It’s hard to find that great opening line whether it’s to greet a stranger or to start a blog post. I’m happy to say that I’m feeling more like my normal self, though normal is up for debate. I feel as if I’ve had a psychotic episode. It’s like that after each encounter with my difficult neighbour. The time before this was 3 years ago. I’ve slipped in that she tricks me into engaging with her. I pay for it whenever I do that. There are no two sides. There is only one – hers. I’ve had to relearn my lesson over again. I am not 100% fool proof. This video is a great reminder for me.
In the same way, Pema Chodron is a great teacher. She shows up when I most need to hear her gentle powerful words. I’m reminded to look at things in a different way. I remember a photography class where our instructor told us, Don’t forget to look behind you as well to get a different view. Now I’m trying to reframe how I see my troublemaker neighbour as an opportunity – to develop patience. The incidence has shown me the benefits of my sitting meditation practice. I’ve been faithfully doing 20 minutes every morning for the last couple of months. Though I have been stressed and distraught, I have had less negative physical and mental impact on me this time around. I can testify that I’ve been tested and tried. Meditation, being mindful is good for me. So, onward and forward ho!
Suffice to say that I am not rolling on the floor with abounding peace and joy. At times my eyes leak with tears of frustration and sadness. It is also true for me to say that I am happy and satisfied with my lot. I am, as they say, going through a phase. This, too, shall pass away.
That was 5 or 6 days ago. I haven’t found the time, heart nor energy to return to this space. It was a very dreary cloudy morning. The house was dark, giving semblance to my inner feelings. I gave up on tapping out my misery on the keyboard for working in the kitchen. I sorted all the beans in the fridge, washed, blanched and froze them. I can’t remember what else I did but that I felt proud accomplishing so much in the morning. Ah! now I remember. I baked a dozen rhubarb raspberry muffins, made lunch and headed off to my class at the University of Saskatchewan.
It drizzled light rain that whole day. I parked off campus. It was a long walk to the Arts Building, made that much longer by going in the wrong direction. That’s me, forever lost. This time sporting an umbrella and on foot. I almost gave up. I almost headed back to my car. But I remembered Mina, my blogger friend at Suddenly Mad. She’s still venturing out into the world despite her early-onset Alzheimer’s. So I tried a little harder, one foot in front of the other. I got there 1/2 hour late. Someone else was even later after me. We did not miss much. It was very much worth the effort.
It is almost a week later. I am tapping and sipping coffee in the warmth of the afternoon. Sheba is at my feet. We are enjoying summer’s last hurrah on the deck. My mind is somewhat settled but not quite at peace. I find it difficult to tend to my usual life. I do whatever is possible which is mostly digging in the dirt and hauling the concrete urbanite around to create my contemplative garden. Then there’s my daily walk with Sheba and mucking around the kitchen. Muffins are getting to be my specialty. My sourdough venture was a life saver, too.
And now it is late evening. I feel my physical and mental fatigue. Most of all, I feel my anger. I feel anger towards my neighbour and her like. I can still hear her saying to me, ‘Don’t think you can keep me out. I can tear down anything you put up.’ Can you imagine someone saying that to you about your own property? I can’t imagine her daring to say that to me if my skin was white. Though she feels I owe her access to my property, she refuses my access to hers for the fence guys to erect a fence. Yes, I am angry that the city does not get involved with private property line when they have so many bylaws and when I have a surveyor’s certificate.
I have lived most of my life in Canada, my adopted country. All of that life up to now, I have lived unconscious of my skin colour. I have never cried prejudice nor use it as an excuse for mishaps and misfortunes. But today I do very much feel that the skin of my colour invites many unpleasant treatments and comments. Today I’m feeling sorry for myself. I’m feeling defeated by it all. Perhaps I shall feel better in the morning.
So I come to this space to bitch and complain again about how unfair it all is. I want to lay down, throw a tantrum on the floor, kick my legs up and down and scream. I didn’t do any of that but I felt as if I had. What I did was I called 911 and then the police because it wasn’t a life threatening emergency. It felt like one. You would know how it is if you’ve lived next to someone like my neighbour for 12 years.
