In The Way I See It

Coco Chanel once said, “The best things in life are free; the second best are expensive.”

Oftentimes I am trapped in this school of thought : for something to be considered happiness, it must be grandiose. I am not proud of this narrow-mindedness of mine and I have been trying very hard to revamp this ill informed opinion.

My husband once said, “If life is a graph, how would you draw it? Is it a dramatic, drastic up and down line? Like when you’re happy, the line goes drastically up. You’re setting a very high standard for your definition of happiness. Everything that falls short of that pedestal is not happiness. And what is the opposite of happiness? Maybe that’s why you feel depressed a lot.”

Then he continued, “If your life drawn in a graph is a stable, constant, straight-ish line, don’t you think it’s a more realistic perspective to keep? You’re not always looking up for your next excitement, for your next happiness. But rather, you learn to perceive many regular things as happiness. The mundane, day to day things in life that are often overlooked in your quest for grandiose happiness. That extreme swing of up and down isn’t very good for your mental and emotional health.”

I was stunned, because I had never thought about it like that.

You know that popular phrase, “Life is about the journey, not the destination”?

I think it’s similar to what my husband said. If I am too focused on finding that next excitement, that next big thing to look forward to.. (example : I must plan a party for husband’s birthday! a fall hiking trip for the family! a Black Friday shopping list for Christmas presents! a vacation next year! ) then I manage to forget that the little things that happen in the daily are very precious as well.

The daily journey is filled with little things that is well worth of being called happiness.

It struck me yesterday as I was eating dinner with my son. We split a turkey grilled cheese sandwich, him with a glass of milk and me with my apple cider. He had this happy,content look in his face and we were both saying, “Yum! It’s so delicious” I realized, this is happiness. I am happy. He is happy. It’s a nice feeling. It isn’t eating out at a restaurant, it is just a simple dinner with my little guy. It isn’t a fancy meal I cooked (though, of course that would be nice too), it’s a grilled cheese sandwich that took me all of 5 minutes to make because that was what we felt like having for dinner last night.

Then I began to recount my day..

I had a homemade Pumpkin Spiced Latte (PSL) in the morning. That tasted pretty damn close to Starbucks’ PSL if I do say so myself. For a few years now, beginning every fall, I looked forward to having my first cup of Starbucks PSL. It symbolizes  the seasonal change, gone are the days of scorching hot summer days made for pools and evening music festivals, and back are the days of pumpkin pickings and bonfires.

However, I can’t afford to keep buying Starbucks. Those little cups of spicy wonders can truly put a dent in my bank account. Starbucks ain’t cheap. So I found a recipe online and replicated it. Now I can have it every morning. And I can afford that!

I realized, that is happiness. A steaming cup of PSL on a chilly fall morning. And soon it will be boots and scarfs and sweaters season. The leaves will change color. It will then be time to go pumpkin picking and do our annual family tradition of pumpkin carving.

That is happiness.

I called my friend Vicky yesterday, seeing if she wanted to take her kids to the Botanical Garden with us. Her kids are sick so she said, “Maybe next time, thanks for thinking about us.”

It’s lovely to be thanked for a simple act of thinking.

It is happiness. To be able to call a friend, to share a few details of your day.

That is happiness.

My son and I went to the Botanical Garden. We played together in the pretend grocery store they had, he played in the sand, wade in the fountain, and fed the fat koi fishes in the Japanese Garden. The garden wasn’t crowded, it was a pleasant, quiet day, a bit humid for my liking, but it was such a lovely day.

I felt lucky to be able to spend moments like these with him. Children grow up fast, oh so cliche, but so very true. Soon my son won’t want to be hugged so tight, to be kissed, to be squeezed, to be held. Soon he’d want to do everything by himself. Soon he’ll be too cool for me. He’s already stopped calling me “Mommy” and started calling me “Mom” instead. One time I gave him something and instead of saying, “thank you Mommy” in his childlike high pitched voice, he said coolly, “thanks, Mom”…. which makes me feel like, oh dear, my 4 years old is going on 14!

It is bittersweet… but it is happiness.

At night before bedtime, we snuggle together on the reclining chair in his room, reading books from the library. He picked a book about dolphins last night.

It is happiness.

Two days ago I took my son to his soccer practice. We got to kick the ball together. I watched him on the sideline, happily kicking the soccer ball with his team mates, little boys and girls who filled the soccer field with infectious giggles and laughs. All the other parents were smiling too. Such a lovely moment to be a witness to. Watching the coach took his time to explain to Franklin how to do a side-kick. Watching Franklin slowly learning how to side kick properly. And the flash light of happiness in his eyes as he did it properly for the first time. The gleam in his face as the coach said, “There you go buddy! Good job!”

That is happiness.

Three days ago, my husband and I went to the Art Hill to watch the free Symphony Orchestra concert. It was gloomy, raining, and a bit chilly. We only had an umbrella. But I insisted we still go, because it’s our tradition and I am sort of big on traditions like that. This was our fourth year of going to the same concert. It was wet, muddy, and quite messy. But the orchestra played wonderfully as they always do, my husband wasn’t crabby (he usually doesn’t like messy things and places – he has OCD) , he was smiling and happy and cracking jokes. My shoes were wet, my jeans felt damp. But I was happy.

