I know a few people in this place:
It’s supposed to be their turn. I feel foolish (and, oddly enough, a bit rude) at the idea of inviting neighbors over for dinner AGAIN—before they take their turn. And it feel stubborn or curmudgeonly not to. Should I give up? Remind them? I feel awful.”
Woah, let’s take a step back: Perhaps you chatted for years, or cut straight to the chase, but you actually had a neighbor over for dinner. Congrats! They loved your idea. They showed up. You shared food, you enjoyed it, and everyone agreed to do it again. –Didn’t they say it should be their turn next? It was long ago, and now…
You’ve felt inclined to invite them a second time in a row, to just do tea, or go for a walk together. But you are questioning everything now: is this failure to take turns a cruel social cue? Did they *not* have fun? like your meal?
Like a good meal left out too long, something smells ‘off’… Are you being taken a bit for granted? Don’t they know you’ve got a life?! Don’t they know you’re as busy (implied: and as desirable a person) as they are?
You try to dismiss your secret, tentative judgments. Like food scraps; you refuse to ingest them. You scrape these kinds of thoughts off ’f your plate and into the compost bin of your mind. But there’s piles of this crap, and as you deal with the mess, but avoid the source of it, an unspeakable questioning of yourself comes up: you question whether you’re a good judge of character, of authenticity, or of potential. 🙁
What a stressful idea!! 🙁
All this reminds me of my choice of life partner… and dish-washing. More on that later.
Sky’s Full of Pie
Before you accuse your neighbor of promising you pie made of sky, or accuse yourself of being a bad judge of character, consider how new you are at this neighbor-focus. Take a deep breath.
Consider how new your neighbors are at neighbor-focus. Deep breath.
Oh! how new we all are at actively prioritizing neighbors – neighbors living with us in this day and age! Deep, deep breaths…
"Scratch the surface of a cynic and you'll find a dreamer who mistook ideals for expectations.” -____(asking my source for his source)____
Don’t Give Up!
I would bet money that your neighbors DO want to do dinner again—really badly. I bet they had a great time. I bet they’re sad at the delay, too. And like everyone, they have a million reasons to feel insecure or hold off on novelty. Reasons that are Not. About. You.
Please, help me serve you your own love on a silver platter – a clean, shiny, reflective one.
First, Do Last Night’s (Mental) Dishes
Shall we allow your feelings to get stinky, slimy, and unrecognizable in the kitchen-corner of your heart? Or shall we take 15 minutes now—or next time you do dishes—to salvage the ‘ick’ as precious compost, and cut through the grime to the appetizing truth?
In the midst of a happy marriage, as if cluttering up the buffet of life, I was mildly lonely and upset every day, several teeny tiny moments a day –over dishes. Every time there were dishes, issues about fairness welled up. They were silent, most times, but they were there every time. I longed for collaboration, turn-taking, enjoying learning from each other, care… We had it in many other parts of shared life, but the dishes… somehow brought up my doubts. I’ll share a process that helped me. This process could nourish and sustain your generous, amazing inner chef!
1. Admit What You’d LIKE
Be compassionate with yourself & tender with your perhaps-shattered hopes: besides food, what did you want from ‘their turn’? Fairness? Enthusiasm? Spontaneity? Perhaps you wanted to see their place, or you don’t really like cooking, yourself. Do you feel strapped for time unless food is included? Right on! Write it down! Takes 3 minutes.
In my dishwashing example:
I want my husband’s solidarity and help. This doesn’t feel like an effective use of time. I want the structure of knowing which tasks are mine to do, so that I don’t hesitate and can just get started and stay focused on the task (if it’s my turn) instead of wondering who’s supposed to be doing it, when.
2. Allow Your Enthusiasm
After writing for 3 minutes, in the same way you’d talk to a friend, leave that spot completely. Physically move a few feet away from it, leaving a still-beating after-image of your heart right there in the air.
Now, in a new spot just a few feet to the side, inhabit this:
Wow! You invited your neighbor to dinner!! ! They said yes! Were you relieved?! Did you ‘let yourself go’ a bit budgeting for/preparing the food? Did a little giddy anticipation arise at the threat -ehr- promise of guests, and motivate you to tidy up/clean house? Did you feel excited about the relationship? Did you enjoy your time together and laugh?
Using the back, or a fresh scrap of paper: Write from your pure joy in sharing a meal at your place, without interruption by the other part. Takes 3 minutes.
In my dishwashing example:
I have good memories of doing “the kitchen dance” as a teen; my sister and I put dishes away while my Mom prepared food—all of us moving around and near one another in smooth, protective, intimate moves… I want to recapture the silent magic of family mind-reading with Jacob.
I have had this feeling all by myself… and it’s so nice, I want to share it.
