My personal motto is: Don’t Dance With Crazy.
If this sounds mean or insane, bear with me a moment. I am talking about self-care and forgiveness.
Listening to your gut when faced with a challenging social situation is hard. We don’t want to believe bad things are happening in the moment. However, when presented with someone that shows you unkindness or frightening opposition, listen to that feeling.
Recently, I encountered a woman I thought would be a friend. All the signs matched. She lived close, had a house full of children, and seemed to want community. So began a tentative neighborly relationship.
Then one afternoon, she showed up at my house screaming and yelling about ….well, I am not sure what it was exactly. This woman was out of control. She wasn’t making sense and kept screaming.
Much to my dismay, I was unable to get her to calm down enough to have a conversation. During her rant, I was led to believe her small babies were at home sick. I tried to ask if I could do something but it sent her off the charts louder.
Luckily, my kids were tucked safely in the backyard playing with their dad and didn’t hear the chaos. However, I was physically shaking as I shut the door. My body went into true fight or flight response. I wasn’t just in red lizard brain, I was vibrating red. I couldn’t calm down. I couldn’t get to a place to even breathe; a simple lung filling breath was impossible for several beats.
It took a few days for me to understand that I accepted her crisis as my own. Obviously she was suffering, but it took me that long to understand that her situation was not mine to carry. By physically manifesting her spewing, I was dancing with her crazy.
Maybe compassion is what I should have felt, but I needed to let this person go for my own health. I understood that she must have been having a hard time, but I needed to do what was best for me and my family. There would not be a relationship with this neighbor, but I needed to give myself a little grace in accepting that reality.
Creating a network of people you consider part of your community is essential to your happiness.
We all seek connection. Finding like-minded people produces a fuller life. Having social support and knowing you have back-up in your daily life, that someone understands you, drives a deeper community connection. A vital connection happens when we meet a friend for coffee or take that walk around the block. Knowing your neighbor is there to take your children because you have an emergency hospital visit lets you rest a little bit easier.
This need is what makes creating that community so difficult.
We expose ourselves to new relationships. When you reach a certain age, everyone has a past and sometimes the story of their past just doesn’t match up with your moral compass.
We all look for signs in meeting people whether we admit it or not: the clothes, the shoes, how they are wearing their hair…oh you have toe rings so you must be a little more open. I see a peace tattoo on your ankle- could you be one of us? Wait were you in my knitting class? We use these tidbit signs to consider approaching. It is wrong and often those assumptions can lead to awkward moments; nevertheless we use these clues to find our tribe.
We need to create community, but also must look at the signs for unhealthy people too.
Thus, the motto, don’t dance with crazy.
If someone shows you they are not well, believe them. If their words don’t match with their actions; believe the actions. This is not advocating abandoning your best friend of 30 years going through a rough time, or your cousin that’s mentally ill. It is about finding the people that are going to add to your life, the ones you can relax and trust to take your children. The crazy in your life should match.
Next time I encounter someone in their lizard brain, I hope to take a good long breath, send out good energy to her for 10 seconds, and let it go. I want to keep myself healthy.
A few days after the spinning neighbor incident, another neighbor showed up at my door, dressed in a bunny suit, bearing gifts of coffee and baked goods. She wanted to properly welcome my family to the neighborhood, she said. I looked behind her to see precious little girls wanting to play with mine. “I know it seems crazy that I am dressed in a bunny suit, but my kids thought it would be funny,” she said, smiling.
“Yep,” I thought, “Your crazy matches mine.”