“I only go out to get me a fresh appetite for being alone.” -Lord Byron
(For context HERE. is a post on my Hermit existence.)
Back in my twenties I would join any group, lead mom's time outs at my home, and reach out to anyone in need. Part of it was my healing factor. I wanted to help as many people as possible. Another part of it was that I was desperate for acceptance. I did not know completely what was up with me. Especially before age 24. I thought I was somewhat normal and did not get why everyone else did not...until I delightfully discovered Aspergers and being Highly Sensitive.
I spent years hashing out these changes on my original blog, finding people to listen, and trying to heal more people. This was a needed stage and I do not begrudge anyone who is currently in it. This happened until one day it didn't. Shortly before thirty, I realized I am really not a people person at all. I like the concept of people and I DO still enjoy the interactions I have or helping others with books or writing, but actually engaging with a lot of friends is not my forte. It took another year to allow myself to drop many engagements I was still holding on to and weak friendships that I was giving more than getting.
I also found a marked difference in how I met new people. Before I would try to connect them with others, have them over even if I didn't care too much for them, or try to become their friends. Now, however, I will politely listen, but after a usually deep conversation is done I will not initiate more. If they bump into me again I do not mind another deep conversation but again, I will not try to incorporate them into my life. If they ask me for information, I will give it my best because I generally like passing on research or self help, but even if a person suits me a lot, I feel my life is already full of what I can handle with people unless it is another casual relationship. Another friend could give them more time and attention that they need. I no longer hold myself to the obligation or personal expectation that I may be that person. I am likely not.
Unless life changes incredibly, it is enough for me to have the people that I do in my life. Online interactions are an exception in most cases because that is less likely to infringe on my personal space or time commitments. If I meet people now, we may have them over, but I am mostly content with seeing my friends a few times a year. To me that is sufficient. I don't need more. I have my husband, children and my best friend and therapist. I have differing family members I enjoy or need to give to, and I have many people in and out of our lives due to a group forum we have. I enjoy a few online friendships and have found my people through the Internet. This is more than enough for me.
I find if I have a few appointments in a month I get exhausted. I do not understand how people can run from one activity to the next, bump into other moms at school pick up, and interact on a DAILY basis with a multitude of people.** My life isn't set up that way due to many intentional and tough choices, and now I LOVE it. I can go a month without seeing any additional people besides those in my immediate life. I am taken back when people mention the grindstone or that they need to slow down or that time is getting away from them. I used to be one of those people. Somewhere in my distant memory I can taste that desperation for rest, but it is no longer in my journey. Busyness is a badge that people wear to validate their existence that they are doing something "right" or "useful." Tiredness is another one. I don't wear either unless the tiredness is due to sickness. My existence and those that I love, are beautiful ways of being. We have all of our evenings, weekends and days free to do as we please. Yes we have some obligations like reading, schooling, baking, cooking, chore time and getting outside but all these activities are privileges and most of them can be done at our leisure. I am rarely, if ever, pressured with time. Even with appointments I have now realized I can cancel all the ones that are unnecessary and schedule others spread out and in the afternoons when I do better. I take no appointments, even borderline emergency ones, in the mornings. I find no explanations are best and I simply say no and ask for another time. Most people assume it's because I am as busy as them and I am fine with that assumption. Financially this has also helped us. Swimming lessons? Our kids can learn how to swim by us or a friend in the pool at their growth needs. Yes it is essential to learn but no, it does not need to be done by a certified teen. Piano or music? This is ultimately for enjoyment. Not only can they teach themselves through Youtube but by teaching themselves they are creating their own incentive and enjoying the process. They are choosing. We are not putting them in anything for the sake of achievement goals or because we believe it adds more value to them. They are already valuable and anything they enjoy will enhance this.