That is happiness.

Whenever I received a postcard in the mail from Postcrossing, I share it with my son and husband. My husband likes to look at the pictures and stamps and read the handwriting of the sender. My son loves to look at the picture, and have me read the message from the sender. We talk about the country the sender is from, google it, and look at pictures of that country.

That is happiness.

And then of course, in a sudden moment of epiphany, I realize… happiness is truly in the way I look at it. The secret is in the way I see it. A rainy outdoor concert, a simple grilled cheese sandwich, a cup of homemade latte, a soccer practice, a bedtime snuggle, a postcard in the mail……

every single little thing can be happiness. And just like that, life is no longer about reaching the next point of excitement, the finish line. But rather about stopping and smelling the flowers. And walking slowly along the trail to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Now tell me, what is your happiness?

A few things

  • Akhirnya mudik juga. Sampai Jakarta 7 Juni kemaren. Di jalan 2 hari. Capeknya jangan ditanya. Baby Bubbles did pretty good on the road all things considered. Kalau lagi capek banget dia jadi hyper. But in general, we both did fine.
  • Tepar, tepar, and tepar. Tujuan mudik adalah buat bezuk nenek gue yg sakit. Rumah beliau di Sukabumi. Kamis sampe, Senin pagi cus ke sukabumi. Di sana langsung sibuk. Nggak ada pembantu yg overnight, pembantunya pulang hari. Tante om gue lagi belom pada dateng.
  • Sabtu kemaren kami foto keluarga. Sudah hampir satu dekade kayaknya sejak sekeluarga besar lengkap baru ngumpul lagi dirumah nenek. Baby Bubbles pas lagi bertingkah hari itu, jadi semua sepupu plus  om tante gue dikerahkan sebagai pengarah gaya dia dan ngehibur joget joget biar dia mau ketawa pas difoto. What a sight.
  • Sekarang gue lagi di rumah nyokap lagi, gara2 harus ke Jakarta Senin kemaren ada urusan. Disini sekalian istirahat dulu yg banyak,  gmakan, tidur gitu aja kerjanya, karena kalau kondisi gue kurang fit gue juga kurang bisa banyak bantu jaga Eyang gue. Untungnya tante gue udah dateng dan sekarang dia yg ambil tugas jaga.
  • Seneng banget liat Baby Bubbles banyak temennya disini. Ya anaknya sepupu gue lah, ya sepupu2 gue yg pada masih precils (maksudnya umur sekitar 9 tahunan, hahaha), sampai anak2 tetangga. Disini kulitnya makin gelap aja tu anak, gara2 seharian main diluar terus. Ya asal dia senang, emaknya sih hepi hepi aja tentunya.
  • Bokap gue dan Baby Bubbles akur banget dan langsung cocok. Such a blessing and I thank God for this, everyday.
  • Selasa pagi kemarin, tiba2 Baby Bubbles banyak bentol2nya di muka, tangan dan kaki. Gue khawatir, jadi gue bawa ke dokter anak. Kata bu dokter, itu gigitan serangga kecil bernama agas. Dikasih salep hydrocortizone. Gue salepin dan kasih bedak Calamed. Sekarang bentolnya sudah mulai mengempis, thank God. Tapi kasian banget liat anak kayak gitu, hiks.
  • Selera makan Baby Bubbles disini payah banget. Pas gue bawa ke dokter kemaren gue tanya soal itu, dan emang, seperti perkiraan gue, itu adalah bagian dari masa penyesuaian. Di rumah aja selera makannya dia kembang kempis, terus dibawa ke tempat baru ya sewajarnya selera makannya makin nurun. Bu dokter kasih dia vitamin dan thank God sepertinya vitamin bekerja, karena dia sekarang mau makan sehari 3 kali dan makannya habis pula. Yay! Senangnya liat anak makan lagi. Oh, dia doyan banget makan pisang ambon. Tadi pagi sejak dibeliin sama neneknya, udah habis 3.  😀
  • Senang banget bisa makan semua makanan Indonesia lagi. Baik itu makanan rumah ataupun jajan. Kemaren pas gue ke Jakarta gue ditraktir makan di Wiro Sableng di Kelapa Gading, salah satu tempat kesukaan emak gue. Sok sokan gue makan cumi bakarnya pake sambel terasi dia yg super pedes… eh besoknya langsung bayar kontan, hahaha. Berkali2 ke kamar mandi.
  • Believe it or not, happy as I am to be here, I’m a little homesick of my home across the wide pond. Oh well, better enjoy this short time home while it lasts. Soon it’ll be time to fly home again.

Ira Glass, on Marriage and the “No Escape Clause”

KURT BRAUNOHLER: I do have a theory now that if I do get married in the future, what I think I would want to do is have an agreement that, at the end of seven years, we have to get remarried in order for the marriage to continue. But at the end of seven years, it ends. And we can agree to get remarried or not get remarried.

IRA GLASS: Why?

