On being a reformed doormat

I stepped out about two hours ago to throw the garbage. I had the whole night planned: light dinner, a movie, then maybe read a chapter or two from the book I was reading, and then bed. I had just put down my bags when, suddenly, I was verbally ambushed by a neighbor I had never seen before. He started screaming at me saying that I threw my garbage in the wrong site (A little backgrounder here: I live in the wonderful city of Mandaluyong (within Metro Manila) where there are no garbage bins for people to throw in their trash, but only designated areas without official signs or markings.). I told him that I threw it there because that’s where the broker/compound owner told me to. He continued with his tirade and refused to acknowledge anything I said. Just to stop him from ranting, I said that if he showed me the right place where I was supposed to throw my trash, then I would gladly pick up my bags and take them there. We both turned and he started screaming at me again.

That was it; I’ve had it. He was an old man (he mentioned that he was 60 with high blood pressure) and I wanted to just take everything in and then walk away, but no. I was being verbally abused. I already agreed to his request so he had no right to berate me. I did not raise my voice, but I did raise my hand to tell him to stop. I told him that I understood where he was coming from, but that I felt violated and abused. He paused; I don’t think he expected me to do that. I continued and he cut me off. He was on a roll and nothing could stop him. So I had to raise my hand again and told him to hear me out. I told him ̶ respectfully ̶ my side, but it was like hitting my head against a wall. So I, again, respectfully asked him to just show me the place so we could go on with our lives. I got my trash, he pointed out the place (the next lamppost about 3 meters away), I thanked him and walked away.

I was shaking when I got back home. I abhor it when, right or wrong, people scream at me. My cats instantly knew I was upset and all piled up on top of me. That made me weep, of course. And then I got angry and started banging things. And then I shook it off. I did the right thing. I defended myself and that was a good thing. It made me want to thank that old man, actually, because I realized that today ̶ a horrid day, one for the books ̶ I was challenged by a number of different situations and people, and I stepped up and defended myself, my rights, in each one. I was growing my spine back, which has been softening for the past couple of years, and that rude man made me realize that I was back to being me again, but better.

I wasn’t always a doormat. I had an extreme personality; there were no grays in my life. I’ve always had a stubborn streak (more like a side, actually, a very big one), and would fight back and not let go of things. This trait was magnified when I lived in Spain ̶ in a country where they love to argue, I learned how to raise my voice and let my thoughts be heard. When I returned to Manila, I saw myself as being too brash and abrasive. Not everything can be bulldozed into a cubbyhole. I was hanging out with people who would do that and were that. Birds of the same feather… and I realized I didn’t want to be that person. As I said before, I saw things in black or white. So I adapted a different persona ̶ beyond Zen or centered, but more of a doormat. I hated conflicts and arguments so I avoided them or just folded. I didn’t want the roaring bitch to come out so I had to shut her out.

Maybe it’s age or maybe it’s a result of my actively trying to change things around in my life, but I am slowly finding balance in things and in myself. I am still very temperamental, mind you, but my rage dissipates and transforms instead of growing and consuming everything in its path. Maybe it’s the wisdom that comes with age and having gone though different experiences in life or maybe I’m finally getting it and that all that inner work is finally paying off. I still have a long way to go, but I am extremely proud of myself for finally defending myself without being hurtful to the other person. I am happy that I was able to say what I was thinking and feeling without raising my voice or resorting to trash-talking or insults. Age or hard work? Whatever it is, I am glad that it is happening. I am neither an angel or a witch, but finally just me.

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