When I left off yesterday, I had just revealed a typical “Riki’s Rant” gone public via Facebook regarding my neighbor and her insistent knocking on my door over what I regard as a trivial issue. I believe we left off at:
Then the remorse kicked in….
And it did. Really. The first few friend responses mirrored my own irritation. (“She needs a flaming poo bag on her front porch” was my favorite). Then someone mentioned the little fact that Gloria might actually be trying to be helpful. My first inclination was to think “who do you think you are trying to tell me that my neighbor from hell might actually be a nice person?” And then, because I like to think I am a somewhat rational and decent human being, my immediate shame response kicked in. Of course she is trying to be helpful.
This revelation took me back to my own move-in day when Gloria stopped by to welcome me to the neighborhood and give me the scoop on the other neighbors. She was a nice lady, and my first impression was that she simply had too much time on her hands and had lived in this home for so long that she naturally knew all the details. No harm in that, right?
It took time (okay- only a few weeks, but who is counting?) before I realized that Gloria really did have way too much time on her hands and was probably quite lonely too. It started out slowly, with little tidbits of gossip at the mailbox. (No, Gloria- I did not realize that my good-looking middle-aged female neighbor might be hosting a brothel next door. Oh, really? The couple in number 85 is getting a divorce?) It then progressed to the sticky notes on my door letting me know I still had a rogue Yellow Pages sitting on my doorstep from a month ago or that I was leaving my porch light on throughout the weekend.
I kept my polite distance and did not start avoiding her until she became the HOA Nazi. Seriously, this woman had the nerve to come up to me waving the CC&Rs in my face when I had the audacity to change my dead car battery in our private parking lot. (It is apparently against the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions to do any sort of automobile repair on the premises. Never mind the fact that I would be in clear violation of yet another CC&R policy if I left my non-operational vehicle on said premises for any extended length of time). I do believe that incident was my breaking point. It was clear that from that moment forward it would be better for all involved if I interacted with Gloria as little as possible.
I have now had the pleasure of being Gloria’s neighbor for nearly nine years, and up until the recent doorbell-ringing incident we have co-existed almost peacefully. My immediate visceral reaction to her approach, and my personal shame over my own reaction got me to thinking. In a recent post I discussed Robert Green Ingersoll’s happiness creed. Here it is as a reminder:My creed is that; Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so.
How can I turn this incident (and any future ones) around to fit the theme of the happiness creed? After much thought, I believe the answer lies in Ingersoll’s last line, “the way to be happy is to make others so.” This sentiment kills two birds with one stone, as it is said. And thus, the verdict is:
I will ultimately be happy if I make Gloria so.
It seems so simple, but definitely proves to be among the things easier said than done. Again this got me to thinking. What are the actionable things I can do to make Gloria happy? I came up with three little steps.
First, I believe that Gloria wants to be seen as helpful. She has great institutional knowledge of our community and would like to give back. (That’s what I’m determining, anyway. Just go with it). It would undoubtedly make her happy to be acknowledged for her efforts. That’s easy enough. I am usually quite good at giving praise where it is due, and this situation should not be any different. Simply thanking Gloria for keeping me in the loop will be a wonderful step towards lasting harmony.
Second, I believe that Gloria feels that if she is required as a dutiful tenant of our community to follow the dictates of the CC&Rs, then everyone else living here ought to do the same. Of course! We should all take pride in our homes and our neighborhood and uphold the standards set by those residents who have come before us. I am choosing to believe (until proven otherwise) that Gloria does not actually enjoy harping on her neighbors about neglected telephone books and porch lights, so I will take the time and effort necessary to ensure that I do my due diligence in preventing these minor infractions. After all, happy Gloria equals happy Riki.
And last, I believe that Gloria would like to be more a part of the community that she has lived in and watched grow all these years. This will be the most difficult item for me to be helpful with since I am keenly aware that everything Gloria hears is often repeated in some way to another person. While I do not wish to have my personal quirks and habits regurgitated in any way to others, there are probably things going on in our community that I might be able to share with Gloria. For example, we are in desperate need of recycling bins in our community, and I am sure that Gloria would be the perfect person to ask for help in getting that ball rolling with the city. The more I think about it, the more I realize that Gloria’s persistence could be a huge asset in getting the city to see our need, and lord knows she has some time on her hands.
In the end after all of this reflection, I have learned a valuable lesson from this, and I know that in the future I will have the added patience in handling interactions with my “neighbor from hell.” (Please note that I have said added patience and not endless patience). Perhaps she is not actually all that different from me after all. In the end we all wish to be noticed, appreciated, and involved. The least I can do is offer those courtesies to Gloria. Who knows? Maybe in the end we’ll all be happier for it.