I pissed off my neighbor last week.
He has a new dog that barks in the backyard for hours on end and I had finally had enough.
Instead of calling Newman, I wrote a note and left it in my neighbor’s mailbox. Later that evening, he knocked on my door to return the note and told me that I was immature for not coming over and talking to him, face to face, like an adult. He was on defense and I knew nothing would get through to him in that moment.
While I don’t agree with the way he is training and treating his dog, he brought up a good point about the way I approached the situation.
I am a supreme people-pleaser, so it was quite out of character for me to even write a note. Confrontation is something I avoid at all costs. I’ve always been a better writer than speaker, but I know I can’t rely on writing when it comes to most situations. I need to practice being brave and telling people what I think (as articulately as possible) to their face. I see how a note would seem like a cop out to someone who doesn’t fear confrontation.
This is something that I need to work on as I seriously consider motherhood. I will need to stand up for myself and my family regularly if I intend to be a good parent. The neighbor gave me a chance to do that and while I sort of froze in the moment, I am grateful that he challenged me and made me think about my issues.
For me, the next step is being okay with the fact that not everyone will agree with me or like me. Living as a people-pleaser only limits my grand potential. I can think of so many situations in my past where the opportunity to speak my truth and verbally stand up for myself was right there waiting for me, and I avoided it. I shied away out of fear. What was I afraid of? I feared not being liked, of disappointing someone else or letting them down.
But why do I need my neighbor to like me? We’ve never spoken more than “hellos” to each other. I don’t even know his name. I guess that kind of disconnect depresses me.
If I can’t live in harmony with my neighbor, aren’t I contributing to the disharmony of the planet? In yogic circles, this theory is a very real thing. Even though it sounds kind of ridiculous as I write it now, I kind of buy it.
If I took the time to know his name and converse with him a bit, maybe my first instinct would not have been to write a note, but to walk over there and ask if he could be more mindful of how long he allows his new dog’s barking to disrupt the quiet of our tightly packed neighborhood. Would the whole thing have played out differently?
I know that for situations like this to truly be resolved, a certain level of mindfulness is required from both parties, and two unmindful people is just a recipe for disaster. I really have no excuse. It has been my personal mission to be mindful for the last eight years. I can’t abandon my power of choice now just because I’m uncomfortable.
So after some serious thought, a few days later, I went over to his home and apologized for writing the note instead of talking with him face-to-face. I thanked him for keeping the dog quiet ever since, and told him if he needs anything in the future, my name is Megan and I’m his neighbor.
I didn’t get the warmest response in return, but I can rest well knowing that I eventually got around to swallowing my pride and doing the right thing. And most importantly, I said what I needed to say. I learned that the delicate balance of being kind without being a push-over takes a lot of practice.
Yet another teacher has snuck into my life. I believe we attract the people and situations that will reveal the largest potential for growth. I am grateful for this week’s lesson.
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Editor: Travis May
Photo: Danielle Blue/Flickr
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