It’s really difficult to safeguard oneself against a social path 100% of the time. I am upset with myself that I let her get under my skin. But what can I do when she’s right in my face, baiting me? My attempt to walk away when she started removing my flat rocks from around my freshly planted juniper failed . She threw in a monkey wrench in my policy of no reaction whatsoever. When she started calling out to me that she has public access to my property 3 feet beyond the property line and that she has the rights to remove any barrier got to me. She stated that she has studied the bylaws well and she knows many people at city hall and the police dept. Then she accused me of giving her 2 parking tickets and setting up a mouse trap to get her. Oh yes, I mustn’t forget our ‘weeds’. She named all the neighbours that hate the ‘weeds’ in our yard. She hates our ‘weeds’ and has a right to come and weed 3 feet into our yard.
How is it possible for me to give her 2 parking tickets? I’m not the meter maid and there’s no meter on her driveway. As far as the mouse trap, my partner did find one on our property but we did not put it there. She’s accused him of storing bicycle parts under our deck a problem for attracting mice. I felt trapped as how to deal with the woman. I decided to cross the street to a neighbour who she’s friendly with for help/witness to this situation. She promptly told me he’s not home today. It did not surprise me. She always chose times when I’m alone to ‘talk’ to me.
My guy was in the house having his lunch. I rung the doorbell to get him to come out and to bring my phone. What I should have done was to yell help to scare her off instead of engaging with her. By this time, she had removed my cement blocks I had put to support the trellis I put up between my house and the fence to keep her out and my dog from running into the front yard. It was silly of me that we could get her to listen. I asked her to repeat for my partnership what she had said to me – her right to access our property. By this time I’ve got my phone to record her. Not a good plan or I wasn’t smart at it. She tried to grab it from me. Good thing she had a cup in her other hand.
The moral of the story is, it is not at all worth it because here I am at 4 am. Still unable to sleep. The policewoman did give me a phone number to check up on the said bylaws and to call the police if she is moving and taking things on my property. And the only answer I got at the number was a recording. Instead of just stewing, I’ve sent off an email to city hall, the bylaws depart. It’s good to get the facts from the right people even though it sounds like she’s bluffing.
I think I’m done. I hope I can let it go now. I know the right thing to do is to let it go. But people, it is not easy. What I know for sure is I can not engage with her. I know for sure is that I’m the one that looks bad when I react. I cannot have a normal conversation with her. I will have my phone with me when I’m working in the yard. It is a pity that I cannot enjoy the peace and beauty of my own yard. I’m redoing my perennial beds, digging up my irises and daylilies to divide and relocate. I hope I will get some rest. I have plans for a morning swim and work on my sourdough bread. It will be a 2 day affair and my first one.
What strange times we are in. So many things we cannot count on – the weather, people, peace and equanimity. This is the summer that wasn’t. Already it feels like October. The furnace kicked in on a couple of cool mornings. The thunder and rains came early in the morning before we rose. All day the clouds reined. The rains came again at supper time. Sheba and I were lucky. We had our walk and had time to harvest a few beans, strawberries and tomatoes from the garden.
I’m feeling fortunate that I am not feeling ‘under’ with the weather. I’m feeling quite on top of things, filled with a wee bit of vim and vigour. Knock on wood. It’s not just luck. I’ve been working on myself, doing my own reconstruction workshop. I hate feeling poorly, don’t you? I’ve been chipping away parts of myself that I do not like. It’s not easy. Old habits die hard. Mostly it is about old habits. It’s so much easier to go the well rutted way than to find different routes. It’s taken me these many days and ways to do it.
It starts with recognizing how I don’t want to feel. And then seeing how I always react to those feelings. When I always react the same way, then I always get the same results. Simple math. Choosing to act different is not so simple. I had to swallow my pride and stubborness. They’re big lumps and hard to go down. I had to tell myself that it’s the right thing to do over and over. Practice does make for easier. It takes time for it to take hold and feel natural. I’m getting better and feeling better. That’s probably what’s giving me vim and vigor.
Having projects keeps me buoyed. I’m learning to make sourdough bread. I’m inspired by Zero-Waste Chef. The whole process looks very slow and complicated. It’s enough to discourage me but it hasn’t. I’m looking at it as a science experiment, taking one step at a time. It’s not like me at all. Mind you, I’m only 6 days in. I’m still excited. My starter came alive yesterday. I have to feed it every day now. I named it Oscar. I check on him numerous times a day to watch him at work, munching and making bubbles. I much rather use my energy and time to feed Oscar than all those negative emotions of depression, anger, envy, jealousy and what-have-you of the past. Maybe I will have a loaf of bread to share in the near future.