Mrs. Dim’s new hobby

It’s been a while since I have complained about my neighbor, Mrs. Dim. As a matter of fact, she has taken up a new hobby this summer to go with her compulsive lawn and garden maintenance. Mrs. Dim is now a carpenter. She has set up a table saw and a power sander in her garage, and now she can be noisy even when rain is falling and she can’t blow leaves around her yard.

I have no idea what she is building. The work has been going on all summer. Is she making new kitchen cabinets? Replacing carpeting with wooden floors? Rebuilding the entire house from the bottom up? Or has someone told her to build an ark? She has visitors by from time to time, and I’ve started to wonder if she is taking in work just so she can run her table saw more often.

Recently I have learned that “Highly Sensitive Person” is a recognized category—it appears to be treated more as a personality type than a disorder, which is fine by me. Like other HSPs, I am sensitive to odors, to loud noises, to bright lights and bright colors, and so on. Long before I knew that there was such a thing as an HSP, I was already making decisions to avoid uncomfortable situations. No fireworks or rock concerts for me. No car or motorcycle races. Even a trip to the movies is rare, because they have the volume so blasted loud.

How then does a Highly Sensitive Person cope, living next door to a Highly Noisy Person? Even her usual speaking voice is turned up to eleven (because ten isn’t high enough for her). With the windows closed and the air conditioner running, summer has been tolerable. Now as we approach the middle of September, we will have more afternoons and evenings with the windows open for the cool fresh air. I am planning coping strategies even as I type, but I will welcome any suggestions from others.

Coping Strategy # 1: Play music. Every time the mower, trimmer, blower, or (now) the table saw is in use, I will throw on a CD and try to cover up her noise as it invades the house.

Coping Strategy # 2: If possible, leave the house. Go to the library. Go for a walk in the park. Go sit by a body of water. Just get away.

Coping Strategy # 3: I’m stuck. I really can’t think of any other way of dealing with this problem.

Mostly likely someone will suggest that I speak with her about the problem. How do I do this? Do I say, “Mrs. Dim, I am a Highly Sensitive Person, and you are a Highly Noisy Person. Something has to change.” I’m sure her first answer would be along the lines of “put up and shut up.” If I point out that she spends too much time tending her lawn and blowing leaves off her porch, I’m sure she will say that I spend too little time tending my lawn and getting rid of my leaves. If I mention that it’s hard for me to concentrate on reading a book when she is making her assorted noises, I suspect she will tell me that anyone who wants to sit and read must be lazy and undeserving of any consideration.

People are not all the same. We have to tolerate a lot of differences to get along in this world. If I would rather suffer in silence (Oh, for a weekend of silence!) than confront Mrs. Dim, then I guess I must also accept the fact that she is never going to change. Unless, of course, she adds another hobby. Knowing her, it will probably involve a drum set, bagpipes, or both.

J.

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