I was away from my neighborhood for three weeks, and was now being back, but without my beloved dog, Willie, who had died in my absence. I noticed that no one said “Hello” or “Welcome back” nor did anyone ask me, “Where is Willie?”
I was astounded. For twelve years, Willie and I walked up and down our street and around the corner two or three times a day. I wondered, “Did no one notice the lack of him?” “Did no one notice that I wasn’t out and about as much?” What was going on?
Testing the Waters
I couldn’t fathom the lack of interest. I decided to “test” the waters and connect to my neighbors and see what happened. So, on Sunday, I crossed the street to offer two pieces of kielbasa to two neighbors with dogs, thinking that their dogs might enjoy the treat. I offered them the meat and they politely declined. They told me that their dogs’ stomachs were too sensitive for such a treat. Nothing more happened between us, leaving me hurt and bewildered.
Worry and Wonder
I began to worry and wonder. Had I done something to cause a rift in my relationship with my neighbors? But, mainly, I was incredulous that none of my neighbors had asked after Willie nor had they said “Welcome home” to me.
My husband’s Suggestion
I talked with my husband about my perturbed thoughts and feelings. He suggested that I talk with the one neighbor for whom I had the most expectations.
Glummer and Glummer
So, there I was, outside, cutting the hedge (being a good neighbor) when she came out of her house. I had been feeling glummer and glummer, to the point where I was not sure I could do my job as a therapist because my own heart was too heavy. I decided to see if she was free to talk for a few minutes and she said “Yes.”
I started to talk. Tears welled up because I felt so bad about the lack of human connection on my block and now I was connecting and someone was listening with empathy and caring. My sadness was, at this point, not so much about the loss of Willie but about the lack of caring and connection with my neighbors.
The Mailman, too
I tried to tell my neighbor this, but she mostly heard the loss of Willie. In either case, she was so empathetic that I felt much better. She listened to me, talked with me and hugged me. She asked if she could tell other neighbors. Later that day the mailman expressed sympathy for my loss and some neighbors dropped off a nice note, so I knew she had shared my news. And, she came by with flowers and a note! I felt so loved…me, who had felt alone and ostracized in the earlier part of the day.
This certainly taught me something. It is better to be a bit vulnerable and share one’s experience than to continue to hold one’s feelings in and slowly sink into depression. I keep learning this. I encourage you to take courage in your hands and speak up, without attacking, about what is on your mind. You may be, as I was, surprised by the positive outcome of your communication.