sealing off


What is happening to me–? I can feel myself seal off from the world. And strangely, I rather like it, in an “I am so relieved” kind of way. One of my writing mentors said that friends were the biggest enemy of writing, and I did not quite understand her at the time. What? How could friends be bad for anything?

And yet now I kind of understand, even though I totally love my friends. Even though everyday, there is at least one email from a friend who cheers me up. Guiltily, I announce, that yes, I understand what she means. Kind of. At least, I’m closer to understanding than ever before.

When I was in my early twenties, I couldn’t bare bear to be alone (this mistake, another homonym misuse was caught my 4th read-through). Every minute of the day contained a social activity (yes, I couldn’t even sleep alone–while everyone hated having to share a room with dormmates, I relished the thought of company at all times). The minute I stood still in a room, I felt the world crumbling around me, some awful thing poking through my emotions. And so I would keep on moving, knowing I was running away from myself. (I wonder if that’s why Tom Cruise runs so much in his movies).

I think I was about five (at one point fifteen) pounds lighter in my early twenties than I am now. Probably from all that moving and running around.

Sometime in my mid twenties, I crashed. You just can’t run around forever, and eventually the demons catch up. They tackled me and wrestled me to the floor until I was nearly catatonic and wrapped up, a mummy encased in my pain. I let it ride. No, I didn’t let it ride. I didn’t want to let it ride, but I had no choice, so I just rode the pain until I could feel the pain again and it became insufferable and I kept riding until I could get above the pain again.

Still, I was a social creature. I loved people. I hung out friends. I had activities.

Now I am just so tired. And it isn’t just one day, but weeks, turning into months, of this limited energy–waking up a little tired, knowing it’s downhill all day from there. It makes me downright cranky some days, and I grit my teeth and bite my lip for hours. I am changing, somehow–it creeps me out to see this but at the same time, I’m just riding it. Maybe I’m even letting it ride.

I am just not up for socializing. It takes everything I’ve got to be out there–and not everyone understands that I’m going at a different pace and need lots of quiet so I’ve got a lot to explain and that exhausts me further. I miss my friends but I can’t face the lack of understanding.

Compound this conflict with how I was raised: “A woman always has to be cheerful and be a great hostess!” So no matter what, I’ll try to put a smile on my face and be that great hostess at all times. (But a reader, “Andrew,” pointed me to the wonderful “Spoon Theory” if you want a hint of what I’m feeling).

Mostly, I’ve got to write. And I’m exhausted, so I’ve got to economize as best I can to do the things I need. I always wondered how Laura Hillenbrand wrote Sea Biscuit while suffering Chronic Fatigue Syndrome–and though I have nothing like her affliction, I am getting the idea.

I have a new mantra these days: on days I’m to write, I don’t eat, don’t go out, don’t shower, until I get my words down. Of course, I’m not supposed to blog either. But in this case, I wanted to get these words off my chest before I settle in to the story of a character other than myself.

I got a phone call every fifteen minutes for an hour this morning. I cut the calls short on each one–something very hard for me to do. But I had to write. I had to sequester my energy. Maybe I really am turning into a writer–the dream I had that I would fine tune my recovery to develop the muscles of a newer and better writer may be coming into place. Maybe that is what all this exhaustion and desire to sleep is about–I am going through a metamorphosis.

Regardless, I’m changing, I think.

p.s. I have let the gopher mole possess my garden. He wins. The stake did nothing, my dogs have thoroughly scoured the soil, happily rooting through the garden and digging holes into tunnels–all to no effect.

The little fellow is hungry–and I’ll allow him to share my veggies. (Even though I am still mad at him for eating my French Tarragon without sharing any with me!). My goal to celebrate life with this garden has taken an unexpected turn with an extra guest (I guess flora doesn’t come without fauna) at the table, but isn’t that life?

p.p.s.  Oh screw it.  I keep thinking of better things, but I’m just really down about not being able to do everything I want to do, and being the equivalent of a dog that wears an electronic collar around his neck.  He steps over his boundary and ZAP!  he is set back.

For all my talk about how this energy limitation helps me ferret out what’s really important in my life, I am at least as equally distraught about not being able to do EVERYTHING I want to do.  I am so distraught about not being able to write unless I have a whole day clear, and otherwise feeling so retarded.  I am just so frustrated.   Beyond frustrated, really.

Who is this new person that I have become?  Those few sentences I put down in the face of my exhaustion look so pathetic.  My self doubt is overwhelming.



