Saturday, February 16, 2013
I'm looking out the window at trees. Just trees. It's perfect.
We moved up here to a house way up on a hill, in the woods, a year ago. We're not isolated; this is a neighborhood, but houses here are more spread out than in the city. Back there, I could count twenty-two houses around us from my yard. Here, I can see five through the trees from my front yard and only one, or none, from my backyard. It's perfect.
Our desire to live outside the city was not an anti-social one. For me, it was about choosing my social encounters and face-to-face interaction instead of living among so many people and so much noise all the time that "alone" felt rare.
I need a lot of alone time, because when I'm with others, I use up so much energy- physical, mental, emotional. I am fully present. My soul's tank is on empty almost every time I pull into my driveway. I need to feel a LOT of space around me for a good long time to process and re-charge. Living surrounded by nature, by more trees than people, does the trick.
For others, "alone" might mean closing the bedroom door and reading for an hour, or staying home all day. It might mean heading out to the woods for a long solitary walk, or being alone in a crowd, enjoying the sounds of people without the pressure to have a conversation. (For parents of very young children, it's probably taking a pee BY YOURSELF. A shower is out of the question.)
I'm super sensitive to many things, and too much noise is a huge trigger for my anxiety. Especially too much people noise. I can't even hear two voices at the same time without feeling completely overwhelmed. In the city, the outside noise was becoming more and more invasive. People yelling in their yards, people screaming at their kids, kids yelling to each other, multiple dogs barking, the neighbor's cockatiels shrieking, car horns, car alarms, and more frequently, police sirens. Closed doors and windows didn't always help.
Alone- the kind that worked- seemed more and more elusive.
Driving felt even worse. In our old neighborhood, and in the city in general, there are too many stimuli. People driving carelessly or recklessly, people pulling out of driveways everywhere, people walking in groups in the street, people running into the street or crossing while texting, bikes swerving into the road, horns, tires squealing. It was a dangerous obstacle course every time. When I got where I was going, my heart was pounding, and I wondered if I could make it home.
Now, I drive most of the way to my destinations on country roads. And I feel alone in the best possible way. There's not much traffic- sometimes, none. I don't mind watching out for deer, turkeys, foxes. I drive slowly, smiling. It's a relief.
The relief comes from less stimuli, but also from knowing that any animals I see are also striving for alone time, for quiet, for uncomplicated encounters with their environment. I feel that energy. It's my energy, too.
In the city, people are everywhere with their messy minds, their flawed decision-making, their intentions and impulses flying around in their heads and hands as they operate vehicles, machinery, and equipment around other people. Often way too close to other people.
I feel so blessed, now, to mostly CHOOSE when to navigate this obstacle course.
Far from making me anti-social, though, moving to the country has enhanced my ability to focus on the social life I want. I have enough alone time to de-stress, to re-charge, to feel fully energized for meetings with friends and for work. And for those times when I have to breathe deeply and be one of the crowd.
I'm in another room now, and I'm looking out the window at trees. Just trees. It's perfect.
In a little while I'll take those back roads into the city to bring my son's friend home and go to work, and I'll be okay. Because after that, I come home to my trees again.
They're the beautiful bookends to the stories of my days.