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AarghAugust 25, 2006

I have to yet again express my displeasure with the HOA member who is of the donkey family. I repeat myself, don't I? I just can't tell you how much he affects me. I guess we all have one, don't we? Someone who pushes our buttons and makes us fly right out the window of reason. Bam! We hit the window and then we're through the glass, just like that.

See, I know that we're right. I know that. We're trying to fix the house, and he is blocking us at every turn, even though he's the one who says he wants his unit fixed first. There are four of us in the HOA, and three of us are reasonable and sane. But him..... He makes me feel crazy, like we're wrong to insist that we meet, that we reasonably discuss things, that we move expeditiously.

It's as if he screams at the top of his lungs (figuratively) and is so loud he blocks the rest of us out. We can vote around him on every measure, but we don't always want to. Dude, we want to get some bids on fixing his damn dry-rot, but he won't give us a time to enter his unit, just insists that the bid he submitted is good enough. And then he threatens to just fix it himself (no way in hell) because we're stalling. We're NOT! Aargh. Then I start worrying he WILL get one of his shady friends (he has a lot of them) to start working on his unit, just like he got them to rip out my back deck. The hole is still there for my tenant to trip over. Removed without permission or authorization. Triple-dipple aargh.

It's something about his personality. Just being in the same room with him makes my head explode. And getting emails from him in the middle of the night, rambling, illogical emails that go nowhere shoots me right back to slamming into that window. Bam!

We know we should look into legal representation soon, or at least arbitration. Just to shut him up. At least the dues are now paid. That's an improvement on the last two years. And really, I'm writing not to complain about him (can't tell, can you?) but to try to figure out how to deal with my reaction to him.

Because really, my reaction is extreme. I obsess. I rehearse conversations with him. I plan emails. I try to guess what he'll do next, and which tack we should take to meet that imagined move. I lie awake in bed, and I drum my fingers on the steering wheel in traffic. I had almost recovered from Sunday's meeting, and he spews a stupid email at us tonight that heated me right back up.

He's bumming me out, yo. I was kind of down all week, and I finally realized that it was because of having to confront him last Sunday. I started to pull up and out of the funk, and then the email lands. I just can't shake him. Any good suggestions for me? Just telling me not to worry about him, that's he's a dummy-head and not worth my time or concern, that's not going to help. Give me something Buddhist or Taoist, something strong, something loud. I tell myself a million times a day that I'm LUCKY to have this problem. And lord knows I am. I have it so good. I am thankful every day, this is true. But he still drives me up the freakin' wall. And out the window. Help!


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I'm glad I'm not the only one. I guess you are right -- we all have someone who just gets on our LAST AVAILABLE NERVE!

Sick the dogs after him.

I think you three really should hire a lawyer to provide your donkey with some karmic death from above. If dealing with the guy is making you crazy, it's time to set up a buffer.

It may be that you have found your Arch Enemy.

And he'll probably always get on your last nerve.

The only thing that I would suggest is that it probably TOTALLY STOKES HIS FIRE to know that he gets under your skin - and really, why would you want him to Ever. Get. An. Ounce. Of satisfaction from you?

So, use your super powers for good, get a Super Lawyer (Look! Over there! It's Super Lawyer!), and arbitrate the HELL out of HOA Asshole.

Perhaps mediation instead of arbitration?
It's likely to be cheaper; everyone maintains control of whether to say yes or no (mediators help you reach a decision/agreement, arbitrators give you a ruling). Heck, even having each member of the HOA email a neutral third party with his/her/their clear statement of what the perceived problems are, and what the desired outcomes are, and maybe even what the possible solutions are might help. For all any of you know the real problem is that you're trying to solve different things (or that you all actually agree on the best solution but can't hear each other anymore).

Meanwhile, imagine a mirror surrounding him -- facing inward and reflecting all his evil shit back on him without letting any escape to batter you. I'd suggest getting a voodoo doll, with which you could make HIM to trip in the hole he put in your place while coming over to issue an ultimatum about something, but that would be bad Karma for you.

