So here we are……finally. For those of you who have not read my previous Blogs, just to bring you up to speed…..I have been wanting to write about my new found love for my neighbors, discovered during lockdown, but as always, got sidetracked. So I thought about the solution to getting me focused, and decided to use the words in the title, so I would have no other option, but to get this completed.
Before starting to write about this journey, I do want to be perfectly honest, put the cards on the table, total transparency….. Two thirds of my house comprises of withdrawn (perceived as anti social), shy (perceived as arrogant) and intolerant (perceived as grumpy) people. The other third comprises of a (mostly…and certainly on the face of it) charming, tolerant and peaceful person. I am most fortunate that the latter one third exists, as people then realize that the other one third’s lack of social skills was not as a result of the other one third’s poor parenting skills. How could it be? Both one thirds were raised in the same house, by the same parent. Clearly one of the one thirds was just genetically predisposed to being socially inept. Granted….that is what the other third has to accept some responsibility for. Not exclusive responsibility mind you, It took two to produce this mountain of warmth!!
So we moved into my complex just over 15 years ago (post rug pulling incident). Generally I am one who totally prefers to keep to myself. I had no intentions of moving in to the complex, and making a whole new set of friends, or even neighbors actually. ‘’We’ll keep to ourselves, and you lot keep to yourselves!’’ was my attitude. Granted, I had no time to gather a new tribe, what with working 7 days a week, and raising two little men! But to be honest, there was no inclination either. I had my tribe, I had my family and I had my beautiful two thirds!
Unfortunately, as with most complexes, you will ALWAYS find ‘’those people’’. You have the ‘’Town gossiper’’ (who knows things about your life that you don’t even know about). You have the narcissist, the deceitful ray of sunshine, the misogynist, the overstated Good Samaritan, the male chauvinist, the self appointed leader , the imbecile followers…..pretty much all types of characters hoping to live in harmony.
Now me, I just wanted to make my home as happy and peaceful as possible, and did absolutely in no way need any external distractions. Hence, drove in and out of my complex for 15 years, and had no idea who I was passing (aka ignoring).
To be fair, I did have a friend living in the complex already. Her, I greeted…..for a while…..will get to that a little later. However, back to honesty, putting the cards on the table and total transparency ……kids will be kids. When you have no garden and 2 boys aged 5 and 8, things will happen. Soccer balls will be kicked against the boundary wall (apparently a capital offence), there will be a lot of running around in communal areas releasing pent up energy (apparently ALSO a capital offence) and strategically placing little rocks on the neighbor’s sprinklers, so when the timer goes off, said sprinklers don’t pop up (maybe this IS actually a capital offence). So are you getting my drift here? Most of the complex was filled with old fuddy duddys, who either had no kids, or grown up kids, and they had forgotten what little kids do…….yes, yes you are correct, they were who I am now.
So taking the above into account, i.e the fact that two thirds of us were socially inept, and just came across as rude, angry and ……dammit….we were like the fuddy duddys…..aaaarghh………whatever, with that put together with kids being kids, flying under the radar became a little more difficult.
What transpired was trying to stay incognito (despite those little child prodigies making it an arduous task), a grunt here and there, a feeble wave, a couple of angry outbursts in my quest to defend the honor and dignity of my child prodigies and for the rest of it……nothing neighborly at all!
Getting back to the friend that lived in the complex when we moved in, we had a great thing going. Her son and my sons were great friends from school and she was the closest to me of all my friends, in our sunny dispositions. She too was the bearer of the truth, irrespective of whether it was going to be popular or not and she too was not the picture of tolerance. But from one day to the next, we kinda just weren’t anymore. Don’t think there was a reason….get busy…move in different directions….who knows? No-one to blame, and nothing to harp on. So my last hope at seeming remotely pleasant and neighborly came to an abrupt end!!
I had even found names for certain sections of the complex. There was Widow’s Lane (guess where I resided, together with the left neighbor and the two right neighbors?) There was The Greek Corner, where six Greek households just happened to live next door to each other, and then there was Arb Road (a mix and match of households that did not bear any visible similarities).
Enter COVID….lockdown…..like everyone else, the need to get out of the house for a bit of movement. I recruited my socially pleasant one third to accompany me on my walks. Besides him getting some exercise…..totally my couch potato third……he would provide a sort of a buffer between me and….well anything resembling a neighbor. It was a resounding success, I walked with my head down, and when he greeted someone…and they replied….I lifted my eyes (not the head), and greeted them too!
Slowly but surely, more greetings were forthcoming, and slowly but surely I realized I had totally misjudged my neighbors. The overstated Good Samaritan was indeed just that! How would all the day to day issues in the complex be sorted without him?? The deceitful ray of sunshine, aka the lady who apparently growled at socially inept for driving too fast, was actually the sweetest dear I could imagine. The other cow, who periodically gave the hairy eyeball to both my kids, was a honey. I chatted with her for ages one day. Clearly my neighbors were not the problem. We were!! The lady that was on the receiving end of my angry outbursts when defending my children, was an absolute honey!! The nosey neigbour, aka ‘’the Town Gossiper’’ was an absolute gem I tell you! She seemed to go above and beyond for ANYONE! Wow….wasted years…if only I had known what a little piece of paradise this complex was!!
Let’s not be unrealistic here. The misogynist …….still a misogynist, the narcissist……still that…..the self appointed leader….yep…present and accounted for! Now, this may or may not be the same person. I say nothing!
So there I found myself having this notion of my family living together with our neighbors in tranquility in this little ‘’small town’’ (barring the fact that there was some dreaded virus making its way around the world leaving death and so much loss in its wake).
So many times I have fantasized about a lifestyle like this. No rat race, not stress, pressure, anxiety or unrealistic expectations.’’ I must have manifested this,’’ I boldly told myself. It was at my doorstep all along! I would go on my walks, no longer accompanied by one third (told you he was lazy), and imagine myself, a free spirited Bohemian-ish women, with a long flowing dress, long curly locks and a straw hat, cycling through my little village, waving and smiling at all who pass. This was so ridiculous, I imagined I was riding side saddle, and the bike was somehow riding itself. But it was a fantasy….don’t judge!
Oh, and the best part, was that my another lifetime ago friend and I started walking together. Hell I missed her!!
There were a couple of problems though. I was a 54 year old shriveled up prune with one hair on my head. I didn’t possess a bicycle or a straw hat. I used to own a long flowing dress, but that just wouldn’t work anymore. Also, and probably most importantly, for the most part, the rat race, stress, pressure, anxiety and unrealistic expectations started to return. Tolerance levels decrease rapidly, and suddenly we start to see what we saw in the first place. Whether what we see is in fact what it is, is a whole other question, but we have seen it nevertheless. Suddenly an innocent statement by the nosy neighbor becomes a statement wrought with meddlesome innuendos. Suddenly the deceitful ray of sunshine became just that!
I also started to realize through my chats, that all of these people were actually being perceived by others as just that. The difference was, that I, as the self appointed bearer of truth and honesty, would not tolerate it. Others, as the poster children of correctness, acknowledged it, accepted it and tolerated it…..hmmmm…..food for thought? Nope, just not me I am afraid!!
At least I got a renewed friendship and made a couple of new, barely hanging from a thread acquaintances.
Damn I miss my Village!!