It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this that I do not like where I live. I always believed it was temporary. Sixteen years later, I’m still here. Let me give you some background to the story. It’s not pretty so lets get it out of the way. Maybe some of you reading this can identify.
In our first couple of years here, almost every night one summer we heard the familiar sound of joyriding, followed by the burning smell of the car on fire….right behind our house. I’d close all the windows so my baby didn’t have to breath in the thick black smoke.
On top of all this, in the same two years we:
Had our petrol pipe cut on our car. We are lucky to be alive as fortunately the petrol left (it was a crude way of someone getting to petrol) didn’t ignite!
Constant loud music coming from various houses.
Weed farms around us and drug dealers.
And a violent neighbor who tried to break in one night after he got so drunk he lost his temper when I asked him to turn down his music. I was heavily pregnant, had a two year old, and was home alone as my husband worked nights. I was terrified! Worst of all, I called 999 but the police didn’t show up. I called 999 THREE TIMES! The police didn’t come until gone midnight to “check on things.”
After that, the council moved us to another estate.
Then things got worse.
We had another weed farm next to us. This time it was so strong the smell hit us hard as we opened our front door. They were growing it in their bathroom with heat lamps, so the smell was coming through to us.
There was a party so loud one night that we all slept downstairs in the living room, only to awake with a police guard next door, and police tape surrounding the property. A man got a hammer and started hitting a neighbour of ours over the head. We knew this neighbour. He died twice on the operating table and it was touch and go as to whether or not he’d make it, hence the police guard. He made it, but I was a state.
At this point I was having a breakdown but no one noticed. Any loud noises or music and I started to shake uncontrollably. I was begging my husband to move but this is his home town and was happy here. And fortunately I was sheltering a lot from the children.
Because I wouldn’t let my children out to play on their own I did fun activities instead. This drew other children who were kicked out on the streets from as young as three. So here I was finding some respite through watching over the street kids and my own. I bought all sorts of crafting goodies, such as crayons and paper, to keep them all entertained.
Time went on. The elderly neighbours I’d made friends with passed away and in their place the council moved in young people. Those people then moved and new people moved in. I was faced with so many new neighbours and each time I’d have a private meltdown, panicking as to what they were going to be like.
Then next door moved. I was good friends with this family so was sad to see them go. This property was owned by a terrible landlord. He moved in another family but they soon moved on. The property was sold on to another landlord. They advertised this house for single men…in a family estate. What happened next was the icing on the cake.
The first man that moved in got drunk every night. He’d pass out in the road. Be brought home by police. Walk around naked with his curtains open. Pass out with his music on full volume.
I was a mess.
Then they moved in another single man. They basically split the house in two. This guy was just as bad!
One morning my husband went to start his car but it wouldn’t work. He called his dad, who came to jump start it. My husband revved the engine and was good to go.
So off he went to work.
But I could hear all this commotion. I looked out of the front window but didn’t see anything. Puzzled, as I could still hear it, I opened the back door.
That’s when I saw him. My neighbour.
I quickly went back in and shut the door. But he’d seen me. He proceeded to start shouting “Yeah, you! I’m talking to you!” I was really confused. I hadn’t spoken to him to upset him. How could he be mad at me? So I took a deep breath and went outside.
He was going nuts! Shouting how he was trying to sleep but my husbands car woke him up. He told me how he’d tried to open his front door to go and beat the living daylights out of my husband but something prevented it from opening (thank you God!!!). He then started to list off gang members he knew and threatened to have me killed.
In light of recent shootings between gangs here, this threat could not be taken idly.
So how did I react? To this day I can’t believe I did this. You always wonder how you’d react under this insane kind of pressure. Well now I know.
Yes, sang. It was totally unconscious. I just started singing as if I had no control over it. I’m smiling now how I remember his face. It was like someone just cut the power fueling his anger and he slowly calmed down. By the end he even apologized!
They soon got evicted.
Change Starts From Within
So I knew for my husband, as with many around here, this was the norm. This is life as they knew and grew up with. They have like a protective covering that prevents them being affected by all this.
But not me. I was broken. And those broken pieces of me were broken.
Going to church in the area had its own problems that only contributed to how I was. It didn’t help. So I left.
My old belief system didn’t do me any favors. So that was the first thing to shift. However, others perceived it as an attack on them. Which obviously wasn’t the case at all! (This sort of thing happens because everyone identifies themselves with their thought system and every thought system centres on what you believe you are). In fact, not only did they perceive my changing beliefs as an attack, they even saw things and accused me of things I didn’t do. They really believed this too, no matter how much I tried to tell them this wasn’t the case at all. But I couldn’t react. If I did, it would only reinforce their perception of me attacking them. And, in fact, I would be at that point.
It was here I had a choice to make.
Attack by allowing ego to rise up and get defensive, or, extend love and grace towards them? The latter is the best way, the ONLY way, in which it is possible to have their eyes opened to truth. This is dying to self. Denying your need to justify and be right, even when you are right.
Sometimes you just have to let go. Not only that, but love and forgive in the process.
The day came where I knew, for my sake and for my children’s sake, something had to change. I had to somehow find a way to rebuild myself. And that kind of change starts within.
Shine Where You Are.
With the help of mentors such as Marianne Williamson, Elizabeth Gilbert, Richard Rohr, Gabrielle Bernstien, I have been able to use this situation for my own good. Stuck in this place I have been forced to deal with the wounds, offences, negative thoughts, anger, etc and give up attack thoughts in favor of loving ones. These mentors have guided me in the way to do so.
The biggest challenge though has been forgiving and loving the people in this place.
One morning it was revealed to me that I had serious issues with resentment. This only proved that I was holding unforgiveness in my heart. I had to forgive my husband and this place.
In a series of meditations, visualizations, and a heap of praying, I began this process of letting go, forgiving, and starting to love. Love is an ongoing process. It’s constantly fighting off ego when I find myself judging someone here, and sending them loving, kind, thoughts of peace, healing and prosperity.
What you give you receive.
Over time, as my judgmentalism, anger, bitterness, hatred, and so on grew, so did my problems. It became a never ending toxic cycle. The moment I stepped out to make even the tiniest change, I broke that cycle.
I may still be here. I may still have problems in this place. But I can now be the best possible version of myself. I can shine AND BEST OF ALL, I have started a chain reaction for change! The day will come when we will move and I can leave this place knowing I hold no ill feelings. Everything that happened is gone. The past is the past. All we have is the now and what matters is what we do with the now.
Before I finish here, I’d like to end with this thought. Some are of the persuasion that if they are in a place they really don’t like and even suffer in, then this is their calling and they are there to “change/save that community.”
That in itself is a very judgmental way of looking at things. I know. I was one of these people.
But lets look at it from a new perspective.
What if, you are in that place in order for it to save you!