You may have heard this before:

"So like a treasure found at home,
Enriching me without fatigue,
All enemies are helpers in my bodhisattva work
And therefore they should be a joy to me.

The fruits of patience are for them and me,
For both of us have brought it into being.
And yet to them they must be offered first,
For of my patience they have been the cause."

- Shantideva, "Way of the Bodhisattva," Chapter 6, verses 107 and 108

All you have to mutter to yourself when those emails land is "like a treasure found at home." And then imagine Venice for a minute before proceeding.

Set up an email filter that sends his messages staight to the trash, or to another account.

Seriously, at this point, get thyselves to the arbitration and a lawyer. When other a-holes start worming their way into your world on a constant basis, well, then it's time for intervention.

and i love the e-mail filter idea - right into a folder to keep (because e-mails are great documentation) but you can CHOOSE not to read it (right away, cuz I know you will read it eventually).

Good luck with this butthead.

Rachel: I think it's time to burn a picture or drawing of him and then drop it in the toilet, tinkle on it/him, and flush it/him away. Really it helps. I've done this once before (ex-husband). I suggested this before and it sounds like it might be time. Good luck.

I can sympathize. I have a controlling freak of a co-worker that sets me off in the exact same way. I rehearse conversations while I am in the shower or when I should be sleeping. Drives me batty! She signs all of her manipulative emails with :) AAAAHHH! Sorry, I couldn't offer advice. Just glad I'm not the only one!

I'm with the lawyer/mediator/arbitration camp. And while you're at it, file a lawsuit about your deck.

I know these probably won't help with your present concern, which is not to extract justice but to stop being driven mad about it. I have no good suggestions there, as I'm the type of person who loses it over far less than this. (I've been known to draft angry e-mails on my Palm Pilot and write letters to the Postmaster general. Yes, though I may hide my crank side, I get very het up...)

I find that the introduction to the Dalai Lama's book THE OPEN HEART helps me a lot with similar situations. Pay particular attention to pages 19 to about 22 (2001 hardback edition). It won't help you fix the situation (lawyers and arbitrators do that), but it might help you deal with it and give him less power over you.

Good luck!

He sounds dangerous. I don't mean that melodramatically, but rambling middle of the night nonsensicality is not a good sign, nor is the backdoor bidding, the pulling down your deck without permission, any of it.

And maybe you can't let go of it because part of you knows he is volatile and risky to be around.

Maybe time to get a lawyer just to move your contact with him back a degree? So formalize it, normalize it, as much as possible.

Because he sounds certifiable as well as shady and crazy people are unpredictable...and yes, can be dangerous.

You and the other homeowners need to protect yourself by making everything documentable, formal, recorded, above board in the cleanest possible way.

Good luck.

You could try clearing karma with him (talk to Becky [not me] about it, she knows) - might help. And then get the lawyer etc. As all the others said, good luck!!

You are going to Venice and he is not. YOU ARE GOING TO FUCKING VENICE!!! It's all about the fabulous European vacation you have planned. . .Assholes be damned. Eat lots of fish there so you get your omega 3's and are strong enough to kick his ass when you get back.

Like others said, filter the emails and DON'T read them now. Work around him and ignore him as much as possible, then when you get back, take steps to get him the hell outta there. And take pictures of all the damage that he has already done.

You are giving him too much power by engaging with him. Practice some T'ai chi shit and let the force meet with air. Ever thrown a punch at air? It's hard to maintain balance and you end up falling on your face. He is the punch and you are air.

And you are going to Venice. . .

What Juno said. Oh, and wine and chocolate and snuggling with Lala while the lawyer handles the big shit. Shady dudes require legal action. And that deck...lawsuit city.

What helped me with my last arch-enemy, the one who kept me from getting back to sleep at night because I would obsess about him, etc, was analyzing him. Find somebody who knows enough about psychology and maturity levels to really be able to skewer him. Share stories about him and generate pop-psychology armchair diagnoses. Because really, pity is a lot less stressful than anger! -- Good luck :)

I like Thich Nhat Hanh's books on anger. "Taming the Tiger Within" is in nice little snippets, one to each page, which make them very helpful when you're agitated. I just read along until one or two hit home and then think about them a lot for a day or two. If you want his full book on dealing with anger, it is "Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames." Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who lived through the Vietnam war and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and his work on anger is very profound. Hope that helps.

