I have previously described my sense of staying in line based on what the neighbors would think. At that time I happened to live in a different neighborhood. Quite honestly, the neighbors, were pretty low key and laid back- I was probably more worrisome as an anxious, high-alert mother, wife and neighbor, tense and wary. The move has done me good. I have regained a great deal of my former self, as in 20 years former, and have become quite neighborly. I have since come to realize a few things of note: 1) The “neighbors” are all embroiled in their own flawed activities hoping that their neighbors aren’t paying careful attention or not really giving me a lick of attention. 2) It is our individual duty and right to do at least 1 , or perhaps 27 or so out of character activities to keep the neighbors guessing, stay in our game, or simply have something to giggle or snicker about in our later years, and 3) We need to keep in mind that we can always move and get new neighbors, so we really owe it to ourselves to find out what makes us happy, alive, fulfilled, and live in a way that is true to that vision. I personally think it’s important to be mindful of others and try not to hurt anyone in the process, but not everyone feels the same or can readily assess what behaviors are hurtful to others. For the most part, choose your activities kindly when you can. Be a bit neighborly.
Today I had to take another loooooong look at my own private NEIGHBOR Clause. Evidently, I have some residual “always where clean underwear” issues. And I have to say, that seems to correspond directly to worrying about those stinkin’ neighbors. Not just next door proximity, but community range neighbors. I realized this as I was insanely cleaning my house this morning, before going to my doctors appointment, a quick breakfast meeting with a friend and colleague to check in on the progress of a project we have undertaken, followed by a day of work, and a trip to Albany to exchange my son and car for a one way ticket back home to continue cleaning and packing. (Said son, car and daughter will be back later this evening after enjoying a very special birthday gift.) The packing is related to vacation plans. Packing will continue, sleep, and a little frenzied searching for travel type accoutrements.
So, this is how my travel plans go: months of peering through travel books, brochures and search engines that lead to hotel bookings, car rentals, restaurant recommendations, event or destination targets. This part is fun, really. I know it isn’t for everyone, but for me it builds the excitement or maybe, takes some of the stress away- by the time I get to a new destination, I can quote historical facts and make my way toward numerous historical landmarks, forts, and $restaurants. I can stay away from $$$restaurants or cross the street as I approach them, or look longingly at them and wonder. The studying is followed by the booking, and then the laundering, shopping, packing, rearranging and changing the packed items, losing itineraries, reprinting boarding passes, etc, and so on. And then the neighbor thing happens. It takes hold. My traveling companions wish they had cash money to take the train, bus or ferry far away and in a different direction from my overly planned destination.
And here lies the problem, before I travel far and wide, or go away for a weekend, I clean. Not just tidy. This is when my very best cleaning occurs. Serious company cleaning. Floors swept and mopped, baseboards scrubbed, laundry done, refrigerator cleaned out, closets organized, papers tossed, carpets vacuumed and washed if needed, and bathroom scoured. Why?
While its true that packing generally turns the house slightly upside down, it’s really only slightly turned askew from general everyday living. So, with traveling comes risk. With risk comes fear. With fear comes exaggerated actions to either release stress or attempt to gain control. The cleaning comes from the fear that if the plane goes down, the car crashes, or the hotel goes ablaze, when family, friends and two-bit neighbors come to “help” in this time of my imagined end or long term crisis, they will not see me in my dirty old bloomers, or with an unkempt home. Their impressions of me will not be soiled by dust bunnies or grime. The growing green projects in the refrigerator will not conjure images of me. The next time they see the spider webs or bathroom scum around their own bathtubs, they will remember me fondly and wish they were able to juggle life as well as I had.
If nothing else, when I return, tired, exhausted, excited, my home sweet home will be waiting for me. When I rest up, the neighbors can come right over and hear stories of my latest adventures.