KB: Because then I think you get to choose. And I think it would make the relationship stronger.

IG: ...I think actually one of the things that’s a comfort in marriage is that there isn’t a door at seven years, and so if something is messed up, in the short term, there’s a comfort of knowing, ‘well we made this commitment, so we’re just going to work this out. And even if tonight we’re not getting along, or there’s something between us that doesn’t feel right, you have the comfort of knowing, we’ve got time, we’re going to figure this out’. And that makes it so much easier. Because you do go through times where you hate eachother’s guts, and the no escape clause, weirdly, is a bigger comfort to being married than I ever would have thought before I got married.

(From NPR’s Valentine edition of This American Life).

This is one of the best, accurate depiction of marriage I’ve ever heard. Mr. Bubbles and I had a discussion about this last night and we both agree that Ira made a valid point.

Because let’s be real, marriage isn’t always peaches and cream. And the fact that, somehow, in so many words, when we made that vow “for better or worse”, we imply that we’re stuck with other for.. well, ever, so shouldn’t we always try to work it out?

Because being “stuck with each other forever” is actually a very, very good thing. Marriage to me is a lesson in humility, a lesson in selflessness, a lesson in communication,and  a lesson in efficiency. Because I chose Mr. Bubbles, and now we’re in a team and we’re bind by this “for better or worse” contract. Even if, truth be told, some days I feel like strangling the dude, but at the end of the day we insist on making shit work. Because, well..

if we’re going together in this long journey, might as well work well with each other and enjoy the ride.

What are your thoughts, blogger friends?

Terkadang..

(warning : a very emo post. If you don’t feel like emo today, skip ahead).

Gue mikir.. kalo jadi istri orang di negara asing itu nggak nyamannya banyak ya.

Kalo berantem sama suami, kalo berantem sama tetangga, kalo ada stress inilah, itulah.. nggak bisa gampang aja nyetir pulang ke rumah ortu untuk mendinginkan pikiran.

“Pulang ke rumah” itu artinya bayar tiket yang mahal, perjalanan jauh.

Gue ini orangnya termasuk jarang homesick.. tapi terkadang, kalo lagi banyak stress, rasanya pengen drop everything, pack my bags dan pulang ke rumah. Ke Indonesia.

Asalnya kami ada rencana pulang tahun depan.. tapi belakangan ini kami berubah rencana jangka panjang (berkaitan dengan rumah). Jadi kayaknya.. kami nggak bisa mudik tahun depan.

Sedihhhhhhh. Tahun 2014 kali baru pulang. Berarti udah 10 tahun sejak gue nggak pulang. Satu dekade.

Gue sering mikir, Jakarta sekarang kayak apa ya? Kalo orang ngomongin “Pacific Place” lah, atau nama mal apalah yang dulu belom ada saat gue disana.. gue ngerasa, wah.. Indonesia udah berubah banyak.

My country’s changing without me in it. Life goes on. And somehow it feels a little sad.

Sering gue mikir, sebenarnya setiap kali gue bilang “rumah”, rumah itu yang mana sih? Rumah itu di mana sih? Apakah rumah gue disini? I spent most of my adulthood here. Tapi setiap kali gue berpikir seperti itu, my heart won’t agree to it.

Home is in Indonesia. It was, it is. It has been.

And it will always be.

no matter how many years I’ve been away.

Terrible Two and the Time Out Approach

I don’t even know where to begin with this. This has been stressing me out.

So yes, “terrible two” is expected. But it sure as heck doesn’t make it easier when the dreaded finally comes. Baby Bubbles has been hit by the terrible two syndrome for a few months now. Tantrums are regular parts of our day to day, and screams are way too common I’m surprised I’m still sane.

Well, sanity is objective anyway, right. If you meet me, you might think I’m a loon already.

It started a few months back, when suddenly this child knew how to throw himself on the ground, on his belly. His legs kicking and the whole screaming shebang would begin. If he didn’t get what he wanted, he would be on the ground in no time. Honest to god, one day he just did that. I have no flipping clue where he picked that up. My dad in law said that children just knew how to do that naturally. I doubt it. To this day, I’m still figuring out what started it.

There’s this saying that children in their terrible two phase love saying “no” to everything. In my case, I can safely testify to its truth. If he is in tantrum mode, nothing would satisfy him. He gets himself all worked up, unable to calm himself down, and anything you offer, short of forbidden sweets (this is last resort to me), would be responded to with a sounding “NOOO!!!”

Now I really do not want to bribe my child with sweets everytime tantrum strikes. Although in some cases, I will admit, that I give him some candy bar like Snickers so he would quiet down. This is rare, and usually only happens when said tantrums happen in public places. Grocery store and the doctor’s office are example of such case. Nowadays, we  have found a better approach to fix this emergency, and that is by letting him play with the coloring app on his dad’s cellphone.

At home, I tried to make this work. I tried reasoning with him. The problem is, reasoning doesn’t work once he gets himself into his tantrum bubble. It’s a hysteria mode, and unless he snaps out of it, no amount of reasoning would reach its desired effect. The problem is getting him to snap out of it.

