Thursday, July 19, 2012

Getting Messy

We met them as we were leaving our neighborhood to go to our various tasks: my daughter and I to work and my husband to his errands for the day. Big trucks, backhoes, rumbling and beeping, roaring past us, coming in as we were going out.  We wondered what was up. 

My husband was soon to find out.  When he returned home, the whole street was filled with heavy machinery and large, heavy, rubber culverts and cement  access wells.  And every time one of those big machines revved up and moved, the ground literally shook.  By 4 p.m. when hubby left to pick me up from work, he had a splitting headache. 

What were they doing there anyway?  Well, they were digging up the ditches to install heavy-duty culverts, tying them into the town sewer system! They will eventually be covered in soil .... and seeded....we hope.

Now for the "back story."  

We had approached someone - a private contractor - a couple of summers ago and gotten the same exact work done ourselves, because our lawn was eroding and there was a lot of run-off in the spring, and mostly because it was dangerous to mow that steep a grade; there'd been some near-misses with our old push-mower, and someone could have lost a toe or something!!  The man dug up our ditch, installed the culvert, covered it with soil, and raked it smooth so we could seed it.  We paid him um, okay, a fair pile of money to have it done.  He was reasonable ... and it was worth it to us, to have it done. Peace of mind, let's call it.

We were the only ones on our street to have this done at the time, even though after it was done, there were the inevitable questions from the neighbors.  

Now this.  Now everyone's having it done (quite probably without their permission!) and GUESS WHERE the workers put all their tools and heavy equipment?  And the extra mud they're digging out of people's ditches?  

The view from the end of our driveway... the hedge is behind the pipe...

Yup.  RIGHT HERE.  Already they've broken some solar-powered LED lights, and made this huge mess on the very area we had paid to have fixed two years ago.  Including deep tractor treads on our nice, flat culvert surface.  (Sighhhh). And to top it all off, they had used our front lawn as a handy-dandy lunch area, leaving their lunch boxes and their garbage on it. 

That was IT.  I got out of the vehicle, walked down to the lunchboxes, and wordlessly and firmly put them, one by one, in a straight line and following a direct line with the culvert pipe they'd placed not four feet from our fledgling hedge. I took their garbage - a half-full pop can and the top off a yogurt container - and put it with their lunchboxes.  I did each lunchbox separately so that I could be sure that they were watching by the time I was finished.  And then I threw them a scathing, sarcastic grimace as I put the last item in place and walked into the house, shaking my head in disbelief.

Not a word - no explosion, no verbal tirade - nothing of the sort.  But I was displeased (and I let it be known I was displeased) with the lack of respect for our property.  When I looked out a half-hour later, the lunchboxes were gone, and the crew was winding up their work for the day.  

The whole situation got me to thinking (lots of stuff does that...for some reason.)  When we first got our culvert fixed and filled in, and the grass became firm enough to mow, one of the first things that happened when the next summer came around, was that if the neighbors wanted to have a get-together or a yard sale, the extra cars would use our filled-in ditch area as a great place to park.  Hm.  And now this experience with the heavy machinery. How accommodating ... for them.

I guess that when a person gets their life together, and the inner mess starts to give way to some semblance of order, he or she becomes a convenient place for others to to dump their own messes.  The very time that we started learning about emotional and social boundaries was the time when people started infringing more and more upon them - and we had to draw the line over and over again, instead of letting ourselves get walked on.  Kind of like our culvert workers.  

I understand that excavation of all that inner "stuff" can be messy.  My own process was, that's for sure!  And I can expect that when folks start to deal with their own stuff, I might get some of the spillover.  It's okay; it's all part of the process.  But that doesn't mean that I have to stop setting and enforcing my own boundaries.  It just means that I need to be more vigilant about defining just where the line is, given that others need a little bit of leeway.  

Like with our hard-hat friends today.  (By the way, they'll be here in this neighborhood for at least a week..) I could have thrown their lunchboxes at them, yelled at them for screwing up months of hard work in a few short hours. But I didn't.  Instead, I drew the line at the very spot where our own property line merged with the "common property" technically owned by the city: which is where the old ditch that was there two years ago, started to slope downward.  

It was a measured response - and an object lesson for me, firstly to know that it's okay to get messy when fixing a problem beneath the surface, and secondly, for me to know where to set and police my own personal borders while waiting for folks to clean up their messes when they're done.

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