A Lesson in Turrets

Edinburgh Castle Turrets

Thwack!

“Mooooooommmmmmyyyyyyy! He hit me in the head with a snowball!”

Much wailing ensued.

Then the inevitable retaliation.

More wailing.

It was dusk and we were having a family snowball fight in the fading twilight with the remnants of the morning’s blizzard. It had been great fun at first but as invariably happens with this sort of thing, someone always gets hurt.

So we threw the last few snowballs as the kiddos wiped away tears and then headed back inside for bedtime baths.

That was when my phone rang.

It was a neighbor.

“I just wanted to check on you! I heard a lot of screaming and ran across the street to your back gate but then decided that might not be a good idea, that you might think I was being too nosey.” Strained pause. “I was worried because… well… you know.”

Oh.

It is coming up on a year and just when I thought I was working through the anger and shame…

There it is again.

I appreciate her concern on some level. I know she is not being malicious, per se. She understands that I would not ask for help, that she would have to elbow her way into my life and force herself on me.

I am too proud.

But it still feels strange. Intrusive. Painful.

We are not close friends. I was her parent’s physician before they moved out of state, and that fact has always seemed to blunt any possibility of friendship. Mixing the professional and personal has hung awkwardly over our heads even though those parents are long gone from the picture. It is so much deeper than that now, though.

He very nearly drank himself to death.

She was the one who went with me to the hospital, watched me cry as I had to tell my parents what happened, when I had to swallow my pride and beg them for help as my board exam loomed in a few days. When I see her or talk to her it is a reminder of that horrible, terrible time. A reminder that this will hang over our heads forever.

That I am not perfect. That my life is not perfect.

I want to ask her for a lead on a baby sitter so he and I can go to the opera, but I am afraid that she would refuse to recommend anyone, because… well… you know.

And so I don’t.

We awkwardly chit-chat and then hang up. I don’t know what to say to her anymore. So I build those walls higher and higher and push people further and further away.

It is lonely but safe… 

The stone walls do not judge me.

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111 thoughts on “A Lesson in Turrets

  1. I can see where that would be awkward. As you mention, it’s difficult enough to fuse our professional and personal worlds. But to do so under those circumstances would be even more challenging. But at least you know you have a neighbor you can count on in a pinch. Though I understand how difficult it can be to ask for help.

    Liked by 4 people

      • After I delivered my second child, I had a patient and her mother bring a homemade meal to my home for me to heat up that night. It was so thoughtful of them, but I felt ever so awkward having a patient (well, the mother and grandmother of my patient) in my home. It’s like I felt I had to make sure everything was perfect and tidy when they came. At a week post-partum. With another toddler at home. But I knew it was my issue, not theirs, and all these years later I still remember their kindness.

        Liked by 8 people

  2. Oh my – I am so sorry for what you went through.

    I don’t know if this helps, but I have found I would much rather have the nosy, well-meaning neighbor than the “Not my business, I’m not taking sides” neighbor. One type will help when you need help without you having to ask, and the other will not help even when you DO ask. But in the meantime you still have the well-meaning, nosy neighbor checking in on a false alarm. I hope you are correct that this person is well-meaning and is not gossiping behind your back!

    All that being said, I don’t have anything very helpful to say, being not very good with maintaining social connections myself.

    Except internet hugs – those you can have. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Not sure i want to push “like” on this one…with there were other buttons we can push sometimes…for example…”You rock”, or “I appreciate your transparency,”..etc. DM

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Assuming that this is a ‘true’ post and that I know practically ‘nothing’ about you and that I am not a degree holding member of any psych branch, I’ll just leave my $0.02 here: It sounds like your discomfort regarding the past (thus, not having had a dialogue with her) is perpetuating your neighbor’s idea/attitude based on her (only?) experience with you (your family). In short, if she has nothing else to base her ‘judgments’ on except that one experience, you need to (break the silence and) take the initiative to change things. In her defense, how is she to know what’s going on/changed in your home/life? Not that it’s her business but it does make things awkward. It’s none of my business either but that was my initial ‘reaction’ to your post.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. It must be so tough that she knows so much about you. It seems to me that she also feels awkward, but at least she is still watching out for you, As you know, we all have our skeletons in the closet, it just so happens that she has seen yours. However it didn’t scare her away.it seems, and she would be there for you again if you need her

    Liked by 7 people

  6. I agree with Karyn above. You can use this to clear the air, actually. To let her know that you and your husband have battled his demons. She and/or members of her family may have the same demons, or other similarly humiliating ones. Everybody does.

