Friday, May 27, 2011

A Cornucopia of Growth Opportunities

A few days ago, I saw something that caught my eye: a note on the neighbors’ garage saying to pick up the trash in the alley. Did that mean it was now possible to walk through that alley? Sure enough, the grilling neighbor has cleared out the alley and the trash picker-uppers can now walk through it. In fact, there is only one thing visible at the end of the alley I can see from my kitchen window, and I know I don’t have to tell you what that one thing is.

Now, my truly very pleasant letter mentioned that the fire marshal says grilling must be done at least ten feet from any structure, and that the fumes were miserable for some of us, but it also referred to the stuff stored near the grilling site. I suspect that by the time the letter’s contents were fully processed by the neighbor—and this, though irrational, is highly human—he concluded that grilling would be perfectly fine if only the stuff was out of the alley. Though he’s still inches from the side of the building and it’s still going to stink.

Ai yi yi.

Well, these are obviously where some of my ongoing opportunities for growth lie: my building manager, grilling, smoking, and the phone company. Oh, and a few things at work, of course.

One thing I’ve done over the past year or so is identify some categories of things I’m not going to contend over. One is noise. Using earplugs is not ideal. It can be uncomfortable, but in the service of reducing conflict, I’ve decided that, except for the most extreme cases, I will simply use earplugs and be done with it.

Things are also largely fine with the building manager, not to assume that will always be so. In addition, I virtually never have conflict while getting around by bike these days, which is something I used to have a lot of. But challenges definitely remain.

One recent day was particularly awful. My phone has been broken for a while, so I did sign up for WirePro, wait a decent interval, and call to make a repair appointment. Needless to say, the phone company never showed up, and in the course of the day, I completely lost my temper about ten times. I was rude, I was sarcastic, and for the grand finale, said “F*** you” to a phone company employee. Obviously, I’m not proud of this, but I recount it as a public service, so that everyone who has never done such a thing can feel even better about herself or himself.

That very same day, I was dealing with another situation where something I had bought turned out to be damaged. Fortunately, I kept my temper in that situation, though as the day wore on, my emails on the subject became increasingly detailed, emphatic and lengthy. However, when I reread the correspondence later, there was nothing I felt bad about, though at the end of it all, I apologized for getting tense, anyway.

About 3 p.m., I was screaming and yelling at someone at the phone company for the nth time and writing emails regarding the other thing when I heard something happening in the back yard of my own building. Something was being delivered. What was it? I think I don’t need to tell you what it was.

The universe was obviously messing with me, sending yet another grill into my life in the middle of such a colossally terrible day. I had to laugh, or at least smile wanly.

However, this wasn’t a charcoal grill. In fact, it was the very thing I suggested years ago that the building manager get: a propane grill. This is fine. That very evening, she and a friend or two used it, and all I could smell was whatever they were grilling, which smelled good. Yes, they will probably sit out there from time to time making a racket until 2 a.m., which merely means I will use earplugs.

As for the next-door neighbor, I’m somewhat back in problem-solving mode, though there may not even be a problem. I haven’t observed any actual grilling. Grilling is in the imagined future. I’m thinking a bit about what the options might be, but there’s nothing to do right now, and maybe there won’t be.

One thing I considered is: What if I were Anne Frank? Did Anne Frank burst out of her hiding place and say, “My good man, put out that loathsome cigar at once!” She did not. Whatever happened, she had to put up with it, and I can choose to do that, too. That’s on the spectrum of choices.

To put it in Rapid Relief from Emotional Distress terms, I accept that there has been grilling right outside my kitchen window and that there may be more of the same in the future. I choose to be happy, to enjoy my life, to have good relations with my neighbors, and to have an apartment that is nearly or entirely free of noxious fumes.

Now I get to think about the choices that may lead to achieving those goals.
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