The best thing about wilfully, purposely hermitting in my Little Crooked House has been the effect it’s had on my brain and my stress level. Slowly and steadily, the constant thrum of activity in there has slowed down. There’s not so much chatter. There have occasionally been moments that might qualify as silence. As i’ve tuned out local people and concerns i’ve been able to relax and slow down. I sleep better and my level of chronic pain has also decreased. I can focus on simple, daily tasks and keep to a reasonable schedule. I’m more engaged with my husband and my children, and connecting with them feels more natural and less forced. I’m less inclined to watch television and more apt to just listen to music. I feel safe. I feel better in my body and in my brain. I like how i look more than i have in years, and i move about inside my own skin more fluidly. I feel as if i’m the one sailing this ship.
It’s been a good opportunity to examine my thoughts and behaviours to assess how well they are or aren’t working for me. I judge them based on what i know about myself so far, what i want my life to be, and whether or not what i’m thinking and doing is helping me get there, based on results. It usually starts with noticing something in my life that is causing unhappiness or other negative fallout. For instance, going to large social gatherings. I wasn’t handling those situations very well, and through examining why, realised that both what i thought and how i acted needed extensive work. So that whole thing requires an overhaul and is currently in the shop.
My advanced ninja skills started with stepping away from people. If i couldn’t communicate the way i wanted to, then i wasn’t going to communicate at all. Just stop. Go back to the beginning and start fresh. Gather more information, relearn or unlearn or whatever works. I’ve known for some time now that i’m not the super-extrovert that i’d thought/been told i was. I wasn’t just alone a lot when i was growing up in order to escape, i was alone a lot because i liked being alone. And i still do, very much. I crave it, i seek it, and i’m certain that i need it, almost as much as food, water, breath, and sleep. I’m not sure where i fall on the spectrum now, but i’m far more introverted than i knew. I’ve learned something else about myself through spending more time alone, and that is i enjoy being quiet. Not saying anything at all. I feel calm and relaxed when i’m alone and not talking. It’s when my brain is quietest, too.
I decided to try taking a break from talking through my problems. I don’t currently have a “person” outside of my husband to process things with, so it’s been just him. I have my doctor and my therapist if i need them, but i just stopped using my husband as an outlet. Let me explain my reasoning behind this decision, because on the surface it may not sound like a great idea.
Once i decided to disclose my history, the floodgates were opened and i’ve talked non-stop for years now. I started out talking about everything that happened, and then i moved on to how i felt about what had happened. After that i had to talk about everything. I mean, i couldn’t let anything go. I needed to address everything that triggered memories of my past. If i was angry, i had to talk about it. If i was scared, i had to talk about it. I had to let all the voices in my head out.
For years i talked so much that it was maybe a bit like emesis vocalis. While purging years of pent up emotions and traumatic events, i think that somewhere along the way i became a bit of a nag. It started out with the big important stuff, but it had degraded to pointless bitching about all the things all the time. And i think it brought me down and coloured my outlook and dampened my mood. It never took much to bring that slowly simmering frustration to a full boil. And i pulled him down with me, to the point where any legitimate issues i may have had with him or the marriage, were lost in a roiling grey sea of riotous scribblings that covered every wall of our married life together. I’d worn him out as i’d done myself.
So i started letting go of small things. Little irritations that i knew didn’t matter, i just clamped my mouth shut and ordered myself not to speak about it. It led me to letting go of other things that i’d believed so much more important than they actually were. He was less stressed, not as grumpy and tired, and he appeared to be paying more attention to me. And when there was an issue between us that seriously required our attention as a couple, he heard me and we’ve been dealing with them as a team. I like myself better, and he does, too. He’s said so.
I wondered to myself if anything else in my life might be improved by talking less, and the answer is YES. In the same way that i needed to break out of the prison my childhood had built around me by being heard about how it hurt me, i needed to figure out who i was as a free human by talking about life, the universe, and everything. I needed to figure out what i thought about things rather than what i was told to think about things, and that involved having opinions. And i had opinions. Lots of them. I had opinions all over the place and everyone knew about them. I stressed and agonised and obsessed over every single one of them. When someone i liked had a different opinion than i did, it was terrifying and the result was more talking. Having a different opinion than someone i liked and/or respected and wanted them to like and/or respect me in return, triggered many reflex behaviours around safety and self-preservation.
I tried to handle differences of opinion in a variety of ways. I would sometimes act very gracious about it, but it was utterly disingenuous and i knew it before the words came out of my face. Other times i would counter them with what i imagined was a stunningly intellectual argument. In that instance in particular i know i alienated people and perhaps even belittled them, for which i’m now ashamed. And then there was the time i tried being a troll for a minute. I used to watch trolls with a glittering eye, wanting desperately to be like them. I know, i know – they’re assholes. I sort of knew that even back then, but i was attracted to their bravado, and that they appeared to give absolutely zero fucks what other people thought about them. I failed at trolling miserably though, because i’m not actually an asshole, and if that’s what it costs to be one, i’ll just stay off the porch and let the big dogs bark.
Here again, i just stopped talking. I have social media, and people i interact with there certainly know how i feel about a wide range of issues, but i see that as me. Like, if the internet was a gathering of actual people, my page is me. I want to be me in a group of people. What i don’t want is to plaster myself all over your page, as if to make you more like me. You’re not me. You’ve been born to the mother you were born to, and raised the way you were raised. You’ve made the choices you’ve made and you’re who you are. If i want acknowledgement -and even respect- for that myself, mustn’t i also give that to you?
Well absolutely i must.
So i do, and once again it has led me to more silence. Not a barely-restrained silence, pregnant with words left unspoken. It’s an easy quiet like a mid-spring morning; full of promise, but for what, no one’s certain. And no one cares, because it’s good and it’s simple and you can just BE in it.
I’m a retired Ninja now. I don’t spy on people, i don’t gather information on them, i don’t need to distract anyone from what’s really going on, and i refuse to be involved in the assasination of another human, in any way. I no longer hide within your ranks, i don’t work for anyone, nor am i for hire. The war ended a long time ago, and i’ve accepted that and now devote myself, as is the way of many former Ninjas, to tending my own garden and fixing broken pottery using gold.