    She really does sound like someone you want to have on your side.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I live in a small village… and I don’t have ancestors buried here, so I’ve been a ‘newcomer’ for the past 15 years. The first year I stuck out like a sore thumb. An assault by an alcoholic husband had the neighbours rally to the aid of me and my younger son. I was more than grateful and it was the last the village saw of him. It took me several years before I felt the whispering stopped… even if it had probably stopped a long time before that. yes, it is awkward, and you do feel shamed. Even if you shouldn’t.Hugs.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. Ah, but the neighbor was concerned enough to overcome her own awkwardness to make sure you and your family were OK. I think that’s a good thing, unless, of course, she’s just a busybody looking for gossip as some of the others have commented. I agree with the others that this might be a good time to let your neighbor know how much you appreciated her support in the past and how much you appreciate being able to count on her now, but that the earlier problems have been resolved (have they?) and are unlikely to recur. At that point, you could maybe approach the subject of whether she knows of a trustworthy baby-sitter, seeing as she’s concerned for your family.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I understand alcoholism, and the fact that it’s never easy to let go of the stigma that surrounds it and you as a member of the family touched by it, even when that part of life has improved. It won’t ever be forgotten, and although I wouldn’t say it as bluntly as some of the comments here, the idea of a new start, a brief and simple, “this is where we’re at, I appreciate your concern, and please understand that we are all working to heal both within and without” sort of conversation may be appropriate with her. Of course, adding to the awkwardness is the role you played in her life as a professional, but again perhaps it’s time to let that go? It’s seems as if she may have done so, and is just genuinely wanting to help…
    Best to you as you work through this 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I don’t have much helpful to say but I can in some ways understand the awkwardness.
    Our one neighbour across the street from us has been nothing but kind to us and we get along well. Having said that, he watches everything. He even has camera’s on his house. We’ve been told when he’s bored he watches all the video’s from those camera’s. So it’s weird in that we know we’re being constantly watched.
    Our neighbour next door is a real trouble maker to the point of dangerous he’s been caught for arson on more than one occasion. He’s caused us a lot of trouble so it’s been weird.
    The neighbour on the other side of us, we get along with as well but he has an obsession with his lawn. If you accidentally mow a spot that is his. He will mark his lawn with big red spray painted dot to warn us. He’s also a hoarder and has stuff all over. Thankfully aside from the trouble maker we all get along.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I am honored that chose to share this with us here on your blog Victo. I have little experience with the circumstances you describe, however I will say that it took a lot of guts for you to share and from any perspective that seems like a healthy first step to resolving your negative feelings.

    Keep at it Victo and know that we all have had some very difficult times in our lives – you are not alone.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Bless… I am so sorry for what your family went through. Showing our furry underbelly to the world is terrifying to say the least, but we don’t live on the same street. I can only imagine how awkward this may make you feel.
    Victo, one of the problems with personal tragedy becoming public is that people take a mental photograph of that event, and sometimes they are very slow to let it go. Perhaps it would be helpful to give them a new picture for the album. 🙂
    On the other hand, there is no law that says your neighbour needs to be included in your inner circle of confidence. You can paint a picture from across the street… And perhaps mention that it is not necessary for your kind and well meaning neighbour to worry overmuch on your account. xx Mother Hen

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I am so sorry for your family. That is a horrible experience. i risk alienating you by saying the following, but I think your neighbor’s heart is in the right place. i think they truly care about you, and to rebuff their gestures is a waste of the possibility of a good friendship. I know it may be difficult and evoke shame to interact with them, but isn’t it also an opportunity to work past your shame? You and your husband sound like you are in a good place, making plans for a nice night out. There are so few people in this world that truly care about us. Don’t let shame keep you from one of them.

    fondly,
    E

    Liked by 2 people

  14. There is this shame and stigma with substance abuse and mental health issues and I can understand your need to appear perfect as a physician. But we have to remember that none of us are perfect. I had a not so perfect family life growing up and I used to think most other people had those perfect Ozzie and Harriet families until I realized that most people have something crazy in their family histories too. You do not have to be perfect and I think people actually appreciate physicians who are human.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I’d like to believe the neighbor IS looking our for your best interests. It must be just me but I tend to wonder what’s in it for her? Is there a secret joy because something like this didn’t happen to HER and she feels a little superior. Sorry, but that’s the way I think. Maybe this has also crossed your mind.

