I “should” love other people . . . but . . .

I think that we spiritually-minded introverts face many challenges. I’ve explored many spiritual paths over the fifty-odd years I’ve been on this earth, and many of them emphasize how important it is to love our fellow human beings, how interconnected we are, how we should care for others, and how we should always keep in mind that our very existence is dependent upon the efforts and good-will of other people.

That’s all well and good. My intellectual self gets it. Yes, of course, I wouldn’t have survived infancy if not for the adults who took care of me. I wouldn’t have food on the table without the work of those who grow or raise it, gather it, prepare it, get it to market, sell it, and all that. If I had to find/grow/kill my own food, I’d starve to death. And that’s just one example. So I get it. I “should” be grateful to other people, and I “should” appreciate them and care for them.

But in day to day life, I just don’t feel that way. I feel like other people are obstacles at best and infuriating at worst. They’re always in my way.  They’re always bothering me. They’re always making noise when I want quiet. They’re always intruding when I want to be alone. They’re always stopping me from things I want to do. In small ways and in larger ways, other people drive me crazy.

I love my fellow man – as long as he leaves me alone. As long as I don’t have to hear him or smell him or see him. In the safety of my own home, I feel love and tenderness and compassion for the beings, human and otherwise, with whom I share this planet. But when I go out among them, all bets are off.

Sometimes it feels to me like there is no place in the universe I can flee to for refuge. I can seek out the most out-of-the-way park I can think of, and someone will follow me in. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven to a park, looking forward to some true solitude, arrived to an empty parking lot, thanked God and the universe to find nobody there, only to have a car pull right in right behind me. I don’t get it.

I took yesterday off work, and once I was done with errands, I went out to a little-used park not far from home. It was a gray, chilly day, and I hoped I would have my destination to myself. But of course not. A dogwalker was setting down the trail in the direction I wanted to go. Naturally. Well, I went the other direction, and that was fine. We did meet later, as the trail is a big loop, and I love dogs, so I exchanged greetings with the friendly pups and went on my way. I ended up at an observation platform from which I hoped to do a little birdwatching. I only had the platform to myself for five minutes, if that. A young man came along with – I kid you not – a radio controlled airplane. Completely uncaring of the fact that I was there, with binoculars, he waltzed onto the deck with me without so much as a “Hello” or “Is it OK if I fly this here” or anything. Let me tell you, the names I called him under my breath were decidedly unChristian as I left, feeling disgusted and hostile.

I realize that parks are public places and people use them for many things. I do understand that I can’t expect to have them to myself. (Believe me, a fantasy of mine is to win a huge lottery amount and buy a gigantic tract of land that I could turn into my own private nature preserve) But so often common courtesy appears to be lacking. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been trying to photograph a bird, only to have some oblivious person walk right up and scare it away. I’ve stood on a beach watching shorebirds with binoculars and had people tramp right between me and them, when they could just as easily have gone around behind me. A little consideration would go a long way. But most people seem to lack it.

Often, I do hate people, after all. There, I’ve said it. And I do not know how to reconcile this truth with my desire to be a good person and live a spiritual life.

Sigh. Anybody out there relate to this?

 

The Question of Community

So. I’m a churchgoer nowchalice. Have been for about a year and a half. I never would have expected this to happen. I went through a “born again” Christian phase when I was younger and thought I knew all the answers. I was pretty obnoxious, I’m sure. I was very worried about being “saved” and making sure everyone I knew was “saved.” But by the time I was in my twenties, I just didn’t believe the conservative, fundamentalist teachings of the church I was attending, and I left. When I did, I turned away from Christianity altogether. It took years for me to get comfortable saying, “I’m not a Christian.” I was very proud of myself when I was finally able to do it. So to be back in church now is strange yet wonderful.

My journey away from a very conservative Christianity to the progressive liturgical tradition I find myself in now could fill a book, and I may actually write that book one day, but the journey isn’t what I want to talk about right now. What I want to talk about is how difficult it can be, to be an introvert in church.

