“It is not our purpose to become each other;
it is to recognize each other, to learn
to see the other and honor him for what he is.” (Herman Hesse)
For the first time, I “recognized,” “learned to see the other, and “honored” my neighbor for “what she is.” She was the first neighbor to come over and welcome us to the neighborhood when we moved in three years ago. Within a year, she had her first cancer recurrence. As she went through chemotherapy, Hubby and I, along with other neighbors drove her to treatment.
Until our long conversation over breakfast several days ago, I only recognized my neighbor as a:
- Sister Breast Cancer Survivor;
- Religious Person – Interdenominational Religion that promotes evangelism;
- Single Female, Never Married, with No Children; and
- Far Right Conservative Republican – Follower of Fox TV, Glen Beck, Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, etc.
Politically, as far right as she is; I am as far to the left –
- Religious Person – Protestant Christian Denomination with liberal views on social issues, social justice and equality; and
- Far Left Progressive Democrat – Follower of Al Sharpton, Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, with the exception of Morning Joe, all the other MSNBC news shows.
It wasn’t long before we both realized that talking about politics and/or social issues were toxic to our “friendly neighbor” relationship. We avoid these topics, but we still:
- schedule occasional lunch dates and other outings;
- attend church services together from time-to-time; and
- watch each other’s homes and act as designated emergency contacts.
For more than three years, we have been just “friendly neighbors.”
On Saturday, I invited her to breakfast to celebrate my Six-Year Cancerversary. I really wanted to celebrate with another survivor. Before, I could tell her the reason for the invite, she said the dreaded words, “cancer recurrence.” After hearing this, I deleted Cancerversary as a discussion topic. I sat quietly and listened.
Learned to See the Other
I truly listened. I opened my heart. I looked beyond differences.
I did not challenge her decision to forego any further chemotherapy. She wants to take whatever time that remains to travel and visit old friends. This meant tapping into her 401K, but at 60-years-old she believes “death will arrive before retirement.” Also, after meeting with her Financial Planner, she feels comfortable in drawing down some retirement funds for travel.
Her first stop is Scotland in 45 days. I enjoyed listening to her stories about when she lived and worked there — the culture, her friends, her work, and the food.
Within 30 days after returning from Scotland, her plan is to visit a close friend in Hungary. Again, I could have spent hours hearing about the young college students she worked with from all over the world. She is excited about reuniting with the young man she had mentored while living there.
She is from Massachusetts and we talked at length about the annual vacations with my daughters to Martha Vineyard. Though she lived in Massachusetts for a number of years, she never visited the Island. But, she definitely said a visit is in her future.
She talked at length about the close relationship with her mother. After the death of her father, she gave up world travel, accepted a position in her home office and joined her mother in Florida. She cared for her mother who died six years ago from Breast Cancer. And, shortly after that she was diagnosed. I talked about what it meant to care for my mother the last two years of her life.
After talking with my neighbor yesterday, I no longer “focused on our differences.” I listened. I opened my heart. I “learned” our “similarities” outweigh our “differences.”
I honor my friend, a Breast Cancer Survivor, for her strength and courage. She is choosing to follow “her path” on “her journey” to live life to the fullest.
I am grateful our paths intersected and our relationship blossomed from “friendly neighbor” to “friends.”
We both want a “healthy friends” relationship, and have agreed to read, “Conscious Communication: How to Establish Healthy Relationships and Resolve Conflict Peacefully while Maintaining Independence,” by Miles Sherts. As stated in the book’s introduction, we want to:
“learn to communicate with each other in a way
that supports our individuality while also
recognizing our interdependence.”
“Healthy friends” ought to have discussions on politics, religion, social issues, etc., and still respectfully disagree without being disagreeable.
I am on a journey to build self-awareness and live non-judgmentally.