Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sting of Words

I’m happy that I can say, for the most part, I have very little conflict in my life. I don’t yell, have big fights, hold a lot of anger against anyone. People have hurt my feelings and I’ve hurt theirs, but those moments have been few and far between… and usually very unintentional.

Which is why the experience I had this past Friday night was so incredibly shocking to me. I would have never dreamed of blogging about it, except the longer I sat with it the more I realized that – like all things in life – there was a lesson to be learned.

I have an upstairs neighbor who has lived directly above me for a couple of years now, who I really don’t know at all. I’ve seen her two, maybe three times in the hallway and honestly wasn’t even sure of her name. Those few times we smiled and said hello… nothing memorable, just neighborly.

The thing is, she and her boyfriend are very loud. In the beginning it was loud parties and loud music, but after some complaints were filed from multiple neighbors those died down. Mostly we all just put up with rude things, like cigarette butts landing on my patio from her deck above or being woke up at 3am from the noise. Annoying, yes. But, being the non-confronter [read: wimp] that I am, I just picked up the cigarette butts and dealt with it.

You all know I’ve been feeling less than stellar, and this past Friday around midnight or so the noise was really getting to me. There was a lot of loud talking, running around… sounding like they were moving furniture. And I was exhausted. I normally let it go, mostly because I have no way of telling her to be quiet. I can’t walk up the stairs to knock on her door. I don’t know her name or have her number. So I walked into the kitchen, grabbed the broom and rapped it on the ceiling.


Less than a minute later, there was a knock on my door and the very angry sister of my upstairs neighbor started laying into me before I got the door propped open. She was literally shaking with anger as she started telling me I was a rude little person... that she has a three year old with every right to be running around if he felt like it, and I needed to back off and let them socialize with her sister. She said they would be in and out all weekend and I’d better get used to it... I was rude for hitting the ceiling, should stop complaining and leave her sister alone.

I know you all don’t know me in person, but I don’t know how to fight. I’ve never yelled in an argument in my entire life. Which means I was standing there, stunned. Before I could literally get a word in edge-wise she said, "Oh, and I have MS. We all have problems. You being sick or whatever doesn't make it ok to mess with her life.”

That’s when I understood the feeling of being sucker-punched.

Tears stung my eyes, I looked at her and told her I was sorry about her MS, that I barely know her sister and don’t have her number to call her, I can’t walk up the stairs to knock on the door and had no way of letting them know how loud it was other than to hit on the ceiling.

To give you an idea of how all of that looked, my lungs can only get about four words out each breath right now… so I was obviously laboring to a degree just to tell her that much.

She told me again that she has been sick, too, and to get off my pity party.

I honestly barely remember how it ended… I knew I was seconds away from crying from the sting of the words. I was very upset, but calm. I told them the way they were talking to me was totally ridiculous, I was sorry if they were offended and that they needed to leave my hallway. I closed the door and locked it behind them. Part of me ended it so quickly for my own safety, and part of me did it for the little three year old who had followed his mom down the hallway and was witnessing it all.

Now, here’s the part where I get to why I’m telling you about it. After I sat down, rather stunned, and tried to process what went wrong and how that could have been so completely out of control, a couple of things became very clear to me. The sister had come to my door, very angry with preconceived ideas about me and my life. A sister that I’ve never seen or met before. My neighbor doesn’t know me… she could deduce that I don’t leave the house, that I’m not out and about, that I walk with a walker and am sick. But she doesn’t know me.

From her words, they assumed I was a bitter person trying to make them miserable. My neighbor created her own story about me in her mind, simply because my life looks different. A woman with a disease of her own glanced into my life, assumed I was an angry victim who believed the world owed me something and was totally prepared to put me in my place. I didn’t get a benefit of the doubt. I didn’t even get to speak. I got the full force of whatever anger and resentment had built up in her life.

I was the instigator that night by not ignoring the noise. I’m sure it did seem aggressive with the bang on the ceiling. But the family had to have talked about me, made decisions about me, made judgments about my life long before that 30 second walk to knock on my door and tell me that me being a sick and bitter person was all they saw.