I think the lawyer idea is a really really good one. You'd be surprised how effective a formal letter from a lawyer can be - seriously, you don't even have to sue someone, just have a lawyer send a letter saying "Knock it off or we MIGHT sue you," and I bet he'd snap right into line. Also as the commenter mentioned, the lawyer can act as a buffer, since obviously the two of you should spend as little time as possible interacting directly. (I was raised by lawyers.)

Unfortunately, you have those meetings. I assume both you and he have to be present (along with the other owners). You might try a trick that I use in my own line of work: before I react to what a customer's said, I mentally rewrite it into something reasonable.

For example, if a customer says "You suck I can't believe this isn't working!" I pretend as if they've said "Gosh this is frustrating," and I answer accordingly.

Sometimes I pretend that I work in a setup like at a bank, and the customer is at the other side of the really thick glass. They put their words into the little hopper, and as I pull it through to my side, a magic machine filters and translates everything from "customer speak" to "rational human being speak." Sounds stupid, I know, but whatever gets you through the day, right?

Don't get down on yourself for obsessing over him after the fact. That'll only make things worse. Instead, come up with some things you can use to distract yourself and break that cycle of picking at it and making it worse.

maybe you can take him aside and attempt to de-escalate the emotions - talk to him honestly, tell him that you feel like you both are working towards the same interests - improving the building - and that you and he have a difference of opinion on how things should be, and that as president of the HOA you will listen to what he has to say and that you don't want him to fee steamrollered, but that you feel like he's working against his own interests at this point. talk to him like the messed-up little kid he is. maybe even apologize that things have got to the point that they have. (you don't owe him an apology, but it might be one way to get him to unclench a little bit.) and recognize that if you do this he's probably going to be just as stubborn and assholey in whatever he says back to you, and know that he will probably not refrain from insulting you personally. because it's clear that he feels very, very threatened by you and the rest of the HOA, and that's why he's acting out. he also does sound potentially unstable and maybe crazy, but even crazy/unstable people can be dealt with, unless they become dangerous. at that point you should just start carrying a couple of tasers around, like Samuel L. Jackson in Snakes on a Plane.

and at the same time as all this other stuff, explore your legal options. but legal options are expensive, and once you go down that road you can't always go back before you spend lots of time and money and pain on the problem.

I dunno. Maybe the real solution for you is to make a pastiche from all these posts on your blog and come up with your strategy that way. but I feel your pain, man. I feel your pain.

"We deem those happy who from the experience of life have learned to bear its ills without being overcome by them." Carl Jung

"Moments of guilt, moments of contrition, moments when we are lacking in self-esteem, moments when we are bearing the trial of being displeasing to ourselves, are essential to our growth." M. Scott Peck

Oh, and get an attorney.

I have three words for you: Document, document,and document. Photos, emails,letters, minutes of the meetings, telephone calls, etc. Develop a log. Include everything. Then talk an attorney.

Also, check out The Four Agreements, you can find the book by Don Miguel Ruiz, but briefly:

agreement 1
Be impeccable with your word - Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

agreement 2
Don’t take anything personally - Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

agreement 3
Don’t make assumptions - Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

agreement 4
Always do your best - Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

The Four Agreements have helped me immensely, when dealing with difficult people.

Based on the above comments, I see a five step program:
1. Set-up an e-mail filter. Read these e-mails once a day/week/month/whatever.
2. Document everything. Save the e-mails, record notes from meetings or phone calls.
3. Seek out legal representation, whether it's for arbitration, mediation, or court.
4. Push forward and do all that you can at the condo, without his involvement. I'm a planner, so if I have a plan, I feel I can move forward, regardless of the obstacles.
5. Drink, eat and be merry when possible. Think of it as a reward.

Best wishes for a speedy conclusion to this saga!