As for loading: I like to arrange the dishes in ways I find logical. I’m actually joyful to ‘get the most out of a load’ using the tips & tricks I’ve proposed.
So all in all, I enjoy doing the dishwasher. I want others to enjoy it, too …and I derive a lot of joy/pride doing it a certain way that I think others could enjoy, too.
3. Sit in the middle.
It’s 3 minutes later. Admire what you wrote as you move out of your second spot, too, leaving the heart of that matter to carry on, while moving slightly. This is when you sidle up to wishful-you on your one side, and excited-you on the other—and imagine them still there, present, on either side of you. Perhaps you’re lighthearted enough to extend one arm onto each of their backs, and give your buddies an encouraging squeeze of gratitude for not interrupting each other for once.
Who are you able to be, there, in the middle, with access to both perspectives? What occurs to the ‘you’ who enjoying this third, attentive, middle-view? Don’t write. Just let yourself muse/mumble out loud.
In my dishwashing example:
Thanks, you guys! I heard a deep longing for teamwork, and I sense some mourning: perhaps things will simply never be the way they used to be. Sorry—it’s true.
As for fairness… aren’t there many ways to distribute tasks fairly? Isn’t it wonderful that I enjoy loading the dishwasher just so, and dancing the kitchen into place when it’s done?
Perhaps my pride in ‘getting the most out of each load’ actually inhibits Jacob, because I’m more enthusiastic, more exacting, more motivated…
…Perhaps this isn’t particularly about what I want from my hubby? Perhaps it’s more about trusting I can afford to be generous?
The Silver Platter I Promised
Reflection grants you deeper access to your own Joy, and serves it, as I promised, freshly, in each moment, as if on a shiny, silver platter. From inhabiting an un-torn middle that embraces both of your perspectives, your heart will be prepared; your words and deeds more fit for human consumption. So take the time to make that platter shine. See your oh-so-human reflection in it. Compassion and respect for yourself bring about something magical between you and your neighbors.
If trusting in ‘magic’ feels scary, meditate. If keeping the exercise short felt too rushed, expand it: You can resolve to attend to only one ‘mood’ or ‘mode’ at a time on the back-burner of your mind while you go about your day. (You go about your day in the otherwise regular way.) …Step one becomes day one, step 2 is day 2, and you’ll feel a metaphysical, more than physical, middle-view on day 3.
The Benefit of Emotional Hygiene
What came of it in my dishwashing example?
After sitting with the parts of me that had been tearing left and right—after consciously inhabiting only one at a time, I became more tender and forgiving of myself –more centered. This made me more approachable, less bottled-up, and more able to hear & believe my husband. Turns out, he’s human, too, and also had a lot going on inside, that was puzzling him, too. A few days after my reflection, without a deadline or a resolution to, we simply addressed the subject of dishes in an un-charged way. It was different from previous attempts.
He repeated something I’d heard him say before, but this time he said it, the process above had cleared so much of my own anxiety, I could hear him better.
He told me he didn’t really like loading and unloading the machine. He re-iterated that he enjoys hand-washing fragile items and frequently-used things as a nice break from all the mental work he does. I’d simply dismissed as unbelievable before. My guilt in that department turned to enthusiasm about the machine.
I imagined being the sole person in charge of the dishwasher; loading it up like I’m playing a game to get the most stuff positioned just right; doing my beautiful kitchen dance alone as a celebration of my heritage—time to celebrate far-flung family. And I’d try to drop my guilt at watching him do the hand-wash items.
Jacob looked incredulous that this would last long, or work, but he loved the idea of not touching the machine ever again.
Of course we help each other a bit, and take over completely when one of us is unwell, but this is now the standard division of labor at my house. Who’d’a thunk we’d prefer an ‘unfair’ distribution of tasks where we each only do what we like? This is really how it works now, in our family—we’re both ecstatic about it, and have been for years.
Who knew the awkward, latent turmoil between meals was such an opening to depth and belonging! I certainly never expected to find, among dishes, a lesson on how wonderfully diverse people can be; how happy, or, indeed, complimentary our quirks. Such sustenance, all in the space between meals!
If the space has lasted long enough, if you’d like another meal soon, take a risk, and invite them over again, and for support, consider my workshop on the 5 questions. It’s a subtle-yet-straightforward approach to finding out what your neighbors might be able to mean to you; what they might do for you or others with great joy—to make life sweet, together. Because even if as those who love to cook often say, the way to a [person]’s heart is through their stomach… you might want to map out some alternate routes between hearts!
I hope the steps in this article were helpful to you…? I’m trying a new of blogging, so let me know how it feels, either via the space below, or by email!
I’m always looking for more questions, more conundrums, and more celebrations to write about. If you have a ‘neighbor situation’, I want to know!