I know the universe is mysterious and may possess the traits of trickster raven while also embodying the softness of freshly fallen snow. I know there is much that is beyond my control in this life.
I have learned that wondering why people do what they do and how they justify hurtful, malicious behavior does not lead me to happiness. Nor do I ever seem to find answers.
The only real answer I seem to find is that it is far easier to play a victim than to take on the role of empathy for oneself and for others.
If one is a victim, there is responsibility required. How could there be? One is the innocent player in a deviant scheme devised by other—the universe, God, and who knows what other mysterious forces—destined to live a life of injustice.
What I have learned from experiencing both sides—victim and empowered—is that playing the victim does not bring me happiness.
For the past several years, I have come up against one victim after another. I have tried to reason with them, to explain my side, but to no avail. When one person is a victim, the other automatically becomes the antagonist.
The most recent situation that has provided much practice for my soul and many reminders of the kind of life I do not with to lead. I have been a landlord from a great distance to a woman who uprooted herself from urban Colorado to my home in bush Alaska. It was not a smooth transition, and it seems to have been one rife with idealistic, romantic visions that were perhaps more pleasant than the unanticipated reality of this life shift.
I spent hours on the telephone with this person before she moved. I listened to her talk about the challenges of selling her home in Colorado, of packing up her life, and of traveling with her cat across the many miles from a familiar home to a foreign land where she would have the opportunity to begin her life anew.
Was she escaping a place of pain? I cannot say. I do not know this woman. I know only what she has confided in me and only what I can conjure from her increasingly aggressive behavior toward me, her name without a face landlord.
From the moment my renter moved in, maybe even before, there was tumult. I turned the water off to save her moving in to a house with potentially frozen pipes or water pump. I had been given the go ahead that we would split the cost. Without warning, she changed her mind and refused to abide her promise.
Was there a miscommunication? Perhaps. I let it go.
Then came the tumult of emails and photographs. Is the toilet water meant to be this color? Is the water safe to drink? I am afraid to take a shower because my porous, blonde hair may turn orange.
Reading these emails, I took many deep breaths. I composed responses and wallowed for a while before sending them. I have learned from experience never to send the first email you compose because it likely will only serve to stir the cauldron of negativity and aggression.
I bought a new filtration system and new filters.
I bought a new microwave.
I read letters and emails rife with accusation and slander, most of which did not seem to come from any kind of place of accurate foundation. My home had not been built on a Laundromat. I did not rent my home and intentionally withhold information from my renter.
Time and again, this would happen.
I recoiled and felt my entire body tighten when I would see her name in appear in bold in my email inbox.
I began to response with only kindness. What else could I do? Responding with truth, advocating for myself and what I thought were the best of intentions for renting a home that I thought was in good condition, seemed to have little effect on easing her ire.
I spoke with my partner about it.
“I don’t understand it,” I would say. “Why is she doing this?”
His response, as usual, was clear and in its clarity nothing short of brilliant.
“You are not a real person to her,” he told me. “It is far easier to make a person into a monster when you have never met them before.”
She was operating from a place of fear and also from the place of being a victim.
And I was the enemy, the ruthless, uncaring, faceless landlord. It was all beginning to make sense.
Explaining to her that living in bush Alaska was not the same as urban Colorado would only serve to kindle rather than cool the flames of her frustration. She was not hearing the information I was providing. She was only hearing them through a filter.
So when I would explain that one could not expect the systems in a home in bush Alaska to function on the same level as an urban, developed area she was perhaps hearing the words:
“I do not take your concerns seriously. Your pain is not important to me. I am an unfeeling, unyielding person without morals or ethics.”
Who wouldn’t be upset by this? I know I would.
One of the saddest repercussions for me from all of this soul practice is that my love affair with Gustavus has come to a complete end. I know that my renter has talked about my character from her perspective of being a victim to people all over town. There are individuals who have unfriended me on facebook and explained that they simply do not see the world the way I do.
This response is also a choice, the choice to see me through another person’s eyes rather than trying to see me through their own.
What can I do? I choose not to fight this element of the universe. I know I will not win. I am not sure winning is even part of the grand plan for a happy existence.
What I can do is recognize what may be causing my renter to behave this way. I can practice seeing her a person in pain and try to empathize. I can practice energy tai chi and not allow her projection of pain to infiltrate my own sensitive being. I can choose to respond only with kindness. Most importantly, I can be reminded of how thankful I am that I have chosen not to play a victim in this life.
I want to be happy. I want to be empowered. I want to empathize with those who feel victimized without being drawn in and overwhelmed by their energy.
I would love to not have to pay to fill my propane tank, but that may be the price I pay to keep a safe distance from the self-diagnosed victims of that cross my path in this life.
And to you, dear renter. I hope someday you can find happiness without projecting such aggression onto others.