My Blog Motto

"Good judgement comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgement"

~Rita Mae Brown

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Neither Hermit nor Harlot

Sometimes I think about becoming a Hermit. Occasionally I try the title on for size. In reality I live in a very community oriented neighborhood within a reasonably well populated city. I shop at the corner store where everyone knows my name and I am on a conversational level of acquaintance with my neighbors. I have a few close friends and I interact with on a regular basis. I am far from the hermit lifestyle that I may dream of from time to time; a house in the woods, away from the noise and dirt of the city. I'm pretty certain I'm not ready to take that step just yet.
I say I'm a hermit sometimes, jokingly, because it feels that way relative to my younger years. In my 20's, 30's and even into my 40's I could barely be restrained within the four walls of my own  home. I loved going out to bars and parties and if I was in a clean and sober phase I was involved in parenting groups or other circles of like minded people. I thrived on human interaction. Most of my career was spent amidst the high energy and drama of a youth shelter where I was energized by the diverse and intense personalities and situations I navigated every day. I was the supreme multi tasker, moving seamlessly from a phone call with an angry parent, to comforting a hysterical teenager to mentoring idealistic college students, all within a span of several minutes. In my party years I danced, flirted, gossiped and drank into the wee hours of the night, sometimes into the following day. I couldn't get enough it seemed, there was so much life to be lived, people to meet and music to be experienced. The more I did, in either world, the more I craved. Human interaction was like a stimulant, energizing, joyous and addicting.
So what happened? Why is it that now even when given an opportunity to attend an event where I know I will most likely enjoy myself and meet people that I will find interesting and stimulating I find myself making excuses to stay home. Why do I prefer the company of my four legged roommates or my immediate family to anyone else? And how is it that the energy and motion of the city now feels like an irritant, a noisy distraction from the real me. Why is it that I who would have gone stir crazy without human contact after one day now dream of living deep in a woods where no one can find me unless by my choosing.
I have come to realize that the real Me was not always that outgoing bar hopping party girl. Nor was I the crisis intervening, multi tasking social worker.
The person I was as a child was quiet, shy and solitary. I was a dreamer, not a doer. When my family had parties, I generally tried to become invisible hoping no one would ensnare me in conversation. I spent hours alone in the yard building things out of bits and pieces left to me by nature. I conversed with animals and imagined their responses. I explored paths and empty buildings and I created stories in my mind of events that had happened in these places. I filled them with characters and events of days gone by and the places came alive in a universe of my creation. Real people were typically seen as a disruption in the pattern of world I was creating, unless they were another dreamer, the sort of person who would be a co-creator of the imaginary world.
There were reasons for my semi conscious choice to become the outgoing extroverted person I had been. Living through frequent changes in family structure as my parents divorced, repaired, split and repaired again required adjusting to new patterns of interaction and adapting to unfamiliar behavior and routine. Moving from state to state and changing schools was an opportunity to try on new character traits and to completely reinvent ones self, often at the expense of one's true self. It is normal to want to fit in especially in the pre teen and teenage years but when given a clean slate and a mysterious history one looks to peers and the environment for clues when creating a persona. For a thoughtful and sensitive child all the change and over-stimulation was exhausting and often painful. It finally became easier to do and to be than to think or feel. I had jumped on an express train to external reward and social acceptance and I left Jenny behind at one of the stops. I can see her, sitting alone on a bench nose buried in a book, completely unaware that the train had left the station hours ago.
Now I have returned to retrieve that girl, that dreamer, that reader of books, that quiet and peaceful child who was just a little too sensitive for the real world. I have armed her with the tools I found out there in the real world, so she wont be hurt so profoundly by the ugly things that happen there. I can honor and respect her desire to be left alone but when we need to venture out into the real world, we know how to maneuver through the small talk and chit chat of ordinary life. We know how to read the signals that tell us when to withdraw and when it's safe to move forward (of course we all have lapses in judgement, don't we?) We know how to protect ourSelf without running, without having to have the first word and the last. We know it's okay to be silent and observe when words would only bring confusion or distraction. I/we have merged the introvert and the extrovert into something that is manageable and reasonably well balanced. We have come to accept that being alone with our thoughts and feelings is a pretty nice place to be and that if we need to escape now and then, into a world of our own making, it is a method of survival in an unpredictable world.

© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

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