Monday, June 24, 2013

The Lines We Draw


Bending, I press the red plastic bubble that pumps fresh gas into the dew drenched mower engine.  9:30 in the morning and the humid air is already 79*.  A bead of sweat drags a wet fingertip along my collar bone and down beneath my paint-stained tank top.  The wrench of the pull and then the growl of the machine cuts through the bird song and I set out to tame the clover studded yards before me.

I generally do the front yards of both of our neighbors - one whose elderly owner pays me a small amount to ensure its respectability and the other dear friends who have shoveled our snowy walk enough times (making my cold-hating, non-morning self muchous happious) to ensure I will joyfully trim their yard all summer long. 

Yet I am paused on the far side of their lawn.  The edge between them, shared by a white haired, seventy-ish, very fit and able, feminine soul who absolutely refuses to mow one single inch beyond her responsibility.  A six foot span of green between their houses, split...and her three foot stretch immaculately mowed.  The line down the middle glaringly obvious  as our warm, damp summer has amped the grass to ultimate lengths. 

I am stopped.

Standing there beneath the heavy weight of the day, I am....achingly saddened by this visual boundary.  A non-verbal condemnation of lackadaisical landscaping.  (I'm a once-a-week-whacker-of-weeds kinda girl)  The thing is, Ms. Linda and I have a history.  She is the only person I have ever called the police on.  Can you believe that?  Seventy-something and yet with a tyrannical grip on this street that preceded our arrival; but her reducing my boys to tears, threats and orders--the claim that the sidewalk in front of her house was HERS and such nonsense.  She told them they were stupid.   (I merely called about the absolute laws and then for a number which, in my bare feet and sundress, I marched up on her porch to deliver with a "please call this officer if you have any questions....but my boys are INDEED allowed to ride their skateboards down this sidewalk, thank you ma'am.")  But such hostility is so...unnecessary.

I wonder at the lines I draw.  Between myself and co-workers....friends, neighbors....some healthy and needed.  Some out of fear of being hurt.  Some of self-preservation.  Some of exhaustion.  The compartments that make up our lives.  The separation of selves....

I remember standing in front of a class of my English students towards the end of term and (dressed in a modest blouse and black slacks as usual ) asking them if they had any idea how many tattoos I had.  If they knew the last show I'd been to was Tool.  That if they met me on the street on a Saturday night they would never recognize me....because that personal self, the slightly wild artist with a taste for whiskey, is separate from this professional self.  The one that is never late, fully prepared, on point and ready--as they should be in their future careers.  And the moment they let their "private self" dominate...if they bought the lie, "you gotta be YOU all the time!" they would handicap themselves.

I still believe this.

That there is a time and place for every facet of who you are.  The wisdom is in the choice.  Every life needs lines.  The lack of these is eroding some of the foundations we need to survive as a society and I am at a loss as to the answer to that.

However, these lines that are drawn that keep neighbor from neighbor....that tear away at the very idea of community...they crush me.  Perhaps I'll make her cookies.  Can you make cookies for someone you've called the police on?

Should I mow her lawn? 

*sigh*

18 comments:

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Don't mow the lawn. We have neighbors that are like that. They're missing out on having us for friends just like your neighbor is.
As a teacher, I also emphasized to my students that we all need to have personal and professional selves. It's not compromising yourself to act differently in different settings.

Chantel said...

Susan--you misunderstood--which is more to say I wasn't clear, (lol) the neighbor is a good friend, it's the neighbor on her OTHER side that is so...unfriendly. (suppose that's the nicest thing I can think to call it) I just find it such a line of isolation....she really is just keeping everyone out. (which is such a shame as our neighborhood is a heap of fun and generosity) Sorry for the confusion!

Big Mark 243 said...

I wonder at the lines I draw. Between myself and co-workers....friends, neighbors....some healthy and needed. Some out of fear of being hurt. Some of self-preservation. Some of exhaustion. The compartments that make up our lives. The separation of selves....

I contemplate the lines that I draw quite frequently... the morph and change shape, the old boundaries blown over with sand...

Mow the lawn... and set it even, not in acquiescence but in the spirit of being not only a good neighbor but a good human being...

Lyndsay Wells said...

You are so brilliant. And I always seem to read you at just the right time. As a person who works in high schools I completely related to this.

Shea Goff said...

Be the change, I tell myself. Thank you for reminding me, my friend.

