According to the principles of Feng Shui, it’s best to be able to see the door from where you are sitting. So, when we moved into our townhouse ten years ago, I set up my desk beside the window where I could see anyone in the doorway and look out at the treetops, a small parking lot and the homes across the street.
One nice day, I noticed an old man in a folding chair in his driveway. I began to wave at him across the street. And got no response.
Walking through the neighborhood, I smiled at him but…nothing. After six years…yes, six YEARS…he said hello. And then the story gets complicated.
He told me which neighbors were crazy or had bad dogs. He criticized me for picking up “somebody else’s trash” when papers blew across the grass. And one day, as I was talking to my next-door neighbor, he came up behind me and yelled at him. “What the hell are you looking at?” I jumped a mile.
“You do not get to yell at people in my driveway!” I shouted. He scooted away. The neighbor started to complain but I’d had enough. “I don’t care what is going on with you two,” I said. “I don’t want to be in the middle of it.” We drove off, and I did not speak to the old guy for three YEARS. I thought of talking to him about the incident but remembered from past conversations he refused to budge from his dislike of the other guy. He reminded me of all the bullies who scared me as a child. I wanted him out of my life.
But there he sits, every nice day, spoiling my view. He does not respond if I wave. I can’t bring myself to smile. And I really don’t want to wave anymore. My heart sinks whenever I see him out my office window.
And after ten years in this house, it came to me: I did not have to look at him. I could turn the desk around.
Now I face a different wall, hung with a large green and blue quilt I made with fabric I love. I moved a few things around – a file cabinet, my sewing machine and chair.
I look out now onto a row of tall pines and the road beyond.
How simple, how easy, to change my view, to change my perspective – the physical one and my mental one.
Have you ever given up on befriending someone? Have you changed your perspective on them? On yourself?