Still Being Sound Tortured, If You Were Curious

An update on the situation with the neighboring business since it has been almost 9 months since it first started.

I have been so sick that I only have a few hours of out-of-bed time per day, and I use those to make lunch and dinner for me and my husband and wash the dishes and then I’m exhausted and back to bed again: I am up from about 9 am to 1 pm, that's about when I usually have to go back to bed, till 5 or 6 pm. When I get up I feel super sick but I have a few more hours, and then it's back in bed again. It is very depressing. I have a lot of pain and am nauseated all the time. I haven't left the house even to take a walk or visit the graveyard in months, because I can't. I don't have the energy. I have hung a tapestry that looks like the forest across from my bed so I can imagine I'm somewhere less pathetic than a foam mattress.


I make illustrative work when I'm not consumed with nausea: I continue my daily self portrait project which is as spare as it gets most of the time because I don't have the energy to do elaborate photoshoots or large drawings, and do portraits of my husband working from home. I don’t have energy for much else. My brain is mush thanks to the noise and it is greatly affecting the work I am able to do: I can't sustain a thought or concentrate, so it is difficult to develop and research. I tend to bury myself in work that doesn't require thought, but for me, that was observational drawing---which is blocked off from me now.


The business next door is still at it: loud, industrial noise, including hammering on metal, angle grinders cutting metal, bass music, screaming, fighting, yelling, loud engine revving. Their business hours say 8-5 but the tend to show up later in the morning, sometimes as late as noon (which we are grateful for) but then they stay operating till well after 9 pm, sometimes as late as midnight. Someone sleeps there at night as well; one time months ago, I crept out onto the front porch because I thought they were done for the day and I could enjoy some evening air, and one of them purposefully set off a car alarm of a truck that they had parked right by our house and let it go off until I got fed up and went back inside. We often have to hear car alarms firing right by our window, over and over, for 10, 20 minutes at a time. There is constant honking, from people driving by and from their customers who are too lazy to get out of the car.


They have been removing the mufflers from cars and racing them up and down the road revving the engine, and it has been a nightmare for my body. Sound torture is a real thing, and causes actual physical symptoms to occur. Everybody else in the neighborhood thinks this is normal, and no one seems to ever complain. All of this behavior is supposedly prohibited by the zoning ordinance, which is not being enforced. Forsyth County has a detailed zoning ordinance that specifies all of these kinds of stipulations, and the kind of business they are running isn't even supposedly allowed in this district. Zoning has sided with them even though the code is clear: industrial enterprises are supposed to have buffer zones and soundproofing between their property and private residences, but this business for some reason is exempt from those codes.

It has been depressing in a way I can’t describe to go through this and have the neighborhood take the opposing side. It sucks to have this man show up late at night, in a super loud car that he’s removed the muffler from, just to make it obnoxiously loud, just to rev the engine and blast bass music right by our house, while people at the bar across the street laugh about it. It sucks to see neighbors take their cars to them and give them business. The police have sided with them as well. The man next door called 911 when I looked out the window a month or so ago, and the police actually came to our door and told us to stop bothering them. We don’t speak, gesture, or in any way communicate with them at all, and we stay in hiding as much as possible so they don’t see us. We have never called the police on them for the noise. I put up one-way mirror film on the windows facing their property so they can’t see us; still, if they see any movement in our windows, he starts yelling. The most recent incident where he harassed us in our own home, he stood by our house yelling, calling me a bitch, saying that I have no life, promising to make as much noise as possible, and that he’s going to keep calling the police.

It is embarrassing and emotionally taxing to deal with all the harassment and bullying, which is what it amounts to——bullying, from an adult, who is supposed to be a respectable member of the business community. All we have done is send text messages to the property owner asking them to stop blasting bass music—we don’t even bother to complain about the constant extremely loud industrial noise, which no one seems to care about.


People in the neighborhood who formerly were friendly have unfriended me on social media. I don't ever hear from anyone that they sympathize or are trying to help. When I appealed to people on my social media accounts, I was hoping that someone would help, but no one did; I don't see the point in maintaining a social media presence when people don't really care about me as a human being, so I stopped posting my work there.

I am so sick that I don’t even have it in me to write angry emails anymore, and I haven’t sent anything to zoning or to city council or to any of the other people who don’t care for months. I am tired of fighting, I don’t have the strength. Every day is a nightmare.

