I GOT THE BROOM TAP
Anxiety manifests in so many sneaky ways. I could fill a CVS receipt with a list of dumb shit that could send me into a tailspin at any given time. One minute I'm walking down the street enjoying a podcast, the next minute I'm staring at an empanada stand. Then I think "empanada", and I think "party I went to twelve years ago". Then I think "party twelve years ago where Adrian made delicious empanadas but I didn't get a good base before the party so all I had were the empanadas to eat and I got too drunk in front of a bunch of co-workers and OH MY FUCK WHAT DID I SAY THAT NIGHT."
That type of shit will haunt me for hours, sometimes days. Then, like an idiot, I think COFFEE will somehow calm my nerves and absolve me of the thing I probably didn't say, in front of the people who absolutely didn't remember, who definitely also think they said something equally as stupid the same night. If alcohol is the numbing agent when feeling depressed, caffeine is the freebase for riding the anxiety high. Sometimes, I feel like I subconsciously want to pile on. Is it an exercise in self-punishment? Maybe.
Okay, jotting that down for therapy on Thursday.
Anywho, today's blog post is about doing jumping jacks in my living room and getting the broom tap from my downstairs neighbor.
Shame is a massive anxiety trigger for me. But shame has a roommate, a bestie, the Bert to his Ernie… GUILT. Ohhhhh man, it doesn't happen as often, but when it does, it comes out to Enter Sandman and sprints to the pitcher's mound.
Let me rewind to the hellish year my girlfriend and I shared in our previous apartment. I want to save the whole story for another, longer post, but the gist of it is, every excessive noise factor that you deal with when living in an apartment building, happened. And it all happened during the pandemic, when we were trapped inside all goddamn day.
We had to confront a few people and make some formal complaints in our time there, but what ultimately drove us out was our upstairs neighbor. She would take phone calls all day and deep into the evening. Now, I'm a fucking loudmouth New Yorker, especially when I teach or have a few drinks in me. Being a lifelong high decibel-talker, I've had to grow accustomed to people asking me to keep it down. I don't realize that I'm doing it. It just happens. I get excited, passionate, pissed off, whatever, and the next thing I know, someone is tapping me on the shoulder, asking me to please stop yelling, this is a Barnes and Noble.
Living downstairs from this woman was like living underneath a post-game stadium interview. Imagine Michael Rappaport with a megaphone. Leslie Jones would have told her to use her indoor voice. We finally tried to address it with her, and, god damnit, she was a union delegate for nurses in a hospital. She NEEDED to take those phone calls. (Cue the opening cords of Enter Sandman). A level of grace needed to be had, for sure, but it didn't give her a free pass to scream into the phone at all hours of the night.
At first, she sounded embarrassed and remorseful. My girlfriend was the one who spoke to her first. She apologized and peppered "I've been living here for 40 years" into the conversation three or four times. She asked that we pop the ceiling with a broom if she ever got too loud again. It was fine for a few days, then it started again, at around 11 o'clock one night.
After a few pops on the ceiling with a broom, she stopped dead in her tracks. We heard "I have to call you back." She called again, sort of apologizing, but made damn sure she dropped, "I've been living in this building for 40 years" a few more times.
It took me a minute, but that was her polite way of saying "fuck you."
So this Saturday, as I attempted to get my body back to pre-covid tightness (ew, don't say "tightness"), I warmed up as I usually do, with 100 jumping jacks (ohhhh tell them more about your workout routine, Bruno.) I thought being on the carpet would drown out the noise. It did not. Maybe I underestimated my now-230 pound frame.
Just as I got to about 50 in my count, I heard "POP POP POP". Below me.
EX-IT LIGHT. EN-TER NIGHT.
Now, are the people downstairs perfect? No. They have a gigantic dog who barks a lot. They sometimes play music with a lot of bass. But for the most part, they don't have any impact on my life. When we moved in, we wanted to be extra careful of being respectful of our downstairs neighbors, given the hell that woman in the old place put us through.
That pop of the broom sent me into a guilt spiral. I've been sliding on my feet through every hardwood floor spot in my apartment since. I've been watching TV with earbuds in after 10pm. I've built a narrative of them coming upstairs to fight me because I dropped my cell phone on the floor. Every time I get on the elevator and it stops at their floor, I'm convinced it's them, and they're going to look me in the eye and know that it was me who was jumping jacking and karate chop me in the throat.
The anxiety the woman in our previous building created for me was sometimes unbearable. I feared watching movies because I knew the second I put it on, I would hear "HELLOOOOOO" thundering from upstairs (a lot of the time I was right.) I feared reading. I was so angry and resentful of having to go in my bedroom to teach my classes because I couldn't fucking concentrate.
Now, I'm projecting it on MY downstairs neighbor. I am convinced that it is ME down there, pacing around, furious at every time we walk with a heavy foot, or when one of our cats sprints across the room, I get a little too excited when coaching an actor, have to raise my voice for a self-tape audition, or when there's a gun fight in a TV show we're watching (we've taken a paused on our Deadwood binge). I'm now tip-toeing around, feeling guilty for getting up to refill my water or use the bathroom.
I JUST NEED THEM TO KNOW THAT I AM A GOOD PERSON.
Will it pass? Sure. It always does. We're not assholes. I'm beginning to resume normal life. I do my jumping jacks in the stairwell now. I'm being a good neighbor. And I'm sure they've moved on. But, if you're relating to this post, I'm sure you'll understand that I would give anything to have fast-forwarded through those first 48 hours of guilt anxiety.
If you are struggling with your mental health, there is no shame in getting help:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.