It was Friday night, and I was mean to my mother-in-law, Rhonda. She needed a "talking-to," but she didn't deserve anyone being mean to her.
Cathy's mom has been with us since Saturday, September 3rd, 2005 (I just checked). In just over a week, it will have been two years. About five weeks ago, Rhonda became unemployed by walking out when her manager was reading her the riot act. As it turns out, walking out while your boss is scolding you means you quit. When you quit, you do not get to collect unemployment benefits; that's for when you are terminated. So it has been a hard month for her.
Rhonda had difficulty securing another job. I do not know why, or how difficult it is to get a job right now; I have not looked. She got behind on her car payments and other things, and we are not in a position to help. I also happen to be of the opinion that it would be unwise to help financially. Anyway, Rhonda spent all day waiting for social services; she learned about this through the Orange County 2-1-1 system. 2-1-1 is the equivalent of 9-1-1 but for human services referrals. While they couldn't help her with her car payment of medications, they did give her $40 for gas. That was nice.
So, I guess she had a rough day. She came home about 8:30 P.M., appearing frustrated. She complained to Cathy about the rash can being full and wondered aloud why I hadn't taken out the trash. I found that pretty annoying; if it is full, pull it out, tie it up, and put in the new bag; I'll take out the trash later. I figured I would do that before bed, but went outside with Oliver to get away from my frustrated mom-in-law.
So, I'm standing outside with Oliver, and I figured I would try to pray. My mind was racing with annoying thoughts and feelings toward Rhonda, and I didn't want to do or say anything I would regret. I thought I was praying, asking God for patience, asking God to help me ignore Rhonda's complaints. Instead, I thought about how I couldn't remember the last time she said "thank you," how she drains resources without any consideration for us, and generally behaves like a bad roommate from my college days. I struggled to put aside all the negative, bitter feelings. I was asking God for grace.
Apparently, Rhonda decided the trash couldn't wait. I heard her shooing Boaz away from the door, and then Boaz was outside. She told me I better catch him, and I told her that she let him out, she needs to catch him (and I would help). She said it's my cat, I catch him. I said she let him out, it is her responsibility. She said I should have trained my cat to stay indoors; I caught Boaz. I told her that she needs to take responsibility for her own actions; at least apologize. She rolled her eyes and walked away from me. I told her that, if she walked away from this conversation, she could move out, too. She kept going, and I yelled after her, "That's it, I've had enough. You're moving out! I'll bring the boxes from work tomorrow!"
Some where in there, I threw in a cuss word, too.
Cathy was understandably surprised; she was too wise to try to talk me out of it. Instead, she talked to her mother, who basically said she had done nothing to apologize for. I threw in my two cents, Rhonda basically just glared at me and went into her room and shut the door.
About 30 minutes later, after I got ready for bed, she found me in the bedroom and said she apologizes for letting the cat out. I apologized for using a bad word at her, and we each went to bed.
Upon reflection, I realized that I did not apologize for not wanting her to live here anymore. I may have spoken the truth, but I did not do so in love. In fact, nothing I did was loving.
I also do not think I was actually praying. Rather, I believe I was simply trying to talk myself down. I probably would have gone on to praying, but I had not got there, yet. Cathy and I had a decent conversation about it, afterwards.
So, there it is, my confession.
Rhonda's approach to handling conflict is to pretend it didn't happen. I find it rather awkward, as I think I would like to apologize for speaking to her so harshly. Still, what I want to apologize for is saying that I don't want her living here; but, I don't. Gah!