I had a difficult conversation with my housemate recently, specific details aren't important, but one of us was being passive aggressive about a situation in the house (him), the passivity rose to an explosion of anger, which left the recipient of the unreasonable emotional outburst (me), dazed and fuzed. After the exchange took place I left the room, with the situation unresolved, leaving us both in a state of flux and with mild anxiety.
The resulting strategy to deal with, or not deal with the awkward situation was avoidance. By week three of zero contact tensions had gone from mild anxiety, to borderline personality disorder. There were also practical restrictions, communal spaces became 'no go' zones, which dictated a cessation in tooth brushing, showering, hair washing, underwear cleansing and shaving. People unfortunate enough to share work and social space with me, had noticed a radical decline in my personal hygiene, some were starting to wonder if I'd embarked on a sponsored 'don't wash'. I considered telling them I was going for the world record for most days unwashed, research revealed if I was serious about taking that record, I'd need to live to at least a hundred and one, due to there being a man in Southern Iran who hasn't washed for sixty years. He also lives in a hole and smokes animal faeces as a cheap, possibly free, alternative to tobacco. Whilst I was willing to go beyond reason to avoid my housemate, I wasn't willing to go that far, so I just smiled inanely when the sponsored 'don't wash' was mentioned.
One evening hunger and thirst overcame me, I ventured into the communal cooking space, moments after I clicked the kettle into action I heard the front door open. I closed my eyes and prayed, begged a god, any god, to impose divine influence over my housemate, lead him unto his man cave. On this occasion the gods failed me. I braced for his imminent arrival, literally, I placed my hands on the edge of the sink, took one step back with my right leg till it was straight and kept my left leg forward and bent, which left me looking like I was pushing a car. I glanced over my shoulder towards the door as he entered, he looked sheepish, then he saw me and his face changed, changed to whatever's applicable for seeing a man who's mistaken a sink for a broken down car. I stood up, turned around, leant nonchalantly on the sink and folded my arms, which did little to dispel the notion of car psychosis. When I finally took a proper look at him I was a little shocked, he was rocking hobo chic, arguably rocking it better than me. I had to squint hard at him for a while before I was satisfied he wasn't some homeless man who'd just wandered into the house, he squinted back at me, presumably for the same reason. Once we'd decided we did know each other he spoke "I think we need to have a chat", I nodded, he continued, "tomorrow after work?" "Ok" I said, he walked away, my mind ran across the borders of my personality disorder.
In my man cave, there's a book shelf, on that shelf are some books, books I've never read. This is partly due to only having time for internal dramatic narrative, but mostly due to the fact that I can't be arsed to read. Amongst the books I've never read is a copy of 'Radical Honesty'. This book sounded like it could have had some useful conflict strategies, I needed to go into this meeting armed, I had twenty four hours to skim read it, so that when we met, I could smash my housemate's arguments to pieces, with well informed and uber smart retorts.
Almost exactly one day later I'm in the kitchen again, staying as far away from the sink as possible, nervously anticipating the meeting, the click of the front door alerts me to his arrival and the same homeless looking dude walks in. We go and sit in the lounge, him at one end of the sofa, me at the other, a big empty space in between. "You start" I say. He tells me he's struggled with the bad atmosphere to the point where he's had mild panic attacks, he doesn't want to come home or use communal spaces. He apologizes for directing passive aggressive anger at me, talks about wanting to find a place where we can both live together harmoniously until we find a resolution to our problem, he's expressing himself eloquently and politely, exhibiting a great deal of respect for both our positions and our feelings. When he's finished he asks me if there's anything I'd like to say, I nodded, lowered my head, took a deep breath and raised my eyes to meet his. I began, "Thank you for your contribution to this process of peace and reconciliation. I was really worried about the potential for this to be aggressive and confrontational, I too have felt very uncomfortable in the house. Whilst I'm grateful for your kind words, your courage for arranging this meeting and the effort you've made to communicate with openness, honesty and calmness, I'm also mindful of my need to be honest and tell you that I think you're a total wanker." I'm now nursing a bruised face, looking for a new housemate and reading a book called 'Radical dishonesty.'