Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Irritate or Celebrate

One of the interesting things you will start to notice when you live with others is that there is always a moment when all the little things that are not quite running smoothly at your house will start to pile up. You may notice that you or your roomies start to get cranky, avoidy (hiding in their rooms) or moody (a dark cloud hovers over their head at all times). If something doesn’t shift soon, the atmosphere in the house will become unbearable.

I tend to do the “tolerate until you drop dance”, constantly cleaning up those irritating signs that my roomies are alive – toast crumbs on the counter, popcorn on the floor, etc. but eventually my inner complaints start to creep out and become—heaven forbid—griping and gossiping. If I’m even half way interested in stopping the snowball effect before it gets worse, I realize that I’m merely the canary in the mine and that it is time for a house meeting.

Ironically the crankiness that has led to “it’s time for a house meeting” is actually a sign that something else is needed. And that something is not really a change in anyone else’s behaviour or compliance in following through on a request. Those are only excuses. No, what lies underneath the irritability and crankiness is usually a feeling of being disconnected. Giving in to crankiness actually does exactly the opposite of what is emotionally desired.

What is really needed is not more meetings (although you will still need to discuss issues). What is really needed is more time together. Like any healthy relationship, you need to spend time if you want to maintain harmony. Never being available for get-togethers might be a sign that you are unwilling to share deeply (time to see a shrink), you see your shared home as just a place to crash and not a place to live (time to move on) or that you are way too busy and need to get a life (see that shrink again).

With more time together, the little things that have been driving you bonkers are likely to fade away in importance. You will find better words to voice your requests and your roomies are more likely to be willing to comply.

So light up the barbecue, pop open that bottle of vino and schedule some together-time. Weekly pot-lucks, house picnics or Sunday dinners are great ways to enjoy each other’s company. And enjoy should really be what it’s all about. Recall hilarious episodes of earlier housemate mayhem over a glass or two on the patio. The giggles will dispel those grumpy cobwebs faster than all the meetings in the world. Once you sit down to your scheduled house meeting, you are going to feel more bonded and can probably go through your list of to-do’s and to-don’ts easily and pleasantly.

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