I am the parent who doesn’t believe in the “spare the rod and spoil the child” school of thought. No spanking for me, thank you very much. I am sure it works for some people, but I actively make the decision not to do it to my own child. I make absolutely no judgement for parents who choose this approach as I firmly believe that there is no ONE correct way to raise a child. There is, however, different ways for different children. Everyone has their right to choose how they’re going to raise their children.

My parents rarely ever spanked me or used hands. I can count only with one hand the instance(s) in which they did, and I can honestly say that in those instances, such actions were well called for. I was unruly and highly misbehaving. But I always remember that they try their damnest not to ever raise a hand even when I was being very frustrating to deal with. I thank them for this, everyday, always.

Before having a child, I was somehow apathetic to the “time out” approach. So.. you get your child into a corner and let them stay there in hope that, some 5 minutes later, they come to their senses? Yeah, I didn’t know shit back then, so please forgive me.

So one day when reasoning doesn’t work, I decided to attempt this time out approach. I put him in a corner and firmly told him, “You will not treat me like that. You will stand in that corner until you calm down.” Well, he was still flailing about and screaming. I sat near the corner, and told him to go back to the corner. He cried for another 5 minutes or so, uncontrollably, and I didn’t move. I stayed there, firm, unmoved.

The crying eventually subdued into sobbing, and eventually into mild sobbing until it stopped altogether. When he was done, he stood there, looking at me with his puppy eyes (DARN IT CHILDREN AND THEIR PUPPY EYES!! LETHAL WEAPON I TELL YOU). I told him to come to me, sat him in my lap, and told him that he can’t do that, tantrums aren’t okay and it makes me sad. He calmed down, hugged me and I told him it’s okay. Then he went back playing.

Some days, this works for me. He would know that when he is on time out, he is in trouble. He would adjust his attitude then. But some more difficult days, not even time out works. Sometimes I just let him scream it, I tried to hug him but he would flail about, so I just stay near him and let him finish his tantrum. Once he calms down, then I do the reasoning. At this age I feel like he has some understanding of some parts of the reasoning, like why certain things are not okay.

But terrible two is still very much a big part of our life now. I’m slowly trying to make peace with it. That it’s just a phase and it will too, pass. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but man, some days the tunnel is so dark I can barely step forward without being afraid I might step into a black hole.

Okay, not the best analogy. But you get the gist.

Any of you blogger friends experiencing the same thing?  We’ll all get through it, right?

Good things (also affectionately titled : The Perspective List)

A lot of times I find myself reciting things I’m not happy with in my head. I find that it does nothing but turning me into a negative Nancy, as if I’m not enough of a neurotic already. Also, boy, do I feel like an ungrateful jerk for doing that all the time. In an effort to be a more positive person (one of my 2012 resolutions), I’m going to start writing things I’m happy with. A gratitude list, if you will.

1) A great family day yesterday. On Saturday/ Sunday, we do family things together, the three of us. We love going to the park or doing outdoor activities on warmer months, be it festivals, concerts, barbecues, and the such. In colder months, we love doing museums, science center, or other indoor family stuff to do with Baby Bubbles. Well, yesterday we went to the Science Center and saw the Star Trek Exhibitions (our inner nerds are super satisfied), and Baby Bubbles got to play in their Discovery Room, where he got to build things, played trains, learned about bugs,  and other fun stuff. I adore doing things like that with my family, great memories were made. We then went over the a bookstore to find Goodnight, Moon.. a smash hit for children’s books I learned from my playgroup ladies. Unfortunately the bookstore didn’t have it in stock because it’s such a loved book, so we’re ordering it from Amazon instead. By the way, if you have a tots, buy that book. First published in 1947, it is a children’s classic. We then went over to a Chinese buffet where we stuffed ourselves full with greasy, salty, MSG-laden deliciousness. Sure it’s bad for you, but once in a while it’s good to indulge your inner glutton, yes?

 
2) I have a great little family. My son is amazing and smart, my husband is a heaven sent because why else would he keep up with my craziness for almost 5 years now? And also, my father in law, though crazy as he is.. he’s still my dad here.

 
3) My mother in law. I’ve heard horror stories of how MILs can be scary monstrous creatures.. but I guess I luck out, because my MIL loves me. She’s one craycray woman, that’s for sure, but when it comes to our relationship, she’s just what one would want from a MIL. She never gave unsolicited advice, she respects privacy, and she taught me how to be a frugal shopper. She taught me the art of thrift shopping and garage saling, and for me that was huge because I can’t tell you how much money we saved by shopping second hand. And she remembers things I like.. like the one time I went to Starbucks with her to pickup a fall must have (aka pumpkin spice latte) and I told her how much I love pumpkin and pumpkin spiced things. The next week she bought me a bottle of pumpkin spiced wine. And she remembered that my french press is broken.. so she picked up a set of press with matching cups at the flea market she went to. She’s not without flaws, but all things considered.. I’m glad I have her for a mother in this foreign country.