Speaking for myself, I enjoy a wonderful sense of belonging most of the time, in church. Actively participating in a liturgy that has a rich history is a powerful experience. Not only in the sense of being there in the church with other people who are all singing or chanting or reciting the same words, but in the sense of unity with those around the world who are doing the same thing, and all the ones who came before. It’s nourishing. I am often awed by it. The feeling of “belonging” is not one I’ve often been privileged to experience, and I cherish it when I find it. I am incredibly grateful for it.

Over the years, I managed to convince myself that I don’t need this “community” thing. That I don’t want it. But when I first felt it, at this church, during the services for Mabel, I loved it. It was like being given a cool refreshing drink, when I hadn’t even known I was thirsty. Cat and I were warmly embraced and accepted and helped by these people who only knew her through her mother, and didn’t know me at all. They took over everything. They provided a lovely service and a wonderful reception and took care of us in a way that I will never forget. They accepted me as Cat’s partner without batting an eye. One white-haired old lady took my hand and told me, “I’m so glad Cat has you.” It brought me to tears then and it still does even now. I got a sense, that day, of what community can be. It kept me coming back.

But I’m aware, and rightfully so, that it’s not something from which I can only take, when I need it, without giving something of myself in return. As we kept attending, Sunday after Sunday, getting to know people and sometimes joining them for social events, it became obvious how much work goes into things like the reception the church provided after Mabel’s service. The setup, the food preparation, the serving, the cleaning up afterward. All of it takes time and effort and many hands. If I want to be part of this community and enjoy these things, I have to be willing to help.

And therein lies the rub. Because no matter how good my intentions are, the fact still remains that I have limited energy for social interaction. I have limited free time. And I need a lot of downtime in order to function as a reasonably civilized and happy human being. I have to be “out in the world” eight hours a day, five days a week. During my off time, like everyone who works, I have to deal with all the “business” of life – the grocery shopping, the laundry, the yard work, balancing the checkbook, making sure car maintenance gets done, meeting obligations to family, etc. etc. ad exhaustionium. Somewhere in all that, I need to find time for myself, too. For quiet time. For time alone. For time in Nature. For time to read. For time to write. It isn’t easy to juggle all of this, and it was already tricky before we added church to our Sunday mornings. Now it’s even harder. In some ways, I’m still adjusting just to that. So it’s very difficult for me when our church membership leads to more invitations. More social opportunities. (Which, as an introvert, I tend not to see as opportunities at all) More requests for money, for time, for effort. There is always something happening for which people are needed.

We were talked into joining the ‘coffee hour hosting’ rotation months before we even formally joined the church. Cat was asked to join the choir, and did. I was asked, and politely declined. I was asked if I would consider becoming an acolyte, or joining the Altar Guild. No, no, no. no. Cat has gone all out with her involvement and serves as an occasional lector, and as the leader of the youth group, in addition to her choir membership. She and I jointly volunteered to help with the church website, but she pretty much took over that and I don’t do much with it. One a month, she helps prepare and serve food in the lunch program that ministers to the homeless and hungry. She attends Christian formation classes and she’s also doing Education for Ministry. I compare myself to her, and to the others who are so involved in the church, and I feel inadequate and guilty – and then I feel resentful.

I should make it clear that nobody at church is pushing me or pressuring me to do more than I do. I bake cookies when cookies are needed. It’s something I can do at home, in peace. I take photographs when asked. I try to be generous with money and food donations and the like. It really feels like all I can manage. It honestly feels like I can’t do more. There is one Sunday each month that Cat is basically at church all day – she gets there at 9am for choir practice, we attend worship at 10:30, she stays afterward to help with the lunch program, then has maybe an hour or two before she has to be in EfM class which runs until about 7:30pm. She thrives on it. She gets tired, but it’s a “good” tired.

If I tried to do that, I would be a basket case. I would be living one long introvert meltdown. I just can’t do it. I don’t even attend coffee hour most Sundays; unless we’re hosting, I am out of there after the service, and I usually try to get out for a few hours of solitary hiking or birding. I call it “church after church.” I need it. On weekends that I’m not able to do that, I find myself cranky and irritable.

