Saturday. Five days have passed since my drama with my crazy neighbour. I’m almost back to normal but I will never be the same again. I am stronger and smarter. I know I cannot let my guard down with her and in no way can I engage with her. Knowing and saying all this is no guarantee though. I am human. I can slip up. Accidents happen. What cannot happen is I get reactive and angry. It can kill me. I remember all the emotions that ran through me. I was on fire with no escape. After 5 days, the fire is out. I’m left with a dull sorrow wondering how someone could hate me that much for no reason known to me. We live next door to each other but not in each other’s lives.
No, hate is not too strong a word. And no, it’s not a misunderstanding. I’ve lived beside this woman now close to 15 years. It was like this from the beginning. And if you ask me what’s it all about, it’ll be hard to tell you. And you probably think I’m the one causing the trouble. If it is not one thing, it is another. It never stops. I joined a support group with Narcissist Negotiators with Rebecca Zung. I was looking for support but I got trashed by some of the members. I was mocked for growing vegetables in the front ‘messy’ yard. My yard was a huge eye sore for my neighbour. She calls my raised garden beds coffins. She comes into my yard to ‘weed’ and mess around. Her driveway runs along beside my property but she feels she can plant little pine trees right next to my raised bed on my side. She claims she has inches beyond the driveway and she has right to access.
I am sure it all sounds very trivial and I agree. But she has thrown rocks at me because she didn’t like the way I landscape. She removes all the mulch we put around the cedars growing on our side. So we put in a little fence to keep the mulch on our cedars. She enlisted her boyfriend to pull it out. After these episodes we called the police liaison for help. They do help. It keeps her in check. Summer times are bad because we are outside more. Therefore more encounters of the ugly kind. Winters are not trouble free either. She used to shovel all the snow from her long, long driveway onto my yard. She has even thrown it over the back fence when she first moved in. I have asked her not to since I get water damage in my basement from the melting snow in the spring. She calls me crazy and talks over me. But now she can’t because of the cedar trees and raised garden beds. More reason for her hate.
You probably think I’m punishing myself reliving the shit in the retelling of the stories. Not true. The bite and sting of it are all gone. I can see that I contributed nothing to her treatment of me. I respect our boundaries. I do not tell her how to garden or landscape. I do not go onto her property to ‘weed’ or spray whereas she has done unto me. No, I cannot make peace and talk it over with her. She does not allow me to speak. She talks over me. Communication is important but in this case it is not possible. Talking with her is very dangerous for my health. The only tools I have is the police liaison and total disengagement. Once upon a time I would have found that sad. Once upon a time I thought it good to know your neighbours. Once upon a time is a beginning of a fairy tale that no longer works for me.
It is Sunday morning and cloudy it is. It was so sunny and hot only yesterday. Like the climate this new world of ours is stormy and unpredictable. I don’t like it much but it is what it is. We’ve all contributed to the making of it so let’s not cry over spilt milk. I read a wonderful quote from someone’s Instagram post this morning. I was in that peaceful space for a very short time, just before my mishap with the neighbour. I guess it was my practice run. Maybe I add add on a few seconds each day.
“How wonderful it must be to speak the language of the angels, with no words for hate and a million words for love.” ~The Angels’ Little Instruction Book
I can honestly say that today is not a wonderful day. It is hard for me to be happy for no reason or any reason. Certainly I am in no mood to be happy for you, whatever circumstance in life you may be in. I sound like a person with a bad attitude. You can safely say that I am a bad person altogether. It would not bother me.
What I know for sure is I am my own best friend. No one knows me better. No one can take care of me or can make me feel better. And when I am feeling the worst and need a shoulder to cry on, that’s the worst time for me to seek solace from another. It’s the best time to be quiet, not do anything but know that I am ok. There’s no need for action. What else I know for sure is I am human. In the heat of the moment, all good sense run out the door. And I react and do what I told another not to do. And because I know she had the same, experience I sought solace from her. She was kind enough, soft spoken enough but told me that I brought it on myself.
