I grew up with a neglectful and abusive mother. Because she was also hugely disorganized, my life was often chaotic. Everything was done last minute with no planning or organization. It was a running family joke that every holiday required at least one trip to the local drugstore to get things she forgot. Back then, the local drugstore was the only store open on Christmas. It was not even that unusual to have to go more than once because she would realize other things she had forgotten after the first trip was made.
While that seems fairly innocuous, it was far from the only place that chaos ruled. When I was small she never kept up with the paperwork required for my school. I remember once in the first grade after I asked her over and over to sign a paper that I needed to be signed, and she was just “too busy,” to take the 10 seconds to do that, I ended up trying to forge her name. Since I could not even write in cursive yet (they taught that in second grade), I got in trouble. Shout out to the school who didn’t even care to try and figure out why a six-year-old was having to resort to forgery for something a responsible parent should have been handling. Despite many obvious neglect and abuse signs, my school never did anything to help me. It was a private Christian school, so abuse was normalized. But that is a topic for a different essay.
One way I learned to survive was by turning off my emotions. I would go numb so I could get through the chaos that always surrounded me.
It is still my default response to chaos now.
I am very organized in my own life as a way to ward off the anxiety that I was gifted from my abusive childhood, so chaos is almost always something that attacks from the outside. I’m so overprepared for anything that chaos can rarely find an area to attack from inside.
Most recently, we have been having some issues where we live. When we first moved into this complex almost two years ago, it was pretty quiet. There was one couple at the very beginning who fought a lot and one time he threw her laptop out the front door, but they moved about a month after we moved in.
It was very quiet for over a year until the people across the way started having a relationship meltdown.
I don’t know the entire story. I know the wife and kids finally moved out at the end of the summer. This was after months of escalating screaming fits by the husband and many visits by the cops. Including one that entailed eight cops and a canine.
Since the wife moved out, I’ve only seen the cops three times, but once was just before Christmas. They came twice that day. The first time he was not home, but not long after he got back, they returned.
I don’t know what the story was, but they stormed his apartment and dragged him out. He was gone for a few days and then returned.
The kids had been regularly visiting him before this, but I have not seen them here since then.
My reaction to all of this is to just ignore it. I ignore it because my emotions shut off in the face of chaos. I’m not disturbed or upset. I’m numb.
My son is really struggling, though. Because he did not grow up around chaos and is used to things being handled and stable, he reacts very negatively to chaos.
I worry that maybe I have swung him too far to the other side. He gets rattled when the police are here and when the man acts up.
For a while, I thought he should toughen up. Shit happens and life is full of uncontrollable things.
But now I’m wondering if his response is actually the healthy one. I know mine is not healthy, but I have no idea what the “correct” response to unruly neighbors should be.
Until I learn otherwise, I’m going to at least say that his response is better than mine.