Someone Must Change

Posted on September 14, 2011

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“When the wind blows, the grass bends.”

-Confucius

On January 5th, and 7th, I wrote blog posts about my neighbor, a seemingly crazy woman who slams doors in response to our movement about the house. Responses from my dear readers, insisting that I discontinue my door slamming experiment, coupled with the request of Mr. Man, and sage advice of Jill, inspired me to put down my experimenter gloves and decided to simply live next to the woman and not to try to drive her more bonkers than she already was. There would be no more intentional slamming of doors on my part, no more through-the-wall confrontations. The construction of a new home on the plot of land sharing our driveway was enough to make this lady looney tunes nuts, and she had enough confrontations to deal with screaming at the construction workers for merely doing their jobs. While I say this woman is looney tunes, bonkers, crazy, I’m sure there is a legitimate psychopathological disorder causing her behavior. Addict, agoraphobe, hoarder, OCD, I’m not sure what is wrong with her mentally, and I use this jargon to label her because she isn’t (to my knowledge) getting any sort of treatment, but she rarely left her house, except to scream at the construction workers. Sometime in early to mid March, the construction work finished, she had nothing to be upset about anymore.

And so her attention turned to us.

Ever since then, she’s been throwing little tantrums next door. Slamming the medicine cabinet, stomping around the house, yelling at me through the walls for closing my nightstand drawer too hard (which is pretty silly because it isn’t up against the wall and it’s super heavy wood so it’s not like it moves fast enough to slam). She’s erected tarps like tents all around her windows, causing our lovely property to look like tent city downtown. She has tried to dictate which garbage can we throw Saucy’s poo away in, confronts us after we use the washer or dryer claiming that it’s covered in long black hairs (which nobody in my home has), she’s yelled at us for doing our Nike Trainer thingie in the house, for bunny hopping with medicine balls and playing music at four pm. When a dog barks in the neighborhood, she walks out in front of our apartment, and screams “SHUTUP” into the dark, cool air, and sincerely expects the dog to listen. A few days ago, she took issue with the way I was using the hose. There is no end to the complaints she has about the way Mr. Man and I live, and we’ve exhausted every option.

We’ve tried reasoning with her.

We’ve tried ignoring her.

We’ve tried calling the landlord to deal with her.

We’ve tried being nice to her. To no avail, her dis-ease with the way we live has not been cured. In fact, things are escalating. But mostly in our home. Unhappiness, fear and anger are often contagious.

A few weeks ago I was outside watering my basil and clipping the shrubs she has allowed to grow over the walkway to the laundry room. She came out and began yelling at me for cutting her plants, and I informed her it was common area and that she needs to keep her plants where they do not interfere with other’s ability to walk. Things got heated, and the conversation ended when I yelled at her to go back into her “little hobbit hole,” and leave me alone. I was so eloquent up to that, so patient, so reserved, and then I just snapped. After it was over, I came back into the house where Mr. Man sat with wide eyes. I was shaking. I don’t like the woman I become as a result of dealing with this neighbor.

And it has very little to do with her, and very much to do with how I interpret our interactions. Chinese water torture. Crescendo of annoyance. I am powerless over my neighbor.

About three days ago, Mr. Man and I went to visit a new apartment. We’ve decided that the only way to change our interactions with this woman is if we move far far away from her, thus killing any interaction whatsoever. However, because I still have a ton of shame around money, and my credit score – the shame being that I made a shit ton of money and no longer have a shit ton of it, and the credit score being laughably low – after a brief interaction with the potential landlord, I found myself spiraling in a downward shame shower, freaking out because it is going to cost us at least four thousand dollars to move into someplace new, to secure a place that will take Sauce, money money money.

Money is a loaded gun.

When we left the apartment, I felt like crying. Instead, I freaked out on Mr. Man, I started saying, “We can just stay where we are can’t we? Can’t we develop some emotional boundaries around this bitch? Can’t we just numb out to her? It’s our home! Can’t we stay on principle?? Can’t she fucking move?” He very delicately agreed that we could keep talking about staying, on a month to month lease, and also agreed to meet with the current landlord the following morning. Our landlord agrees that the neighbor is nuts, and said he’d love to kick her out but fears retaliation, she’s rent controlled and I’m sure he’s been trying to figure a way to out her for years. But he doesn’t have the guts. Or the reasons. Aside from the fact that she won’t clean up the tent city mess she’s made outside our home for her “privacy.” So we were at an impasse. Deciding to stay through the holidays. To tough it out.

Yesterday, I came home from a barre method class totally exhausted and feeling zen. I hopped in the shower and began to get ready for the day. She started mimicking me, copying my movements throughout the house with her own, exaggerated and overblown movements. I closed the medicine cabinet, she slammed hers. I waked to the bedroom, she stomped, I closed my sock drawers, she slams slams slams. It continued for forty five minutes, and I became angrier and angrier, wishing more and more to go to her house and shit spackle under the eaves above her bedroom window so that she’d always smell dog shit and never be able to find it. I imagined blasting her with the hose, spraying it into her home and then cutting the hose in half with her own hedge clippers. I started to apply my mascara, and day dreamed about covering the garbage can that she’d commandeered (with the intentions of sanitizing so it’d be suitable for her garbage) with hand smeared cat and dog shit, I even thought about lighting shit on fire on her front door and clogging her tailpipe with shit, which would ruin her X5. I put the mascara away, closing the medicine cabinet as gently as possible, committed to living her through the holidays and simply numbing to her tantrums, and she ran from her bedroom into the bathroom to slam the cabinet in return. And I fucking lost it.

I took our medicine cabinet door and started slamming it. I slammed it over and over, harder and harder, unafraid of shattering the mirror and seeing nothing but red until I caught a glimpse of my crazy ass in the mirror, and realized I’d become no better than her. It was time to quit slamming the medicine cabinet. It’s time to move.

I called Mr. Man and told him it’s over. I’ve reached my breaking point. We must leave as soon as possible for my sanity, and as the insanity seems to be catching, his sanity as well. He readily agreed and said that, “We’d get through whatever we decide to do. Leave or stay, we will make it work.”

He’s a good man.

I finally understand now what Confucius meant when he said, “When the wind blows, the grass bends.” I thought for so long that I was being the grass, that we were bending by changing our behavior. But that’s not it at all. I was only changing my behavior, being nice, trying to reason, adjusting etc, in an attempt to change her behavior. I was trying to hard to be the wind, to blow from the north, the south, the east, the west, I was trying everything I could to make her change so that we could continue living here. It doesn’t work like that, Jennie. The only thing I can change is me. And that’s just fine.

So we’ve moved into happy acceptance, in just a short twenty-four hours, I’ve gone from being an insane, medicine cabinet slamming madwoman to a happily accepting young woman who has a date with her man tonight. Some fun outside of this home. For our life outside of this home. Because life, and happiness, don’t have to exist only within the confines of our current residence. Life, happiness, acceptance, change…it is all inside of us, and we will take it wherever we go.

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