"Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live,
it is asking others to live as one wishes to live."
In my dream, after we left the big city for life in a small town, I was going to live happily and blissfully, without a care in the world.
Mostly, that's true. When the lawnmowers, and the hedge clippers, and the chainsaws, and the A.T.V.'s are finally put away in my neighbourhood and the sublime voice of nature is allowed to be heard, I revel in the peace and beauty that surrounds me and give sincere thanks for the amazing grace I enjoy.
In my dream, I don't have neighbours within my line of sight, so the fellow who lives next door to us is especially annoying with his habit of coming over to visit every time we're outside and, now that summer weather has arrived, we're outside a lot.
We've dubbed him "The Neighbour Who Knows All" because of his insatiable need to regale us with his expertise on any given subject and for his habit of talking at length with little or no provocation. My favourite words of wisdom from this local sage earlier this year was to tape a penny over our dog's hernia. This would, he assured us, make it go away. I'm supremely grateful that our vet doesn't subscribe to the same wive's tale form of healthcare that he does.
He's the same guy who told my mother recently about an estate auction being held nearby. My mother, who is a hoarder, does not need any encouragement to add to her ever growing collection of stuff. Although I'm sure he means well, telling her about an auction is like leading a drug addict to a crack house.
It made me sad to watch her eyes light up upon her return from the auction when she told me about all the great deals that were to be had there. And, when she waited until after I'd gone into the house for the evening to unload her newly acquired truckload of treasures, sneaking them up the back stairs like an addict, the truth of her condition was even more painful to witness.
The tray of wine glasses she secreted away upstairs illustrates the irrationality of her condition perfectly. If there is one box of these already stored in the garage, there are a dozen of them. And, the sad reality is that she is too embarrassed by the state of her home to invite anyone inside, so the wine glasses will languish, unused and collecting dust, on a counter top somewhere because there is no room in her cupboards to store them and no guests to enjoy them with. Eventually, they too will be buried under yet more acquisitions.
It makes me sad, not because she chooses to live her life differently than I do, but because of the pain her choices are causing her. And, yet she seems powerless to do anything differently.
I know, even in my upset, that it's not about my neighbour. I realize, it's not about me either and I'm slowly learning to let it go, to live and let live. I find myself reciting the Serenity Prayer* more and more often and I ask myself, What is it that I'm meant to be learning from all this? If it's tolerance, I fear I may be at it for a long time to come.
*God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can, and
the wisdom to know the difference.