It is nearing the end of April, and in my whirlwind existence of trying to achieve all of my goals in life as quickly as possible, I have almost missed posting to my beloved Ranger M blog. The horror!
The start of my life in Brussels has not been without some stops, starts, and unforeseen potholes along the way. However, as with all challenges in life, it has provided ample opportunity for my greatest goal in life: to practice.
For me, practice comes in many shapes and sizes, but mostly it involved working to be less attached to the idea that I am in complete control of the elements that swirl around me in this timeline of existence. Since moving to Brussels, I have been challenged by events happening at a distance (renter eviction and subsequent theft; renters leaving my house in disarray and in desperate need to care and repair; etc.). I also have experienced the challenges of life in a new climate and in a more urban setting than I am accustomed to.
The Olde World has its benefits but also its drawbacks in that many of its buildings are, a propo to the title, old. We have been living in a very sweet apartment in the commune of Watermael-Boitsfort, which my husband found and claimed prior to my arrival in Belgium. It has lots of light and is close to grocery stores, neighborhood parks, and an enormous forest that has become my daily dose of quiet nature tree therapy.
The drawback to our cozy third floor apartment is that my husband’s choice of the top floor has not provided the kind of respite from noise that we had both envisioned. We share our old house with two neighors in apartments below us. One neighbor is so quiet we are not sure there is even anyone living there. Sadly, she is on the first floor. Our second floor neighbor we have come to call Petit Hippo because her way of being is louder than seems reasonable for a being of the homo sapiens persuasion. While we are living in a time of transhuman and posthuman possibility, I think she really is human, albeit an inexplicably noisy one.
At any time of day, night, dark hours of the early morn, we hear the following:
Slam, clomp clomp clomp clomp clomp clomp (x12 stairs), thump thump thump thump, clomp clomp clomp (x12 stairs), key turning in door, door opening, slam, key turning, proceed with crash, clomp, thump, drawers slamming, loud television, loud voice, and so on and so forth.
At first, we kind of laughed at how ridiculous it was, as if a muppet was living on the floor beneath us, but the humor took a dark turn as our hippo muppet neighbor began having guests over 1-2 times each week, each guest behaving in a similar muppet fashion.
It was as though they were all sitting in our living room on the couch beside us, for hours, like a bad Friends episode, the difference being that a Friends episode lasts for only 22 minutes without commercials.
My husband and I are introverts and prefer to be home most of the time. We like to go out and explore, but when we come home we like it to be quiet. We also enjoy sleeping at night so that we can wake up refreshed and ready for the day the next morning. Doesn’t seem terribly unreasonable, does it?
Apparently, our desires have seemed beyond reason to our neighbor, who we have attempted to talk to on several occasions (amicably, to begin with). We wrote a letter after several months and then spoke to her again. She was shocked that we would even request for the house to be quiet after 10pm on weekdays. Her response was to use the word embêtant (bothersome) for her to ask her guests to leave.
How dare we wish to go to sleep at a reasonable hour? The nerve!
We have continued our efforts to attempt to enjoy a sustainable existence in our current setting, but after our neighbor told us at 11:30pm last night that she was going to call the police on us for harassment, we determined that our mission has failed.
My husband has suggested that I use this experience as more opportunity to practice non-attachment. I can meditate and focus on other thoughts or go into the sensations within my body and breath in order to create a safety blanket or shield of white noise to protect me from the hippo below (nothing against hippos, truly, I just don’t want to live above one).
I agree that this is good practice, I told my husband last night, but I make tiny baby steps in my meditation and acceptance practice. This is way out of my league. I am just not ready.
I work very hard most of the time to keep the temper flame that lives within me at a very low level; however, it ramped right up last night. I do not engage negative, angry energy. I don’t like it when it is directed at me, and I do not like to direct it at other people. There is enough of this kind of energy swirling around the globe. I try my best to create space for calm. That being said, I was so incensed by the seemingly complete disregard for other life forms in our home, that I stormed down the stairs, knocked loudly on the door, and informed our neighbor in no uncertain terms that we found her behavior rude, disrespectful, and unbelievable.
In the end, this situation is not life threatening. I live a relatively luxurious existence. I have warm clothes, a roof over my head, a beloved husband, two fat and happy cats, a husky at a distance, and friends and family all over the world.
I know that there are certain battles that are not worth engaging in. Typically, I try to put as much distance as possible between the proverbial hippos of the world and me. One time, I even moved all the way from Alaska to Massachusetts to escape the ultimate hippo (really, I don’t hate hippos).
There is a reason different species do not interbreed. They are different. I like a quiet, peaceful home. I enjoy sleeping at night. Not all humans are of the same make and model. For this reason, I recognize that my requests may seem as incredible to her as her behavior to us. We are embêtant and intolerant.
So be it. We will focus our energy on finding a more sustainable place to rest our heads, a place that does not require sleeping pills, earplugs, and whiskey nightcaps (well, the whiskey might stay).
Any stories of our your hippo neighbors? I would love to hear them in the comments below. Go ahead, vent some steam. As always, thanks for reading, friends from near and far.