Can I say that I was a little surprised? She went on to say she was happy to welcome me again but not to bring my drama. I can understand that. Really I can. But I had not known her well at all when she knocked on our door a few months ago with her drama, her tears and plea for help. We welcomed her with hugs, offered her tea and gave her help. Not once but on 3 occasions. I remembered hours on the phone listening to her trouble with the same crazy neighbour. I gave her advice of not engaging with her at all. I told her to seek help from the police liaison. I told her all this, and yet I went against my own advice yesterday. I am human, damn it and I engaged, yelled and screamed. I was so frustrated and angry I thought I was going to explode. I thought talking with someone who had a It similar experience would help.
I had no tears and only want to ventilate. I did receive an ear and some soft spoken Christian lecture of where I had erred. It didn’t understood or comforted but it didn’t anger me either. It was rather sobering and eye opening. I am thankful for the encounter. It made me realize how naive and Pollyanna I am. I am always willing with open arms, tea and an ear to another’s distress. I cannot think fast or see far enough to form judgements to lecture. Soothe first is my motto. I am not sorry that I am a Pollyanna or that I am a feeling, reactive person.
I am not happy that I had this episode. I feel bad, as if I had a psychotic episode. My stomach hurts and my thoughts are galloping in tandem with my erratic thoughts. It’s not at all good for my health. Here’s my advice again on dealing with someone like my crazy neighbour. Do not engage. Do not look at her. You will never win. There’s no winning here. I use win for lack of a better word. And here’s why you/ I cannot win.
She does not allow me to speak. She will talk over me. She even talks over the police.
She’s fixated and hates me and my yard. My raised beds are coffins. She plants pine trees in my/her yard. My solar panels brings down the neighbourhood’s property value.
She is always right. She’s very clever and fast changing stories. She has accused me of giving her a parking ticket. When I asked her how I could do that when she parks in her own driveway, she said it was her mother that I gave the ticket to for parking on the sidewalk. She refuses to bring her mother to talk to me when I asked her to.
She accused me of sending her a letter last year and she still has it. When I ask her to show it to me, she refused and keep refusing, talking over me the whole time.
She accused me of redirecting her mail, writing on them that she has moved.
I could go on forever. And that’s the trouble. Once I’ve engaged, it’s hard to break off. She makes me so angry I keep going back and back, screaming, yelling to no avail but to make myself ill. And I do feel ill. And I have brought upon myself. She is mentally ill. I’m not. She can’t stop but I CAN. BUT there should be something in place so that someone like me should have to be subjected to her antics. It’s bad for my health. The police said that it is not fair to charge a person with mental health. Is it fair to me that she allow to do this to me? It’s going on towards 13-14 years at least. Yes, right. I have to remember I’ve brought this on myself. I really have by thinking less and taking care less of myself than another.
It’s Thursday. I’m a day late coming to my space. I felt so terribly busy and disorganized yesterday. It was better to be flexible and silent rather than stressing myself more by trying to do everything. So here I am this morning. Not exactly fresh but willing to have a conversation. Where shall I began?
I’m on top of the necessary things like paying the bills, etc. I will not have to worry about my utilities being cut off. The property tax is taken care of. I’m sure there will be more bills and they will keep coming. It’s a good thing actually. They are signs of life and activity. The greenhouse is doing really well. The snow peas are loving it in there. I’m harvesting some pods every morning. Our community garden and city allotment are and planted. I was a little angry yesterday to find that someone had stolen one of the 2 squashes I planted Friday. It is a community garden but not everyone is community minded. There are thieves among us.
I am not quite as naive now. It’s taken me a long time to learn that not all gardeners are nice people. And not all dog owners love dogs. They might love their dogs but not yours. Some scary guy at the dog park threatened to kill Sheba one time. He was tossing sticks to his dog and Sheba got it first. I reported him but I was wary of people after that. What was I thinking, eh? that certain people are saints. We are all capable of nastiness and thievery.
