Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I am pretty sure that if one were to look at social media, you would assume humanity itself is the one with a life-threatening virus. Let’s define humanity a la Merriam Webster:

Compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behavior or disposition—the quality or state of being humane; the quality or state of being human; the totality of human beings—the human race. 

My perception of things is nothing new, and honestly, I do spend some of my precious time viewing comments from those who angrily express their opposing views. It’s a comedy, shit-show as far as I’m concerned. This is just my humble opinion, but I am confident I’m not alone. With more people stuck in their house with the stay-home order, people seem to have more time to peruse the internet. The effects of feeling cooped up are rearing their ugly head on even the most innocent of posts.

I expect such things from Facebook and Twitter as I have seen this behavior for years. What has surprised me most is the people on the Nextdoor social media site. 

“Nextdoor is the neighborhood hub for trusted connections and the exchange of helpful information, goods, and services. We believe that by bringing neighbors together, we can cultivate a kinder world where everyone has a neighborhood they can rely on. Building connections in the real world is a universal human need. That truth, and the reality that neighborhoods are one of the most important and useful communities in our lives, have been a guiding principle for Nextdoor since the beginning.”

I have been a “member” of Nextdoor since 2017. It is broken down into neighborhoods, and expands out even further. However, I can post something solely for immediate neighbors in my condo community, about 250 of the 370 who have created an account. One of the key elements has normally been to be respectful and avoid those topics that create friction: politics, religion, and sexual content.  We have been a light-hearted, helpful group with the occasional frustrations posted—but, they are more often than not extremely respectful.

With what our world is facing today, more people have become hostile, accusatory, dictatorial, and for lack of a better word, bullies. There is name-calling of a degree that even I am amazed by—remind you that I have seen the “best” on Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram. There is a boat-load of misinformation being posted, causing panic and anger. I’m even seeing comments that are clearly to incite even the most gentle of people. 

Whatever happened to scrolling on by? I’m just kidding, people can’t help themselves. I honestly don’t bother to comment when things get heated, now or before. In the end, what good would it do? I’m not going to change anyone’s mind, nor is there some prize at the end that makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. Even the most innocent of comments will have people turn on you anyway. 

I just thought I wouldn’t see it on the Nextdoor site as we know these people—they are literally our next door neighbors! There’s no hiding behind a screen, keeping anonymity because you’re berating the person you used to smile and wave to as you left for work each morning. Bob across the street will avoid coming outside until you’ve driven off now because you called his wife an ignorant, bleeding-heart liberal and adding, “It makes your whole argument even dumber than you.”  Sorry, you’ll have to move now because all of your neighbors hate you…and oh, you’re an asshat.

The posts have gone from “Help me find my cat, Peepers” and “Can you recommend a good lawn company” to “There are terrorists in our neighborhood”—referring to a group of people playing soccer in a local park, ignoring the less-than-ten-in-a-group rule. Never you mind that even though the social-distance rule is being broken, they’re probably your neighbor’s kids. There are ways to protest the activity without being a jerk.

The scary part is that this really is just the beginning of the pandemic for the States and I’m thinking we’re going to see some intense Mad-Max insanity on our social media sites. It’s easy to get angry and lash out with our keyboard. It’s not easy to take those words back from cyber-space, or to look at old Mrs. Willoughby in the face who lives three houses down after you called her a communist.  If we all remember that we are in the same boat, then perhaps we’ll get through this unscathed. Keep your wits about you, neighbors. 

It’s Not The Alcohol Talking

When I tell a story, it may seem like I’m supplying superfluous information—and, I have been known to go off on a tangent. But, when something triggers a tale, there has to be context for the listener/reader to understand where I’m coming from. So, buckle up…

There is a popular grocery store chain in my area and it recently went out of business. This is leaving the local residents feeling disheartened. One of the features of this store is that you can buy a glass of beer or wine to drink on while you shop. Some of the posts written by locals on social media lament they can’t shop and drink now—what are they to do? These comments bother me and I’ll explain why.

I used to have at least one drink every, single night. It was part of a daily routine in my previous marriage. My ex drank quite a bit each night, sometimes way too much. Once I was separated and on my own with three kids, drinking was limited as I had to keep my wits about me. Over the years drinking alcohol has become infrequent with a month or more going by without any beer, wine, or my favorite spirit, vodka.

