You may recall that I found out long ago that at some point in time in the ever more distant past, Sister St. Aloysius had suffered from a brain tumor. As many of you who have had some sort of catastrophic illness can attest, having this type of thing happen to you can change your outlook on life considerably. I have had some very interesting discussions with her as a result.
On this beautiful spring day, a letter from a reader called to mind one of those talks:
Dear Sister Mary Martha,
I'm sorry to be posting this in a comment
on another post, but I don't know how else to reach you. I have a
serious problem: I live in an apartment building, and the people above
me are insufferably loud. Not "normal" loud, but jumping, running,
bouncing balls, dragging things across the floor kind of loud. In the
morning, in the afternoon, in the evening—it never stops. The residents
there are a woman and her young son, and I have tried explaining to her
multiple times that their activities sound like an earthquake in my
ceiling that shakes my walls and nearly topples my bookshelves. She is
very nice, but insists that she can't believe it's that loud, and that
she can't control her son, that he's "just at that age". I have tried
complaining to the front office and they have mentioned it to her, too.
Short of harassing my neighbor or anonymously sending her Dr. Dobson's
child-rearing books in the mail, how can I make this stop? I can't go
on with them waking me up every morning, preventing me from taking a
nap during the day, constantly interrupting anything I'm trying to
Please help me!
One of two things is happening, or both. She doesn't believe you. She doesn't care.
I have three options for you:
1. Be vigilant. Every time you are disturbed, tell her and the office. Tape record the noise. Ask someone from the office to come to your apartment during the noise. File a formal complaint. Make sure someone knocks on her door every time it happens.
If you go for this option, make sure you are truthful. There is going to be noise from above when you live down below. They can't live silently up there. They have to walk and move things and maybe thump and bounce once in a while. Complain when there is something to complain about.
2. Befriend her. Bring the child a little gift or ask her for dinner or coffee. Don't talk about the noise at all. Let her talk about herself. Dote on the child. Once you are friends, you can ask her for small favors. "I have a big meeting tomorrow and need to make sure I get some sleep. Can you try to be extra quiet tomorrow morning?" Enlist this child's help. "Will you remember to be quite as a mouse?" "I'm so tired. I need a nap. Can little Lonny watch "Rio" for the 200th time while I snooze for a bit?" This will take time.
But you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Unless you just want to splatter them on the countertop with a flyswatter and get it over with.
3. Love the noise. I don't mean love it, as in "I love Beethoven's Ninth Symphony." I mean just embrace the noise and stop fighting it.
I have mentioned that Sister St. Aloysius is rather a nervous person. She once told me that during her treatments, especially leading up to the procedure that removed the tumor, the doctors were very worried that she wouldn't be able to handle how very still she would have to be for quite some time while they worked on her. So they arranged for people to come and work on relaxation techniques with her. This involved some sort of 'guided meditation'. A very calm woman showed up to work with Sister St. Aloysius, had her lie down and focus on relaxing every muscle in her body one little muscle at a time. As soon as they began, everyone in the neighborhood decided to go out in their yards and laugh, holler, talk, start up lawn mowers, throw screaming children into the swimming pool and do whatever makes the dog bark so that his barking can cause all the other dogs to bark.
The mediation lady said, "I'm so sorry. This is not very relaxing, all this noise."
And Sister St. Aloysius said, "It's not a problem." She said she found a great peace in the sound, as she wasn't sure if she was going to survive the tumor or the surgery, that she wanted to soak up every sound of life being lived. It was relaxing.
So love them. Love their lives and the noise life makes.
I'm sure there will be times when the noise is a bit much. But at this point, you're counting and tensing and waiting and grinding your teeth, which is just making everything worse.
I recommend option 2 and 3 combined. And St. Scholastica, the patron saint of thunder storms. She was visiting her brother, St. Benedict and it was time to go home. She didn't want to go home. She wanted to stay and talk. He insisted she go. She prayed. A violent storm sprang up so she had to stay put. They spent the night talking while the storm raged. She died the next morning, no doubt with a head full of prayer, and thought and thunder.