This weekend a full on war erupted between my ex and I when I allowed my messy head to loop in anger over two unreturned bicycles. Said bikes were purchased by me for the boys and borrowed by my ex last summer. They were never returned in spite of my requests and I chose to avoid the issue because I didn’t really need them back that bad. Wrong move. Over time my anger grew in proportion to his reticence.
This weekend it all came crashing to a head. I demanded them back immediately. I cursed. I threatened. I criticized and I commanded. He volleyed back with accusations of abuse and warnings of how my anger was hurting the kids. I realized that he was correct on those counts and apologized. A truce was reached in which he promised (perhaps too strong a word) to return them the following morning.
At noon I received a call. Where was I going to store them over the winter so they don’t rust? Subtext: you’re being unreasonable.
When he showed up I apologized again, acknowledging that I should not have reacted so harshly and that I did so because I felt disrespected and disregarded. “You only asked me once and I never heard about it again so I didn’t think it was important,” he said. Subtext: I can’t handle this level of honesty or the fact that I hurt your feelings so I’m just going to talk around it. “You need to consider getting a car,” he said. Subtext: this situation is making me feel uncomfortable and inconvenienced so I’ll lay the blame on you for how I feel.
I paused and chose, in that moment, that I would say nothing more. I called the kids to come and see their dad. They chatted. He left. I resumed my art project and reflected on how this kind of script used to be a daily occurrence and how grateful I am that it isn’t anymore. And then I thanked my messy head for having learned a better way.