They were so wrong. And later I wondered how many millions of times in my life I’ve done the exact same thing. I can obviously say I would never treat anyone the way they treated me. It boggles my mind. But I can’t say my mind has never made stupid snap judgments. What did I think about people I used to see in the mall? How did I make judgments about their appearance or the way they spoke to their kids? Did I think someone was lazy for driving their car two blocks away rather than walking, without even knowing if they were able? Did I think someone was a rude person because they didn’t have a smile on their face, not knowing what had happened in their lives that day? Did I get so wrapped up in my own world that it made me feel better to judge their worlds, which I knew nothing about?

That night, I was a complete and total mess until I stopped and looked at it from an outside perspective. Until I looked at it from the angry sister’s perspective. Until I considered that I have no idea what is happening in her life that makes vicious words a soothing feeling to her. As cruel as she was, a part of me is so sad that a person can live with that much anger inside.

I’ve lived through enough to know that I don’t like or need drama in my life. I have wonderful friends in the building who I could call if anything like this happens again, but I’m honestly hoping the confrontation left with the sister. There will be no more ugly words, because I won’t participate. But I will take this lesson from it: the next time I make a decision about someone I will be basing it on who they are, not who I think they are.

As someone who has apparently been judged for awhile now without realizing it, I can tell you the difference can be immense.


  1. Christina J. WerdebaughJune 16, 2009 at 12:20 AM

    Gosh, Sara, I'm so sorry to hear that this has happened to you. I have had similar experiences with people making snap judgments about me and my illness - I so understand how you must be feeling. I'm so sorry. I wish I could live closer to give you a big (((hug)))!!!!!!!!!! I'm glad that you could see the silver lining, and that you understand the power of forgiveness. I hope that their ignorance passes into understanding and empathy for others someday. Again, I'm so sorry. I truly hope that if this happens again you are able to get in touch with someone to help you. You don't deserve this treatment and the stress isn't good for you!! (((hugs))),
    Christina Werdebaugh

  2. Like you were that night, I am stunned. Stunned that this person made you feel a little bad about expecting neighbors to be a little quieter around midnight. Are they sleeping in during the day and maybe you can catnap during the day and catch a few zzz's? When does the busy 3 year old sleep? Ours were always in bed WELL before 8pm so it was naturally a little quieter in our house by midnight .. ??? I don't mean to distract from your point - I'm just stunned at the way people sometimes handle interactions these days.

    Recent blog:=- Briefly...

  3. Wow. But can't say i'm surprised.

    Many years ago i had a neighbor with a son about 8-9 years old. One night 2 AM i heard the voices outside under my window. It was this boy with another. I debated what to do. Knock on the door of the dad's home (i didn't have his phone #)? Call the landlord for the phone number or have them call the dad? Go outdoors & talk to the boys? Call the police? I didn't know the right answer & i called the police. Who did not show up for 2 more hours & woke the parents up at 4 AM, after the boys had gone to bed.

    A few days later i told the dad i had called, emphasizing that i did not know what to do & DID NOT have a phone # to call. I don't believe he heard the last part.

    That was the only time i called the police.

    Fast forward 5 years. The child is often in trouble, & the dad out of control & screaming at the child outside, on the side walk. The police have been to that house (townhouse) multiple times over the years. One evening, having trouble with my own (drama queen) roommate, i was outside discussing the situation with a friend of hers. The police are at the neighbor's place, again, evidently having been called by a neighbor, again. The dad, seeing me there, shrieks at me, "YOU HAVE TO STOP CALLING THE POLICE!!!"

    Some situations have no good answer. Some people have so much anger & other issues that they don't allow anything else to register. Taking a guess, the sister is angry about her own Dx & is projecting it onto you.

    I also hate conflict & do what i can to avoid it. I know that not doing so can completely siphon every ounce of my limited energy. I also am touched by your compassion for all folks around you & that you try to see things thru their eyes. It is sad when people pre-judge us.

    Your forgiveness is exemplary. Are you also praying for her? I'm sure God is using you in a mighty way & will continue to do so, even if you never see it. I too send hugs. Such things are so painful.