Talking more about nasty, I have not been lucky with neighbours. I seemed to be surrounded by strange and some outright nasty people. Some clearly have mental health problems. The one good neighbour has just moved because he could not handle his nasty landlady. I miss having a neighbour I can just greet and have a friendly chat. Is that too much to ask for? Apparently so. Then there’s the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard brand of nastiness and the shootings in Texas and Buffalo. Our planet is none too healthy physically or spiritually. I wonder what we can do.
At present I’m going through the drudgeries. There will be no brilliant ideas or inspirations from me. Life consists of a lot of hard work, much of it boring but necessary. Sometimes I want to take a nap through these periods. I think that is why I have so many piles awaiting for my attention. But I have done the lunch dishes and cleaned the fridge. The fridge was psychologically hard but I’ve conquered that voice in my head, a small battle won.
There you have it – my Thursday mumblings. I will finish my cuppa and tackle the mess in the front yard. It is no longer morning as you’ve might have gathered by now.
I’m sleepless again. After wrestling unsuccessfully with the mattress, I decided to give it up. So I’m here, sipping my Orange Pekoe tea, trying to tap myself into ease and sleepiness. It is about the enigma, the woman next door again. I tell myself that there is clearly something wrong with her. Yet she has enough wits about her to run a business out of her house and a talent to irritate the hell out of us.
The frustration comes from not finding a solution/resolution to the problem. It’s difficult to conduct a conversation, never mind to enter into a negotiation with someone who makes her own rules/laws. Who does not allow you a voice at all. Who talks/yells over what you have to say. Who lies. I guess she could be called a bully.
What has she done this time? It’s the same thing – her obsession that she has rights on our property. She doesn’t like how we do our yard. She planted little spruce trees on our property next to the raised bed that she doesn’t like either. She ‘weeds’ and digs little trenches to ‘drain’ rain runoffs on our property. Somethings are just too small, petty and too tiring to fight over. So I had been ignoring all this before. Then she doesn’t like that we use woodchip mulch because it is a fire hazard. We mulched under our cedar trees adjacent to her driveway. Whatever we use, she would push, scrape back when we’re not aware. So we put up some low wire fencing along the trees to prevent her from doing that. We used black (dyed with vegetable oil) wood chip thinking that it’s the colour of dirt and she wouldn’t see. How can anyone object to that since it was on our property and with a fence to keep them from her driveway?
Of course she would see and object. Today I found the posts pulled almost out and the wire netting laying flat on the ground, the mulch pushed back. I took photos. I am not sure as what to do. I could report this to the police as this is clearly vandalism, mischief and destruction of property. But I’ve been dealing with this kind of stuff from her for years. She is ‘something else’ as one could put it. She clearly has a bead on me and knows what gets my goat. She is very clever in this way.
I’ve also been getting smarter about myself, how I let people push my buttons. I don’t like how bodily reactive I am. I don’t like how the blood and thoughts rush to my head and I can’t think anymore. I can only feel – the cortisol coursing through my system and the feeling of helplessness. I’m here taming my thoughts and adrenaline. This is not a bitch session nor a tell-all. I’m trying to find some peace. I’m trying to find some love and compassion for the woman next door. It must be terrible for her to be so obsessed about me, my yard and whatever. Don’t we all need love and compassion?
I want to end on a positive note with a video of Daniel Champagne. We saw him perform live at the Bassment the other evening. He’s travelling across Canada. If he comes to your town/city, do go and see him. His guitar picking and music are out of this world. I came away from it with total body relaxation. I suffer anxiety and high blood pressure. It’s hard to explain but I suffer a hundred deaths of fright getting my blood pressure check. It’s difficult to feel confident about how well controlled it is. I’m always high at the doctor’s (white coat syndrome). The last visit a couple of weeks ago, I registered a reading of 180/90. Eeeek! I’ve come down since then, desensitizing myself each day by taking it regularly. My reading after coming home from the concert was 108/79. Music is good therapy. I have to listen and attend live concerts more often. Forward, ho!
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.
