Dear Angela Grace:
I don’t know what to do. Maybe you can give me some advice? I have a problem with my elderly next door neighbor. Her house is a few feet from our driveway and back door. For the first 15 years or so, no problem, but for the past few years this has become a typical day:
Early morning, I go to my car to work out at the gym and hear (her calling from her bedroom window)
“Hello, it’s early, where are you going? You know, I think there’s a new cat that came around last night …. blah, blah, blah….”
I come home from the gym, open my car door (calling from the window again)
“Hello, that must have been a short work out. You know my dance class is doing a show next week at the Manor House …. blah, blah, blah…”
I take out the garbage: (hearing window sliding open)
“Hello, you know, it’s NOT recycling week. You put out your recycling bin. My dance is collecting bottles for new outfits …. blah, blah, blah…”
I run out, late for work (window again….does she have super sonic hearing or lie in wait?)
“Hey, can you help me put in my earrings, I can’t get the clip in and I have a doctors appointment this afternoon and blah… blah … blah…”
And, so it goes, every morning, afternoon, evening. I’ve tried sneaking out of the house but somehow she hears me. I’ve tried parking my car on the other side of the house. I’ve tried to gently talk with her about trying to understand that sometimes I don’t have time to chat. That was a huge mistake because then she started to cry every time I saw her and asked “What did I dooooo?” Or, “How can I make this bettttttter?” Or , “I misssssss you”, ( blah… blah…blah…) Honestly, I’ve spent the summer inside my house because every single time I’m outside, to sit and read a book, or enjoy the sunset, or whatever, she comes over, sits down and will stay, for hours, until I go inside.
I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who has this problem. My hairdresser is selling her house and, my best friend in Eugene OR is moving for the exact same reason!
I do understand loneliness … but, my goodness, I’ve got to be able to just walk out of my house without constant blithering (a word I looked up that matches my situation perfectly) chit-chat!
Signed: Does Anyone Want to Buy A House?
Dear Buy A House:
Overall, I’d say you are facing a generational boundary issue. Currently, we live in a society that is quite isolated but the older generation is/was very social. Your neighbor enjoys “visiting” and does not recognize that she is actually annoying you. Fifty years ago, your neighbor’s behavior was fairly common and almost expected. It was known as being neighborly. Things have changed and your neighbor is living out her reality based on her generation. She is also living out one of her generations way of communicating by using pressure and guilt.
I admire your creativity in attempting to avoid your neighbor, particularly since she makes it difficult to communicate with her. Clearly, she does not understand how she is affecting you. You are right that some elderly people are driven by loneliness and they overstay their welcome. For some, this is also a problem with people at work who may stop by your work station and talk and chat and think they are welcome anytime, every time. This is not a generation issue, it’s a lack of awareness issue.
It seems your compassion for your elderly neighbor has run its course, even though you understand that she is experiencing loneliness. You are right in your assessment that you should be able to enter and exit your home and be able to sit and read outdoors without continual interruptions. Before you take the drastic action of selling your home as your hair dresser and best friend have done, please consider this old saying. “Tall fences make good neighbors”.
Readers: I wrote this blog as a reminder that we need to check in with ourselves. How do you affect those around you? Are you the neighbor in the story? Are you overstaying your welcome and are not aware? Are you taking relationships for granted? Have you taken time to assess your current relationships to see if there were changes that you have been ignoring?
We live life from our own reality. Maybe take time this week to look at life from the perspective of others. During your assessment, if you sense there is a strain, sometimes just asking your friend/neighbor/co-worker what they would like to see as improvements in the relationship can make a positive difference.