 
4) Becky, my husband’s best friend’s wife. Becky and I didn’t always get along when we first met over 4 years ago. I was a raging liberal feminist and Becky is somehow on the more conservative side, though admittedly she is also a feminist. She was just… not as crazy as me, let’s just say. But over the years I found that she is such a sweetheart, and maybe it’s also that I’ve gotten much more sensible with my political alignments, but we become friends. Her parents are some of the warmest,  most welcoming people I’ve ever met in this country. They invite us to their Christmas celebrations, they are there for help and they adore Baby Bubbles! Lately Becky and I have gotten a whole lot closer than we used to be and I cannot wait for our friendship to unfold even more, because I know that Becky is the kind of girl you want to have for a BFF, she’s loyal, sweet, understands the universal code of female friendships, she’s not the gossipy kind, although when we do gossip… it’s always a wonderful time. And her mom makes the best sangria. I mean, really. Aren’t I lucky or what.

 

5) My mama and sister. I mean, I’m ALWAYS grateful for the privilege of calling these ladies my family, but I don’t think there is ever a gratitude list where I won’t include them. My sister is one of the kindest, smartest people I know in my life and I am glad that her life turns out the way it does.. all the great things that happen to her are so well deserved.

 

6) I’m glad to be able to teach Mama a bit of technology. My sister recently just moved abroad for her Master’s degree, and she gave our Mama her old laptop since she’s getting a new one. Now, my Mama isn’t the tech-savvy kind, so she’s always needing help. She didn’t even know how to turn the video on Skype. Recently she wanted me to help her with installing Whatsapp on her Iphone, because my sissy told Mama that it is the cheapest way to communicate with her. Imagine teaching her that on Skype, literally, thousands of miles away! I spent 45 minutes last night trying to help her to download iTunes on her laptop so she can buy whatsapp from the Itunes store. After 45 minutes things got really exhausting and I had a long day so I told Mama we’re gonna continue it today. Mama was so proud, though, that she’s able to do the fancy shmancy itunes downloading! The conversation went something like this.

Mama : wow, I’m so modern, I can download things on the internet!  
me       : Ma, that’s not something you should be proud about (I like to tease her all the time)
Mama : But I’m better than some other Ibu-ibu I know, they don’t even know how to use computer!
me       : -_________________-

 

7) Lazy Sunday mornings. We are now still in our jammies at 10:05 AM, bellies full from breakfast. Baby Bubbles is watching the Jungle Book, all cuddled up with his daddy, and I’m here, typing away on my laptop. No plans for today, just being lazy. Though I wish we aren’t all sick dogs like we are! (we have flu, yep, all three of us)

 

8) My girlfriend L. I met this super nice girl at the playground one day. We immediately clicked because of our shared similarities, both of us living so far from our families. Her son S is my son’s favorite friend. She’s so friendly and warm and if it weren’t for her I wouldn’t be invited to the playgroup. She’s honest and blunt, and I love that about her because you know she doesn’t talk shit about you behind your back. But her family is moving to California soon.. and although I am happy for her I am also sad that I’ll be losing one of the most wonderful friends I’ve made here.

 
9) Blogging. I’m happy that I blog, because this is one of the most calming things I do to help myself relax. I’m glad to be able to read other blogs, I always like to read how other people live. If you are reading this, I am also glad that you do! PS: I do a happy dance everytime I got a notification in my email of a new comment 😀

..How’s that for a gratitude list?

(thank You God for all these blessings!)

The story of Aki and the neighbors’ dogs

Perkenalkan Aki, papa mertua gue. Aki ini umurnya separuh baya. Panggilan Aki ini dikasih oleh Mama gue untuk sang besannya ini. Mama gue kan orang Sunda tulen, dalam bahasa Sunda, Aki itu adalah panggilan untuk kakek. Sebutan Aki ini juga berfungsi sebagai bahasa kode kami bertiga (gue, Mama & adik) pada saat kita membahas doi di musim panas kemarin dimana Mama dan adik gue liburan kesini. Perlu dicatat, bahwa Mama nggak panggil si Aki itu “Aki” pada saat ngomong langsung ke orangnya, ya. Hehehe. (Mama panggil namanya aja biasanya).

Aki tinggal bersama gue, Suami, dan Baby Bubbles. Aki ini kalau di Amrik sini tipe-tipenya bisa digolongkan sebagai seorang “hippie”. Profesi Aki adalah tukang kayu dan tukang bangunan. Cita cita Aki untuk hari tuanya adalah membuka bed & breakfast di pegunugan di negara bagian Colorado, karena Colorado adalah tempat favorit dia. Kekurangan si Aki adalah.. tidak pintar manajemen finansial. Sampai pada akhirnya Aki bangkrut dan harus tinggal bersama satu-satunya anaknya, yaitu Suami. (Aki sudah bercerai dari mertua perempuan gue, Ibunya si Suami).

