We live in a townhouse neighborhood. It is quiet, clean, and really diverse, which we love. You will find a little bit of everything: Christian and Muslim, gay and straight, young and old, white and black, Asian and Latino, African and Eastern European.
I like that the neighbors know my kids and the kids feel safe there. I like sitting on my stoop and watching the little ones explore the woods in the middle of our expansive cul-de-sac, or playing hide and seek with other neighborhood children. We don’t have a dog, but many neighbors do and we all get our “dog fix” by playing with neighbors’ various pooches (of which there are many.)
Although our little townhouse needs some TLC (more like, a lot!) I like it all the same and our small garden with a few native plants attracts bees, butterflies, and an occasional hummingbird.
If it sounds like a perfect little community, let me just clarify that it is NOT. And I am thinking that a perfect community would be so easy to build and maintain if it weren’t for one thing: other people.
I love the idea of a close-knit community. I totally dig what Jesus was teaching to love your neighbor as yourself. I am all for that.
But living in close proximity to many other humans is HARD.
I may meditate and read inspirational texts all I want… yet, as soon as I step out of my house, my equanimity is severely tested. All my pet peeves surface and I just want to run for the hills.
There are those party people who were doing fireworks in front of our tiny townhouses and my daughter got burnt and stuff on our deck also had holes burnt through it.
There is the neighbor next door, ceaselessly dumping chemicals on her front lawn in hopes of once and for all conquering insect and weed populations (our yards are sloped so it all ends up being washed down onto our yard, which, to me, means a sad farewell to my organic tomatoes and basil…)
There are the clashing child rearing philosophies: those other parents, preventing their kids from playing with rocks and sticks in the woods in the name of safety and furnishing them with plastic guns instead.
There are the dog owners that will take their dogs for poop walks in others’ front yards instead of the wide open shared spaces that we have…
I am well aware that to some of my neighbors, I am THAT person: pretty much free-ranging our young kids, who keep dragging sticks, rocks, pine cones and other treasures to our yard. Cultivating a wild mix of glorified weeds where others would like to see neatly manicured boxwood plants (my milkweed and echinaceas are magnificent). Not keeping our lawn to the HOA precise specifications… (my husband does mow it, but there are occasional outbreaks of dandelions or clover. And I will not be persuaded to use herbicides, no siree!)
So, what do I do with this instinct to run away, buy a farmhouse somewhere far away and live peacefully ever after not disturbed by our fellow humans?
First, I do a reality check and realize that as much as I would like to pack up and leave, there is no way that this could work in terms of finances and jobs and kids’ access to various things that they need (such as a decent school).
So, I go back to meditation and those inspirational texts…
It helps a little.