Making Peace with our Neighbours
I am, and always have been, a free spirit. Not really a loner but more of a social butterfly who doesn’t like to be bound by structure. As a child, I roamed our family and neighboring fields with my grubby cousins, sister, and friends. I played in mud puddles, built forts, rode pigs, and when I was a bit older rode my bike or drove 4 wheeler ATV’s alllll the time! After high school, I went to Bible College and had my first taste of community in the dormitories – though I avoided being there as much as possible. Rather, I spent as much time with my boyfriend “Gym” as I could, playing on the collegiate volleyball team helped with that a lot;) Playing these team sports throughout high school and college created a kind of structure I did enjoy and thrived in. It was fun and challenging in a constructive way, my teammates and I were working together toward something: excellent individual and team play, resulting hopefully with a “win”.
Out of my comfort zone? Yes, for sure!!!
After I graduated from college I met my husband and together we lived a bit of a vagabond life. We traveled East Africa, South America, Central America, Thailand and the entire North American Western Seaboard from Mexico to Alaska…until…having kids about 9 years later. Bringing me to about now: 2 KIDS under 4, A MORTGAGE, and STRATA LIVING IN A CONDO-AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! Back to “community living,” but now with a bunch of strangers and sadly a few who seemingly don’t want our lively little family of 4 living with them. Out of my comfort zone? Yes, for sure!!!
Picture this: The Christmas season was upon us and another family is coming over to join us for dinner. I have been preparing for it through the afternoon while the kids were stuck inside with me (we live on the top floor of a condominium…no backyard). I finally finish my preparations and venture down the hall to talk to a neighbor for a minute. She is a retiree who does happen to enjoy our kids and while we are chatting they escape the confines of our suite to come and say hello too. Running up and down the hallway ensues and we both “remind” them to walk and not run. After chatting for a few minutes, a gentleman who lives on the floor below comes out from the stairwell nearby. He is fuming mad and starts in on me for letting my kids run in the hallway. I amiably reply that “they are kids” and “I do try”. Well, then he tells me how to parent and that I “need to learn how to live in this building!” Ohhh noooo he didn’t! I had been living here now for two and a half stressful years, at first pregnant with a toddler while renovating…then a new baby and lack of sleep (and a toddler). All of the noise and change not being well received by some of the other residents (which I had already heard from throughout this time), and his comment was too much! I started right back in on him finger pointed and hands moving in large exaggerated gestures, actually physically leaning over my senior neighbor in a wheelchair with whom I’d been chatting forgetting she was even there.
I lost it, my blood was boiling, this man barraging me with “advice” became the living target of all of my angst about living in this building, and even further in a real estate market where we cannot afford to live in a house, a place where I would much prefer to be. I took his accusations and turned them into offenses which I turned back on him placing a very good argument for myself and my children. I definitely made us look like the victims in this situation. I heard my husband come and grab the kids away from behind me – whom I’m sure were watching with jaws dropped – and then dismissed myself from the situation when I heard the elevator door open down the hall. My guests had arrived! I walked to my door and waved them in choking back tears, ug!
Awaking the next morning I was glad that I had stood my ground, not regretting a thing that I had said, but knew that the manner in which I had executed my message was not ok. I knew that I had to apologize. I said sorry to my kids for the way I had spoken to the man explaining that I was wrong in my actions. And now I had to go downstairs and do the same there. Seriously, ug, not easy to do! I told my 3 year old what we were going to do and started downstairs. On our way, she told me that she was going to tell him that he should not be so mean, and that she won’t run in the hallway anymore. I explained that yes that was a good idea but that we don’t really need to tell him not to be mean;) We knocked on his door and waited. He answered and I immediately spit out my apology (I’m totally unable to make small talk when I’m nervous). He was soooo glad that we were there. He then spilled the whole story of his day before and how he had a headache all afternoon and then went into more of his life story over the past year. We made amends and learned a little more about each other, taking us from strangers to acquaintances. It was good. Now my family and I are one step closer to living in a supportive and wholesome community building, perhaps even with one goal in mind…to support and understand each other. Here’s to hoping!
BJ, Jessie, Megan, and Timber Shrag