I guess I’m not making a point. I’m just venting how I feel about all the activity, and how hard it can be to feel “okay” when comparing myself to the “doers,” the people who never say “no,” the people like Cat who love being front and center doing things. It’s a challenge. But it’s one I’m willing to stick with and figure out, because I need to. I love my church. I love worship. I will not let my own feelings of guilt and inadequacy drive me out. God made me the way I am for a reason – I try hard to believe that. He doesn’t need me to become an extrovert, or even to act like one. I do have a part to play, and I want to find out what it is.

I just know what it isn’t, and it isn’t serving on six committees or working with the youth or helping with the lunch program or attending every single party and meeting that happens or being on the Altar Guild or being in the choir or serving as an acolyte. I can’t afford to make church into another job. I already have a job and it’s hard enough to deal with that. I do want to give back and I do want to contribute but I can’t be like Cat. I just can’t.

Perhaps for some people, being in community means physically being with other people and doing things together – often. Perhaps some people need a lot of “face time” in order to really feel connected. I do not. And I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m not saying that the “doers” aren’t needed and important. Where would we be without them? We need them. And I appreciate them. I just can’t be one of them. But maybe what I can be is a voice for people like me. People who struggle with the message, sometimes spoken but often unspoken, that to be a truly good person one must be social, must be busy, must be productive. I want to raise my quiet voice against that. We get enough of that message out in the world. We should be able to find sanctuary and peace in our spiritual homes, whether we’re Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Wiccan or Buddhist or whatever. We quiet ones have our places in the communities we choose. We do.

 

 

Writing II

Ah, yes. Writing. When I think about writing, often I run smack up against a wall that I don’t know how to get past.

You see, it looks to me as though many interesting and best-selling books are about relationships. Many of the novels I enjoy are full of interesting and complex characters who have many complicated relationships. Big families and lots of friends.

I don’t have that. I have never had that. I will never have that. I don’t even want that. So what the hell do I write about? When I read a story that’s full of all these relationships, I feel like a street urchin of old, gazing into a modern department store full of amazing and glittery things that I will never be able to touch and cannot hope to understand. I stand there fascinated, drawn in by the beautiful displays, but between me and that world is an invisible barrier that has always kept me out, and always will.

It’s a good analogy but where it fails is in the fact that I don’t feel particularly badly about this situation. I don’t stand there with my lonely snotty nose pressed against the glass, longing to go inside. I’m content to look. That world isn’t for me, and I know it, and I’m honestly OK with it. I’ve grown to prefer it this way. I’d rather go off to the woods by myself, and take pictures of birds, than enter into that world.

The trouble is that I don’t want to just write for myself. I want to write stories that people will read. And I doubt my ability to do that, because of the experiences I haven’t had. I grew up in a small, insular family. Our relatives were all in Europe and my parents made little effort to stay connected with them. My parents didn’t have friends. Hell, they weren’t even friends with each other. We didn’t do the things other families did. My childhood wasn’t bad – don’t get me wrong. But I missed out on a lot. I didn’t learn to be interested in other people, because my parents weren’t. I never even went to a funeral until I was in my early twenties. So how do I create an interesting protagonist? I don’t feel as if I can write about what I don’t know. It won’t be authentic.

The story that seems to want me to write it is about someone a lot like me. Someone who feels pressed and harassed and “sucked at” all the time. Someone who only feels completely relaxed and at peace when she’s alone, but who only rarely gets to be left in peace. Someone who is constantly fending off the demands of the outside world and of other people. Someone who feels like prey. I just can’t think of what the story is. I am reminded every single day that this wants to be written; I just can’t see the story yet. Things have to happen. Interesting things. A bunch of chapters detailing the unwanted encounters of each day won’t add up to anything. Who would want to read that? Hell, I could publish my own journal if I thought anyone would want to read that. If you just look at word count, my journal over the years would add up to quite a few novels. It’s just not very interesting.

No wonder I got all excited about writing porn. It seemed easier than struggling with this shit.