    Like

  16. It sounds horribly awkward, for both of you. If I recall, you say you live in a small town, right? In those places, it is harder to keep that personal/professional boundary in place. Maybe if you overcome the shame (and believe me, I know that is a difficult thing to do), you will learn things about yourself that you never thought possible. And you will likely learn things about her. This story bears similarily to something that Brene Brown wrote in one of her earlier books – I think it was I thought it was just me… but it’s not
    Shame is the hardest thing to overcome, especially when we are the people who are supposed to have it “all together.”

    Liked by 2 people

  17. There are times when I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid being reminded of a painful incident. I’m a big believer in time and distance as a balm for painful things. How crazy is it to have snow way the helk down there?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. My nosy neighbor had a reputation for gossip that was covering up a genuine, caring human being that came to the aid of everyone who needed her. She saw my family through so many tragic times.

    For sure, none of us lead perfect lives, not even the neighbors. Time will pass, the wounds will heal, and you might end up with mutual respect, if not friendship.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I love that people share their thoughts with you. I hardly ever get comments.
    Having said that, trying to be safe all the time is not what it is cracked up to be. You miss a lot. A simple conversation and maybe say something about how grateful you were that she was there for you. “I never said thanks”. And with that, move on. Most people do not really give a rat’s butt about things that we turn our selves inside out worrying about. My dearest friend has seen me at my worse most-horrible moment and she turned it around and now makes me laugh about it. It really helped me to move on, get over myself and the event.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love how your friend makes you laugh about it! What a great way of helping you get over yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself about the comments. I have 2060-ish followers and only a small portion actually engage. It takes a lot of work. I am so grateful for every single like and comment. It will come for your blog, too. You just keep engaging people! You have a lot to share. Your last post really was profound.

      Like

  20. My family had a very public situation over a year ago — on my birthday, no less — and, without going into too much detail, it involved substance abuse AND worse (worse, trust me). My neighbors and I obviously can’t pretend it never happened, but we carry on as usual, we never talk about it, and that works for us. I hardly ever think about what they may think of me, because on the list of things to I have to worry about, their opinions rank rather low. Every person’s situation is different, so don’t think I’m preaching here or anything; I guess I’m just stating an example of how things between neighbors can work out despite having an embarrassing, uncomfortable history.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. First, I love your writing style. Love. It.
    Second, because you put it here….I just want to share my reaction as the others here have. I went through a time in my life where I felt others were judging me. I was sure of it. So I prevented it. Built walls. Fled, even, I suppose. With time and self awareness….I realized maybe some were judging me. But I realized they would be judging me no matter what. But none were judging me like I thought they were. Most people are understanding, or willing to understand. Or willing to be okay with whatever faults I had, because they recognized they had some as well. And then I also realized, my life was not nearly as consuming to them, as it was to me.

    I like that she was concerned, and reached out. There is that.

    Liked by 1 person

      • (shhhh, it’s not my wisdom, it’s what I was told when I was going through it….I’m just passing it along. 😉 People really aren’t thinking all that we think they are thinking about us. I hope you’re doing okay.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. I used to be a master wall builder for years…a proud achiever who’d never ask for help from anyone. Finally realized through series I-really-need-help-situations that it was me and myself only (well, almost) who thought my life should look and sound picture perfect. The walls have almost (not quite “there” yet) come down now, and I’m learning that the perfection we can see from outside is an illusion. Life has its trials for everyone. And with that realization I’m now better able to open up and form new fruitful relationships…finding that most people are good inside. It is very possible your neighbor is too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like to think that she is good inside, that I am projecting my negative feelings and creating something that does not exist. It is amazing how you can start to heal and deal but then realize all to suddenly that it is not really over, not even hardly. I am so glad to hear that you have worked through so much of your perfection issues! It leaves me hope about my own…

