What is day of the „broom“? It is the day I understood a little more about life, mistakes and most of all “the game of guilt”. When I was 9 years old I was sexually abused by a member of my family. Since then and although it should have been the other way round I felt guilty and ashamed of who I was. My mother made a taboo out of the matter so that again I believed that somehow it had to be “my fault” for I loved my family and naturally my family loved me back. Later as an adult I often found myself in situations (private and jobwise) where people pointed at me when I had made a mistake or even didn’t make a mistake but they were just in a bad mood and lavished their aggression on me. Because part of me was still believing that again “I couldn’t be right” I didn’t stand up for myself. As a consequence I was the ideal victim or “easy prey” for all those who didn’t address their inner anger in the exact situations but used this “game of guilt” to make somebody else take “their inner trash” away. This was so until the day of the broom. It was an ordinary day, I got up early took the dog for a walk and prepared for work. Right before leaving I opened the door of my flat and found a broom, my dustpan full of dirt together with my handbrush and a letter from my neighbour above. First, my heart sank: It was Friday I had a full workday ahead of me and I needed all my strengths to get through the day teaching my pupils-who were also exhausted from a week full of exams. I knew that if I read my neighbour’s letter now, it would “occupy” my thoughts and make me more stressed out. So against my inner feeling to “solve everything on the spot”, I left for school without reading the letter. Everything went fine until after lunchbreak: I was standing in front of my students when my mobile phone rang. I was afraid that something was wrong with my parents. I picked up the call and it was the dogwalker, who took my assistance dog Kalle for a walk when I had long working days. Kalle had run away after a fight with another dog and he had crossed the street several times. He finally got scared and ran back to the dog walker so that he was safe and on the leash again. The dogwalker however, wasn’t willing to go on taking Kalle for a walk with the other dogs. I felt my energy draining and told him, that I would call him back right after school. When I finally came back home, I still found the broom etc. in front of my door. Kalle greeted me joyfully and at the moment I knew that I could neither persuade the dogwalker to take  Kalle back on  nor solve the  “neighbour  problem” because I was so irritated after a long workday. It was a beautiful day and it was the first time I decided not to “take on” instantly on the things other people “threw” at me and to write a justifying  “letter back”, but to “hold on” and get a break before acting. So I took Kalle and put his leash on the hook on my bike and we rode to the nearby lakes. It took us an hour to get there and on the way back Kalle stayed in his red dog trailer for a rest and I drove us back safely. My anger was gone and so I read my neighbour’s letter. It said that she was disgusted of the way the stairs looked and that even after the cleaning woman had cleaned everything it was soon dirty again. Sighing I cleaned the stairs in our appartment facility of the dirt that I, my dog and the 4 other dogs and the dogwalker had left there. I knew I needed this evening to rest so I wrote the dogwalker I needed to “sleep over things” and found out that he was also relieved to think things over. Before I fell asleep next to my exhausted “runaway dog” I wondered why my neighbour didn’t talk to me this morning instead of putting “up a stage” in front of my doorstep. Why, I wondered, did she “pick” me for this and none of the other dog owners in the house? Somewhere in my subconscious there was a painful insight that these situations kept repeating themselves because deep inside me and before anyone else could accuse me of having done something wrong it was me who did just that. It was a Monday when I finally met my neighbour and asked her, why she hadn’t come to see me that morning. I tried to explain to her that there were 5 dogs in the house, that I often cleaned up behind Kalle but that the dogwalker would come to pick the dogs up when I was at school and leave behind him a trail of dirt from his way through the recreation area. She tried to interrupt me several times always repeating what she had written in her letter. I told her that I would talk to the other dog owners and maybe we could “share the additional cleaning”. When she finally left for work and the front door began closing behind her she shouted in my direction: “-I want my broom back!!!”. At that moment I understood that yes-there was a problem about cleanliness but that also my neighbour had a problem by not talking to me or the others involved. When I looked at the broom that was still standing next to my door, I suddenly realised that it was not me who had put it there and that it was none of my responsibility to “bring it back”. So I left it standing next to my door and my neighbour hasn’t yet come to “pick it up”. That day-the day of the broom- I understood that even though there was “a grain of truth” in the critique I was still alright the way I was. Also, I made a vow: Never again in my life would I let myself be used as the “trashcan” for other people’s aggressions. I talked to my other neighbour who had three dogs and we agreed to share the cleaning of the stairs among ourselves. I also told the dogwalker who had decided to take Kalle back under the condition that he remained on a long towing-line during his walks. He promised to clean up after himself. When I see my “broom- neighbour” again, I greet her politely because it is not she who “is the problem”. The problem was that I had not been nice to myself in the past and that the harsh critique of others had often added to my “self-made misery”. The broom however, is still standing next to my door like a proud “monument” of the inner change I have undergone. This is a story I wanted to share with you, dear reader.

Written by Renate Weber