 

 

 

 

Writing

I guess it’s a good thing that I don’t have to earn my living by writing, because if that were the case, I’d be living under a bridge somewhere.

I want to write. At least, I think I do. But I’m lazy, and I’m tired, and I haven’t found the spark that will keep me going.

I have a confession to make. Late last year, I read an article about bigfoot porn. You read that right. I read about a woman who supposedly made a fortune writing smut about bigfoots. I got excited. I’ve always been a bit of a pervert. And I thought, this is it! I can write filthy short stories and self-publish them and make money and retire and life will be amazing!

I wrote my first 11,000 word story in a week. It was one of my favorite fantasies, written out, in explicit detail. Cat proofread it for me, and let’s just say she found it to be very exciting. I paid for a cover and I published that puppy under a pseudonym and I waited for the money to roll in. It didn’t.

Undaunted, I wrote more. I channeled my frustration with a work situation and my bad feelings toward my boss into a series of short stories about office sex. I published each one separately and then bundled them into a set. I waited for the money to roll in. It began to trickle.

Having learned that monster porn was a thing, I then decided to write about a human woman who gets captured and impregnated by a monster. I have three of the four in that series finished. They aren’t selling well.

I wrote a 10,000 word erotic horror story; that’s done poorly.

I tried an office sex story from a male POV. That’s sold reasonably well.

But the money certainly isn’t rolling in. I’ve probably made about six hundred dollars in a little less than a year. That ain’t retirement money, people.

I know myself well enough to know that if these stories were selling well and making me money, I’d be writing more of them, even though I’m back in church and often have an uncomfortable feeling that writing porn (and let’s face it, what I write isn’t “erotica,” it’s porn) isn’t quite compatible with my newly reborn Christian faith. If they were making me lots of money, I know I’d find a way to justify it. “God has bigger things to worry about than my dirty short stories, He doesn’t care.” But since they aren’t selling well, I am finding it very easy to tell myself, “Well, it’s wrong to do that, you’re better than that, you need to find a way to serve God with your writing, you need to write something you don’t need to hide and be ashamed of.”

Sigh. So now I’m not writing at all. I’m back to square one. I have four different novels started, and no real drive to finish any of them. And they’re all over the place – one is a young adult magical fantasy, one is a contemporary story with elements of magical realism, one is a lesbian erotic vampire romance, and one is about a young woman with strange powers.

I’m starting to feel like what I really want is to have written; I don’t really want to do the work of writing. And that’s sad. I hope it’s not true. My life’s dream has always been to write a novel. So why don’t I park my ass in my chair and do it? I wish I knew.

While I try to figure that out, and try to motivate myself, I need to be writing here again. I have lots to say. I know I’m not the only introverted person struggling with how to function as a member of a church community, for example. I can’t be the only quiet one who looks at the social butterflies and the busy “doers” of church and wonders where I fit in. I’m sure I’m not the only person who struggles with wanting to be a good person while also wanting to do something that many people would see as “wrong.” And I doubt that I’m alone in feeling like God can’t possibly love me just the way I am, when the way I am wants little to do with my fellow human beings.

I don’t hate people. I just want them to leave me in peace, for the most part. I am happiest when I’m alone in Nature, without another human in sight. Can I be a Christian and still be true to my nature? I don’t know. Even in church, so much value is placed on doing things “in community,” on socializing, on being together. It’s hard to deal with, sometimes. I want to explore that question here. And I’d love to hear from people who are also struggling with it.

But that’s for another post. I’m not sure how I went from writing porn to surviving as an introvert in church. No wonder I can’t seem to finish a novel.

More soon.

I’m even a hermit in cyberspace, yeesh

Greetings, Happy New Year, and once again, I must apologize for being so lax. I thought I had set things up so that I’d get email forwarded to the address I use IRL, whenever I get comments, etc. but that seems to be working only part of the time. I don’t understand that; seems like it should either always work or never work, not work when it feels like it. Anyway, I missed quite a few comments and I’m sorry – I need to get this figured out.