      Like

  23. Lots of wise comments here! When I read: “She was the one who went with me to the hospital, watched me cry as I had to tell my parents what happened, when I had to swallow my pride and beg them for help….” Ugh. So painful, of course you don’t want to remember. But I can imagine how I would feel as the neighbor: not wanting to intrude, but a part of me was invested emotionally from that first incident, so I would care and worry some about you and your family and wonder how you’re doing. I understand about building walls to feels safe and feeling the expectation to be perfect, which is wrong but I still do it… What I don’t understand is why you think she would refuse to give you a babysitter recommendation. To be honest, I would probably consider writing her a thank you note or taking a loaf of cinnamon bread, or something. I know that might be a cop out to some, but so much easier for me. Be gentle with yourself as you move forward in your own way.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing so openly here. Since I am very new to your blog, I went back and read your posts while you were going through this initially. You are “wicked” strong and have handled it all with grace. None of us is perfect. None.
    You have such an amazing sense of humor and you might consider doing your best teenage accent and say ” I know, right? ” or that drawn out “Awkward”. And then just ” Shake it off”..( I don’t think I bumped my head today, but maybe).

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Very honest and painful post. Sometimes we might attribute to others our own thoughts as you note earlier. I always tell my patients: if somebody you knew (a friend, or just somebody you knew but maybe not close friend) told you about this, what would you tell them? We tend to be more forgiving and kinder towards others than we are towards ourselves. I agree that she’s probably genuinely worried but doesn’t know what to do for the best. Sometime we need to peer over our turrets or we lose perspective

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Walls don’t judge! So true. It’s safe one need not pretend.

    I refuse to call my clients by their first names even if they beg me to. I’ve known/done business with some of them 8+ yrs and they don’t understand why I won’t budge on that. But it is my deliberate way of keeping personal and professional life separate. I think it’s necessary. Keeps things from getting awkward when tough business decisions need to me made (rate increases, service changes etc) . Keeps me in line so I know my place. Keeps things clean.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I admire your openness. It makes me feel better about sharing a similar pain. I broke my own rule and recommended a manager/ friend hire a relative at her dialysis clinic. All the clinics fed into my hospital, so everybody knew everybody. My relative was arrested at the clinic buying drugs from a drug dealer under surveillance. Of course, most knew far more than I did, since many witnessed the whole sorry mess as it unfolded. I called a staff meeting to discuss it, opening the floor to questions, reasoning I’d just get it over with. It cleared the air. No one felt they had to whisper. It was awful.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. When you let the truth out of who you really are surface, no one can use it against you. No matter how uncomfortable. You are a human being above being a physician. The physician facet is just a part of the whole. Imagine that you were not a physician, strip yourself of that…what would you be? Forgive yourself all the little human eccentricities and manifestations. They actually make you more approachable.
    This is a thought provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Big Mouth O’Brien back again. I don’t know whether this is too off-topic, but my doc (Family Practice) is from Nigeria and I can always get her going by mentioning politics. Sometimes we go on and ON until her staff start sort of coughing and lingering at the door. She told me very openly that when she takes off her white coat and enters a store, she’s “just another Black woman for the security people to follow around”. She said it takes constant vigilance to protect her young sons from internalizing American racism. The pain she expressed was obvious, yet she has never made me feel that she’s crossed any professional boundries. When she lectures me in that English accent: “Ms. O’Brien, there’s no excuse for not getting your lab work done, so kindly spare me your tale of woe.” I know who’s in charge, all right.
    I know it’s not the same thing as your experience – I really do. I just wanted to share it.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Sometimes tHe People we think are going to judge us actually end up being more open minded and supportive than the people in our lives “friends” we assumed would be or already are. I would give her a chance especially since she sounds like she has your back even without your asking her to. People gossip no matter what, usually it’s those closest to us that dish the most dirt than those that we keep at a distance.

    Liked by 1 person

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