Gue ini bukan tipe menantu yang rese sama mertua. Dan sebelum Aki pindah ke rumah kita, gue berharap harap cemas bahwa si Aki ini tidak akan menjadi tipe mertua rese. Gue tergolong cuek. Asalkan Aki nggak jorok ataupun sok kuasa, gue cuek aja.  Prinsip gue kita saling menghargai, saling menyayangi, namanya juga keluarga. Di awal-awal waktu Aki pindah kesini, sepertinya Aki terkena depresi. Dia sedih karena merasa impian masa tuanya buyar karena kebangkrutannya. Tapi Aki walaupun sedih gitu kebanyakan hanya diam saja atau menyibukkan diri dengan ikut grup-grup pecinta lingkungan (Aki juga seorang aktivis pembela hak lingkungan) dan cari teman. Aki pun suka bantu bantu membetulkan segala macem masalah di sekitar rumah.

Lalu Aki pun mulai berteman di sekitar daerah rumah kita. Salah satu teman Aki adalah tetangga kita Pak S, rumahnya dua rumah ke sebelah kanan kita. Pak S ini orangnya cukup ramah dan hobinya ngobrol2 sama tetangga (dibaca : gosip). Pak S ini juga punya 2 anjing jantan, jenisnya basset hound dan beagle. Bagi para pecinta anjing, tentunya udah tau kalau beagle ini suara gonggongannya mantap dan sangat berisik. Apalagi kalau tidak terlatih, si beagle ini biasanya akan menggonggong terus, biasanya kalau ada orang lewat, ada binatang lain lewat, ada suara sirene, bahkan terkadang hanya suara angin bertiup aja dia akan gonggong. Nggak cuman si beagle, basset houndnya juga sama.

Intinya, dua  anjingnya Pak S ini sangatlah tidak terlatih dan selalu menggonggong. Dan Aki sangat tidak suka dengan suara gonggongan anjing. Dia lebih tidak suka lagi dengan anjing yang tidak terlatih. Dalam pikiran si Aki, kalau orang mengadopsi binatang peliharaan itu seperti punya anak sendiri, harus dilatih dan disayang. Jangan dicuekin aja, karena binatang juga punya perasaan seperti manusia. Dan jangan sampai karena kecuekan kita sebagai orangtua si binatang, mereka jadi mengganggu ketenangan hidup bertetangga.

Aki sering banget teriak “shut up!” kepada si dua anjing bawel ini kalau dia pas kebetulan lewat halaman belakang kita dan digonggong oleh duo anjing bawel. Memang kok kayaknya tidak anggun banget ya, kenapa harus teriak2 begitu. Aki pernah berantem pula sama istrinya Pak S. Waktu itu Aki sedang mengecat teras belakang kita dan duo anjing bawel nggak henti hentinya menggonggongi dia. Karena Aki kesal, lalu dia bawa keluar sebuah radio, pasang ke stasiun favoritnya, dan volumenya dikencangkan sampai pol. Istrinya Pak S tanya, “bisa nggak sih volume radionya diturunkan, saya jadi nggak bisa buka jendela nih.” Lalu si Aki membalas, “bisa nggak anjing situ volumenya diturunkan?” Istrinya Pak S bersungut sungut kesal, dan bilang “Saya nggak bisa berbuat apa-apa soal anjing saya, tapi saya bisa berbuat sesuatu menyangkut Anda!” (diterjemahkan : dia akan nelpon polisi. Orang sini apa-apa telpon polisi soalnya). Si Aki pun membalas dengan cueknya, ” Silahkan aja telpon polisi.” 

Ternyata itu cuma ancaman kosong aja. Istrinya Pak S nggak telpon polisi sama sekali. Sejak saat itulah hubungan suami istri S dan Aki pun berangsur angsur memburuk.

Tentangga sebelah kanan kita, Pak T, kebetulan beberapa bulan sesudah terjadinya argumen itu, pindah rumah. Rumahnya kosong selama beberapa bulan sampai tetangga baru pindah. Tentangga barunya ini kebetulan adalah keponakannya sendiri, mari kita sebut Mbak Suster (lagi-lagi panggilan sayang dari nyokap gue. Waktu nyokap tanya apa profesinya gue bilang, dia lobotomist, kerja di rumah sakit. Bukan suster. Tapi Mama cuek aja dan sejak saat itu selalu nyebut dia Mbak Suster).

Pada saat awal-awal Mbak Suster pindah ke rumah sebelah, dia punya satu anjing, kurang jelas jenisnya apa. Tapi anjingnya ini sangat terlatih, kalem dan tidak suka gonggong. Mbak Suster dan Pak S ini adalah sohib banget. Mereka sering kongkow kongkow di depan rumah, pokoknya bener2 akrab banget deh.

Suatu hari, terjadilah argumen antara Aki dan nenek tetangga dirumah sebelah kiri kita, kita sebut si Oma (lagi-lagi, panggilan dari Nyokap gue, hahaha). Aki menghardik anjing si Oma yang biasanya terlatih dan tidak suka gonggong, tapi kebetulan hari itu gonggong, dan si Oma pun jadi kesel dibuatnya, lalu Oma teriak balik ke si Aki. Menurut cerita dari dua belah pihak yang gue denger, terjadilah pertukaran kata-kata dari kamus kebun binatang. Pokoknya… sangat memalukan. Memprihatinkan.