Yesterday, I talked about how difficult if not impossible it is to mend old fences. Today I’m thinking about how to build new ones. I have to understand first why my fences failed. I don’t want to repeat the same mistakes. They do a post mortem of failed Code Blues to find the cause. I should do the same for my failed fences.
I have been living here in peace with my neighbours for many years. The house on one side used to be a rental. There were a variety over the years. There were attractive girls who liked to sunbathe in skimpy bikinis. I remember seeing the kids from the daycare next door peeking over the fence. They were cute and quiet. There was no angry commotion. Then there was a family with 2 cute puppies. They liked to wiggle under the fence into my yard. The only thing was they always left presents behind. I had a talk with their owners. They were very pleasant and apologetic and the puppies went back to their farm.
Then there was an end to the renters. The owner of the house moved in. He had been living in a small town with his wife. She had passed away. Peter was in his 80’s and had 2 white poodles. They were barkers like Sheba. I didn’t have a dog back then. They would bark and bark at the sight of me. It didn’t matter if I tried to be friends with them. I didn’t mind them as I knew they were Peter’s companions. We got along. We greeted each other. Peter helped shovel part of my snow in winter.
I had peace with the neighbours over the same time period on the other side of me. They sprayed my trees one summer when the worms were really bad. When I told one that I couldn’t open my basement window because of the snow from his driveway was piled against it, he apologized, explaining his father comes over and does the shovelling for him. There was no animosity or paid backs for my complaints.
It’s strange how things changed at about the same time on both sides. They changed with different sets of neighbours. It really isn’t the fences that is the problem. It’s the people who lives behind them. I’m sad to say that we’ve discovered that the ‘fence’ that I erected to cover a small open space in the yard was tampered with. Part of it was bent over so that it was possible for Sheba to escape easily onto our busy heavy traffic. Lucky that we’ve spotted it before that happened. I felt the maliciousness of that intent.
I’m not sure if I have a conclusion or solutions to this investigation. I have not done well at all in the past. I let myself be bullied. I always acquiesced, not wanting to cause trouble. Pershaps that’s my problem. When there’s a fence involved, there’s always 2 sides. No one side decides. Everything needs to be put on the table to be clearly examined, discussed, negotiated and agreed upon. It is easier said than done, especially when one voice is louder than the other. It always command more force. It sounds more right. I’ve never been strong in my stance. I mostly back down, give up and say I don’t care. I’ve never demanded for anything. If I had, I never got. I need more work to make recommendations.
Thanksgiving Monday. Cold and grey. So different from yesterday but at least there’s no snow. I asked Sheba if she wanted to go for her walk. She ran to the door. I said Oh, Damn! I seriously didn’t mean it though. We go for walk, rain or shine. It helps keep us trim and the yard clean. She does her big business on her walks – mostly.
My brother and sister-in-law were complaining about their neighbour’s yard at our Thanksgiving supper last evening. These neighbours have 2 large dogs. They don’t go for walks and do their business in the yard. They don’t pick up. Sometimes the prevailing wind is not kind and the air is like when the University of Saskatchewan cleans its research dairy barn. Whew! Once when my brother was working on the fence, he dropped a tool onto their side. His wife had to tiptoe through alot of doggy poo to retrieve it.
I said why don’t you let them know about it. They want to get along and didn’t want to start anything unpleasant. I feel they have a right to clean air. It’s not an unreasonable request but I can understand their reluctance. I’ve had my share of troubles with neighbours. I’ve had my share of hard to get along relationships. It seems you can’t let people know when they are causing you trouble even if you tell them nicely. Why shouldn’t I be able to tell my neighbour that the snow she is shovelling onto my yard to causing a drainage problem for me? Why can’t she understand that I don’t like her ‘weeding’ in my yard or that I don’t want my yard sprayed with pesticide? And why can’t I ask for more help or cooperation without people disliking or ‘unfriending’ me?