Filed under Life, The Stroke, Writing

11 responses to “sealing off

  1. Lamberakis

    Such heartfelt reflections… So wonderful to read. You will continue to have friends, even if you choose to play the perfect hostess less often than you once did. One of the things I do when I feel like taking a break from work is to stop by here. And this is always a friendly place.

  2. Lamberakis: Thank you. I really appreciate what you’ve written.

  3. You are in your authentic space and you are not just owning it, you’re working it. Your friends love you for who you are, not because of your mad hostessing skillz. 🙂

  4. If what you are experiencing has no physical causation, I’d say the symptoms you describe indicate a low level of clinical depression. Have you talked to your doctor about these symptoms? What does he/she say?

  5. Randa

    I’m going through it too. I’m your friend in this hibernation. I would rather write all day than hang out with humans. Sometimes all the material catches up and wants to come out of you.

    I’m also someone who was so much more of a social butterfly until about a year ago. Then, I became very tired of putting on the smiling mask. Now, I am happy with having the day to myself, and not turning to others every time I am sad.

    I feel you, sister!

  6. This feeling of sealing off is very familiar to me; it’s how I’ve been for years. In my experience, friends don’t really understand; I don’t have too many friends now because of it — it’s just that so often I need time to myself, to think, to read, to write, to do nothing. I don’t know why. I feel so crowded otherwise. Thankfully my husband understands; it’s how he’s always known me to be. He calls it my “alone time” — and we’ve arranged our schedules so I get alone time two nights a week. I don’t even know if that’s enough. I guess you could say I’m at heart an antisocial creature. I wish I wasn’t. Not that I feel lonely… I don’t. I just have this inkling that it’s so much more fun on the other side. Also, selfishly as a writer, I think I’d have a lot more inspiration and material if I could get out more…

    Anyway, maybe this is temporary for you. A little break to get charged up and then back to who you are.

    Yeah I realize I am not saying a single thing that is even possibly helpful to your exhaustion. Sorry.

  7. All your words are so helpful.

    arirang: thank you for the reassurance

    Leroy: I don’t think I’m depressed but yes I ought to take care of myself.

    Randa: your empathy is awesome!

    nova: you are more helpful than you realize. 🙂

  8. This also sounds very familiar to me. I’m comfortable enough in often being alone (save my fiancée) and a lot of the people around here in expat-land don’t really get it… if you’re not going out drinking with ’em quite regularly, a lot of people just think you either hate them (though I do dislike some of them or they think you’re a snob. The idea of staying home to write on a Saturday night just seems to be alien to many people.

    The people closest to you understanding is the most important thing. And yeah, the thing about choosing to direct your energies… that’s it for me, too. I’ve been ill in all kinds of annoying ways — nothing as serious as a stroke, mind you, but years of niggling problems, usually striking as I start to exercise in the hope of getting my energy up. When you’re often even just a little sick, it takes up energy, and things become about either/or. Either I can hang out with friends this weekend, or finish this story and get it sent out. Either I can go to the bar with my mates, or I can get a few thousands words done on my draft.

    For me, when it’s my really good mates, of course I’ll hang out, but often, there’s just no question about whether I’m going to be home writing, or at the latest whatever event that the local foreigner crowd has cooked up to fill their unoccupied empty days and nights. They have beer and pool and darts and small talk (as well as books to read and films to watch); I, along with the books and films, have stories to research and write, and they don’t.

    It reminds me of playing in a band… people think that’s glamorous, but mostly it’s two things: playing the same songs over and over and over again, and sitting around waiting for the show to start. Not that it’s not fun, but there are vast clumps of stuff that almost everyone would find unexciting, but which use your energy up.

  9. Lamberakis

    I say it’s just natural, part of what happens. Do you know a lot of old people hellbent on hanging out every Saturday night? Somewhere along the line, you start to slow down. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. I mean, I get a lot out of my solitude just as I get a lot out of those times when I do choose to be with close friends. Let’s face it, life isn’t one big social event for most people. Work calls. There’s a lot to be said for that.

  10. LK

    There is a fine line between wanting and needing solitude (particularly for writers) and wanting and needing socializing. I have a difficult time with that myself, and I’ve undergone emotional issues just as you’ve described.

    As I’ve gotten older, I am more attuned to the balance that’s required. It takes work and attention. I am not naturally a socializer, and so I have to really make an effort (which drains me). But I realize that now. I also realize when it’s time to just be contemplative.

  11. The introverts speak up! It seems I am crossing over. Maybe. Or at least visiting you all for awhile. Thank you for embracing me and giving me the lay of the land.

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