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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

One of These Days I'll Be Proactive

A family finally moved into the house across the street. The previous owner was a single guy who bought the house two years ago, planning to marry someone with kids. Those plans fell through. The result was a poorly kept yard with a statue of St. Francis that bothered me more than I like to admit, and a mostly empty house that took a long time to sell. Now, there are kids, one in 5th grade like my 5th grader, and one younger, and the parents are about my age. Knowing how miserable I felt when I moved here, I baked some blondies with the kids and brought them over to them when they moved in. Then, the first day of school, when the mom, let’s call her Lulu, cried when her children boarded the bus, I  invited her over for tea. I felt all “I did a mitzvah” for inviting her, while also thinking that I didn't want to be too friendly. Because. Uh. Because maybe being friends with the neighbor across the street is just too "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and could get awkward.

So, the other day we’re chatting, and she tells me she was walking her dog and ran into Mandy (let’s call her), who lives nearby. Now Mandy’s another mom about my age, and she’s got three kids, the youngest of whom is in 9th grade, like my 9th grader. Mandy and I have chatted from time to time, and she’s even offered me some good advice, but that’s about it.

Well, readers, when Lulu mentioned that she’d chatted with Mandy for nearly an hour, and how nice she is, and so on, I got this weird feeling in my gut. Lulu is from California and has this laid-back vibe and blonde hair. But this isn’t about looks. It's not really about Lulu. She’s just another rumpled mom at the bus stop in the mornings. No, what this is about is community. As in, how important it is to me, and how hard it feels to build. I felt this uncomfortable feeling, and the uncomfortable thought that followed it was, Oh, no, she’s going to make friends with Mandy before I do. In fact, I realized I was thinking that she was going to make friends with all the neighbors faster than I have, and better. Most of the neighbors, by the way, are older, with grown children, so the ones my age stand out. Also, because most of the neighbors are older, I guess I’ve felt like they’re not really potential friends, and that anyone around my age who is a potential friend will be around, available, to become a friend, eventually. One of these days.

One of these days. 

Now, we’ve lived here for three years. After talking to Lulu, I realized that I’ve been meaning to ask Mandy if she wants to take a walk or meet for tea or coffee one of those times we run into each other, one of these days. For three years. 

I guess I’m a little standoffish. I'm not exactly shy, but I am uncomfortably aware of being the intrusion into everyone's all-set-up lives and how much effort it takes to let in someone else, so I just kind of hang back.

This hanging back recalls my previous post on my curious lack of proactivity in some regards. I mean, what am I waiting for? After all, I am the “new” one on the street, so I should have to make a little more effort. Furthermore, what kind of sense of time do I have that I can be intending to run into Mandy for THREE YEARS? I mean, if I don’t do something specific and intentional now, it ain’t gonna happen. Then Lulu moves in, with her own desire to meet new people, and what I’m feeling, that uncomfortable feeling, is competitiveness.

Luckily, I happen to have lying around The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey, Stephen Covey’s son. Yes, I am reading a book written for teenagers. And yes, it’s speaking to me in some ways. (I never claimed I was mature.) I’ve been reading it because another mom recommended it and was reading it and leaving it lying around her house in hopes that her teenager would read it. I happened to leave my copy lying around because I’m a slob, and in fact, my teenager did read it. She read it before I did, and seemed to like it. In fact, she announced after reading it, that she had planned her week ahead of time. (Habit #3—Put First Things First.) But I digress. Anyway, the book has a nice bit about competition. If you recall from my previous post about my dismal performance in the potato sack race at the Green Acres School Fair, I haven’t always had the healthiest relationship to my feelings of competition. I’m coming around, though, and Covey helps. Competition can be healthy and good, he says, when you start with a strong sense of who you are. It can be an inspiration and a goad to move you towards your goals. If you’re starting from insecurity and low self-esteem, however, competition can be a nasty force. Covey says, “Competition is healthy when you compete against yourself, or when it challenges you to reach and stretch and become your best. Competition becomes dark when you tie your self-worth into winning or when you use it as a way to place yourself above another.”

So I ask you, readers, what does it mean in this situation? I’ll tell you what. Now that Lulu has chatted with Mandy, I’ve looked at myself and realized I need to be proactive in building community. Time’s-a-tickin’, as they say. I can afford to have a more urgent relationship to its passing. Instead of intending to do something one of these days, I could actually do something concrete to promote the connection. I could drop a note in Mandy’s mailbox suggesting we get together. I could pay attention to the competitive feeling and use it to spur me to action.

So yesterday when Lulu mentioned how much she misses her friends in California and the girls’ night out dinners they used to have. I thought to myself, hey, maybe it’s a little risky with the across the street neighbor, maybe we really won’t get along all that well, and maybe things could get awkward. Maybe not, though. If I don’t try, I’ll never know. And if I wait for three years, maybe I’ll wait forever. So I told Lulu that I wished I had a group of women to get together with for girls' night out, and she said, “We should do it.”  Then I suggested we invite Mandy, too. 

1 comment:

  1. One of these days I'll go back to not engaging in competition with younger, more capable (in certain areas) women. I like myself so much better when I'm being the older, wiser mentor who doesn't feel the need to show them up. But I can only do that when they're not trying to take my job. Because once they've crossed that line, I take that as a declaration of war.