Out on the prairie said...

my yard on the farm only takes 10 minutes to mow, the rest is gardens and prairie

Robbie Grey said...

You'd hate my method of yard work; once a week with a push mower, and weed-whacking when I can get the bloody thing to work or brave enough to use the garden sheers.

There's one neighbor we have that is so anti-social he makes me look like a social butterfly. Any overtures I've made-social or trying to be a good neighbor-have been met with a metaphoric brick wall. Mei fei tsu.

Luck with your one neighbor...

Chantel said...

Big Mark--love the image of blown sand erasing ones in the past...nature takes its course.

Lyndsay--so good to see you and thanks!

Shea--you're so right. :)

Prairie--that sounds lovely!

Robbie--a social butterfly, eh? *grin* Thanks for the luck!

Mandy_Fish said...

I do have to be me all of the time. I don't see how you can't strive for that freedom and also be an artist? It's part of the reason I left teaching. It's one of the reasons I like advertising. At least they don't give a shit if I have a penchant for vulgarity and wear jeans to work. I hate pretending. I've been trying to shake that yoke loose my whole life. I don't think I'm gonna give up the fight anytime soon.

Maybe I shouldn't live in polite society? Ha.

FrankandMary said...

I see a sad, tense neighbor lady with a set jaw who very much needs to be ambushed by cookies. I'll bet she is familiar with aching sadness too, but she may not be as in touch with the threads of motives, hurts, etc..~fit & able to look at, but mentally? Probably not. Lives are truly lineless in fantasy only. ~Mary

FrankandMary said...

I've been to a few Tool concerts as well.

Brian Miller said...

its sad...our neighbor on the left is like that...the only words they have ever spoken to us is to keep it down...and dont park on their grass...its sad really...unlike the neighborhood i grew up in...i miss the days of front porches and everyone gathering around one or another talking...letting the kids play....

and was just talking to someone yesterday on being me where ever i am...truth in that...

Chantel said...

Mandy--while I understand what you're saying (as an artist, so much) I still am shocked at how many people today think the bus/store/movie theater/workplace is their living room. There is a difference in manner between your personal place and a public one. (can you please take your calls and cuss out your mother elsewhere? lol) Between close friends and professional relationships. I strive for authenticity in every facet of my life, but I don't reach for the same level of intimacy with my boss as my neighbor. My neighbor as my sister. Those I see that blur those lines too much, end up hurt. (being friendly with the boss is fine--partying together as friends opens dangerous doors) That's all I meant. :)

Mary--"ambushed by cookies," adore that. We would've had a blast together at Tool. xo

Chantel said...

Brian--you snuck in while I was typing. :) We have such a lovely neighborhood--23 children in a three block radius, cookouts, whole street fireworks while sharing wine and laughter...and her door is just locked tight. *sigh* Sad indeed. Being authentic always is my goal; but there are varying levels of intimacy, confidence, & familiarity. I see many these days (mostly under 30) that don't seem to understand that. As these lines blur, their hearts and lives bleed unnecessarily.

Heaven said...

I am glad I don't have neighbors like that, yikes I will be miserable all the time ~ Like that part of lines and keeping your private self private ~ There is a time & place for things & people to be ~ Enjoyed this one ~

Have a good weekend ~

Lickety Splitter said...

Uh oh, I could be seen as the neighbor who doesn't want someone else to mow her lawn, but that's because I like to mow my own lush lawn of St. Augustine grass. I hope that doesn't make me seem antisocial. It must not, because most of my neighbors are very neighborly towards me as I am to them (even the slightly annoying guy next door -- he's super nice, so I try to focus on that instead of his occasional annoying behaviors)

Dee said...

Dear Chantel, Frost's "good fences make good neighbors"--and a fence is a line--can be interpreted several ways. Just think about it.

You wrote, "Every life needs lines. The lack of these is eroding some of the foundations we need to survive as a society and I am at a loss as to the answer to that."
And I find myself so in agreement with you. Thank you for stating what I often feel. Peace.

Chantel said...

Heaven--thank you, and yes: a time and a place. :)

Lickety Splitter--I'm sure that your neighbors recognize your zealous care-taking as a good thing. It sounds like it as having "neighborly neighbors" is about the best thing, isn't it?

Dee--I adore that quote. Boundaries in general, I believe, make for the best relationships. In parenting, professional and matters of the heart...such chaos when the lines get blurred, eh? Lovely to see you!