Yes, skills are needed but there are multiple ways to get a skill set without joining organized places that take both time, money and family freedom. I probably just insulted a lot of people but most of our cultural activities are unnecessary and come down to a misunderstanding of needs, power and place. IF it is taking more than it is giving you or your family- it needs to go. Tommy doesn't need to stay in that organization because he loves it even though it is making everyone else cranky and un unified and putting the family into more debt...he can find something else to enjoy. UNLESS you all love it too and it unifies your family. My best friend has a son in hockey but generally, even though this comes with it's pain, she approaches it WAY differently than most hockey moms. She has boundaries and uses it as a way to unify her family. She also will not allow him to commit to anything else. Most kids spend the majority of their time out of the home in organizations that take their youth, family money that could go towards enhanced nutrition and less family stress, leisure time and generally the down time or boredom that enhances their growth and helps them get to know their inner landscapes. How many of us in adulthood actually took with us all the "skills" or "talents" we trained for in our youth? How many happy, well adjusted adults do you know? Yea, I thought so...that begins in school and childhood... (see number two below if you are feeling angsty right now. I am probably inducing some dislike:)
I find that people usually have three reactions to me:
1.) They want to be my best friend or think they are my best friend. This happened A LOT in my teenage and early twenty years (probably due to my INFJ personality.) Looking back I realized it was because I could easily psycho analyze and immediately recognize unique needs before they knew it themselves, intuit what they wanted, and be that person. I validated them, challenged them and explained themselves TO them. Basically I acted like a best friend would after knowing someone a long time but I barely had time with them. They were confused. However, this stage could never last. Eventually it becomes frightening when someone knows you so well and suddenly you realize you don't know much about them. OR they would continually believe we were best friends when really I was more like a therapist role and viewed them with fond regard but not mutual equality. It was often easy for me to let go compared to them letting go because of this helping role. In my mind, when they moved on to the new friends I set them up with or resources that supported them- I viewed it as a success when they were probably feeling abandoned or confused. My goal for them was often to support them in as many ways as possible and then give them full independence. (And this is probably why Aspies are sometimes accused of being Robots...people hear the lack of relational aspect and think we don't care when really in these moments I was infused with care that these people have the best lives they possibly can- even if that means without me in their lives. I don't think that is robotic. I think it's a mixture of emotion and logic.)
2.) They strongly dislike me. They have an aversion to me that often they can not even explain. They view me as fake because how can someone that honest be real? Honesty can come across as harsh- it really is such a lonely word. Or they think I am too much or over think...often they pick up on Autistic traits but since I can "normalize" they instead attribute said traits to selfishness or something worse. There is little understanding for my brain in these circumstances. I mirror what is chosen to see. I have found I can induce fear of life, of life with a lack of conventions and rules, of the way I genuinely live, of who I am deep down...my beliefs, my reasons for choices...most of it scares people. I know simply because I used to make the error of trying to explain or expose and it was always misunderstood because of fear or a boxed mind. Sometimes I make people really want to destroy me. For instance this post. Some people will read it and say, "Is she for real? What a condescending little twerp. I want to show her pain." Because they see how happy and content I am or that I am simply saying what works for me and this makes them feel bad about themselves. They don't realize they are internalizing their own struggle and putting it on me. They don't realize that I am just as real with my pain as my freedom and joy. Or they just don't like me period. I had a friend tell me that her pal who had just moved away told her often how much she disliked me. This shocked me because I went over to her pals house a couple times because our hubbies were friends and she was friends with all my friends. She was always nice to me so to hear that she strongly disliked me threw me for a loop. If I strongly dislike someone they will know. I should not have been shocked because this has happened a lot in my life. I used to take it so personally but now with cognitive therapy and self healing books and my diagnosis it makes me feel like I am doing something right. Not everyone can like the best of people, and if I create that feeling in someone, it means I am not people pleasing my way through life.
3.) They pity me. This is the one reaction I have really struggled with. I don't want any one's pity. I have come so far and know myself so well that I feel this one is undeserved. HOWEVER, I am good enough at perspective taking to see why it happens. Often these are the type A personalities, the extreme extroverts or the nice people who just want to see everyone do things properly. I do not do things conventionally or "properly." I say these people are nice because most people would simply revert to number 2 and move on, but these people instead can not be mean so instead they pick pity. They are not meaning to be demeaning or condescending but this is probably the most ableist stance against me to take. They are ignorant of ableism in most cases and just see my disabilities as things to either fix, pity or cluck their tongues at. They view their role as helping me normalize or see the light or fit more into a box. This of course does not go over well with me. Ableist behaviour has been my life companion and I do not need more of it, even if it is well intended. I already help myself and am my own worst critic if I need to be. I change if I feel I need changing, which is more than most can say, so to pick up on what I can not do and try to fix it, is a deal breaker for me.
Not only am I an Aspie but I am melancholic, INFj and have my paternal grandmother's penchant for being on my own. I would be happy with almost no person in my life besides my inner circle. I read this article and it is so completely me that I thought this person crawled into my brain and wrote down my thoughts:
Here is a delightful morsel of this beautiful piece:
** There are exceptions to anything and for SOME extroverts this way of life is the most enhanced for them as long as they are not taking some introverted family members along for the ride, going into debt for the sake of some illusion, or believing that these things define them, it is fine to have many people or activities in the life of someone who thrives on it. I respect that.
Post Script: There is a 4th reaction but it is only with those who get me...who are my tribe, my support and my loves...and for them - I KNOW deep down they would do anything for me. For these few I inspire HUGE loyalty, devotion, admiration ( that goes both ways) and extreme self sacrificial love. The few that really know me would kill spiders for me, walk through my darkest hours, and be there when I meltdown without batting an eye. They are my tribe...but this is unusual and not my usual reactions which is why I did not include it. I am beyond happy that I have these people and I also owe them the life that I breathe in many ways...