Love Thy Neighbor

In the last couple of weeks I’ve had several intense experiences with people in seemingly mundane, everyday occurrences. I don’t know if it was some cycle of the moon or the fact I maaaay have been sneaking an absurd amount of leftover Easter treats (I mean, COME ON they were 75% off), but it left me feeling out of sorts and anxious.

Being someone who feels and experiences things REALLY big, I’m used to having to take a step back to make sense of how I actually feel about things. But this was different. Like some force decided to take me down a notch, and do so in ways that would chip away at my weird little spirit. Small passive-agressive jabs. Belittling questions. Back-handed compliments. Seemingly normal interactions that seconds later make you say, “Wait – what?!” I chalked it up to reading too much into things but for some reason I couldn’t shake it.

And then the tipping point.

So there’s this lady, a new neighbor, who just moved in on our floor down the hallway. She’s got that croaky, huffy kind of voice that is only made louder when she’s got something to complain about… which is pretty much every time I’ve spoken with her. Since the day she’s moved in a few months ago, I’ve tried to be helpful and offer ways to get her acclimated to the island and share what makes this place so great when I run into her, and it’s only met with angry, self-important remarks. She’d carry-on about her assortment of medical issues then bark at me how I’d better get ready for the “joy of old age.” Then there was the host of “problems” she’s discovered about living on the island she’d rage on about while I’d listen as intently as I could and offer suggestions on some of our favorite spots. She’d respond with a scoff and an eye roll. So, I quit trying.

During this heightened period of WTF with humanity, I was walking out to my car to teach at the studio and she was talking with our downstairs neighbor, an older gentleman who’s been nothing but nice to us since coming to the island. I politely smiled and waved and caught some teeny bit of the conversation about one of her latest health problems and maybe needing some help with something in her car (?) and she literally yells at me while standing next to our neighbor: “Well I wouldn’t bother asking HER, SHE doesn’t care. SO selfish, that one.”

Bwuh?

Stunned and a little disoriented, I didn’t have the time nor wit to respond… and it really threw off the rest of my day.

Ruminating over all the moments I’ve interacted and all the conversations we’ve had with our new neighbor, I wondered over and over what I had done to come across heartless and selfish to this woman. Of course, John being the kind and wonderful person he is (and having had the similar experiences with her as I had), he assured me it was her just being a mean old bat and not to think so much of it. Which of course only made me do so more.

A couple of days later, still feeling out of sorts with life and letting our neighbor’s angry words get to me more and more, I blew off my normal morning workout and took to the beach. It was a particularly cold and drizzly morning (the last of those April showers, I suppose), but I felt compelled to so anyways. As soon as I heard the crash of the waves and felt the squish of  sand under my shoes, things suddenly better. To my surprise there were several beach goers that morning, all of whom offered a wave or a smiley “good morning” as they power-walked the shoreline or trotted along with their equally as friendly dogs. A long, brisk walk listening to one of my favorite podcasts started to put a lot of my glitchy thoughts and feelings back into order.


Sure enough, later that day the sun came out my downstairs neighbor and I ran into each other. He assured me he put her in her place after her shouting at me and didn’t tolerate her being so negative. Even for a guy that has to be one of THE nicest people on the planet, he felt she was just a mean old woman. “Don’t let her bring to her level,” he told me.

I think being a person who likes to fix and help and generally is anxious when things are out of order, it hurts at even the thought of someone believing I don’t have the very best of intentions. I prefer direct and open communication, and try to leave the doors open to that as much as I can. And I have to remind myself there are people who don’t prefer these things – and people who are so broken after a lifetime of choosing to be unhappy. Misery is so easy; it’s so easy to be down and stay there. And it’s a lot easier to bring someone down with you rather than try to rise above.

For those people, there’s a part of them missing that only they can fill with a sense of wonder and curiosity and gratitude. They’re often jealous because they feel others’ success means they’re just that much further away from theirs. They like busting chops. They’ll never have enough and never feel like they are enough… and the only thing, I think, we can do is listen when we can and pray they take that step out of fear and loathing to a place of hope and fortitude.

Something that brought me back, too, is remember how many amazing, kind, supportive, and generous people I DO have in my life. The sweet emails from clients. The messages on social media saying incredibly kind things about my work. The unexpected hugs from friends. The late night night texts to check in. The smiles from strangers on the beach. The shnoogles from my favorite shark-dog.

I can’t say I’m out of the funk yet, but at least I know I’ve got a hug somewhere when I need it. And I’ve decided a long walk on the beach should always be in my repertoire.

Hugs & High Fives,

C

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