No one else in the neighborhood, neighbors or businesses, seem to have a problem with them, and apparently think all of this is normal, and don’t mind people hauling ass up and down the road in super loud cars, blasting music. We were here for a year before this business moved in, but none of the neighborhood care enough about us to support us in this----so this is clearly not the place we need to be. The fact that other people aren't bothered by it confirms to me that we made a big mistake in moving here. The auto business that was there when we moved in was never, ever this loud or disruptive, but people in the neighborhood didn't like that business and pressured the city to get them to move (which was successful--he was fined daily until he shut down) because there were always a ton of junky cars---these guys have even MORE, even junkier cars, and suddenly no one seems to care. No one else seems to mind the loud cars and bass music, something I wish we had known before we moved here: we are normal people who don't do super-noisy activities that can be heard for blocks, and we thought everybody else was normal too. We don't start mowing at 5 AM; I don't use my power tools when I'm fairly certain the college kids next door are still sleeping, even though I might really need to work on something; we wear headphones when we want to listen to music really loud. These are just basic things that I thought normal people understand, but apparently, we did not notice when we moved here that this neighborhood is full of people who just don't care about that kind of respectfulness of each other.


We understand all of this now and are trying to move on. It hurts to not have the support of the neighborhood, but I am not going to try to convince people to like me, or to care about this situation. I know that we were good neighbors and in our own tiny way made this neighborhood a better place; if people don't realize that, that's their loss. Except for the noise, I have been very happy in my own little world, away from people, and I know that when we're finally able to have peace, I will be content to be with my own company, free from the misery of trying to be a member of a community. We are both extremely wary of living in close proximity to people after this; this was supposed to be a "nice" neighborhood, and people still act crazy, so we don't see ourselves taking the risk of buying a house beside more crazy people. Our goal is to be as isolated and private as possible. We don't care about going out to breweries or coffee shops.


However, the housing market is crazy right now and prices are inflated; we do not have the money for a down payment. We moved to this house after searching for a whole year! And we only had money for a down payment then because we sold our house in Charlotte—the market there was insane when we were looking to leave, so we got extremely lucky that we sold our house for more than we bought it ten years before. That was the only reason we had a down-payment—luck. It was a one-shot deal——we did not intend to have to move again, this was supposed to be it for us. So it has been a dismal thing for us to realize that we have to move—we aren’t the kind of people who have the means to just go somewhere else. It is going to be very difficult, financially and physically, to get us moved.

I never, ever, ever, want to be around people again. I don’t feel comfortable going out in the neighborhood because the people next door are always here, even late at night, and they definitely mean business with their threats.

I am trying to just get through each day one at a time and focus on getting out, but it is not going to happen for a long time, and I know my body can’t take it.


This experience has irreversibly and tremendously altered the way I see my work and how I'm "supposed" to operate within a community. I don't feel the obligation to the people that I used to, a nagging responsibility to let my work serve the community I live in. I used to feel that it was my duty as an artist to imbed myself in the community I live in, do good work, be humble, share what I do and my knowledge with other people and artists, and make the community my priority. I felt obligated to continue my live drawing project because it brought so much joy to other people, people I knew right in my own community. I thought that it would be selfish to hole up in my studio, and I used to make myself go out in the neighborhood a couple times a week just to talk to people---I called it Research and Development, and even wore a special pin when doing so that I designed and made for myself!


Now all of that has been shattered. The community who claimed to love my drawings so much didn't care to lift a finger to help in this situation at all, while I've been making myself super uncomfortable for years by staying connected. I always hated being around people, but I plastered a smile on my face and powered through it because I genuinely thought it was my duty to be an active member of the community. I don't feel obligated to the people anymore: it is not my responsibility to provide for the community, or to make my work or myself available to the public. My responsibility is to the singular vision that I have as an artist: unique, not superior. No one can do my work but me. If I have any duty to the community, it is to become solely myself and speak with my own voice. That is my priority. I am positive that the work won't be nearly as much interest to other people, and I don't care anymore.


I do not see myself continuing my live drawing project, which I still obviously can’t perform if I can’t even look out the window without the cops coming to my house, and I definitely don’t see myself providing that as a professional service anymore, or attending events anymore, or ever leaving the house. We have people "in" our house constantly all day, yelling, beating on things; that's what it sounds like, and that's what my body and brain believe. It's as if we have awful roommates, not just awful neighbors. I’ve been trying to enter an interior world where I can insulate myself from the sound. Hopefully that can sustain me until we’re finally able to move.


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