Exactly three Thursday’s a month my window gets knocked on. It’s always the window facing the street, and it’s always the same lady; my sweet, short neighbor who only speaks Spanish and dries her clothes on the fence we share.
“Ticketero!” she’ll yell, usually pointing to my car and kind of jumping up and down.
It took a couple times, but I figured out that ticketero is Spanish for “Move your car, dumb gringo, or the parking police is gonna get you!”. And I love it. I really do. Neighbor has saved me a lot of dollars by doing this, and for no reason other than her deep hate of the L.A. parking police and her deep love for me. Which is fine. It really is. The problem is the knock comes at 7 in the morning and the police don’t come until noon. That’s beginning to get a little old.
Now don’t get me wrong. I try to wake up at 7 in the morning every morning because the earlier I wake up the better my day is. But for any wake-up to be a good one it has to include my routine. Stretch in bed, coffee, splash the face, coffee, sit and read a little. Maybe write. Following this, mornings suck, but they suck much less than they otherwise would.
Ticketero takes this away from me. Neighborhood Watch taps and yells and taps and yells until I open my blinds, nod, wave and mouth gracias through the glass. For a while I bothered putting on sweat pants and a shirt first — trying to look like I hadn’t just gotten out of bed, like I got up at 5 in the morning with the real men in the neighborhood. These days I greet her in my boxers with squinty eyes like I just woke up. Because that’s what has just happened. I’ve been hoping for months that she would get the hint. But she hasn’t. Or she has, and she likes torturing me for being lazy and waking up at 7. In my dark moments when I hate the world in general, I swear it’s the second one. It’s beginning to get a little old.
I catch myself feeling this way about my friends and family sometimes — the people that keep my honest. It’s great and they keep me out of trouble and remind me who I am when I forget, but it gets a little old. It’s annoying and inconvenient and I just woke up. That’s what I say. And even though those are true statements, they are only true in a shallow, half-baked sort of way.
What I mean is, most of us have been blessed with people who know us and who want to keep knowing us and know us a more and more. If we live in these relationships the right way, these people tend so serve two purposes: they love us (while, hopefully, we love them back), and they keep us honest. They do this by living life with us, by calling us on the phone and reading what we write and sending us emails and playing poker with us. And when things go wrong, we make mistakes or do something stupid, they are in a very good position to recognize that for what it is and to call us on it. This is fundamentally a good thing, but I don’t feel that way most of the time.
I know this isn’t revolutionary for most of you, but it is for me. It’s my tendency to withdraw from inconvenience and accountability. I gave my neighbor dirty looks for a month or so. Sometimes I don’t answer my phone. I do this with all things in life, not just relationships. And I’m robbing myself of something.
By habitually moving away from inconvenient things and ugly things and uncomfortable things, I’m habitually moving away from what real life looks like. If we push ourselves through those things instead of around them, we can find meaning and beauty and grow some character. Which is part of what it means to be a human, the real way. The good way.
This is why I think that families are special. Flesh and blood ones and sturdy friendship ones. Letting yourself be known and known deeply and honestly by people is one of the most revolutionary things you can do, and also one of the most difficult. But when you do it, when you are known by some people and they love you, you get full and big and you live. For that to happen for me, I need to start being more grateful. Grateful for 7 a.m. window tappings, and grateful for phone calls I don’t want to pick up. I need to be grateful for my families, the flesh and blood ones and the sturdy friendship ones. I need to start saying thank you and smile more. Maybe, after that, I can tap on a few windows, too.