    Recent blog:=- Homesick

  4. P.S. I'm really thankful it wasn't a blogger who said painful things to you. When i read the title that was what i feared, as i've heard of it happening to others. Hugs!!! :)

    Recent blog:=- Homesick

  5. Robin~All Things Heart and HomeJune 16, 2009 at 5:04 AM

    Taking deep breaths ... hummmmm. I'm really a little or maybe a lot mad right now and trying to apply the lesson. I'm so sorry this happened. Now I've written and erased 5 things 'cause I can't seem to say anything nice...
    Well, bottom line, your lesson learned is invaluable. The paradigm shift is the only way to let go. (I'm inventing terrible things that the woman may be going through to make her behave the way she did...maybe this isn't quite what I need to be doing.)
    I really need time to shake this off, the Rambo Mom in me seems to want out. Love to you...it's a good thing I don't live near you, that's all I'm sayin.

    Recent blog:=- Turtle Brownies

  6. It's good that you were able to at least try to view the whole thing from the other woman's perspective. But I'd still be upset, I think, if I were in your place.

    It's funny, but I don't much like conflict with others, either. I can stand up for myself around my own immediate family, but I can't do it with anyone else. Probably it stems from wanting everyone to like me, lol.

    The very few times I've spoken harshly to another person, I've regretted it. Usually in those situations, it always turned out that there was something I hadn't known when I flew off the handle, and after the fact I'd find out I was wrong to have assumed whatever I was assuming. Of course, a person can only find that out if they allow the one they are attacking to get a word in edgewise, which your attacker did not. So I don't suppose she will learn any lessons from the encounter. It's kind of neat that you did, though. Good for you!

    Recent blog:=- Family Reunion Photo Share

  7. I absolutely hate conflict also! I think you did the right thing - the end result was some introspection, hopefully on the sister's part as well. That would have been one of those times when I would have thought of the right thing to say about 24 hours later. At the end of the day, all we can do is pray for these people. Hurting people hurt others - sometimes intentionally, sometimes because they simply don't know any better way to express themselves.

    Recent blog:=- Moving On: The last Lucky post (perhaps)

  8. I am sad and sorry that you had to have that confrontation and that your neighbors aren't sympathetic, but so caught up in their own drama as to be judgemental.

    But, your wisdom in reviewing the situation and your grace in thoughts and what you shared is awesome! Seriously, especially, feeling as miserable as you are. I am proud of you, Sara, although something tells me that this thought process is simply who you are. Such integrity! What a light you shine for the Lord!

    Recent blog:=- Amazing Grace Indeed!

  9. What a good lesson for all of us. Once again you've shown us how you have chosen to take the high road. You are one amazing girl!!

  10. what an ordeal! And what amazes me most is that instead of sitting and stewing over it and building up your own anger at this woman and her sister, you have the capacity and willingness to let go and forgive. And to reflect on your own actions and attempt to make yourself a better person. What a great example of Godliness you are! Have a great Tuesday!

  11. Oh honey, this is a hard one to find appropriate words for. I abhor conflict too! I so admire how you have already turned this around to think of what must be happening in her life to make her want to hurt others.

    Its hard to speculate! You are right. The second we start to guess what makes her the way she is, is the second we start making our own preconceived judgements of her.

    At the psych hospital, we would have new admits who were so on the offensive already at trying to prove they didn't belong. They'd curse at us, and throw things and have tantrums, and prove why someone had determined they needed some help! But that was how they operated in everyday life, and they would think their behavior is normal! That is hard to change in someone. They have to want to.

    I'd love to think I could somehow do or say something to help you ;) But you actually did well on your own!!! For now I can only really support you and hope that it doesn't continue. But you'll tell us if it does right? I'm in touch with my inner rambo mom like Robin too! ;)

    Recent blog:=- Just Another Manic Monday...

