The day I didn’t freak out…

When I was doing my Masters degree, I rented a basement ‘suite’ (my own little living space — woohoo!).

I shared the kitchen with the owner of the cute little townhouse, who happened to be a lovely and fun woman just a few years older than myself.

The rent was reasonable, and the company was nice — for both of us.

Well, my landlady R* (who also became my friend), was one of those energizer-bunny, super-capable types.

She would refinish old furniture, could fix most household items (within reason), and basically made a dollar stretch further than anyone I knew.

We got along great.

One day I came home in the middle of the afternoon — not sure if I was done for the day, or just taking a break between classes.

At any rate, as I approached the house I saw R* standing at the very tippy top of a ladder at the side of the house.

I think she was trying to fix an eavestrough. I’m no fan of heights, to the degree that I literally don’t like to see or watch anyone at a height.

And ladders are my nemesis.

Relieved to see that there was a handyman there with her, I scuttled into the house: grateful that someone (else) was there to save her if she fell, and also that she wouldn’t need to call me to come help.

I open the door to the basement and start to walk downstairs, thinking absent-mindedly to myself that I hear water.

Like, lapping waves water.

I go further downstairs and as I do so, I’m convinced. Yup. Water.

Definitely water running.

And then I see it.

The brown carpet looked black.

There was a little part of it that still looked rusty brown… but the rest of it looked black.

As I peered around the edge of the stairwell, I could see that the blackness was a result of inches of water… that was continuing to rise.

Oh dear.

Ok, so this would probably warrant a panicked reaction from any normal person.

So, I took a few deep breaths and thought what a ‘normal person’ should do.

Obviously, I needed to go tell R* right away. But she was currently teetering precariously at the top of a very tall ladder. And who knows how someone will react when you start screaming and carrying on.

What if she fell of the ladder and broke her neck?

I hurried up the stairs, composed myself as I opened the side door, and out I went.

The convo went something like this:

Me: <using my calmest, most ‘nothing is wrong’ kind of voice> Hey, R*, I think you need to come down to the basement.

R*: What? Why? <sounding a little frustrated> I’m kinda busy. <she gestured with her arms at the top of the ladder, as if I couldn’t see she was at the top of a ladder, busy… and teetering>

Me: Uhm, yeah. I know. Sorry about that <good Catholic, Canadian girl>. But I really, REALLY think you need to see something down in the basement.<please, please come down but please, please don’t fall>

R*: <grumbling as she starts to descend the ladder> Okay. But I don’t know why I need to come right now?

Me: <could you please stop flailing your arms about and hold on to that darned ladder?> Trust me. You want to come right now.

R*: <now safely on the ground> Okay. What is it? <annoyed>

Me: Theres a huge flood in the basement.

R*: What? What do you mean a flood? Like, a leak?

Me: You need to come see…

Okay, so there were more words that followed. And some shrieking and freaking out on R’s* part (obviously).

Of course, we figured out what to do pretty quick.

Got the water shut off, found out the source of the leak (a hose to the washing machine), and got the place cleared out and dried out over the next couple of days.

It ended up being one of her favorite stories to tell. How the basement flooded and all I said was “Uhm, you need to come see something in the basement.”

Throughout my life to date, it’s been one of my most commented-on traits. The fact that I just don’t ‘freak out’.

At least not on the outside.

On the inside, I’m DEFINITELY freaking out, but I’ve managed to figure out how to control the outside in a freakish way — especially if what I’m freaking out about impacts someone else.

Now, you might say “wow, that is a weird talent to have”, or “I wish I could do that” or “you’re a nut”… or something else.

But like anything, I’ve realized it is both a superpower and also my kryptonite.

It’s very hard for me to express on the outside when I’m freaking out or need help on the inside.

My tendency to want to please and keep the status-quo has hurt me personally at least as many times as it has helped.

I guess it’s taken me my nearing 5 decades to figure out a better balance — so that I can express whats on the inside in a way that honors me but also isn’t a ‘toxic spill’ on the outside.

>> Perhaps it’s part of why I became a therapist, and then a coach.

>> It might also explain my ability to sense when someone is ‘faking it’ is particularly keen (takes one to know one).

>> Or why I have a low tolerance for ‘freak outs’ and ‘rants’, but will listen all day long when we are talking real feelings and stuff — no matter how deep, dark or scary it might feel.

>> And why I now love to share my stories and personal insights — with the hope that doing so helps even one person feel heard, validated and/or even remotely ‘normal.’

Despite the fact that ‘normal’ is overrated, isn’t it?

As always, thank you for reading my #tuesdaystale (the original was shared in a Facebook post).

Originally published at on August 22, 2020.



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