introRecently I had a conversation with my mentor about my crazy neighbor.

I told her that it bugged me that I am acting out of character with my neighbor – ignoring her when she walks by, attempting to only go out of or into my apartment when she is not in sight. It also bothers me that I am afraid of her.

I suppose it is not out of the question to be afraid of someone who has behaved in what I might politely term “unexpected” ways….or to want to avoid someone whose behavior is out of alignment with how I might choose to handle similar situations.

Here is the issue – most folks whom I consider to be “crazy” (whether or not they happen to agree with me) are folks where I can go home, close my door and get away from them for extended hours, days, weeks or even years at a time. But the, um, resident crazy of the day lives right below me.

So……alternate resolution measures are needed to live out the last two months on my active lease without going crazy myself.

The other day I was having a conversation about this very issue with a friend and colleague. She was sharing how, at her last job, she walked into the office on her very first day of work and realized that her new bosses exactly mirrored a particularly unhealthy family dynamic from her childhood. She said she started looking for a new job at that precise moment (well maybe on day two) and three months later had relocated herself to a healthier work environment.

She told me, “I didn’t try to change them. I didn’t try to change myself. I just recognized crazy and determined to move on as fast and permanently as possible.”

I thought this choice was very wise. And I am certainly quite eager for those last two lease months to speed on by so I can do the same.

But in the meantime….my mentor suggested an alternate means to deal with my ongoing anxiety about my neighbor’s very close proximity to my personal living space. She suggested, basically, that I need to make friends with my inner crazy. She didn’t use those words, of course, but she instructed me to find the part of myself that resonates with the part of my neighbor that makes me anxious….and then accept her inside of me.

It didn’t take me long to figure out which part of my neighbor was truly pushing all my anxiety buttons. It wasn’t the yelling, the slamming doors, the name-calling, even the “you are a bad person” versus “I think you did a bad thing.”

It is her. She is a lonely person who doesn’t appear to have a single friend other than her dog. No one ever comes to visit her. She told me when we first met that she didn’t feel attractive enough to date and that she didn’t know what she would do without her dog. She spends most of her time (judging from her continual commentary on how I spend my time) watching us – the other three inhabitants of our fourplex – out of her windows and then judging us accordingly.

The rest of her time (which I can tell from her nightly preferred volume settings) she appears to spend watching television.

To be truthful, I am terrified – rationally or not – that her life will be my life someday. I am not married. I have no kids. I too rely tremendously on my pet parrot (the prettiest, smartest, sweetest, cutest parrot in the whole world I might add) for companionship and support. I am an introvert and a writer who works out of her home – which can be a deadly combination for one’s social life – and I do spend much of my time alone and not always by choice.

So my inner crazy – 5-10 years into one possible personal future – looks a lot like my neighbor’s life looks today.

No wonder she freaks me out.

So I am now working to accept my own inner crazy. I am working to respect her, to welcome her into my life, to hear her thoughts and concerns, to comfort her in her sorrows and disappointments. I am working to accept her in advance – both to be prepared if she one day becomes me, and also to guard against that day ever coming.

Today’s Takeaway: How do you deal with people who push your buttons whom you cannot easily get away from? Do you try to make friends – ignore them – rage back – some combination thereof – some other approach? Have you ever tried accepting your ‘inner them’ – if so, what has that experience been like for you?

Introspective woman image available from Shutterstock.