I don’t know about you, but I have some issues about people being in my personal space. Like for instance, if someone I don’t know stands too close or hovers around me trying to read over my shoulder I feel uncomfortable. If I get on an elevator alone and a man gets on I am instantly on guard. When I walk down the street I make direct eye contact with everyone I pass to discourage any would-be attacker. I feel like I need to put an invisible protection shield on before I leave my house as a barrier between me and any potential danger. I think this hyper-vigilance on my part all stems from years of people not respecting boundaries and breaking my trust. As a child I felt like I didn’t have a voice and had to tolerate things that made me very uncomfortable. As a single mother I felt responsible for my safety as well as that of my children. As a PSW I was trained to assess every situation and client I came into contact with. As a woman in the workplace I have been sexually harassed by clients, coworkers, and men who were in positions of power. As a result of many life experiences, I recognize red flags very quickly and deal with problematic people in a diligent and direct manner. I don’t like those who don’t have respect for other peoples’ boundaries. I have a right to privacy and I’m no longer afraid to stand up for myself.
Years ago, as a young, divorced mother I took a self-defense course to learn how to defend myself if I ever needed to. I felt vulnerable and I was terrified of being attacked and not being able to protect myself. I was tired of feeling helpless and hopeless and I didn’t want to be ruled by fear anymore. So I decided to do something constructive about it. I’m the type of person who believes that there is a solution to every problem and I won’t give up until I find out what that is. Learning how to protect and defend myself gave me a newfound sense of confidence and pride. I learned how to protect and defend me and my children. I also learned how to spot the dangers around your home and car. It was a wonderful feeling to know that if I used certain techniques I could effectively defend myself; in spite of my size and gender. I learned what areas are very vulnerable on an attacker and the best way to strike them. It was very reassuring to learn what precautions I needed to take in order to make our home a safer place to live. I put deadbolts on the doors and bars on the bedroom windows to prevent intruders from breaking into our ground floor apartment. I was taught to be aware of my surroundings at all times.
As females, we are taught from an early age to be nice and act like a lady, while boys are encouraged to be aggressive and assertive in protecting themselves and their loved ones. Well, that might sound ok in theory, but in reality it creates a learned helplessness in females. We are taught that nice girls don’t yell or use physical violence. That’s great if you have a personal bodyguard to protect you around the clock, but for most of us that’s just not reality. Most of us are alone at different times in our daily lives. Unless you intend to become a hermit, I highly recommend taking a self-defense course. It was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I learned how to protect myself against a variety of scenarios. I learned to be assertive and walk with confidence so that I don’t look like an easy target. It gave me the ability to look for ways to safeguard myself and my property. I became educated in ways of improving safety for myself and my loved ones.
I am a very private person and my home is my sanctuary. No matter where I have lived, as long as it was safe, clean and comfortable I could relax and enjoy my life. I’ve always made sure that I took the necessary precautions to protect myself and my children. I put deadbolts on my doors, I never let strangers into our apartment building and I never park next to a van. I am always aware of my surroundings and observe anyone in my vicinity. I look for any possible ways that could lead to a breach in home security or personal safety. I look for ways to prevent any possible intruders from getting into my home and car. I don’t take risks or chances when it comes to my safety because I never want to end up on Cold Case Files. I can’t help it, I’ve learned the hard way that what you see and what you get doesn’t always coincide. I’m also pursuing a degree in Criminal Psychology and Behaviour so my eyes have been opened up to some many new things. My mind is trained to observe and study people and if something sends up a red flag for me I pay close attention. Listening to your gut instinct is one of the smartest things you can do for yourself.
But what do you do when you live next to people who are annoying and nosy? What happens when your new neighbours are intrusive and don’t respect your right to privacy? How do you balance being civil while maintaining boundaries with these new strangers in your life? Why is it that some people think you should jump right into friendship with them just because you live on the same street or work at the same place? For me, trust is something that is earned. It is not something that I just hand over to anyone who comes into my life. I don`t care who the person is or what image they present to the public. It takes me a while to get to know and trust people. People who come on too strong or are overly friendly make my spidey senses tingle. People who invade my personal space without permission put me on high alert. People who have no respect for boundaries make me angry and suspicious. People who don`t use common sense and courtesy irritate me.
How would you feel if your neighbours went snooping through your garage on the day that you moved in to your new house? How would you react? What would you do? How about the neighbour who stands outside your dining room window looking in while talking on the phone loudly? Would it make you angry if you had to keep the windows closed all the time to keep the cigarette smoke out? How would you feel if you had to keep your curtains closed all the time because your neighbour stares into your window while she smokes her cigarettes? How would you handle a neighbour who is insistent that if you let them into your yard he could clean up the branches to put in his wood chipper? Would you be happy or suspicious because he also wants to use his rototiller in your yard to make you a garden? How would you feel about someone who doesn`t listen when you tell them repeatedly that you don`t need any help. How many times do you have to refuse someone`s offers before they get the hint that they are being overbearing. What would you do if he or she was overly friendly and made a big fuss about wanting to get to know your dog that you adopted for protection and peace of mind? How would you feel if your last house had been broken into by a neighbour and now your new neighbours are trying to get familiar with your dog in spite of your continual protests of refusal? What if your neighbour started calling out to your new grandbaby by name, but they`d never been introduced. How would you like to live next to someone who is loud, drinks a lot and calls out compliments to your husband over the fence while he`s doing yard work. How would you feel about your neighbours calling out your name every single time you walked out the front door or into your back yard? How would you feel about your neighbour asking your guests nosy questions? What would you do if you caught the flyer guy looking through your front door window and deliberately antagonizing your dog? What if his behaviour was so odd that you started watching him and soon realized that he was intentionally irritating all the dogs on the street? What would you do if you saw him looking through everyone`s windows and mailboxes. How would you react to him throwing garbage on your property? Would you tell the neighbours on the street about the things you have seen him doing week after week. Would you consider him harmless and dismiss him as a threat based on the fact that `he`s just an old man`. What if you noticed that sometimes he doesn`t even use his cane and that he can walk really fast when he thinks no one is watching him. Would you call his place of employment and report him or would you just ignore him. Would you call the police?
