Sunday, July 25, 2010

Learning about your neighbors

First off, I have to say I had a great day yesterday! I went with R., from my previous post to a grooming show locally. I had never been to one, and though I'm not a groomer, I still found it worthwhile, especially since I know we'll eventually have grooming at the facility. It was also good, because I finally got around to buying a small brush and nail clippers (only have dremel here) for Clover. Clover has learned to not mind being brushed, but nails are another issue.

After that, we went out for early dinner where we talked for an additional 2 1/2 hours about random events. She learned a bit more about me and vice versa. When I got home, I had planned on an evening to just do house stuff. I desperately need to organize my bills, mail, magazines, etc., but I got stopped by my neighbor while out scooping my yard. B. asked if I wanted to go for a swim.

When she asked me this, I about panicked and at first said no. B. urged me how refreshing it would be since it was so hot out. True, it was hot, but if I said yes, this meant I was subject to wearing a bathing suit in front of someone I hardly knew. As I wrote here, you would not catch me dead in a bathing suit outside visibly gardening or weeding let alone while other people were around. (You can read about my bikini aversion here as well)

I decided to take the plunge anyway, saying to myself it was only one person and in her backyard pool. Besides B. said she is not a vain person, so that put me a bit at ease. Before I go on, let me give a little background of B. since I have not discussed her here.

When I first moved here way back in November, I actually met B. the day I was moving. She made small talk, saying she was my neighbor, and if I ever needed anything to just come over. Naturally, I'm just not that kind of person unless specifically invited, but still it was a nice neighborly invitation. I remember even the previous owners of the house had told me about this neighbor and said that they really liked that she was there but never overstepped her boundaries. And she never has at all. We have spoken a handful of times over our fence while we've been outside working, but that's really it.

This impromptu pool gathering was the first time I had really gotten to know her. We talked about random stuff--dogs, her kids (she has 3 boys aged 23, 21, and 19 who all live at home, go to college, and have jobs), losing her job (this was before I moved), etc. But then something odd happened. She told me she was an alcoholic, that she had lapsed since the 4th of July, that she's been going to AA meetings everyday since last August, that she is trying to find a job (this does sound like it is something that would help), that she is journaling, that she is thinking about seeing a therapist, that she know she needs to stop drinking.

The interesting thing is that she thought I knew or had figured out she was an alcoholic. I did not have a clue as I was not around her enough to know, and she had never drunk in front of me. The only thing I ever noticed was that she was forgetful, but I attributed that to just a short term memory--she'd tell me something she had told me, and 30 minutes later said the exact same thing)

I tried not to go too "therapist-like" but nodded my head, commended her for committing to AA, to journaling, encouraged her to see the individual therapist she had spoken of earlier, but mostly I listened. She told me a few other things like how one of her sons has Tourette's and OCD, and how it has been difficult since he refuses medications or therapy. There were some other things she said in terms of figuring out her feelings, dealing with some transitions in her life, etc. that I think a therapist could really help her with.

At the end of the night, she apologized for throwing this all on me, but I reassured her it was okay, and that I'd certainly dealt with similar things, saying that we all have our own issues and inner demons.

Just from my first glimpses of her life she has shared, she is a fighter. I just hope that she will be willing to fight for herself just as she has for those surrounding her. I'm hopeful she'll kick the drinking again (she wants to stop smoking as well--had been for seven years before relapsing) and rediscover herself and her feelings

In the meantime, I think I'll let her borrow my book Drinking: a lovestory by Caroline Knapp. It's always been one of my favorite books. Though never a drinker, it was a book I could easily resonate to eating disorders.

As a side note, I met one of her sons and his girlfriend. I felt slightly awkward since I was in my swimsuit, but at least I was in the water and it was at night, so a little less self conscious for me.


Sarah said...

Wow. It sounds like you were really able to be here for her at a time that she might have been feeling very lonely. I was just telling D today that I felt convicted that he needed to call an acquaintance of ours who is going through a tough custody battle who told us this morning that he was lonely. D was a little worried about overstepping the boundaries of their relationship, but having gone through some very lonely and tough periods in my life I think that it is better to risk "overstepping boundaries" and reach out than to do nothing when someone tells you that they are struggling. It can be very meaningful when someone takes the time to pay attention to you and to spend time with you; it reminds you that you matter and are worth the attention.

I think it's wonderful that you were able to overcome your fears about a bathing suit and spontaneous plans. The fact that she wound up telling you all this also shows that you are a good listener. I'm sure it really affected this woman to get to spend time with someone as caring as yourself. Thank you for sharing this story--it really touched me.

Did you make any decisions yet about last weekend's date? :)

Sarah said...

Oh, and I just read your follow up comment on the dating post. I am that nosy. I'm also very jealous that he's in HAWAII....

Tiptoe said...

Sarah, thanks so much for your comment. I do think B. was very appreciative of me listening, and I was glad to be just that for her. I actually saw B. tonight, so I was able to lend her the Caroline Knapp book. She gave a nice smile back.

I agree with you that sometimes overstepping boundaries can be a good thing and so helpful in the end.

Yep, surgeon guy is in Hawaii. I'll text him tomorrow and see how it is going. Hopefully, he's having a good time.