  12. OK...my Irish temper is HOT right now. I want to come over and kick some _ss. Oh, that's right..it's B week..ok, maybe I could kick some __utt!!! What an incredible experience you have had. Thank you for sharing this with us. You are a gift :*

  13. I love you.
    Praying for your sweet, bruised heart today.

    Recent blog:=- let’s talk politics

  14. WOW!
    So I'm trying to process all the info. All of me agrees and totally understands the 'lesson'--been there!!
    But LOTS of me wants to come on over and open a can of whoop-_ss! on some REALLY REALLY RUDE people. AHH! That is AFTER I put that little 3 year old to bed! WHO IN THE WORLD would keep a kid up that late! SERIOUSLY.
    oh, sorry. Got a little carried away.
    So sorry that you had to endure this. Praying that this does not happen again.
    Once again, you have a much better attitude than I would.
    As always, BLESSINGS!!!

  15. What a horrible, crazy situation, Sara! I'm glad you quickly ended the conversation -- your safety was most certainly at risk -- and though I love you for your willingness to understand and forgive, being cognizant of your own well-being is paramount. Sending healing prayers your way -- have a lovely day today!

  16. Whoa! You are a much better person than me and I am trying to calm down as I write this. Unbelievable...but I pray I would be able to handle it the way you did...something tells me differently, but I can work on that! What a valuable lesson!

    Love to you today!

    Recent blog:=- Repatriation (Part 3)

  17. Oh, how your Mother would like to take care of this!!! But, I'm going to rise to the ocassion and learn from the daughter. She probably has a few siblings who will take care of it for me. Smile. Love you Honey.

  18. Oh Sara I'm SO MAD RIGHT NOW!!! I love that you have a wonderful attitude about everything. You are an amazing person. A much better person than I. Because If I were there right now, being a very confrontational person when needed, I would be MORE THAN HAPPY to CORRECT that woman. UUUGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

    I guess the lesson here (other than the super-nice one you just wrote about): Next time, just call the police instead of banging on the ceiling. ;)

  19. Sara - What that woman said and did is NOT OKAY! Forget the "judgment call"! People should not be making noise in the middle of the night! Period - End of Story. You did not do anything wrong. I'm sure that other neighbors are disturbed by these rude people. Being kind, and thoughtful is wonderful...but it doesn't mean that you should be taken advantage of!

    I'll get off my soapbox now...and go pray for your unkind and inconsiderate neighbors...that they will realize that the world does not revolve around them!

    Recent blog:=-

  20. Absolutely brilliant post. Stunning. I have your emotional make-up. I shrivel with confrontation. You are incredibly wise to think about this long enough to glean truth from it. You were able to get outside your pain--amazingly--and see it from another perspective. Something like you experienced with your "neighbor" could do me in for a few days. Thanks for showing me a new perspective.

  21. Oh my goodness, I am so sorry this happened to you! I live on the top floor of our apt and I'm gonna be more careful about how loud I am now!

    Recent blog:=- Betty Crocker for a day

  22. Sara, If I could reach through this computer and give you a hug I would. If I could reach through this computer and pull that girls hair out..I would.

    No being nice here, she might as well have charged my own daughter with this bull. I am so mad right now, I can hardly think. I had tears in my eyes thinking about you at that door having to listen to that garbage. .

    I wish Riley would have bit her! She deserved it.

    I know you prefer to look at the bright sides of things...but right now...I prefer to be mad....and I so wish I was there. I am not afraid to fight, and I will...just like a mother hen. >:o

    Recent blog:=- Blue Monday : Turning Outdated Glass Jars into Art

  23. o.k. I have cooled off a bit. I guess I did not want Riley to bit the ole' witch, he could have possibly got sick from the bite.....but the thought was entertaining even for a bit.

    Recent blog:=- Blue Monday : Turning Outdated Glass Jars into Art

  24. I AM SOOO MAD!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't believe you didn't call my cell phone!?!?! I was gone camping, but you can bet your a@#@ I would've driven back to put her in her place! You know how you always say you are more willing to fight for your friends than you are for yourself - well, feelings are mutual and I think I could hurt her a lot right now with all the anger I'm feeling. I LOVE Colorado Lady's post - why the heck can't Riley bite the people he's supposed to?!! Too much dog whisperer??? I admire you for being so Christian about this, but no one should EVER treat another human being the way you were treated! Did you mention that you have to listen to them having loud sex night after night after night?!?! Love ya lots. I'll be calling you now! :(

  25. Mary @ Giving Up on PerfectJune 16, 2009 at 1:37 PM

    Sara, I'm so sorry this happened to you. But thank you for sharing your conclusion and the lesson we can ALL learn from it.

