Once in awhile I take Laurie Wagner’s free mini writing course on Wild Writing. She recites a poem. We listen and then write nonstop for 10 minutes. It’s a good practice. The poem I listened to this morning was Today’s Sermon by Cheryl Dumesnil. The poem, especially the first line ‘is slop buckets knocking against each other‘ really resonated with me. I feel somewhat like a slop bucket carrying everyone’s messy and tragic stories. Sometimes I feel like a mop sopping it up. Yes, I haven’t let go of the things that I should have. I can still hear the words of the neighbour from whom I sought commiseration. I’m still there, not letting go. I was in utter anger and distress at the time.
“Oh, Lily, you are just ripe for her. That’s just what she wants. That’s what she thrives on. I don’t know what I can say but you brought it on yourself. I don’t mind you coming over to visit but don’t bring your drama. This stuff is very hard on me.” A stillness came over me. I guess it was lightbulb moment. I said I was very sorry. She said she believed me.
The strangeness and stillness of the moment stay with me. Why strange? Because this woman have been living in my ‘hood for 20 years. We are in sight of each other but have not spoken or known each other’s names. That is until last year. By then we knew just that much and that was all. She had knocked on our door one day in October, gave us a card and burst into tears. The card was the funeral service for her son a couple of months prior. We did not know him or of him. She did not want to divulge the cause of death. We provided commiseration, hugs and offer of tea. The purpose of the visit was made clear moments later. Could we look after her house and plants when she will be away over Christmas? We gladly did. It was the right thing to do.
Then not long after I received a phone call asking me the name of my ‘ troublesome’ neighbour. She was at the polic station filing a complaint against her. Later, we listened to her long story for over an hour. Then we never heard from her again till late in December with offer of being ‘friends’ on FB. We accepted. Then the day before she was leaving for the Christmas holidays, a text message for me to come over for instructions. It was no small thing what we did for her. We checked her house every day for almost 2 weeks in the cold of winter. She has lots of plants to water all over the house. She just barely got back when I received at text at 11:pm telling me that her daughter had just died. I had not known she had a daughter. I wonder why she need to tell me and so late at night.
I texted condolences the next morning. I did not think it was appropriate for me to bother her at this time about returning the key. I did not have to worry about it for too long. She phoned me, requesting house sitting services again to tend to the tragedy. This time she will be away for 7 days. So how can one refuse in light of this? This was still in the middle of winter. She did thank us through a text message but did not come to retrieve her key as I had requested. I gave her time but in the end I delivered it into her mailbox. I texted her first of course.
I’m writing wildly, without censorship. I am writing wildly for clarity and healing. Obviously I was wrong in the assumption that I could count on her returning comfort and understanding. My drama was only one fold while hers was 3. I’m doing accounting but I am not mad or angry or even disappointed. I am just puzzled by the reception I received from her. She clearly showed me that we all see the same thing so differently. So I thanked her for a lesson learned. After all this tapping and bitching I’ve been doing, I discovered I do like myself. I like being open and vulnerable to others’ cries. I don’t think I am able to tell someone in their hour of distress not to bring their drama along.
I can live with the sound of slop buckets slopping in my head. I can sit with this discomfort, let it slop over onto the page, and or let it splash as art onto an index card. It’s much better not to sit with it. Being a drama queen is not such a bad thing. It’s not some terrible sin. It’s discharging distress. It just might save my life. But the next time someone knocks on my door, I’ll be more discerning. I like to help people but I don’t like being used.