Recently, I got out of an abusive relationship. One designed by circumstance, by chance, perhaps by a naieve blindness. When we moved into our new home, we knew there was a young family living in the basement suite. This felt like a good thing, the daughter was about my daughter's age and from our brief talk, the couple seemed nice.
A few weeks after moving in, during which it was necessary to de-skeeve the home formerly occupied by drug-users and sellers, as well as stare at the piles of belongings ad trash that were very, very slowly making their way off the property, the couple parted ways. She found a new place to live and he found a new sense of freedom. Soon, we were not only listening to his obnoxiously loud music, but our yard was regularly overrun with his equally obnoxious and loud friends.
We were good sports, we also were clear about our expectations and boundaries - we know from experience that living underneath an active young family can be a unique and not always pleasant experience. We did our very best to open the lines of communication and picked our issues mindfully. Things got better - briefly.
Then the 'others' moved in - people who would couch-surf, or simply crash at the neighbour's place. People whose names and faces we did not know, people who often appeared intoxicated and spoke with a vulgar and sometimes violent flair. People who smoked inside the house then lied about it. People who threatened us with physical violence. People who not only knew where I lived, but had easy access to my home and intimate knowledge of my comings and goings.
I felt trapped and frightened.
Calling the cops was an option, but what would happen when the police left? What about my kids? Was it really as bad as I imagined, the nights I lay awake listening to them party? Was it just me being paranoid?
We complained to our landlord, as did a neighbour. Another neighbour called the cops. The landlord, who is forever trying to help people out of difficult situations, finally evicted basement-dude. It was only then that I realised how frightened I'd become.
Now that he (and company) were at the end of their time here, what was going to happen? Would there be a last act of retaliation? Were we safe?
The month of July was difficult and largely sleepless - I feared every night that something terrible might happen to us. When I left the house I wondered what I might come home to. When we went away for a week, I lost my head with worry.
They moved away over two weeks ago, but have left a pile of stuff and have therefore been back a dozen times. Every time, I get the same tightening in my chest, the same anxiety, the same sad fear. Sadness for the man whose life temporarily ruined mine - he's a sweet guy, but his judgement stinks. We hope that his new life will be a good one and we are happy to wash our hands of him and his friends (mainly his friends).
And now that my life is mine again, no more fear, I am taking stock. How did I get so wrapped up in these remote possibilities? How far does my mama-bear protectionism go? Did I do enough? (I believe I did, WE did - I can not ever discount my husband's role in looking out for our family). How would we handle the situation differently? What did we learn?
And how do we get balanced when we're so mired in our inability to control anything?