On the one side, we have a retired couple. She is an avid gardener, with a magazine worthy yard. He, too, spends much of his time outside tending to the garden, or sitting in the sun. They are a friendly sort of people, very quick to say, “hello.”
They have many cats, just like we do, and will talk to our pets as they see them.
They are also particular about the way things are done – and I always seem to get it wrong. It isn’t them. I know that. It is me. I don’t belong.
Beside them, I feel inadequate. I walk outside, and they are very often there, and I just want to run and hide.
So I plant – because I must – but when it comes time to water, or weed, or even harvest… I often just can’t. Not them. Me. But here I am beside them, and I don’t belong.
Three other houses. One across the street, another two doors down, another diagonal from me. Years ago I watched their children in my daycare. It was a good time, and I think I did a decent job. Then I tried to adopt – with a lot of encouragement from them both before and after placement.
When I had their children in my care, or after, when my children played with theirs, things were okay. They are all very friendly, very social people – but I had things to talk about with them, and nervous as I always was, I did okay.
Then my children were moved, and I was ashamed. I stopped talking. I barely said, “hello,” when I passed them on the street. For years I was bent low with depression and shame, and unable to speak. Now I don’t know how. When we haven’t that in common, what can I talk about? So now I see them. Outside. Visiting with each other. Succeeding in a world where I have failed. Belonging. I don’t belong. I hide.
Surrounding our home are perfectly manicured, nicely landscaped, well decorated, well cared for homes belonging to teachers, doctors, nurses – successful people.
We are the odd house out. My husband and son either don’t notice, or don’t care. This is our house. So what if it isn’t like the others… but I care. I care so much it hurts.
It isn’t them. It is me. I can’t do it. I can’t fit into their world. So strongly aware of an environment in which I don’t belong. Friendly faces full of judgment and hostility that they don’t know I feel. So strong. So loud. So painful. I don’t belong here.
So I hide in my house, as I always have before. I design houses, and dream of moving – as I always did before when the neighbours felt so close, and I felt so inadequate next to them. Now that we own, it isn’t so easy to move. I have never stayed in one place so long before.
So close to others, my own inability to blend in stands out so loud to me, and I cannot ignore it. That is the trouble with neighbours. It isn’t them… it is me. And I wish I was anonymous in this world that is so full of people. Invisible. Apart. Alone.
I cannot grow when I feel them so close to me. Paralyzed by fear, I hide away, and pray that one day I will find a place of my own where I can be alone outside.