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Return of the dreaded neighbor lady

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It’s been a while since my neighbor lady has wreaked havoc on my life.

However, this past week she made up for lost time.

To bring you up to speed on who my neighbor lady is: She’s my evil twin, my alter ego, an overbearing, intrusive buttinsky mother who has trouble remembering that once the umbilical cord is cut moments after birth, it should not and cannot ever be reattached and it is futile and foolish to even try -- although she’s been trying for more than 40 years.

I came to know my neighbor lady years ago when God told me a parable about a mom who was trying to raise two daughters. It seemed that every time the mom turned her head, the neighbor lady would swoop in and do her dastardly neighbor lady deeds.

It was amazing how alert she was, watching the girls all the time. 

Sometimes she would hide in the bushes because her husband and her counselors would tell her repeatedly that she was a fruitcake and a busybody. She just learned to be more covert in her tactics, swooping in and interfering with the mom’s parenting -- doing the girls’ chores for them, buying them anything they wanted, cutting and coring their apples even when they were teenagers and able to do it themselves.

She was especially adept at keeping the girls from experiencing even the most minor inconveniences.

(If you want to see pathetic, you should see this 5-foot-tall neighbor lady struggling to balance these 5-foot, 6-inch girls on her hip.)

There was nothing she was unwilling to do for them, except let them live their own lives. She “knew” that she knew better than the mom how those girls should be raised.

So, she would do everything and anything to not let the girls grow up into responsible, mature adults.

Of course, if you asked the neighbor lady if her purpose was to hinder the girls’ growth, she would be horrified that you would even consider the idea.

She has only ever wanted good things for the girls. What she can’t seem to understand is that the raising of these girls, especially now that they’re adults, is none of her business.

As this parable goes, the mom with the two daughters is God, and I am the buttinsky neighbor lady, spreading mayhem and chaos with my every misguided attempt at “helping” my children. 

In my moments of sanity, I am well aware that constant mommy interference only produces mommy-dependent adults, and moms who act like neighbor ladies do more harm than good.

Trying to fix situations that God already has complete control over, even if they look like whirlwinds of crazy, only stirs up and prolongs the crazy. 

Truly, the neighbor lady wants peace.

She hates crazy, although she has considered that she may be addicted to it.

Last year, I thought I had killed the neighbor lady. I started attending a 12-step group where I met other neighbor ladies who were also addicted to crazy, and together we’ve been learning how to replace crazy with not-crazy, to embrace our powerlessness and cling to the One who has all the power, to “Let go and let God,” and most importantly, to mind our own business.

As I said, last year I thought I had killed the neighbor lady, but like Jason in the “Friday the 13th” horror movies who keeps getting killed but can’t seem to stay dead, my neighbor lady can’t seem to stay dead either.

I seriously wish she would just go away. But then, she’s a part of me, and God uses her in my life to teach me about himself, that he even loves her in all her intrusive, misguided shenanigans, because he understands that she operates out of fear. He knows that she tries to control her world because she feels responsible for everyone else’s well-being.

So, this past week when the neighbor lady returned, God told her to be still. She cried because she was afraid and she didn’t know what would happen if she was still and simply did nothing.

Eventually, as she reminded herself that God was greater, bigger, more powerful and that he could handle the most difficult and most mundane, she began to calm down. If I didn’t know her better, I’d say she even started to trust.

And then, because God is beyond kind, a perfectly timed, random text message from a friend let the neighbor lady know that she worried in vain and that all was well, at least for that moment.

That night the neighbor lady slept well -- and so did I.

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.

 

 

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