Buffers are good. We have a crazy next-door neighbor who came over and told me off because we had consulted with the HOA (in an open HOA meeting, with prior notice that this was going to be on the agenda) regarding the messy pine trees on the strip of HOA property between our house and hers. She was completely confident in her (mis)impression that she actually owned the property and therefore the trees, and essentially accused me of being sneaky and underhanded in addressing this in an open HOA meeting (which she didn't bother to attend) and not with her. She did some mighty interesting perspective-shifting to try to demonstrate that the messy pine trees couldn't have dripped corrosive sap all over my car last year, all the while speaking at Mach-8 and not giving me the courtesy of an edgewise-placed word. When I finally exclaimed, "Would you LET ME FINISH!" she castigated me for raising my voice, informed me that I was "uncivilized" and stomped off (pretty effective way to control the non-conversation).

After that, my husband has dealt with all tree issues (which have been resolved). I refuse to speak to her. Attorneys make even better buffers than husbands or wives, because they don't get emotionally invested.

So yeah, lawyer up (and sorry for ranting about my issue in your comments - hope you see it as commisseration!).

These books will do nothing to change this man but they may help you with your reactions to him.

*The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom* by Don Miguel Ruiz. Also *Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life* by Marshall Rosenberg. I second the person who recommended Thich Nhat Hanh.

Do you or any of your friends know any law students? You could hire a law student for a reasonable cost to mediate for you to go to the meetings and deal with the offending individual. The law student will get some experience and your stress will decrease.

Often we have the strongest reactions to people who demonstrate some behavior that we dislike in ourselves. Maybe look at that.

Also, your strong sense of ickiness from him could indicate that he has some type of personality disorder, in which case you really should be protective of yourself and your property.

Sorry this is happening for you.

I don't have any suggestions beyond a re-slanting of what someone else said: you are giving him control over you. This man shouldn't have control over a blade of grass, and you're giving him control over your emotions, stress, and rest. Several of the more concrete suggestions above sound like a good way to regain control, but don't give him the satisfaction.

All of the above, especially about the lawyer. But also, the following book might be very useful to read and then carry around in your head -- "Getting to Yes." It's about negotiating techniques to use with difficult people/situations...


what a jerk! i am so sorry that this is happening to you... i have just a bit to add to the amazing advice in these comments (which i am so going to take for my own individual-who-shall-remain-nameless with whom i rehearse confrontations in the SHOWER, for pete's sake, and the car, and lying in bed, and on my bike, and all of that while i should be enjoying my life)... most of the advice was given to me from the boy, who's remarkably even-tempered. 1. write. connecting with your own intellectual life reminds you of what you are and who you are apart from this controlling ass... very important when you start to feel like you are defined in reaction to him in this dealings. 2. make something. you've probably already got this covered :) but it addresses the visual, tactile part of #1. 3. yoga. or deep breathing, or whatever works for you and links some nice relaxing body work to inhale the good stuff, exhale the crap. 4. read an excellent book. 5. exercise (but pick something hard enough or busy enough that you can't think about the argument while you're doing it!) and i agree with everyone who said to get a lawyer, or a mediator, or arbitrator-- whatever you need. he does sound like an unstable whack job and legal counsel and representation is a good, good thing.
p.s. a social worker i used to work with always told me to ask myself "problem, problem, who's got the problem? if it's not you, don't worry about it!" i like the idea, but for me it doesn't address the obsessive stuff :)

I agree with documenting EVERYTHING.

As someone who grew up with a control freak mother, I learned a few things:
1. They want you to freak out; it is what fuels them. If you must freak out (and it is hard not to), don't let it show.
2. When he gets argumentative, speak slower and quieter - it freaks THEM out.
3. The meaner he gets, the "nicer" you get (I mean politeness & courtesy, not baking him brownies).
4. Be firm about what you want and how you will deal with things. Be matter of fact and unemotional.
5. If he won't shut up and listen to you, say to him "you seem so upset and stressed, maybe we should reschedule for a time when you are calmer".
6. Don't play the escalation game (talking louder, interupting, etc.) Walk away, it is like rewarding a puppy for barking by yelling at him to be quiet.

