Note to reader: I first wrote and posted this blog on Sunday June 21st. Oddly enough, things have been VERY quiet next door over the past few days…go figure!
God give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be changed and the wisdom to know the one from the other.
– Reinhold Niebuhr
I would like to share with you something that I am currently experiencing. You can take from it what you like…or you can write me back and offer any wisdom you might have to offer 🙂
I am beginning to realize that when something is bothering me, I pretty much have 3 choices:
1. Accept it
2. Change it
3. Change me
For those of you who know me or are familiar with some of my writing, you may be aware of a significant source of irritation in my life: my noisy neighbours.
If not, here’s the basic situation: from the day I moved in, there has been one noise or mess-related issue or another going on next door.
Whether it was the daily pounding bass from the stereo (that I could still hear while wearing silicone earplugs and headphones), the lawn that rarely gets mowed, the crap-filled backyard (but at least the old fridge is gone!), the screaming (playing, sorry) children or the screech of the band-saw, my patience has been tried again and again.
I have worked on changing me.
I have gone to meditation classes (taught by a Buddhist monk, no less) to try and learn how to calm my mind in the midst of chaos. So although now I can meditate when it’s quiet; not so much when the noise starts up again.
I have worked on adjusting my attitude by reminding myself how blessed I am to be living where I do and that I should be grateful that there aren’t bombs going off.
I have told myself how nice it is that the children are actually playing outside, using their imagination (and vocal chords) rather than sitting in front of a TV or computer screen all day.
I know the sound of children happily playing should be a joy to my ears…and it is – just not ten feet away, every day.
I have even written a play about my neighbours, for goodness sake.
I have tried to enjoy my beautiful little garden while children are screaming and smashing toys next door, as the band saw screams on (which to me, is akin to the sound of nails on a blackboard).
Mostly, however, I have learned to simply avoid trying to enjoy my garden if the neighbours happen to be enjoying theirs.
I have tried to love my neighbours. I have tried to like my neighbours. I have succeeded in being nice to my neighbours. In fact, we get along pretty well…because I don’t like confrontation.
But alas, I am failing dismally at accepting the fact that their lifestyle is not a conducive fit to mine.
I work from home. I am a writer. I need peace and quiet.
But here’s the worst of it: the noise next door, of course, is not happening 24-7. But it may as well be because the noise in my head – my internal reaction to the situation next door – is not only going on and on, pretty much 24-7 these days, it’s starting to get pretty loud and nasty up there.
I recently saw the new Pixar film, Inside Out, and now at least, I have a good visual of the foul little red man – anger – who has a spot at the control panel in the headquarters of my brain!
Although anger has it’s occasional role to play, I do not like it when he’s got his angry little red hands all over the controls…which is how I am feeling, again, about the situation next door.
In other words, I don’t particularly like the person I am becoming, living next door to these people.
Which leads me to the question: what am I going to do about it?
Well, I can’t change my neighbours. They are who they are and I, more or less, have accepted that. But try as I might, I cannot seem to accept the noise.
And since I’ve tried, with little success, to change me and my response to the noise, I am pretty much down to the third option: change the situation.
In other words, move. Sigh…
I’ve been here 5 years now and, other than the neighbours, I have absolutely loved it…the house, the garden, the town, the neighbourhood, the province, the ocean.
Over the years, I have confided in friends and family about the neighbour situation and the number one response has been:
“But if you move, what if you have noisy neighbours there, too?”
So, out of fear, I have stayed put year after year…repeatedly irritated by the noisy neighbours I do have – rather than taking a chance on finding a quieter place.
Does that sound sane to you? Because it doesn’t to me anymore.
In fact, in hindsight, that is an odd way of looking at things. It’s rather like telling a woman she shouldn’t leave her abusive husband because she might end up marrying another one.
But at the end of the day, the choice to not move has been mine – so I take full responsibility.
“You may not realize it, but your life at this exact moment…is a direct result of choices you made once upon a time.”
– Sarah Ban Breathnach, Something More; Excavating Your Authentic Self
The future, however, is wide open. And I suspect the neighbour situation is the catalyst needed for me to make a move…because if it wasn’t for the noise next door, I wouldn’t be going anywhere!
So in the bigger picture, although I don’t know why I have to leave and I certainly don’t know where I’m going to end up, I’m getting a pretty strong sense that it is time to move.
Interestingly, in the midst of working my way through this decision, I came across a blog by Brian R Willis entitled, Dare to be Great, Not Perfect, in which he refers to this insight:
“You don’t need to know what perfect looks like, you just need to know what better is. Use better as your guide.”
– Eric Greitens, Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for a Better Life
I thought about this, then asked myself: “Am I seeking perfection? Do I really think I can find a new place to live that is perfect in every way, including being completely quiet?”
And my answer was no. I am not seeking perfection. But I think I can find a new place that is better suited to my needs. And if I can find the courage and motivation to make a move, maybe there are other exciting new things in store, as well?
There is that old saying that when life hands you a lemon, you can always choose to make lemonade. So I shall do that…it just may not be my current backyard that I drink it in 🙂
As always, I would love to hear your feedback!
Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive Maryanne’s weekly blog, please sign up here.