On Friday night, Ethan and I met up with friends for dinner and a show, and it was really special to me because I haven’t been out of the house much in the last six weeks. I was so excited for the evening that I put on a dress and heels. The food and show were wonderful, but the best part of the evening was laughing and catching up with our friends. Walking up to our apartment at midnight, I had a big smile on my face until I saw Ethan stop at the door. He threw is head back and said, “You have to be kidding me.”
I’ve expected this for some time, to be honest. Maybe it was really a matter of time or maybe I manifested this action with my worry, but it happened. Taped to our door was a very passive aggressive note from an unsigned neighbor and an article about separation anxiety in dogs.
Our puppy, Annie, is a wonderful, friendly dog, but she does not like being left alone in the house. She whimpers and barks, occasionally destroying whatever is in the kennel with he, like a blanket or toy. Ethan and I know this is a problem, and it really does stress us out, but we’ve been unsure how to handle it. The situation has gotten worse because, since my surgery, both Ethan and I have been home with her all day every day for six weeks. She loves us, but she erupts into anxiety when we are gone. We’ve tried music on in the background, keeping her in a room instead of the kennel, and giving her enough treats to forget that we are gone. None of it truly works. We’ve figured that it takes about 20 minutes for her to calm down, and then she is OK. It’s not ideal, but we have to be able to leave our house, so we leave with her crying and hoping she’ll calm down soon.
Well, apparently our neighbors are not a fan of her barking. My guess is that she cried for some time on Friday, calmed down, and then started again for a few minutes at a pretty late hour. This prompted the passive aggressive note and a deep panic for Ethan and I.
Ethan and I have had some big life setbacks the last few months, and while we are trying to work through them, our emotions are a bit high. This note made both of our minds run wild. Our neighbor could report us to the landlord, who might say we need to get rid of the dog or we move out. We are not in a position to move right now, but Annie is our family so we can’t imagine getting rid of her. While we completely understand where are neighbors are coming from, this felt like yet another blow in a series of tough events.
The next day, we started making a plan to how we were going to handle Annie, in both the short-term and long-term. We made promises to each other and already started to do some exercises with her. Even so, neither one of us could stop thinking about that note. I ended up throwing it away, but I have it memorized. Because I do not know the sender, I can’t have a conversation with the person so I have no idea if their words were a polite suggestion or angry and spiteful. I don’t know the tone or the intentions behind it, just that someone in our building doesn’t like us.
Even if we curb Annie’s barking (which she only does when she is alone), our relationship with our neighbors will likely always be strained. It’s kind of what happens when people live in close quarters and don’t actually have a relationship with each other. The opposite is true of another neighbor whose dog we found roaming in the back alley and brought into our place until she got home—that neighbor and us we’ll have a general positive relationship until we move out.
Knowing that someone doesn’t like me is my greatest agony. Throughout the entire day, I kept telling myself, “If they only knew what what we were going through” and I jumped back and forth from wanting to defend myself to hating them. I thought that if I could give my side of the story we could patch tensions between us. The truth is, though, even if we were able to talk to the neighbors, they likely wouldn’t magically be upset at us for having a barking dog that disturbs them. We are just their neighbors, not close friends or family, so they don’t owe use that slack. They could be understanding, but maybe their patience is worn too far. Just like they don’t know what’s going on in our lives, we don’t know what stresses and pain they are experiencing.
While I think it is good to do what you can to repair relationships around you, there are times when people will just dislike you. Ethan and I may be the neighbors that this person (or persons) complains about with friends on social media, and I have to be OK with that. It’s not that I want to be disliked, but I think far too often I spend good energy trying to patch things over with people that don’t matter. I can work with my dog to make her a quieter neighbor, but making her less anxious when I am not around is more important to me.
This may seem like a selfish attitude, but my obsession with pleasing other people and getting them to like me has left me empty and wasted. I never want anyone to be mad at me, but I also can’t control how people react to me and my actions. I’d much rather put more effort and bravery into resolving a conflict with a co-worker or friend, than I would someone I don’t know. I can still try my best to be a good neighbor, but I can’t make everyone like me. So, I have to move through the world knowing that someone doesn’t like me and try not to desperately fix it.
It’s OK for me not to be liked by everyone. That is not an indication of who I am as a person, just that I am human.