I’ve never been as aware as I am today, how irritated everyone is with their roommates and families. Coronavirus has been driving some people crazy. My phone is exploding with text messages: “Why do they do such stupid things?” “How come they can’t do things the way I do?” “Why are they always just THERE? Don’t their butts hurt by now?”
How could everyone they love suddenly develop such odd habits they’ve never before noticed and now HATE?
So, before someone gets seriously hurt, I thought I would write to you about what we can all do to avoid killing each other. Or at least causing a regretful injury to the Remote Control King in your home. Yes, it’s usually a guy. Criticize Me.
1. Everyone has the right to have their own Right. Let’s begin with the good news: you are always Right. But because that’s true, it poses the problem: so is everyone else. Yup, even if they’re watching the Kardashians. You will feel far less irritated once you accept the fact that everyone has a right to be different from you. Park your judgment. Just remind yourself that people have a right to their own ways. I know. Ugh.
2. Space is your friend. You may have zero control over noise (like chronic whining), but I do have a few recommendations. It was on my to-do list to write something about the importance of everyone in your home creating their own spaces so, I guess I’d better mention it now.
Even if space is so limited that you only have one spot on the couch to claim as your own, do your best to diplomatically declare your spot. We all can create a place where we feel we exclusively belong. If you respect the claimed space of others, they will be more likely to respect yours. Especially as days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months. If you’re lucky enough to have your own bedroom, generate some gratitude. Some folks are three in a room. I know. Can you imagine?
3. Take turns. There’s no need to be anyone’s personal aide. During your “getting on the same page” meetings, sort out who goes to the store, who cooks, who cleans, and who gets to pick tonight’s movie. No one should ever hold the remote, leave it on the coffee table and ask the collective before you pick it up.
4. Get on the same page. Communication is useful, especially if group decisions are made and followed through on. Run a democratic household. Meals are a great time to be together and enjoy each other. That time will be more enjoyable if it is broken up by periods of doing stuff by yourself. Maybe your family will decide on three or four hours of television time; enjoy it! Or if you’d rather, go into your special space, (even if that special space is a walk outdoors). And when someone drops the ball or forgets, choosing the right words is key. Speak to your family members as though you’ve just met. Talk nice. Communicate with kindness. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Ask, don’t demand.
5. Be painfully courteous with each other. It’s polite. I’ve never been as aware of a more important time to be gentle, kind and respectful of one another. Remember: others are not Wrong because they do things differently than you and you are not Wrong because you do things differently from others. The only time we are wrong is when we are being discourteous.
6. Privacy is a pretty word. Always remember to knock on doors. Don’t assume someone wants you to join them – ask first. Doors are boundaries. So is silence. Respect the privacy of others, and ask for that same respect from others if an agreement has been breached or you’re feeling trampled on.
7. Extroverts can’t live off the energy of introverts. There are two kinds of personalities in this world. There are introverts, who replenish their energy alone and refuel their tanks in solitary ways: they read; they like quiet sometimes; they don’t need to talk as much as some. Extroverts, on the other hand, refill their tanks from the energy generated by other people. They love to talk; they need connection; no one is a stranger to an extrovert.
Here’s what you have to remember: extroverts need to tap other extroverts and understand that introverts want to preserve their own internal fuel. It’s not that introverts dislike extroverts. Both kinds of people gain fulfillment differently. Again, no one is Wrong. They are both Right.
8. There’s the individual and then there’s the collective. There’s a time to be an “I,” and a time to be a “We.” Even predominantly “We” people need time for Untogether, (look it up if you think I made up another word). All people need both together and untogether, the variance is just in the matter of degree.
9. Ideas to be untogether. If you’re really lucky, you’ll have multiple televisions. Essentially, everyone has their own phone and the capacity to tune out with noise-canceling AirPods and Headsets. If music makes it harder for you to relax, pick wind or seashore sounds. Take a nap and let people know you need some quiet. Take walks. Preferably with your cell or camera.
Read or find some audio-books; I love Audible. If you enjoy books, alternate your interests. Non-fiction people need to escape into a magical and forgettable novel as much as anyone. Go sit in your car if you’re really desperate. If you’re sick of books, get into podcasts and TED Talks.
You can even play mindless games on a tablet. Give Scrabble With Friends a try. Now is the perfect time to take advantage. I bet you can get almost endless permission for gaming (as long as you’re not hogging a device). If you’ve finally grown tired of video games, write to friends. Really, now is the time to do all the stuff you’ve been longing to do because you have the time. My favorite idea: keep an amazing journal. Like it or not, we are experiencing a major historical event, in the present. This one’s going to make every future history book, globally.
Oh, and I guess I have to remind people to do their work-work and complete their homework. But we all remembered that, right?
10. Control you. Last, but perhaps most importantly, understand that there is only one person you have complete control over. How you respond to another person who is losing it is YOUR choice. This is an opportunity to be your absolute best under extraordinarily pressure-packed conditions. Stay cool. No more than one glass of wine, never raise your voice and listen. Have compassion for those not quite as able to control themselves as you; they’re probably really scared. And if you’re not at your best, apologize. People who apologize readily when they behave badly are giants.
I hope you count to ten, excuse yourself for a moment to help you let things go–do whatever you have to do–so you almost never lose it. Gather more patience and wisdom. You may be telling your children or grandchildren about 2020. I want those memories to be proud ones for you when you look back.
Feel free to share this article with anyone you know who may find any of this information useful!