Saturday, January 16, 2010

A simpler life

I have been simplifying my life, trying to reshape myself into something more elemental. I am reinterpreting myself in the face of my chronic health problems. This will take time and quiet. I can’t do it successfully if I’m caught up in our culture’s unrelenting noise and incivility. I have no desire to be among tens of thousands of people shrieking at a football game or a concert or shopping at the mall. These days, I cannot stand to be in crowds. And I do not want to entertain “company”.

More than ever, I want to shrink my world down to the size of my home – where I’m most comfortable. For quite awhile, I’ve been declining requests for my time because the social whirl is less compelling than it ever was. It never was very compelling in the first place. To me, a perfect evening often means stretching out on the sofa and vanishing into a good novel or very old movie. I want to be at home. I prefer to be at home.

I know there is a thin line between the womb of healing and cutting yourself off from the world, but I really don’t care. Regardless of that possibility, I want to nest. My spirit needs convalescing as I struggle with my asthma, fibromyalgia, and depression.

Enjoying days at home built around writing, reading, and time spent with my husband, I am taking immense pleasure in the gentlest rhythms of daily life. I am feeding my inner hermit who would like nothing better than to live in a cottage a couple of miles down an unpopulated country road – a place where you can hear the birds and insects and actually see all the stars at night.

Loneliness is not the same as solitude. Solitude is an agreeable pal. I like the silence and creativity that comes with being alone. I am not lonely.

Lately I’ve been gorging on spy novels by Daniel Silva and the latest book, loaded with mystery, by Dan Brown. As I soak up The Lost Symbol, ignoring the insistent ring of the telephone with great relish, I feel as if I am regaining a part of my lost childhood, conjuring up the child who spent many dreamy hours at my grandparent’s house, reading good books and writing in my journal.

Why are my good memories tied to my grandparents? My grandparent’s country cottage was full of love – you could feel it, smell it, taste it. My grandmother, grandfather, and I spent long hours talking about life. They were full of wonderful stories. They both gave big, loving bear hugs – which were returned in kind. Sadly, they lived so far away that I could only spend a week with them during the summer.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, my parent’s house was always full of strife, discord, and meanness that wounded my psyche. There were no hugs in that house – at least not for me. They believed in breaking children’s spirits – especially mine. My father still often will say so. I didn’t know back then that one day the constant strife would cause me to traverse the shadowy land of depression.

As I try to recreate those long ago happy hours spent at my grandparent’s house, I am refusing to follow the common advice of taking an anti-depressant medication and forcing myself to socialize. Instead, I am trying to make my world manageable enough to wrap it about myself like a comfortable quilt made by my grandmother’s hands.

In just a few months, my husband will retire and join me. We will make new memories as we take long, slow trips across the country and stop to smell every flower, greet every sunset, and say prayers of thanksgiving along the way. Then maybe my spirit will finally shed the bad memories, the depression, and heal.

Maybe my body will heal, too.