Be it ever so humble, there`s no place like home. Home sweet home! I love those sayings. That`s how I feel about every place I`ve lived in, whether it was the apartments or townhouses I have rented over the years or the house we currently own. I have always thought of my home as my sanctuary. I have lived in my current home for almost 9 years. However, we have had to constantly set and reinforce boundaries with some people since day one. I assumed that because our neighbours were older we would have no problems with them. Wrong! Bad neighbours come in all ages and genders. I didn`t realize just how much of an impact others can have on our lives until certain people became more than just a bit of a nuisance. The results of negative behaviour by others quickly became quite obvious. I couldn`t help but notice how very dark and depressing my dining room started to feel because I had to always keep the windows and curtains closed for privacy. I spend large quantities of time in my dining room. That is where I do all of my writing and schoolwork from, on my laptop. At first it felt like my whole world was closing in on me. Then one day we decided to take back our lives by making some changes. First, we took out the dining room windows and built a solid wall in their place. We made a new entrance off of the back of the house by installing some new patio doors. My husband then built a very tall privacy screen outside of our new patio doors off of the dining room. It is very tall and blocks their view into our house. It prevents them from standing in their driveway and looking in at us as we go about our daily lives. I also planted a hedge down the side of our front yard because I don’t appreciate the way they occasionally stand on my front lawn smoking cigarettes and talking loudly while I try to live my life inside. We had an alarm system installed and my husband has mounted motion detector lights all around the house that are very sensitive to any movement and are very bright. We’ve put a lock on the back gate and when next spring comes we are putting in new fences and more cedar trees to ensure our privacy.
It might seem like we have taken extreme measures to some people. Some people might even think we are overreacting or being paranoid. But to some people this will all make perfectly good sense. After all, what do any of us really know about the people who live around us? And what’s wrong with having a private sanctuary? When I am at home I don’t want nosy or bored neighbours dropping in for a cup of coffee or to waste time by being a gossip. I don’t want to feel obligated to drop whatever I am doing every time the neighbour comes over. If I’m reading a book on my front porch that’s not an open invitation to waltz over and just invade my space. If I`m in the middle of a project I don`t want to be interrupted by someone who is bored. Whether I`m upset about something, or grieving the recent loss of my aunt I don`t feel the need to explain to the neighbours why I am crying. If I can`t let my guard down at home and relax it`s going to lead to other problems. We don’t need or want their opinions or approval on anything we are working on in our yard. I don’t care to listen to their rambling stories that go on forever and don’t have any meaning in my life. I don’t want strangers calling out to my grandchildren and confusing them. If I don’t introduce you to someone in my life, it’s because I don’t know you well enough to trust you. Just because we are neighbours doesn`t make us friends. I don’t like people who try to slither their way into my life. I don’t trust people who rub me the wrong way. And I’ve learned to listen to my gut instincts with people. I’ve learned it’s better to err on the side of caution. Safety first! Always!
It’s crazy how much things can change when you get new neighbours. There have been other people in the one house and we never had any problems with anything or anyone before. There have been a couple of times that the one house has been sold and in 8 years we never had a problem with privacy or boundary issues with any previous neighbours that lived there. We rarely saw or heard the previous owners, but when we did we were civil. We waved hello and minded our own business. We never felt uncomfortable here before. We never felt like we were living under a microscope or that we were being stalked by the paparazzi; until they moved in. We’ve never had people openly watch us while we worked around the yard and call out to us over the fence with comments about our progress or efforts. The previous neighbours never tried to treat us like employees that came with the purchase of their home. After a year of dealing with extremely rude and intrusive people we came to the conclusion that we had 2 choices. We could give up our space and hibernate or push back and reinforce our boundaries. We decided to take back our lives by making changes and not backing down. We are no longer friendly or civil with these people. We don’t speak to them and if they try to engage us in any way, we simply ignore them.
My home is my sanctuary and my family is my life. I refuse to compromise my principles or allow anyone to push me around and make me feel uncomfortable. I’ve worked too hard for everything I have to let someone else spoil it. We will continue to reinforce those boundaries for as long as it takes. Like I said earlier, there’s a solution to every problem and I will do whatever it takes to enjoy my life and home. I will never understand pushy people who think they can just run all over you. I will never understand people who don’t respect other people’s right to privacy, but I guess I don’t have to. I just have to do what I think is right to enjoy my life and take the steps needed to protect my family and safeguard my home. If that means my neighbours think I’m a bitch I can live with that! At least I`ll be able to sleep at night and enjoy my private sanctuary again.