The point is to be YOU and not get pulled into his crap or his way of dealing. He is trying to wear you down until you capitulate.

Good luck and remember that you only have to see him once in a while, he has to live with himself.

You never did explain how this moron (a renter) is involved and not the actual owner. My advice is to forget the touchy-feely stuff and get a lawyer! Sue somebody (the moron? the owner?) for the deck. Document everything! Save the emails. Keep a record of all contacts and interactions with this moron.

The Zen suggestion: Write it all down - every complaint, every curse, every little annoyance. Get detailed. Write until you're exhausted. Then go someplace natural (forest, beach, whatever) and bury it.

The "This is how I deal with it" suggestion: Get in a super-hot shower and have yourself a good cry. Talk to yourself. Scream. Sob. Rehearse conversations with him. Imagine punching him in the face. Cry some more. Stay in the shower until you either run out of frustration or hot water.

(I cry a lot, at everything, so that's what I usually end up doing. If you're not a cry-er, your mileage may vary.)

How 'bout y'all just sell the place?

Some good suggestions. My first thoughts are that
1. X probably has some personality disorder that makes him "icky" and potentially dangerous--I take these feelings seriously and believe in prompt action.
2. A buffer in the form of a lawyer is very very helpful in such a situation. For one thing, to work with the lawyer you and the HOA members have to articulate clearly what you are trying to accomplish, which is good practice! Plus, with some people you need to take legal action.
3. In a training class to learn how to lead groups effectively, I was assigned the role of "negative" member. This is an extremely powerful position and the person who plays it controls the group.
4. As the parent of a teenager I've learned the "echoing" technique, trying to say back to the insane person what you think they are trying to say. Invariably you are wrong, but the insane person/teenager has to re-phrase and eventually understanding can be reached. Perhaps.
5. Assuming a posture of shared goals helps a lot. For example, at the next meeting I would consider using a white board to write out the objective and list the steps to meet the objective. When the asshole says, for example, just use the quote I've got already, I would say, very neutrally, "Great! You have a quote--can we have a copy to put into the HOA records? Of course, we need two more quotes before we can take action. Shall we go through the phone book right now and decide on some contractors to call? You can call them so you can control when they arrive, but by the next meeting on XXXX we'll need two more quotes."
The suggestion to formalize is excellent! Write minutes of the meeting, assign actions and due dates, etc. Treat this like work, because it is your work really.

I would get a quote on repairing the deck and sue in small claims court immediately. Do not allow him to supervise the repair work!

Well, this is disjointed! Zen-like advice I've been given in the past: Do not have conversations with people who are not in the room.

If you don't feel safe, and you feel as if he is harassing, hire a lawyer. I would block his e-mails, too. Please, take care of yourself, Racheal.

I agree with everything that's been suggested, particularly the email filters, mediation, documentation and then a lawyer to represent you. I've had to do all of this with my Horse's Ass Person. or...Question: does Lala have this same reaction to him? If not, maybe you should give her power of attorney to act for you and let her go to the meetings and whatever. And if not Lala, is there someone else you trust that much and who'll do it for you? I find that with my person like this, it helps a whole lot to just remove myself from the situation entirely and not communicate with him directly when he's being a horse's ass... gotta take care of yourself, darlin'.

Get a PO Box for him to write snail mail to you, if not one of the other HOA representatives... and as previously mentioned, simply block his emails...

also... with documentation in mind; if you, or one of the other HOA members don't already have one, you may want to invest in a digital recorder to back up meeting minutes, then provide him with a copy to peruse.

Not only may he choose his words a little more wisely knowing that the meeting is being recorded, but he may also be somewhat surpised at how he sounds should he ever choose to review the recording.

I agree that he might be so unbalanced as to be potentially dangerous -- if not to you than to your renter, or to your property. Your job has you dealing with people who are freaked-out all the time, so if you can't put this guy out of your mind, something's wrong. Let your renter know to avoid him and make sure your homeowner's insurance is paid up.

Hmmm, I always go with the phrase:

Don't argue with idiots. They bring you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

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