Gue biasanya cukup cuek, maksud gue, itu urusan si Aki gitu, gue tidak mau ikut campur. Gue sendiri sih nggak pernah bermasalah soal anjing, biasanya gue cuekin aja. Dulu dirumah gue di Bogor kita punya tetangga yang pelihara beberapa anjing dan sering menggonggong, jadi gue terbiasa.

Tapi sejak saat dia berantem dengan si Oma gue mulai perduli. Karena.. Oma ini umurnya hampir 80 tahun, pemirsa. Mana pantes si Aki yang secara umur pantas jadi anaknya Oma teriak2 seperti itu ke beliau? Lagipula sejak  sebelum Aki pindah bersama kita, gue dan suami itu sayang banget sama si Oma, begitu pula sebaliknya. Oma suka kasih kue, suka kasih Baby Bubbles treats, sering ngajak ngobrol dan suka ngingetin tentang berbagai hal2 yang perlu kita perhatikan menyangkut kehidupan di lingkungan ini. Oma sudah tinggal di rumah sebelah itu lebih dari 50 tahun lamanya.

Gue tegurlah si Aki secara sopan dan baik-baik, gue bilang tolong dong Ki, jangan berteriak gitu sama Oma yang udah sepuh. Nggak pantas. Kalaupun Aki ada masalah sama tetangga, coba omongin aja ke kita dulu, biar kita aja yang handle ke tetangga. (Karena udah jelas, si Aki ini kurang mengerti gimana caranya berkomunikasi yang baik dan efektif). Aki nggak perduli, katanya. Ya udahlah, gue juga nggak mau ribut sama mertua yang tinggal sama sama serumah.

Gue minta maaf ke Oma. Oma bilang nggak usah kamu minta maaf, itu kan bukan salah kamu. Tapi gue tau sebetulnya Oma masih kesel, karena dia pasti harapannya ya si Aki yang minta maaf ke dia.

Nah si Oma cerita ke Pak S. Pak S jadi ikutan kesel, lalu dia cerita ke Mbak Suster. Pokoknya karena si Aki, kita semua jadi disebelin oleh tetangga. Betulan deh, nila setitik, rusak susu sebelanga.

Nggak lama setelah itu, Mbak Suster adopsi anjing keduanya. Anjingnya yang kedua ini sifatnya mirip dengan duo anjing bawelnya Pak S. Dan yang lebih kacrut lagi, anjingnya yang suka gonggong ini dikeluarkan jam 5 pagi, karena dia harus berangkat kerja jam 5.30 pagi!

Gue dan suami setiap pagi bangunnya jam 5:45, kita pasang alarm. Terbayanglah kekesalan kita saat kita dibangunkan secara paksa oleh gonggongan si anjing bawel ini. Suami gue nulis surat ke Mbak Suster yang dia drop di kotak suratnya. Mbak Susterpun tersinggung, entah kenapa, padahal kata2 yang Suami pergunakan di surat itu sopan sekali. Dia makin menjadi jadi dan anjingnya ditinggalkan semalaman di luar, gonggong dengan kerasnya.

Suatu hari, Suami gue udah nggak tahan lagi, dia merasa kayaknya Mbak Suster ini nyolotin kita. Diapun nyamperin mbak Suster, dan terjadilah argumen. Suami gue bilang bahwa peraturan kota adalah diantara jam 10:30 malam sampai jam 7 pagi, ketenangan itu wajib. Mbak Suster nggak terima. Suami gue bilang, kalau ini terjadi lagi, kita akan telpon polisi. Mbak Suster bilang, silahkan aja, saya akan laporkan mereka tentang mobil kamu!

Nah loh.. ada cerita lagi nih sodara sodara, soal si mobil. Suami gue sempet punya mobil antik, tahun 1970-an, yang dia beli semata-mata untuk alasan sentimentil. Kita sebut mobil ini The Green Boat. Mobil ini dia rencanakan akan jadi mobil show, tapi dilalah.. waktu dan keuangannya tidak memungkinkan Suami untuk ngurusin mobil ini. Di saat argumen ini terjadi, nomor platnya The Green Boat expired. Nah kalau mobil expired gini dan parkir di jalan, bisa dapet tiket! Satu tiket harganya $25. Lumayan kan? Bisa buat makan siang di restoran Thai tuh.

Dan betul saja.. walaupun kita cuma pernah telpon polisi sekali soal anjingnya Mbak Suster yang menggonggong tiada henti di jam 12 malam.. Mbak Suster “membalas” dengan nelponin polisi berkali kali tentang si Green Boat. Kebetulan pamannya Mbak Suster itu sersan pangkatnya di kantor polisi lokal. (siapa bilang nepotisme cuma di Indonesia aja? Di sini juga ada kok, cuma lebih hush-hush aja.. hahaha). Alhasil ada 5 kali Green Boat ditiket.. silahkan dihitung aja, total jendralnya $125. Kalau kita ponakannya bang Bill Gates sih nggak apa-apa kalik ya.. nah ini? Kita manusia biasa.. uang segitu kan sangat berguna. Bisa buat bayar listrik dan internet tuh!

