Celebrating Small Victories

Written on by Kathryn Lerro

I wish I were a perfect person. I’m not sure what a perfect person looks like—I’m pretty sure I’ve never met one—I just know it isn’t me, and it never will be. So, while I’m not trying to be perfect, I am trying to be better. If you’ve read any of my older blog posts, you may remember that I was seeing a counselor to deal with some anger issues. I’ve been honest about things that have set me off—and the regrets I’ve had after reacting to them. So now, in celebration of progress, I’ll tell you about the events of a particular Thursday and Friday last spring.

I’d been working on renovating our master bedroom. Six layers of wallpaper had to be stripped from the walls, two layers from the ceiling. A lumpy patch covering an old doorway that went to the middle bedroom had to be removed and replaced. Wide cracks where the ceiling meets the walls had to be taped and spackled (to keep centipedes from crawling out of them while I’m trying to fall asleep!). Bad sections of plaster had to be chipped away and replaced with sheetrock. Cracks in the remaining plaster had to be patched. The walls and ceiling had to be sanded and painted. A new door and laminate flooring had to be installed.

While none of this is rocket science, it is time-consuming and messy. And to make matters more challenging, because my husband works evenings, I couldn’t begin work before 1 pm; and I had to quit working by 8 pm so as not to disturb my neighbors, who go to sleep early. And since I was working on the room we actually sleep in, there was a great deal of clean-up required at the end of each work session. What I normally could have done in a few weeks ended up taking four months. One of the final projects was installing a wall-full of closets: which brings me to that Thursday afternoon last spring . . .

I went to Ikea, where I spent a small fortune on a wardrobe system and a narrow bookcase to fill in space at one end of the closet wall. I went to the home delivery desk and arranged to have everything delivered the following morning. I was so excited! The vision I’d had for the room was finally coming together! I’d have closets before Easter!

I left Ikea and drove across the street to put a few things into our storage locker. I was in and out of the building in three minutes, got back into the car and drove toward the gate. It began opening normally but got stuck after opening only about 18 inches. I got the attention of the clerk, who went through a series of procedures that should have made the gate open, but didn’t. She apologized and, after making a quick phone call, said the manager was on his way.

I sat in my car and waited.

The sky was blue. The air was warm. I was in no hurry to get anywhere. No one was waiting for me. The absolute worst case scenario I could think of was that I’d take an Uber home and come back for the car later. So, after a very busy day, I took the opportunity to just relax.

After waiting for 35 minutes, the manager finally arrived. I thought he’d come over to the car and tell me he was sorry for the inconvenience, but he didn’t. He just got to work trying to get the gate to open. When it finally opened, he still didn’t acknowledge me or even wave me through. For some reason, the whole scenario seemed bizarre and so funny to me. I drove through the gateway and stopped the car. I walked over to the manager and said, “Thank you for letting me out, but don’t I get an apology?”

He scowled at me and said, “For what?”

I laughed as I replied, “For being stuck.”

Halfheartedly he said, “Yeah, sorry,” and turned back to what he was doing.

I still saw the situation as being very funny, and amazingly I didn’t take it personally. I drove home with the best feeling: I’d been treated with disrespect and I didn’t get angry! I was still smiling!

The next morning, while I waited for the delivery truck, it occurred to me that I was going to have a stack of long, very heavy boxes arriving and I’d have no one to help me assemble the closets—or even carry the boxes upstairs—until Saturday. I was having a houseful of company (okay, only six people, but my house is pretty small) for Easter dinner on Sunday; I had so much cooking and cleaning to do! It was too late to reschedule the delivery now. What had I been thinking?

As I continued to wait for the truck to arrive, the phone rang. It was the manager of the storage facility—saying how sorry he was! He said after I left, the clerk told him how long I’d been waiting, and to make up for it he’d be giving me half off my next month’s rent. I thanked him and started laughing again. I said I could see he’d been focused on the task at hand and I wasn’t offended—but I’d gladly take the discount!

No sooner had I hung up the phone when the doorbell rang. A delivery man stood at the door with one slender Ikea package. As he placed it on the floor, I asked where the rest of my boxes were. His eyes widened with a deer-in-the-headlights look as he showed me the delivery slip and said that’s all they had in the truck for me—just one bookcase. I said I’d bought a whole closet system. He braced himself—ready for me to get angry and give him an earful, but all I could do was laugh!

The me of a few years ago, the angry me, the way I was before a counselor helped me figure out what was really making me angry—probably would have gotten upset about the delivery mix-up. The new and improved me instantly realized that this was not the fault of the man standing at my door, and the mistake was in my favor! (I had nothing to worry about: I had the receipt and I’d be able to get the rest of my delivery after Easter—when I should have scheduled it to begin with.)

I still get angry sometimes—of course I do: because I’m human, and because sometimes getting angry is an appropriate response to bad circumstances. But if I get angry and then recognize there isn’t a valid reason for my anger, I’ve learned to step back, look deeper, to try to identify what the real problem is. And whether I figure it out or not, I choose to give myself grace, and give myself permission to be what I am—a perfectly imperfect work in progress.

Photo by Bruce Mars via Pexels

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