Conflict goals / by Vanessa Fiola

**The next 27 days I’ll be posting 500 words a day as part of a creative writing challenge. You can join the fb group here. *

Every year on my birthday I take the opportunity to set intentions for the year ahead. As it happens, my birthday is in December so it lines up closely with the time when the rest of the globe does the same thing. I use the three-week buffer between the 9th and January 1st as a test run to see which ones’ll stick.

This year, nestled among things like “Be less jiggly,” and rebuilding my savings, I decided that I wanted to become comfortable with having difficult conversations. At the time, I set this intention from a place of strength and empowerment and confidence. Hashtag girlboss.

I think I lasted two weeks. On Christmas, *cough family *cough, it occurred to me that the process of becoming comfortable with difficult conversations is basically tantamount to getting Conflict his own toothbrush, which is a horrible, horrible idea.

I really loathe conflict.

The reason I need to rebuild my savings is because we recently bought a new house. Finding something was no small feat, considering that in all of Los Angeles, there is only about a mile radius that I want to live in, we had to have at least a three/two in the hills, and it needed to be south-facing so I could see both the sunrise and the sunset. If you know this area, unless that radius is in Riverside, then you know it’d be easier to get a ticket on the SpaceX rocket.

Long, long story short, I had a friend who took one for the team and graciously flirted with a man on who happened to be the dad of a son who was flipping a house in the neighborhood we wanted. It’s a city where people regularly pay cash for multi-million dollar homes and everyone needs an angle. After several separate negotiations over many months, and moments after I had gotten to the point of saying “f*ck it,” we got the house. We closed on the day that Paris was bombed, which might be a sign.

We have spent the last two months dreaming of making this place our home, of having it feel like the place where everyone wants to come and hangout. Our transition has been made easier by meeting some hospitable and warm neighbors and also having several friends within walking distance.

A week ago the guy who owns the apartment building next door came by, just as Ryan and I were leaving to pick up Jonah from preschool. He wanted to talk to us about trimming our trees in the backyard so that his tenant could have a view of downtown. Because I know that my tendency in conflict is to be defensive and because my sort-of neighbor seemed like a really lovely guy who I’d prefer not to piss off within our first days, I asked to defer the conversation to a day when I had some time to think about it. Ryan, bless his heart, volunteered that if we were to cut down the trees, it would make raking much easier for him. I paused to consider what it would look like if I stabbed him in front of our guest and then left to get Jonah.

Cutting down the trees for the writer who lives in the apartment next-door means that she gets a great new view of downtown. I get wanting that. But for me it only means that I lose privacy—we will be forced to stare at her place every time we walk out back—and the seclusion of our cozy backyard will be lost.

So here I am, needing to resolve what is now a thing, and I’m wishing very hard I could be one of those people who are comfortable not only setting out a toothbrush for Conflict, but with also giving him his own goddamned drawer.