It is a beautiful day in Puerto Viejo and I have plans to meet Nicole in a few minutes so that we can bike to the beach together.
I head out of my studio apartment into the gardens and remove my bike from its usual spot. I really like where I live because I am in the back of the complex, surrounded by four other studios and one big house where the owner of the property resides. The space has always felt tucked away and very safe to me – the latter part being a luxury in this little ‘wild west’ sort of town of ours.
Unfortunately, the property owner – who is also my landlord – has been in a terrible mood. Two guys recently vacated one of the apartments and they left it a total mess. She has been frantically cleaning it up, as other tenants are due to arrive in just a few days.
As I am leaving the property with my bike, I try to avoid her but, alas, today it is not meant to be.
“Melanie!” she says to me as I am opening the front gate. “I am going to need your bed.”
I can’t quite believe what I am hearing. “My bed? You want to take my BED??” This is extremely unorthodox- even for Costa Rica.
“Yes, I need a queen-sized bed. I will give you one of the single beds. We have a couple coming and so I need a bigger bed for them.”
Ouch. Not only am I being told that I am getting a significant downsizing of my slumber haven, but I am feeling a twinge of single-shame to boot. She and I had always gotten along but now it feels like she is taking her anger out on me. Thanks to my Al-Anon practices, I don’t immediately turn into a martyr and start preaching about how wrong this is, even though that’s exactly what I’m thinking. Instead, I pause.
“I don’t like that.” I finally say, quietly, like I am five-years-old and a mean adult is trying to take away my favorite toy.
“Well, if you don’t like it, you can move out.”
This one feels like a slap across the face. What the fuck, lady?? My insides are starting to boil and know I have to simply walk away, which (by the grace of God) I do.
How could she be so cold?? Immediately after leaving, the tears begin to well up behind my eyes. This is SO UNFAIR.
I see Nicole down the road and tell her about what happened, trying to keep myself from losing my shit completely. She listens and tells me that I will be able to find another place if that’s what I want to do and that I have plenty of people around to help me. I hear what she tells me, but my mind cannot get away from thoughts like: I will NOT find another place because high season is starting and everywhere is full. This woman CANNOT treat me this way! How DARE she do this to a person! I can’t trust anyone to do the right thing!
Thanks to my Al-Anon and Yoga practices, I am able to see that these thoughts are not helpful nor are they really true. I am hurt and having a reaction and, with time, it will pass. Still, this innate feeling of being attacked has shaken me to my core. Thank goodness we are headed to my own personal Mecca…the beach.
As soon as I see the waves crashing against the shore, I relax a little bit. Nicole and I park our bikes and find the perfect spot in the sand on which to lay our sarongs. I begin to undress myself, knowing that, with a bit of time in the sun, this anxiety will fade and I will once again realize that everything will be OK.
Like clockwork, the sky opens up and rain begins to pour down on us. Nicole and I look at each other and I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry so I do a mix of both as we run back to our bikes. Though I am still nervous to go home, I decide to use this as an opportunity to practice all that I have been working on because, frankly, this is the perfect opportunity.
- Even though I think this is unfair, there is nothing I can do about it. My stubbornness and anger will not change anything but keep me from finding serenity.
- The first step to finding serenity is to accept the situation.
- Have faith that this is happening for a reason and that I will be OK.
- Be kind to myself and others.
With that, I bike back to my place….in the rain.
As I open the front gate, I can feel my heart racing. I take a deep breath and turn the corner to find the property owner cleaning a fan on our shared outdoor table.
“Hi.” I manage to say. “So, when do you need the bed?”
“Hi…I need it in the next few days. And, look, I’m sorry, but those guys left their place so dirty and I have more people coming in and I couldn’t get the bed delivered from Limon…blah blah blah.”
I observe the situation and confirm that this indeed has nothing to do with me. She is stressed and now she is dumping her upset on me. I can find compassion for her inability to properly deal with her stress…but I also don’t have to be the shoulder on which she cries. So, I listen for a few moments and then walk back to my place, letting her know again that when she needs the bed, she can have it.
I close the door behind me, sliding my back down the wall until I am seated on the floor. That was really hard, but I did it. I didn’t come at her with anger or resentment. I accepted the situation, was kind and also took care of myself.
For the next couple of days, I have extra appreciation for my bed and all that it has done for me. Instead of feeling angry and powerless, I decide to feel grateful for having had this bed at all. Many people don’t even have beds and I am lucky enough to have had a big one for the past few months!
Finally, I get the text message I was expecting: “Melanie, I need your bed today.”
I message back that I will be teaching a yoga class at 4:30 and she is welcome to come get it then. I tell her that I trust her to come into my place when I am gone. (And I do…she is an Argentinian woman with a fiery temper, not a thief). I also let her know that the sheets are quite clean as I just washed them a couple of days prior.
Before I leave my apartment to teach my class, I remove items that are stored underneath the bed (suitcases, a backpack, a few journals and books) and place them to the side in order to make things a bit easier for her. As I walk out, I look at the bed one more time and smile.
I turn back around to see the property owner standing there. “It’s OK, Melanie, I’ve figured something else out. I don’t need your bed after all.”
I am shocked and elated to hear this news! I almost jump up and down with glee…until I hear the next part of her statement: “However, I’m going to need you to move out. I have decided to rent these apartments by the day instead of monthly.”
Oh, for God’s SAKE!
My immediate feeling is anger once again. You bitch. You are just doing this because it’s high season and you know you could get more money. I have been an excellent tenant and THIS is how you act???
She proceeds to let me know that I don’t need to move right away but within the next month. Once again – with MAJOR credit to Al-Anon and Yoga – I am able to keep myself from reacting and dig a bit deeper for that gratitude that is always hiding someone deep down, if not immediately apparent.
“I…I understand. It’s your place and you have every right to do what you want with it. But, I want to tell you that I’ve really enjoyed living here. Thank you so much for everything.” I reach out to give her a hug.
“Oh! Uh…you’re welcome. Yes, it’s been nice having you here,” she says, seeming a bit stunned at my response. I can only assume the other tenants did not take this news quite so well.
With that, I give myself a pat on the back for not blowing up at her (again!) and continue on to teach my yoga class. It is easier this time to focus on the faith instead of the fear. I am using my al-anon tools. I am resilient. I have lots of people who love me. I will be OK no matter what happens.
Over the next few days, I extend my gratitude not only to my bed but to my entire apartment. I take extra special care when washing my dishes as I look out the window at the birds and monkeys that like to play in the trees just across the way. I talk to the friendly geckos that come to visit me when the sun sets and I tell them that I’ll be leaving. Instead of trying to mentally hang onto all of the things I have enjoyed about living here, I instead allow them to flow through me, finding a deeper gratitude not only for what I have here, but for all the gifts I have received in my life thus far and all the gifts I know that I will receive in the future…that is, if I continue to do the self-work and open up my eyes enough to recognize them.
One evening, as I am chopping up broccoli to throw into my simmering soup, the property owner once again appears at my window. (Seeing her, I realize that I even have a strange appreciation for her and all of her crazy antics!)
She leans forward, which causes me to do the same.
“OK, Melanie. I really like having you here and I like that you keep your place very clean. You can stay if you’d like, even though everyone else will be leaving.”
I stare at her for a few beats before beginning to laugh. Yet again, life finds a way to work itself out. In addition, I am reminded that, thanks to the work I continue to do on myself, I also get the priceless benefit of learning so many lessons along the way; the biggest of which being that The Universe sure has a hell of a sense of humor.