After having written about the unique beauty of the place I moved into a few months ago, I thought an update was in order. It seems the place comes with people.
I knew they’d be here. Now, I may be one of the rare individuals who would rather live with others as opposed to living alone. Having said that, living with other people is not without its challenges and discomforts, sometimes small and other times GIMONGOUS. While there are seasons when its best for me to hunker down alone, living in cloistered fashion, more often than not, I’m happier and, quite frankly, better living in some form of what can best be described as ‘community.’
Why? Without benefit of spouse or a significant other to live with, what better way is there to confront and possibly ameliorate one’s character defects, accept those in others, and otherwise work through some of the stubborn personal issues each human being has; that I have? Shared living situations help me improve communication and relational issues with not just each individual but also with the group as a whole.
And, even through there are additional reasons for me to share a home such as reducing expenses and/or minimizing loneliness that sometimes creeps in when living alone, I like sharing space with others so I can grow. I find it expeditious. After all, being raised by a fairly tyrannical father and mostly docile mother, I missed out on some of the important training available in healthier families. Living with others of reasonable compatibility as an adult is a way I can learn about and practice behaviors not modeled or encouraged during my formative years.
Since moving into the aforementioned little slice of paradise mentioned earlier, there have been a number of things to discuss, negotiate, or otherwise accommodate with the other people in the home I now inhabit. Take, for instance, the kitchen sponge. It is an unmitigated mystery to me why anyone would use the sponge, wiping up all manner of debris on the counter from spilled milk to jam, and not rinse it before setting it back by the sink. Yet, that is exactly what a couple of these folks do! What’s even more shocking is they also leave it face down on the sink’s edge, thereby allowing a massive load of bacteria and grime to accumulate, never letting it dry out! Even when I brought these ‘facts’ to my roommates’ attention it has still been left not rinsed, often sloppy-wet or gooey, and face down. Given this, my solution has required me to keep a separate sponge for myself and let them have their way with their own filthy sponge. I mean what does it really matter what they do as long as there is opportunity for a commensurate solution for myself?
Then there’s the habit of doors being left wide open in warm weather. Now, in high desert California where we live there are not a lot of bugs, unlike the Midwest where entomological creepy crawlies outnumber humans. However, the rattle snake that made an appearance on the front stoop last summer clearly outweighs any bug hazard from other parts of the country. Remarkably, they still leave the doors wide open which I find bizarre. After all, it’s not like there aren’t screens on the windows for cross-ventilation. But the kicker for me occurred recently when, just before dawn, that time of day when it’s beginning to get light but not quite there, the back door was wide open. This would have been only a minor irritation if it weren’t for the fact that the property the house sits on is surrounded by lots of vegetation and scrub, home to coyotes, skunks, and raccoons. When I brought this up to a couple housemates, they truly seemed perplexed.
Now, I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be met in the wee hours of the morning on my way to the bathroom by wild animals. NOR do I want to be met by rats which I learned recently have one or two nests behind the house! I mean, really. Is it so hard to close a door? My one roommate said he’d get some more traps from Lowes or somewhere to catch the rats. But he prefers to catch and release them. Fine! But can we please shut the door as well?
Yet all these things, irritations large and small, are great fodder for interpersonal growth, for theirs and mine. It’s almost as if the detail of the differences serve as backdrop to examine and potentially overcome arbitrary habits that we ALL have, becoming grist for growth not afforded a singular, separate existence. I mean, what’s to negotiate with one’s self while living alone? What’s to prompt deeper communication and/or acceptance in both self and another person?
Now, I admit there are situations and people with too many differences to transcend, too much incompatibility that impedes growth or accommodation. When that’s the case, the situation becomes counterproductive, unhappy, even untenable. But for housemates and home environments that offer promise, the smaller differences are helpful to me, being the growth junkie (some might call it personal evolver) that I am and seek to continue. How else would I learn? To not seek the opportunities for self-improvement smacks of stagnation or arrested development, at least it does for me.
I know there are ‘seasons’ when one needs a break from working on personal behaviors, character defects, willfullness of the ego and the like. A person can and must look for a variety of environments in which to work out personal change and self-expression such as jobs, close friendships, family relationships, etc. Yet living in some form of community, at least periodically, allows me to turn a keen, discerning eye on my own otherwise unquestioned perceptions, modifying habits not just for myself but for the good of the whole, negotiating solutions when compromise is possible, and surrendering the rest. If I truly always wanted everything my way, how would that really serve me? How would my self-centered egocentric existence be any catalyst for personal change? It would become a sort of hellishly stalled purgatory and what would be the point of that?