    Recent blog:=- Me, Myself & Lies: Week 1 Recap

  26. Had to read the comments as well before I wrote and it would seem the Robin's/Robynn's represented here are having the same reaction. Is there something in a name?!

    My gut reaction is wishing I could rip someone out of their apartment and yell some sense into them. I'm shocked and outraged. But I think your response is far better and a good lesson for us all. Such spiteful, hateful words issue from a heart of bitterness. She is destined (without a heart change) to live a life of rejection, strife, brawling, and anger. MS is the least of her problems.

    I had a similar situation with a neighbor and put up with it for 8 years. We asked sweetly, we asked kindly, and I wanted to be forebearing for Christ's sake. When another neighbor finally said, "ENOUGH!" and called the police, they presumed it was us and didn't speak to us for months. I decided then and there that hurting people hurt people and just acted like they were friendly and still waved and said "Hi!" when I saw them. But I also realized they mistook our kindness for weakness which allowed them to use us and cost our family a great deal of peace.

    Next time, I would not engage but simply let the police handle it. Our neighbor was right and it fixed the problem immediately. I was enabling them by waiting it out so long. GOOD FOR YOU for trying SOMEthing. I'm just sorry it cost you a face-to-face with someone so scary. As usual though, you are looking for the lesson to be had and you are so right here. We do make snap judgments sometimes without REALLY knowing anything. A good reminder, Gitz. Thank you, friend.

  27. Hey sweetie. I am so sorry I wasn't home when she did this. First, I would have called the police and then I'd have come downstairs to try and get her away from your doorway. My big, ferocious guard dog Martini would have chased her away! :) (That was just to make you laugh!) I wish she'd have thought about it overnight and came to apologize to you. At the least, Kelly should apologize, either in person or with a sincere note. Hopefully the mean sister doesn't come back again and the neighbor gets a job and moves soon.

    Hugs to you and Riley. Puppy kisses from Tini.

    Recent undefined:=-

  28. I think I've met this sister. Unfortunately, she can come in many shapes and sizes and can even be related. :'(

    It can feel awful to be misunderstood and worse...to misunderstand. If anything, my illness and others' responses to me, have definitely taught me to give the benefit of the doubt.

    We never know what is happening in another's life.

    I'm sorry this happened to you, but it is good to get the lesson learned. He truly does make all things work together for good...even those terrible distasteful moments we wish we could erase.

    Love you, Gitz!

  29. Well that just stinks. Like you, I'm such a non-controversial person that when I'm faced with controversy I cry. After the fact, I can come up with a million come backs, or hundreds of reasons to defend myself ... but maybe that's not what I should be spending my time doing. Just the fact that you spent time after the fact trying to see it from "her" perspective speaks volumes about the kind of person you are.
    I think that one of your IRL friends or neighbors should write down your blog address on a little slip of paper and put it under her door. She could learn a lot from you and your integrity.

  30. What a wretched woman! If I lived closer, I would so yell at her for hurting and judging you. Not in front of the three year old, though. I'm a little classier than that.

    Yeah, I think I need to re-read your post for today's lesson. It just makes me mad that she was so crappy to you. :(

    Recent blog:=- A Light at the end of the Tunnel

  31. Sara I am so sorry. We all make snap judgements about people but for heavens sake, you were below them and it was MIDNIGHT!!! Sheesh.
    Prayers. And thank you for the insights, and willingness to be open to the other side...
    (I disagree with their 'side' and their way out of line reaction, but I'll go along with other side).

  32. Sara,
    Having experienced unjustified anger and judgments myself, I know the horrible sick feeling that comes after encounters such as these. I also know how easy it is to succomb to rage or self-pity or with you own preconceptions. I want to tell you that the Lord is smiling at the way that you handled this! You did exactly what He wants us all to do: "do not judge anyone so that you yourself will not be judged." Once the accusations start flying it easily can become way out of hand and easy to excuse our own bad behavior. Proud of you girl! You took the opportunity to learn something about yourself and about others also. Bravo. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Recent blog:=- compelling love

  33. Sara, why am I not surprised to see a post like this from you? You amaze me every time I stop in at your blog place. God has given you a great heart and oh I have much to learn. Much to learn. I am not good at confrontation and avoid it much like you. The one difference is that I turn it inwards and let it eat me alive. Thank you for once again being such a great example to us all in how we can turn sad situations such as this into lessons of humility.