I’m not a difficult person. I have had lots of difficulty getting along. I feel like we live in a society that is intolerant of criticism. I don’t like being criticised either. Who wants to be wrong or be told that they are less than perfect? But I try to think twice before reacting/responding. I have been so surprised/shocked/disappointed by people’s behaviour sometimes that I do react impulsively. Then I am sorry because fences are hard if not impossible to mend. I think I’ve gotten over all that, the shock and disappointment. I try to look at it all as great learning experiences. I used to spend so much time and energy feeling guilty. I was always working on mending old fences and relationships. I try not to do that any more. I want to build new ones instead.
Clouds and Joni Mitchell’s BOTH SIDES NOW had me thinking about the duality in our lives – how nothing is what it seems/what you want. It’s really not what I want to dwell on. But didn’t Plato say that an unexamined life is not worth living?
I really would like just my way of things. That never works so now I must step out of myself and have a different look at the world around me. I never did get along with my neighbours on both sides – even now. Strange how that is when there are fences and walls.
Sometimes it is a very perplexing problem when you think you are minding your own and people fly at you with tooth and nail. After awhile you start to doubt yourself and wonder what part you played. You wonder if you are the crazy one.
It’s not good to think too much about this stuff. It’s good to trust yourself and your own goodness. Enough examination for today. Till tomorrow.
Here I am, a little later and slower than yesterday. Some days are harder/easier, slower/faster than others. It’s taken me this while to show up for myself. Saving the best for the last as the saying goes. But that’s just a saying, not necessarily the truth. Every bit of life’s journey is the best. I realize the truths when I’m here, tapping out my stories. It’s like the times I have coffee with my mother and Tuesdays with Morrie. Stories have the magic of revealing the things we couldn’t see before. It’s in the telling that the lightbulb gets lit.
There are so many stories. Some are easy and some are hard to tell. I could fill a whole book about my neighbours who have come and gone over the years. I’m sure we all could. The thing with neighbours is that when they come and go, it’s often with sad stories. That is how it has been on the street where I live. Somewhere out there, there’s a song about this, I am sure.
This morning I found a copy of a letter I had taken great pains with to a neighbour. I had forgotten the ugly details of our relationship. Reading the letter reminded me it was bad enough that I thought of selling my house and moving. It was that toxic. Most people didn’t really believe my stories. They thought it was me. Some have told me that they were glad that they didn’t live next to me. I took all those things hard and personally and felt very bad about myself.
What I am learning about myself in telling this story is that I had no confidence in my own judgements. I believed what others tell me who/what I am. I see now that I listened and believed too much of their stories. I listened and took in too much of my neighbours’ woes, sadness, blame. Our fences did not put up any boundaries. Their troubles and sadness were not mine but they became mine.
We can gain wisdom in telling our stories. Sometimes it is only in retrospect that we see how silly we are. I was pretty silly, let me tell you! I am but a small Asian woman. I am not all that powerful. I am not God. Yet I have felt responsible for so many people, things, circumstances. It is only now I recognize I must stop doing this. It is funny how a letter can be such a lightbulb moment.
Thank you Ruth for inspiring me to write the letter. I see by it that I was/am a thoughtful and considerate person. I was not responsible for you.
It is morning again, already! The sun is shining right in my eyes. I am tired. My fingers are stiff, the knuckles swollen and sore. Too much work in the garden yesterday.
I have lost my words for a few days. Once lost, it takes some work to coax them back. So I am limbering up these tired old fingers. I’m pecking away on the keyboard, one word at a time, one slow thought at a time.
Our raised beds are all built, lined and filled with topsoil – all four of them. Two of them are planted. Two more to go. They are looking quite handsome but I am sure some irate neighbour will find some fault even though it is on our property. Such is my neighbourhood. I am so envious of hearing others talk about their neighbours and a sense of community.
Not that my neighbours are such terrible people. But I have not felt a sense of community amid them for a long time. I hear their sad stories about their troubled teens, ugly husbands, messy divorces. I tolerate their shouting matches and loud music. They complain about my dog. Sometimes they make more noise than Sheba.
But I feel a change in the air. The ‘hood is changing. Or maybe it is I who is changing.