I’ve always been quite introverted. I need time alone. Big groups leave me drained and cranky. I like my quite, alone time. I like the company of my own thoughts.
Much of my life has been spent fighting to maintain my me-time. It has led to the demise of more than one relationship. It was a struggle when the kids were small. It has made it hard to maintain a sane work-life balance. I learned to hoard those quite moments, not only to make the most of them, to cherish them, but to protect them like a feral dog with stolen pork-chop.
I have also always been independent. I can take care of myself was my motto. I squirm at the thought of needing anything from anybody. God help me if I am ever ill or injured. Like a cat I try to hide my booboos, I’ll find a dark hidey hole and lick my owies clean myself.
I’ve spent three decades striving to be self contained. I’ve been complimented on my ability to walk away from any situation seemingly unscathed and unaffected. Bad boyfriend? Bye-bye. I brush off and move on with alarming speed. I could chew my own thigh bone in half to escape a trap.
Somewhere along the way my introversion turned to isolation. I quit talking to people almost entirely. Not to say I didn’t have any friends, I had using buddies. I still tried to be a good mom and spent time with my kids. I remained a dutiful daughter looking after things for my mom. But I crawled into a hole and never left. At first it was refreshing to have time to myself, to recharge my batteries, to work on all the little tasks I’d neglected. Needing to be alone is not the same as being a loner. What started as desperately hoarding a few minutes here and there became avoiding people as much as possible. Self-care became self-centeredness.
Independence is an illusion. I was secretly dependent on drugs. It is good to depend on God. Interdependence is healthy and critical to caring relationships. Both require being vulnerable and willing. We are not created to be lonely little islands separated by hundreds of miles of shark infested waters.
If insanity is doing the same thing over again expecting different results this is surely me. Time and again I isolated myself and clung to independence when hurt. And frequently this turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Healing requires help. The more I refused to ever be vulnerable the more I guaranteed further hurt.
It is a risk to be honest, open or willing. There is always the chance of being hurt. There is also the chance to be loved, welcomed, wanted. Slowly I am making new friends, friends who know the real me. And still want me. I still come home tired after a few hours with a group of people I don’t know well. I will always need my quite hours to write, think, pray, and just to rest. But I am learning that small groups, one-on-one conversations, people I really know and trust, don’t wear me out. I can be connected without being overwhelmed. And I can ask and sometimes even receive.