It’s been an eventful year. Cat’s mother passed away in April, and that was difficult, of course. She was a member of a church right up the street, and Cat and I were both so moved by how the members and rector treated us when Mabel passed, and by the beautiful funeral service they provided, that we’ve started attending that church ourselves.  I ran screaming away from Christianity many years ago, so nobody is more amazed at me being back in church than I am. That’s a whole ‘nuther story. Anyway, being in church once a week and also participating in selected church social activities has proven to be quite a challenge for me, and I’m still trying to figure out how to balance everything and still find the solitary time that I need like I need air to breathe. So far I’m not managing very well, so energy levels have been low most of the time.

Please know how much I appreciate each and every person who comes here to read and is moved to share a little bit of him or herself with a comment. I’m still here, just often drowning in the demands of everyday life, and sometimes bourbon. :-)

 

We have the right to be left alone when we want to be

So. I like to walk on my lunch hour. Now that the weather is getting colder, I have been walking inside, which presents many challenges. I always seem to run into people I know, even at the farther reaches of campus. Also, I seem to have an “Ask ME!” sign floating above my head where-ever I go. I dislike being interrupted when I’m out for my walk. That’s my “me time,” my time away from people, my time to be alone with my thoughts. However, I don’t like to be rude, so if someone snags me for help finding a restroom, or I run into an acquaintance who wants to talk, I end up accommodating them at my own expense. ( I should note that at any given time there are thousands of people on this campus – there is always somebody who can help a visitor who is lost. I should also note that I don’t always want to avoid conversation. There are a handful of people with whom I always like to talk, when I see them. Of course those are the ones I rarely encounter.)

I decided to start taking my iPhone with me, and my earbuds, so that I can listen to music while I walk. This makes the time go faster – walking indoors is boring. It also allows me to send a pretty clear signal – “Leave me alone. I’m on my break. Don’t approach me.” It works! I walk fast, I avoid eye contact, and if I see someone I know, I smile and wave a hand and keep going.

So what’s the problem, you might be wondering.

Well, yesterday while I was motoring along, I encountered my boss and “X,” who were on their way to a meeting. I nodded and smiled at them. Thought nothing of it.

Until “X” came to my desk a couple of hours later to lecture me. “Oh, I see you’ve become one of those headphone zombies, being antisocial.” I said, “What? Excuse me?” “You heard me. Walking around wearing headphones so nobody can talk to you.” I said, “Look, I am entitled to ONE HOUR out of the day to be free from people sucking at me.” He took it personally. “I don’t suck at you!”

Oh, please. The wall across from my cube has black scuff marks on it, from his shoes, where he leans with one foot on the wall to yap at me for ungodly amounts of time every day. But everybody thinks he’s the exception, right? “I know other people are constantly bothering you, but I don’t.” SPARE ME.

I was so exasperated I said, “Of course you suck at me! Everybody does!”

He didn’t like that. We didn’t argue about it, but I am still brooding about it today. He has complained to me before about people riding the shuttle buses who wear headphones and tune everybody out. I’ve tried to tell him there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe these people don’t want to hear some yahoo’s loud cell phone conversation. Or maybe they are just tired of conversation and want to be left alone. What the hell is wrong with that?

Now, I do think that when we are out and about in public, we should not be so absorbed in our phones or our music that we’re not paying attention to our surroundings. We need to stay mindful of what’s going on around us. I ride my TerraTrike on bike paths and it drives me nuts when I try, as is proper bike path etiquette, to let a walker or jogger know I’m about to pass, and they can’t hear my horn or my voice because they have their earbuds in and their music is so loud. But that doesn’t mean we should never use our earbuds to listen to music quietly or even just to send the signal, “Please don’t talk to me.” I see nothing wrong with that. Why is my desire to be left alone any less important than somebody else’s desire to talk?

I really resent it that some people like “X” seem to think that I should just be available 24/7 for anybody who wants my attention, that I have no right to disconnect, tune out, and refresh my mind. What the hell.

What do my fellow introverts think?

My Little Lifesavers

Headphones

Worth every penny I paid.