Not having alcohol hasn’t become a conscious decision as I really don’t think about it overall. There are times I do want an ice-cold beer or even a mixed drink—and I have one. During the summer, having a beer or two sitting poolside isn’t uncommon—I enjoy it. Have I gotten drunk before? Absolutely, but it’s been a very long time. 

I’m not oblivious to the notion alcoholism is a disease as my paternal grandparents died because of it. And I know the comments on social media don’t imply they are all alcoholics. Honestly, this has nothing to do with them overall. What it has triggered in me is sadness about my youngest sister, who—at the age of 38—died of alcoholism.  Her death was a hard blow to my heart and psyche. Her constant state of drunkenness was more prevalent toward the end of her life, however with her being four states away, I wasn’t aware that her most of her days began and ended with alcohol. 

I do understand why my sister drank—she was in pain emotionally—predominantly due to her estranged husband who for lack of a better word, tormented her the last four years of her life.  Only one who has been with someone with narcissistic personality disorder would understand this level of harassment. Then, unfortunately, her choice of men she subsequently dated emotionally and physically abused her. The autopsy revealed several bruises on her body, but stated she died as a result of her alcoholism. 

Drinking was her way of dealing with the obstacles of her choices and what life was throwing at her. 

My talks with my youngest sister were seemingly productive in helping her work through her problems, but only temporarily. Behind the scenes, her drinking had steadily increased. Both my other sister and I tried to get her to come stay with us for a while, but she wanted to be near her children as she got to have supervised visits with them on the weekends. Those around her were not emotionally equipped to help her despite seeing her demise first hand. 

Not a single day since last May has she not entered my thoughts. I no longer find memes posted on social media about getting drunk or needing a drink humorous.  I am not judging these people so much as my views have changed on drinking—stained by my personal tragedy. Any time I do have an alcohol, it’s not without a small sense of guilt. I know that her death isn’t my fault and I should still be able to enjoy a beer while sunning by the pool; or a cocktail when meeting up with friends—it’s just different now. 

It sounds odd to say I have a new found respect for drinking alcohol, but in reality that’s what it is. Additionally, we shouldn’t just recognize when someone needs help, but do the hard task of intervening. I immensely regret not getting on a plane and getting her the professional help she needed. Remember alcohol and substance abuse happens to the best of families and friends. Don’t let regrets be the driving force in changing your life. 

Substance Abuse National Helpline: 800-662-HELP

Taking Neighborhood Watch To New Levels

Every neighborhood has a Mrs. Kravitz. If you don’t know who that is, you should ask somebody—or just Google it. What will come up is a character from Bewitched, specifically the original series from the 60s to 70s. She’s your nosy neighbor who is constantly watching everyone and knows more than she should about people on your block. If you don’t know who it is, it may be you. I can accept a Mrs. Kravitz, but I don’t have a name for what we’ve encountered recently. 

What do you call someone who goes through the recycle bins to see if you’re recycling properly? Insane? We live in a condo community and each street has its own set of recycling trash bins. We try to be “green” and maintain a separate bag for this purpose. I understand the ins-and-outs of the process and know what I should throw in—mostly. I found out recently that coffee k-cups are not recyclable despite the indication on the bottom of the each cup. What made me look this up was the manipulative way our neighbor approached us.

The usual salutations were given and the topic of recycling was brought up randomly. “People just don’t know what can and can’t be thrown in the recycling bin…” 

She went on to say how jars and cans need to be rinsed out. That pizza boxes can’t be in the bin if any cheese is left on the box. The Kuerig coffee cups aren’t recyclable. All of these things were recently included in the paper bag we used to collect items and toss in the container—along with junk mail, magazines, etc. This neighbor described our trash and it was disconcerting. 

I knew all of these things (aside from the k-cups), but my teenagers apparently did not. What concerns me is that a neighbor went through the bin to seek out violators to approach. It sounds odd, but we feel, in a small way, violated. I can appreciate the concern, truly, but it felt like she went through my panty drawer. It makes me wonder if she goes through anything else we throw away.

Since the encounter, we’ve purchased a security stamp that blacks out our address on envelopes and packages—we even use it for junk mail. We already use our shredder for anything personal, but who knows…maybe she’s piecing that together in her house! 

I suppose I can look at this in a productive and positive way that will help me save the earth more efficiently.

But, it’s weird. Right?