My gratitude and thanks-giving begin with the lovely fact that my immediate neighbors were out of town for a night and a morning.
As some of you may know from reading previous posts, since July when I called them in the middle of the night over my concern that their air conditioner was overheating, they have been treating me as if I am a leper.
They have their blinds nearest my apartment drawn. They have their south facing window looking out at the area where my dog runs and sleeps part of the time, shuttered.
They come and go using their back door, never saying a word to me. They have said things to the other neighbors who also avoid me. The young man in question is a domineering little Napoleon, who has his woman wrapped around his finger.
I do not deserve this and it makes me very angry. We had an amicable relationship for three years; I cared about them and thought well of them.
This situation is especially execrable because I am quite obviously disabled…and obvious to those with their oars in the water, highly courageous and accomplished.
What sort of “neighbor” shuns someone like me?
When our interaction went south, I attempted to get us into mediation and my landlord, in his irritating ignorance of the Fair Housing Act, came down on me and asked me to offer these kids “an olive branch.”
I did. I apologized for “my part in our misunderstanding.”
It didn’t work; they haven’t returned the favor. If only I would move out, I imagine them thinking.
Let me tell you; I have that thought ten times a day. I would love to be able to pull up stakes and leave this hellhole of a so-called community and move to a little remote Calabrian village, where I am quite certain I would instantly bond with little old toothless women who also use canes and know what love is about—I would thrive on the blessed ambiance of being anywhere but here.
Nothing anyone else says or does will produce a change of heart in such endemically self-centered people as my fellow tenants; of that I am convinced. But it is necessary to call a thing what it is– to not tolerate exclusion, rejection, direct or indirect discrimination– especially, to speak out against it. And how tragic that our children are subjected to similar treatment at school, so immensely painful and wounding that the most fragile among them commit suicide.
I remember feeling an elated freedom when my banshee mother, who was perpetually abusive of and rejecting of me, left town with my father and I had the place to myself.
How glorious it was to arrange the living room to suit me and turn up the music. The Wicked Witch of the West was gone. The tyranny was suspended. I was not being monitored and controlled and told what to do and when to do it; someone who hated me and controlled me by her mere presence was not on the other side of a wall, or marauding around the house at night directly overhead when I needed enough sleep to make it through high school.
This has become my working definition of freedom; to live without being owned by others. To be able to be myself– to spread out into my rooms and play the duet from The Pearlfishers, or Anna Netrebko singing Dieu que Frisson from Romeo et Juliette– to sing, write, cook to my heart’s content…
After years of attempting to bond and sustain an intimate relationship with someone, anyone, to be accepted into academic faculties and church congregations and choirs, to put my life together with a man who loves the land and animals, I am done.
I find myself unable to return to the so-called “fellowship” of twelve-step programs, wherein I was viewed negatively and had to wage an ongoing war for my psychological survival i.e. the right to be myself.
I have terminated long-standing toxic relationships including, sadly, those with several family members whose maltreatment I have endured and because they see me as someone I no longer am– the weak, dependent, to-be-pitied person and woman I thought I was, who turned to them and withstood varying degrees of abuse so that I didn’t feel so alone. I cannot endure how I am perceived by them, and I don’t have to.
I have learned that while I may not have anyone else who loves me and wants to be close to me, I have myself. I spend hours in my apartment writing, painting, cooking, blogging.
I’ve come a million miles from where I was in 82, in my early thirties and in a hospital terrified of everyone and everything and especially, myself.
I also, bless his heart, still have my companion Jack, who lives in “our” house on “our” land two miles away and with whom I spend a few hours every day. You could fairly say we have each other’s backs in a bond twenty-one years in the making involving every kind of difficulty. Even so, after years of love-struggle, we are comfortable around each other for only a few hours a day and then we separate and return to our respective privacy, with its manifold routines.
It is perfectly fine to be alone, at 64. I am elated that I am not in a state of unresolved need for anyone. I have built a relationship with myself and I have the delicious privacy of the apartment I have beautified with my very shabby chique paintings and furniture.
There is a pie in the refrigerator I made from scratch, starting with an honest to God pumpkin from the Food Bank. There is a turkey tenderloin waiting to be roasted, sweet potatoes and butter in the larder.
Tomorrow Jack will come; we will toast with non-alcoholic champagne and have dinner and he will amble off to watch TV with a full belly, and I will sit in my rocker with one of my baby dolls, my Golden Retriever at my feet and watch The Godfather for the umpteenth time.
It will not matter that I have dental phobia and my teeth are crumbling, that my right leg is always elephantine and stiff, that my body is wearing down, my eyesight degenerating, my hair graying. I will be briefly content still with the taste of freedom from oppressive presence I had.
I will also have interacted with people I’ve gotten to know a little bit in the virtual world, via the computer monitor, where every day we touch base with each other like rabbits coming out in the moonlight to rub noses and then be about our business.
That’s just about enough contact for me at this point. It makes me sad, but it is my reality. I’m tired of fighting to save a relationship; I must save myself.
That’s what 64 is, on Thanksgiving Eve in 2012. Do have a blessed and peaceful holiday, and thanks for stopping by.