Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Can you spell p-a-s-s-i-v-e aggressive?

Every now and then my paranoia gets the best of my compassion... and I go straight to "she did that on purpose!" Seven times out of ten I am wrong. She did not do it on purpose (at least not consciously). She forgot. Or she didn't even notice, or even think it was something that was hers to do. The she in these cases could apply to any one of my sisters at any given time, but more often than not, it comes down to just one or two... whose ways of being in the world are so alien to mine I get bent out of shape.

For instance: if I walk into my bathroom and hear the shower running next door, I don't flush my toilet. I don't get into my shower and turn the water on. Our pipes are ancient and the pressure is awful. Yet I can be showering away myself and suddenly be without water. What's with that?

Another example: Dishes get put away in certain places in our cupboards. One sister gets so upset when they are put in the wrong place or in the wrong order she slings them around and the bowls get chipped. I feel like slinging them myself, when I keep finding the large baking sheets on top of the small ones. They nest. Beautifully. Yet someone is either too lazy to bother to nest them or doesn't think it matters.

Then there's the sister who does everything at a snail's pace, and others are continually waiting for her. Waiting for her to finish eating, to finish getting dressed, to finish going to the bathroom. She takes her time no matter how many people are inconvenienced, seemingly oblivious to the resentment swirling around her.

But wait, there's more... one sister volunteers for everything and then only does half of what she volunteers for. Another sister never volunteers for anything and feels put upon when someone suggests maybe she could help with the workload. And then there are the passive aggressive behaviors that are too vague and discreet to point a finger at, yet irritate and annoy. Leaving your trash for someone else to clean up... making the coffee but not emptying the grounds, leaving one spoonful of food in the container so you won't have to wash it out, or using the last of it and leaving the container for someone else to wash. For me these are matters of common courtesy, the oil that keeps community running smoothly. But that is my take on the situation, and it is not necessarily the law. And even if it were the law, people wouldn't always obey.

When I came into community, I took the Meyers Briggs Personality test and came out on the fence between the P and J designations. You'd think that would mean I could easily swing both ways. However, the way it manifests in real life, is that if I'm in a room full of Js I'll act like a P. If I'm in a room full of Ps, I'll act like a J. We have mostly Ps in our community, so my J-ness comes to the fore way more often than I care to admit.

I hate this about myself. I hate that all these little things pile up inside me and I want to bite somebody's head off. I hate even more that when it gets to me I stoop to the same level and act passively agressive myself. I think for Lent I'm giving up judgment. Will that fly?


Zanne said...

Hmmm giving up judgement for Lent...think I'll join you on that one! But since nature abhors a vacuum, what shall we put in its place? I'm actually quite serious...

HeyJules said...

Boy does THIS all sound familiar! Living "in community" reminds me of my days of having roommates. It's so much easier just living with my two dogs now. hee hee hee

Seriously, though, it is nice to hear that even nuns have trouble with all this "stuff." Makes me feel like I'm not such a lost soul afterall.

merryn said...

Your post really strikes a familiar cord in me - this is one (only one) of the reasons I think I'd be a complete failure as a nun. I think I'd spend most of my time irritated and mumbling to myself.

I've tried giving up judgment (actually I continually try giving up judgment). The best I've been able to do is replace it with judgment that is immediately followed by laughing at myself for being judgmental about something I've probably been guilty of myself.

Anonymous said...

all of these little things are one of the great irritants in marriage. best to fill in the gaps, keep one's mouth shut and Move On..

Claire Joy said...

You are so right about this being a difficulty in marriage... now multiply that by nine (the number of sisters I live with/work with twenty-four hours a day... and you will perhaps see my need to vent on occasion. Keeping my mouth shut has never been my strong suit. Maybe that's my whole problem in a nutshell.