Gue langsung wanti wanti ke suami, kita cari storage aja untuk si Green Boat. (Garasi kita sangat kecil, dan Green Boat itu panjang banget jadi nggak muat. Karena kita tinggal di daerah deket downtown, masih city, bukan suburbia, kita nggak punya driveway sehingga mobil parkirnya di pinggir jalan depan rumah.) Suami pengennya malah jual aja, katanya udahlah, nggak akan ada waktu juga ngurusin Green Boat. Gue kasian banget, karena gue tau Green Boat ini artinya bener2 besar buat dia. Akhirnya.. dijuallah Green Boat. Sedih banget rasanya.

Pada saat itu kita betul betul sama sekali nggak ngomong dengan Mbak Suster dan Pak S. Karena gue tau mereka berdua ini yang setiap hari telponin polisi laporin Green Boat. Semua karena mereka tidak mau melatih anjingnya.

Tapi dasar gue orang Asia, nggak enakan. Gue jadi kepikiran terus, mana enak sih ribut sama tetangga. Sampe susah tidur segala. Yep.. gue emang orangnya bener2 nggak enakan banget. Suami gue udah berkali2 bilang, cuekin aja, nggak usah terlalu dipikirin, mereka emang egois.

Suatu hari terjadilah klimaks dari semua kejadian ini. Aki lagi di halaman belakang, mengangkut materi kayu untuk buat pagar kayu dirumah kita. Seperti biasa dia digonggong oleh anjing2nya Pak S dan Mbak Suster. Lalu dia nyindir mereka dengan berkata ke temannya yang kebetulan saat itu lagi bantuin dia, “Kita mau pasang pagar supaya nggak digonggong sama anjing2 gila ini lagi.” Sepertinya Pak S mendengar komentar itu dan dia tersungging, terus diapun keluar ke terasnya dan berteriak, “Stop gangguin anjing gue! Elo selalu ngusilin mereka, makanya mereka gonggong terus!” (tidak betul, sodara-sodara. Anjing2 ini selalu menggonggong, ada Aki ataupun tidak. Belakangan kita ketahui bahwa dulunya juga banyak tetangga yg bermasalah dengan kebawelan anjingnya Pak S ini).

Pak S lalu melanjutkan aksi teriak teriaknya dan si Aki membalas dengan berteriak juga, “Diem aja deh, sana balik ke rumah lo!” Gue denger semua ini dari dalam dapur gue. Langsung gue lari keluar, ngelihat keributan ini. Gue yang udah capek dan MALU dengan semua konflik dengan tetangga langsung suruh si Aki masuk ke dalam rumah. Guepun bilang ke Pak S, “Boleh nggak saya ke rumah situ sekarang, kita perlu bicara nih.” Si Pak S asalnya nggak mau, masih emosyong, akhirnya dia setuju juga dengan syarat gue juga harus ngomong sama istrinya. Gue sih oke oke aja.

Lalu guepun ke sana dan minta maaf atas ulah Aki yang suka teriak2. Walaupun dalam hati kecil gue merasa gue ini sepertinya tidak perlu meminta maaf, karena istilahnya dia udah “membalas even” dengan nelponin polisi soal Green Boat kita. Tapi gue ikhlasin aja deh, sebodo amat, asal nggak ribut lagi sama tetangga, asal hati tenang dan nanti malam bisa tidur nyenyak. Gue baik2 dan tenang2 minta maaf, ternyata istrinya pak S sampe nangis2 segala, dia udah kepikiran soal ini juga rupanya. Belakangan si Mbak Susterpun ikutan menghampiri.

Sebulan kemudian, nyokap dan adik gue dateng kesini utk berlibur, dan mereka selalu ramah dan nyapa tetangga2 gue ini. Sepertinya mereka kesengsem sama keramahan nyokap & adik gue, apalagi si Oma. Waktu Baby Bubbles ultah, nyokap maksa gue untuk nganterin cupcakes ke rumah Mbak Suster dan Pak S. Asalnya sih gue ogah gitu. Tapi gue kerjain juga. Setelah itu hubungan kami dengan mereka berangsur angsur membaik, pelan pelan tapi pasti.

Dan.. percaya atau tidak, anjing2 mereka tidak menggonggong separah dulu lagi. Apalagi Pak S, sejak kejadian gue minta maaf itu, dia ngeluarin anjingnya hanya sebentar2 aja, tidak seperti dulunya yang bisa berjam-jam. Mbak Suster pun sekarang kalau malam anjingnya dimasukkan dan pagi2 jam 7 baru dikeluarkan. Kadang2 pernah ada kejadian dimana anjingnya keluar jam 5 pagi, tapi dia langsung minta maaf dan nanya apakah kita terganggu dengan anjingnya.

Kalaupun ada hikmah yang gue dapet dari semua keributan dengan tetangga ini, adalah kalau kita baik sama orang, kita bisa mencapai gol kita dengan cara yang lebih terhormat gitu. Dan kebaikan sangat banyak manfaatnya. Setidak tidaknya, kita hidup tanpa nyesel ataupun emosi negatif, dan bisa tidur tenang di malam hari. Bukankah itu semua priceless?

(Terimakasih ya Ma!)