Betty Duffy

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wanted: Someone To Do My Dirtywork

I would like to hire a professional conflict solver. I enjoy my conflicts when they are of a more internal nature, but when they involve other people, with whom I might have to assert myself, I tend to shy away. For instance, I have a gym membership that I haven’t used since I had the baby. They have a policy that babies cannot go into the childcare until they are six months old, so their policy has rendered my membership useless. I asked the manager to remove the additional childcare fee until my child is of age and he said he would, but my most recent bank statement says that he didn’t.

Obviously, I should now go into the gym, and demand that he produce the paperwork immediately that would change my monthly withdrawals. And not only that, I should ask for a refund of the childcare fee for the past four months. I get all worked up about what I should say, and how I’m going to speak to him like I mean business, and if he balks I’ll use the word, “lawyer.” And all of this, I’m going to do…tomorrow, or next week sometime, or maybe if I just rest on it for a little while he’ll realize he’s made a mistake and automatically credit my account and I won’t have to talk to him at all.

Conflict avoidance: one might not expect it of me, but it is entirely related to sloth. The other kind of conflict, the kind I enjoy, like a little intellectual sparring or playing the devil’s advocate, is related to pride. But this conflict, the kind that requires something of me, I just want to ignore it until it goes away. And surprisingly, a lot of conflicts do go away; there’s an expiration date on many difficult phone calls. The event for which you have no good reason to RSVP negative will pass and you won’t have to fumble through an insincere conversation where you inevitably spill too much information and apologize for being such a bad and mean person who has to say “no” this time.

At this point, Pedge is rolling her eyes and saying, “No, Betty, just say no. You don’t have to give a reason. You don’t have to apologize. You just call them up and say you can’t make it, and you end the conversation.”

I think I might frustrate Pedge with my unwillingness to face the conflicts in my life, like yesterday, when I was chatting with her and Irene about how blah I feel about my life right now. Also related to the new baby, it’s been a long time since I’ve gone out on the town with my husband, or had much impetus to keep a clean house, or fight with my kids when they sneak in and turn on the TV. I’ve been letting my life, my kids, and my house happen to me, and then complaining when I don’t like how things pan out.

Even keeled Pedge says, “We are told to fill the earth and SUBDUE it. That doesn’t mean naming the animals and eating them for dinner. It means taking control of your children and your home and creating order.”

Surprise! Surprise! There actually are a few things that won’t go away if I ignore them long enough: Laundry, dishes, children, and probably not my problem at the gym either. Subdue them. Pick the crap up off the floor and subdue it. Insert the laundry in the washer and it will be subdued. The children are more complicated. None of them are willing to be subdued by force so I pulled out my last defense for a peaceful evening tonight. Daddy is out of town, so we will get Happy Meals if every one brushes their teeth, uses the bathroom and goes directly to bed with no playing around after lights out. Utterly subdued. Life is so much better, so much more orderly on the other side of conflict, and even a little bribe/slash reward here and there. It doesn’t have to be all drudgery, right?

And the final battle of the night: turn off the computer and go to bed. Subdued.

A related post.


Otepoti said...

Otepoti finds herself unable to resist giving advice, wanted or not.

Write a letter.

Don't phone or email; these actions are flash-in-the-pan, too easily forgotten. A politely but firmly phrased letter sits around on a desk.

Be grieved, not aggressive. Use the phrases "overlook" and "unfortunate error". Be devastatingly polite.

Finish with, "it would be a pity if this error went uncorrected and family budgeting restraints forced me to reconsider my membership with you."

Yeah. That should do it.

Best, Otepoti

Sharon Kieffer Steele said...

I just need to conjure up the energy to subdue the areas of my life that are posing problems (same as yours): naughty children, multiplying laundry, filthy bathrooms....

I meet with a group of women once a week to talk about such things. The topic of spiritual mantras came up. Tonight I may pose "subdue" to the group as a mantra. Thanks for the material. See, I get all of my interesting talking points over here at "Betty Duffy."

...and if you find someone to do your dirtywork, let me know where I can get one, too.

Irene said...

I love ya, Betty Duffy! I'm off to subdue my bedroom, kitchen, children and dinner now! I'm going to print this one out - you know, I suffer from that sloth myself!

Betty Duffy said...

Aaah, letters! I remember those!

I am pleased to report that I've used the subdue mantra for going on 48 hours now. I called the billing department at the gym and spoke to a much more forthcoming woman than the manager and we ironed out the problem. I also subdued my house for a little while, and it is now in need of resubduing, which was the problem from the beginning--it must always be redone. SO I might as well remove one of the acts of subduing and save a little steam. I will soon be back to where I started and my soul will need resubduing as well. This could go on forever.

But I did feel a physical kindling and inspiration in the repetition of the phrase, "subdue the Earth." I think I'll say it again tomorrow, since I don't have to say, "lawyer."

jen said...

i found it!

mrsdarwin said...

I think we just might be the same person.

Pedge said...

I spent the whole day with Betty and she didn't even mention this post. No I hadn't read it. . If only I were as wise and as well put together as Betty makes me out to be. Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a lot of hot air!
This whole experience, "the blog," it makes me glad to be a woman and it confirms how much we all need one another. Thank you all for your comments and for living your lives the way only you can; and, of course, thank you Betty for putting so much of it down, your self awareness as well as your ability to write about it are inspiring.

Jus said...

Bet -

Letters. This might just be the only answer for us with only 8 days before lift off. Will e-mail the snail mail address. Subdue a pen and drop a line.


Betty Duffy said...

Love it, Jus.

Mrs. T said...

Yeah, sloth. Can we talk about what I talk about in Confession EVERY SINGLE TIME I go? And for exactly the same reasons. Not just the failure-to-subdue, but the whole conflict-avoidance thing. Partly I am a coward, but partly I avoid conflicts because they're just too much trouble . . .

Once when I was going on about this, Father suggested that I take John the Baptist as a patron for a while, and ask him for help in learning to stick my neck out, because he had been good at it (and that getting one's head cut off, metaphorically speaking, wasn't necessarily such a bad thing and could have been just what I needed).