Anxiety Is Your Neighbor

, , , | Friendly | July 1, 2019

(One of my neighbors is an older woman whose husband died suddenly a few years ago. She fell and was injured shortly afterward, so I volunteered to take care of her dog and do some other tasks around her house while she recovered. Since then, she usually invites me over for tea and a chat every so often. Last year, my father’s girlfriend brought us to the Big E — a fair with lots of different forms of entertainment, vendors, and really good food — and my neighbor called me over a few days after.)

Neighbor: “So, how was the fair?”

Me: “Oh, it was so fun! They had a huge petting zoo, and acrobats…” *talks about the various things we saw for a bit* “I had some really good clam chowder and frozen cheesecake there, and I also got this nice little pack of aromatherapy bottles for my aunt.”

Neighbor: “And what did you get me?”

(I think she’s joking at first, so I give a half-smile and a bit of a chuckle, but her face remains stony.)

Neighbor: “You didn’t even think of me, did you? You know, I treat you like a daughter and you don’t spare me a second thought.”

(She launched into a small diatribe about how selfish I was, while I sat there feeling very flustered, guilty, and uncomfortable. But part of me also felt like this wasn’t fair at all, because she knew I didn’t have much money of my own and that the aunt in question had been a big help when my mother passed away. Her death had also been very sudden, and since I was young at the time, it left me with a few issues, primarily low self-esteem and trouble standing up for myself. I bought my neighbor some tea around Christmastime to try and mend things, but she continued to throw in passive-aggressive comments every time I saw her, even as she asked me for help with things like setting up her new cell phone, and guilt-tripped me if I hesitated to agree. Eventually, I started seeing a therapist, who told me I shouldn’t have to put up with that, and has steadily been helping me become more assertive. I still see the neighbor occasionally — I can’t completely avoid her, since I live at the end of a dead-end street and have to walk by her house just about every day — but I’m at least getting better at turning down her requests without feeling like a terrible person. I also found out that the apparent cause of her change in mood was that my dad’s girlfriend is the niece of a friend she had a falling-out with; I guess she decided to take it out on me?)

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