    Recent blog:=- Thankful Thursday

  34. wow. thank you so much for sharing that. although it seriously bothers me that someone would treat you that way, i think you are right about making judgments and that we are doing the same thing in judging her back. (although behavior like that is clearly not very nice)
    thanks for sharing this story because i need to be reminded, i'm pretty good at judging.

    Recent blog:=- the remembrance of it.

  35. Thank you, thank you for that post today! Oh, how it opened my own eyes and made me think about how many times I have done the same thing. I love visiting your blog each day, because each post you write is a blessing! (Now, if I could just win one of those lovely paintings!!)

    Praying for you!

  36. How awful for you! I'm so sorry! Next time, sic Riley the attack dog on them! (Isn't the mohawk supposed to mean he's tough?!)

    I onced judged someone as being a goofball and an idiot...3 years later I married him!

    Recent blog:=- Growing Up

  37. Before I forget, Gabe's camera is a Nikon D50. And he uses Aperture (software) to adjust the pics some before I post them.

    Did you ask something else too?

    Recent blog:=- let’s talk politics

  38. Whoa girlfriend that's a ridiculous response to a knock on the ceiling - it was made even worse in my mind after reading Suze's post about the raucous sex. OMG! However once again you amaze me with your ability to turn clearly an attack on you to a reflection upon yourself and life lessons/observations. All of which are so true. As a mother I resolve to never act that way in front of my child (okay my irish temper really can't say I've never overreacted to a situation)but more importantly to teach my children the most important lesson in this post which is to not judge others. Sending you a big hug and lots of love, Sarah

  39. So sorry that you had that experience. I think you are right that her preconceived notions, which were made through things she had heard, as well as whatever her state her life was in that day all came together for that mad moment. It makes me think not only about your point about not judging people quickly but also when someone comes at you considering where they are in their life. I think that way it is much easier to forgive if you walk a little while in their shoes and understand why they completely lost it. Of course it doesn't make someone doing something wrong, right, but it does help me forgive.

    Recent blog:=- TOUCH

  40. sweet lady...I am so proud of you. You took the high road. I wanted to take the low one FOR you just now. You've heard the real meaning of "assume" right? Take the word apart...that is what she was doing to her sister and herself. I have "issues" with people who assume all of us handicapped are angry, alone, resentful people. You showed the entire building it was not true by turning a horrible situation on its ear and not participating in it. You gave that three year old a gift, showing him/her that illness doesn't have to be scary or mean or angry all the time. I am proud of you. I am so sorry you hurt. I wish I could take it from you.

  41. ummmmmmmmm, the MAMA BEAR IN ME is alive and kicking right now. SERIOUSLY. And while you are a WONDERFUL person for seeing the lesson in this so quickly, I would just be seeing red....as I am now. ;-) Your lesson here was spot on however....I think about that a lot. The snap judgements I make about other people, the ones made about me. It makes me sad to think that your neighbor has done that and spread it to someone who was never allowed to form her own opinion of you before actually meeting you.

    And you were seriously a MUCH better person than I would have been. Seriously. :-E

    Recent blog:=- Getting Out Of The Way

  42. I can't believe what I just read. I am just fuming right now and don't even know how to respond. Again, you amaze me in seeing the lesson in this horrible encounter. To see it from their perspective truly reflects the wonderful person you are. I can guarantee that any of us would have been there in a heartbeat to kick some a@#! Nobody, especially you, deserves to be treated the way you were treated. I am literally shaking with anger right now! It is so unfortunate that so much anger and selfishness is dwelling within themselves. You are right, they DON'T EVEN KNOW YOU, and made assumptions about you that definitely are not true. We all judge some time or another, but to choose to act in such a way, in front of the child, is infuriating. I am so sorry this happened to you. Continued prayers for you and your neighbor situation.