Here are my little lifesavers, my pair of Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones. Sometimes, they are the only thing standing between me and insanity, at work.

Maybe I’m wrong, but in my opinion, when you work in a sort of open area, in cubicles, you should use headphones, if you want to listen to audio of any kind. Am I wrong here? Where I work, nobody does that, even though management has asked them to. Sometimes I’ve got the guy in front of me watching YouTube videos while the guy behind me is playing music. (Yes, my boss runs a very loose ship; he only cares about the work getting done, so this kind of thing goes on a lot) Anyway, I cannot concentrate with that kind of noise. Even if they are trying to keep it down, I can still hear it, and it distracts me.

If he’s not playing music, the guy behind me is attending webinars or he’s on conference calls and he never uses headphones for those, either, so I always have to listen to all of it.

Ironically he is the first to complain if he is trying to work and others are making noise, but that’s a whole ‘nuther post . . .

There could be a server running in my cube and it wouldn’t bother me. “White noise” doesn’t bother me. But I can’t stand to hear human voices in a video, or music, if I’m trying to work.

Music is a particularly interesting problem to me. If I like it, then I start paying attention to it and not my work. If I don’t like it, it irritates me.

So my only recourse (because both of these guys know that I have this problem, but they don’t seem to care, even though we are all friendly) has been to wear these babies, and play oscillating pink or brown noise through them. It’s very effective.

I just don’t feel like I should be the one who has to wear headphones. Seems like common courtesy would dictate that those who are disturbing the working environment with their audio should have to. But what do I know?

How to Exhaust an Introvert

Cat and I had a busy day yesterday. We went into the city to the big public library to hear a well-known author speak about her book. It was very crowded, which was a good thing, of course – as a reader and a writer, I love to see people interested in books. We ran into a couple who we know from work, and invited them to join us for a drink after the event. (I am generally most agreeable to spontaneous socializing if alcohol is available; I’m not too proud to admit that) We went to a nice hotel across the street from the library and had a cocktail together. This couple, Erin and Bryce, are two of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet, and we enjoyed talking with them. After that, Cat and I went to dinner at a Slovenian restaurant we’ve been wanting to try, and loaded up on European comfort food. Then we went to the grocery store to do our shopping for the week.

Perhaps for some people, this would just be a normal, rather low-key day. For me, it was exhausting. From about 2pm until after 8pm I was in the constant presence of other people. Lots of them. Talking, talking, talking. By the time I was finally able to collapse into my favorite chair with a highball and my iPad, I was completely drained. I bet you all know the feeling. Even when we’ve enjoyed our time out with our partner and/or friends, the energy we give out in social situations is like a constant trickle away from a battery and when it’s gone, it’s gone. The only remedy is to get home and to recharge with some quiet time. Am I right?

Here’s the thing, though. I am still tired this morning, feeling more than a little cranky and out of sorts. I’ve figured out why.

It’s THAT TIME OF YEAR. The dreaded HOLIDAY RUNAROUND is approaching like a freight train on a mission to crush me. See, for me it starts NOW, with family birthdays at the end of October. Then we swing right into November and another family birthday right after Thanksgiving. Then, of course, the Crown Jewel of exhausting holidays – CHRISTMAS and its attendant obligations. Then comes New Years Eve which is also Cat’s birthday, after which I will breathe an enormous sigh of relief at having survived the holiday crazies for one more year.

Do any of you find “The Holidays” something to dread instead of something to look forward to? I am sitting here feeling oppressed and pressured because I have to shop for birthday gifts between now and Saturday. Last Saturday we spent the afternoon at my brother’s place. Next Saturday we’ll be at my dad’s. I just hate having social obligations every weekend; even though I love my family and generally enjoy these rare get-togethers (while being grateful that they don’t happen more often) I would far prefer to be in command of my own time when I’m off work, free to get out into Nature as I please, or just stay home in my safe nest, being quiet. I hate having to rush here and there, having to figure out gifts, feeling like I’m on a timetable I haven’t chosen.

From now until the first of next year, folks, I am going to be a Hermit CRAB, I’m afraid. Happens every year . . .

