn't actually live here in the sense that he's on any lease. He's my neighbor's guest more or less. Extended guest, but guest nonetheless. I spoke to his roommate and host about Mr. Shouting Match parking in my spots. It even worked for a time. He did stop parking in my spots for a while. Until he didn't want to follow that rule anymore.
Welcome to the 76Th Annual Hunger Games...
Here's how our "visit" went today.
Me: Um, we need to talk about parking.
Him: Well, you gotta understand it's not my problem.
Me: Yes, it is. You're parking in my spots. I pay for them. Your roommate already spoke to you about this.
Him: Well, yes, and for a while I didn't park there, but now someone's parking in my spot, so I have to use yours.
Me: No. You don't.
Him: But you don't understand. Someone is in my spot.
Me: Not my problem.
Him: Yes, it is.
Me: No. It isn't. You've already been spoken to about this.
Him: But you didn't talk directly to me. I don't even know your name. And I don't even know how to get a hold of the landlord. (He's raising his voice at me at this point.)
Me: Again, not my problem. Please move your car.
Him: You gotta understand. I don't know who's parking in my spot.
Me: Once again, not my problem. Leave a note on the car.
Him: Well, this isn't my problem. You didn't talk to me about this. You talked to my roommate. I don't even know your name, and now I feel like you're attacking me.
I could give you a further blow-by-blow, but I think you get the idea about what went down with Mr. Shouting Match. I did finally tell him that he could deal with me or he could deal with the landlord. By this time, he's out on his front porch, really raising his voice at me. Shouting, practically, thus earning him the name I gave him. The neighbors have come out. They're looking at us. And so on.
Avoiding the Reset Button in Relationships
I'm writing about all this, because I used to have a problem with boundaries and sticking up for myself. People like Mr. Shouting Match knowingly break the rules and then try to push the reset button on the situation or the relationship when things don't go their way.
According to the website Baggage Reclaim, this is how interactions like this go down.
Welcome to the special world of people who make up the rules as they go along and bulldoze their way around your life with their terms. If you’ve found yourself with someone who stonewalls your attempts to discuss what ‘went wrong’ or just any discussion that requires them to have some awareness, accountability, and responsibility towards you, plus they also seem to have an almost scary ability to disconnect from their actions and your upset, you’re with someone who operates liberally with a ‘reset’ button.
While some may argue that I'm making an awful lot of noise about parking, there's more to it than this for me. He already knew he was doing something he shouldn't be. He went ahead and kept doing it, despite being told not to, because even though I talked to his roommate, his host, I didn't talk to him. Once again, his roommate, the person responsible for his stay here in the complex, talked to him, but I didn't, so clearly, there's a difference. Yes, the difference being that Mr. Shouting Match followed the rules until he didn't want to anymore. Then he blamed me for not talking to him about something he already knew was a problem, because he had been spoken to about it.
Let's use an analogy. Say your boss pulls you aside and speaks to you about a problem her boss (your boss's supervisor) saw in your behavior. Your immediate boss then talks to you about it. All is hunky dory until you decide you don't feel like following the rules anymore. You know. Because whatever... Then your boss's supervisor calls you on it, and you have the moxie to tell your boss's supervisor that this reprimand doesn't apply to you, because she didn't talk to you directly about the issue. That'd work as an explanation to help you keep your job, right?
See the parallel to his logic right there? No? Don't feel bad if you're as confused as I was.
In light of this, what kind of luck do you think I'll have when the next issue arises when he's clearly in the wrong?
Shoot. The way I figure it, that encounter really would become like the Quarter Quell in "The Hunger Games" or something similar. All of the inhabitants of Panem's Capitol would probably turn out for that. My neighbors certainly did.
What's With Boundaries, Anyway?
Here's the thing. Boundaries are only as good as your willingness to enforce them. Mr. Shouting Match would continue to think that he could barge past my boundaries if I hadn't confronted him. He didn't make it easy. Aside from shouting at me, he pulled out all the nice girl taboos.
"You're attacking me."
"I don't even know your name. You're not being very nice."
He forgot or wasn't brave enough to also add that he thinks I'm crazy, unreasonable, and a b*tch.
I've heard crap like this all my life. Now, as a recovering nice girl, I see these tactics for what they are… an attempt to manipulate me into compliance. In his book, "The Gift of Fear," violence expert, Gavin De Becker, calls this sort of thing "typecasting."
Basically, if someone says to you, "A nice girl like you wouldn't…" Or "You're too stuck up to talk to me, aren't you?" they're trying to typecast you. They want you to protest and back down to prove to them that they're wrong about the role they've cast you in. An unjustified role no less. They know that what they're saying is bullsh*t, but they're counting on you doubting yourself so that they can proceed as planned.
Additionally, Mr. Shouting Match, he threw in the tactic of "too many details," also something that De Becker talks about. I gotta say, telling me that his roommate was in the hospital was a nice touch. While I actually like his roommate -- for these purposes I'll call him George -- and am genuinely sorry for George's ill health, because he has actually been nothing but nice to me, I'm not sure why Mr. Shouting Match thought it was a relevant thing to bring into a "conversation" about not parking in my spot.
Finally, he also has an unwillingness to honor the word "no," or to take responsibility. At bare minimum, he's a Class "A" asshat. Or worse. Time will tell what this guy turns out to be.
My Own Katniss Everdeen
Anyway, I did follow through with my boundary reinforcement. Aside from not backing down, I went in and promptly called my landlord, who told me Mr. Shouting Match was lying and the two of them had spoken before. My neighbor's story about not knowing how to get a hold of the landlord... Yep. Bullsh*t. Apparently, Mr. Shouting Match has a difficult time remembering who he's met and what they talked about.
This, of course, just reinforced my decision to confront the issue.
Did I want to? No. I didn't. Boundaries still aren't always comfortable for me to enforce. But boundaries aren't about being comfortable, although some people are quite comfortable carrying them out. Boundaries are about keeping you safe from people who have less than benevolent intentions for you.
Remember this phrase: Boundaries are for the people who need them.
This means that some people would never cross your boundaries. So your boundaries aren't for them. They are for the people who knowingly cross your boundaries all the while expecting you to play nice even though they're not.
And finally, in my case, I have some extra added insurance to make sure I keep my boundaries intact. (When I find my resolve is wavering…) When I wrote my current novel "The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky," I wanted to write what it looked like for a girl who was weak and scared to become a strong, vibrant young woman. Clare, that's her name, is scared all the way through to the end, but she acts anyway. She's my boundary insurance, and I love her. Some people have #TeamGale or #TeamPeeta. I am gratefully a part of #TeamClare.
As such, how much credibility do you think I would have if I wrote a character like that, but didn't actually follow through on my own boundary enforcement? Should I let someone harm me, because I am afraid of not being the nice girl? I'll tell you from experience, the knowledge that you remained the nice girl (as opposed to a kind girl) is little consolation when you are recovering from being hurt by someone, whether that's physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Clare is my own version of Katniss Everdeen. She keeps me brave and fighting in my own corner, especially on the days I've been pulled into a battle I don't want to be a part of. Like I was today. Who knows? Maybe someday, Clare King will become a verb in her own right.
Let me just try that on. "I clarekinged it."
Yep. Feels good.
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