 

Beauty in Solitude

Lodge Pond

Peace.

I have been thinking a lot about the beauty of Nature. I get outside as much as I can, and I find that my pleasure in it is highest when I go alone. I am happy for Cat’s company when she comes with me, but I only connect with Nature on a spiritual level when I am by myself.

When meditation teachers talk about emptying the mind, I think they mean arriving at that place of “no-thought,” that place where you are fully present in the moment, seeing what is, immersing yourself in it, and not thinking about it. That is a glorious place to be, my friends. When I enter Nature alone, I often find that place. When I am transfixed by a fern growing in a natural planter halfway up the trunk of a tree, when I am spellbound by the sound and sparkle of a little riffle in a secret brook, when I am entranced watching a pileated woodpecker drumming along a rotted log – my mind stops its ceaseless chatter at those times, and I can truly rest.

You see, not only do I get tired of the constant yammering of other people, I get tired of my own. We introverts live so much inside our own heads, don’t we?  Always thinking, always daydreaming, telling stories to ourselves, trying to figure things out, our brains are in perpetual motion, and that internal dialogue rarely stops.

It’s a revelation to me that not only do other people exhaust me, in many ways I exhaust myself. Getting out into the woods, into the fields, to streams and rivers and lakes, to hills and ravines and little ponds, by myself, is my only hope of shutting myself up long enough to really be able to rest, to relax, to hear that little voice inside that speaks not in words, but in sensation, in feeling, the inner guide that knows what’s right for me, whose guidance I all too often drown out with my ceaseless mental chatter.

This went in a direction I didn’t intend, but I think it was supposed to.

This photo is from a park I visited last weekend, on a cold, gray, rainy afternoon. I was there for a couple of hours and did not encounter another human soul; such weather keeps most people indoors, I think. I had the entire park to myself, and it was wonderful. I didn’t hear another human voice. I heard the rain pattering on the leaves overhead as I explored the woodland trails. I heard the cries of hawks as I wandered around a huge meadow. At this pond, I stood and listened to a tree atwitter with cedar waxwings gorging on berries.

It was Sunday. I was in my church.

If a Hermit won the lottery . . .

I fantasize all the time about winning the lottery, and when I remember to do it, and have the cash, I buy tickets. My favorite game is the MegaMillions. I don’t know why. I guess it’s just easy to tell a clerk “Gimme five MegaMillions, with the Megaplier, please.” Because of course, being an introvert, I am not crazy about complicated interactions with clerks. In fact, if the blasted machines worked right, I’d just have a betting slip filled out and let a machine do it, but I’ve discovered the machines are often screwed up, so I have to talk to a human if I want to play.

Oh, if I could only win a huge jackpot, what I would do . . . I would quit my job so fast it would be like time travel. I’d quit YESTERDAY. I am always puzzled by the winners who say “Well, I’m going to keep working.” WHAT??  WHY??  My job is the biggest source of exhaustion and stress in my life. Yes, I am lucky and grateful to have it, but still, if I could afford to leave it, I’d run away and never look back.

Cat and I would buy a place either out in the country, or in a small town. Of course I have two main desires in a home – QUIET, and beautiful natural surroundings. My fantasy home would be on a hill overlooking fields and woods, with no neighbors in sight. I’d have a deck where I could sit and sip coffee on summer mornings, hearing nothing but birdsong. In the evenings I’d sit out with a Manhattan or a glass of wine and listen to the cicadas. I’d never have to hear one note of music I didn’t choose, or uninvited human voices.

I’d spend blissful hours alone in Nature, roaming the woods, exploring the meadows. I’d fish. I’d ride my trike in peace, free of traffic and yakking people.

Then, my friends, I think I’d have energy to write, to create, to fulfill my lifelong dream of writing a book, a novel. I am having such a hard time figuring out how to do that when going to work every day, among noisy people, is sucking my very soul out through my eyeballs, leaving me drained and cranky when I finally get home at night.

I don’t want to be rich. I just want to be free.

What would you do if you won the lottery?