As I have grown older, especially since my miscarriage in 2010 and ‘nervous breakdown,’ peopling has become increasingly difficult. Like many autistic women, I learned as a child and teen to mimic others. Although, I never got it completely right. I only ever had one or two friends at any time in life, and those were always other ‘outsiders’ or rebels.
But since I came to the UK thirteen years ago, peopling has been more challenging. I have always chafed at societal strictures. I abhorred rules that did not make sense, hypocrites, and polite lies that we are expected to give. Yet, somewhere along the way, I had learned my boundaries and how to manage people. At least in my American culture.
When I came here I discovered that there were new rules, much more stringent ones, ones that made even less sense. And hypocrisy abounded. I could trust no one to be truly honest. Even good people have been so indoctrinated into the classism and social order that they lose themselves, their identities, and their individuality. Even the rebels and outsiders that I usually gravitated towards. Many do not even realize it.
Time and again, I have put myself out there. Given to others, tried my damnedest to make a difference, and been ostracized for it. To the point that I have retreated into my shell. I prefer to stay in my @HomeCrazzyHome. I have even said that agoraphobia is a positive life choice.
The truth is…other than Alan and PanKwake, I am not certain I need other people. Except for them, I really could see myself living happily as a hermit in the woods somewhere. That crazzy old wisewoman/witch type with uncombed hair, wild eyes, always spouted Thoreau and completely out of touch with the world around her.
Because, frankly, I don’t much like the world around me that is unjust, unfair, and greedy. In these walls, I have created a different culture. One that is safe for me, PanKwake, and Alan, and I hope is safe for others as well.
But, the leaves are turning. In terms of sheer natural beauty, fall is my favorite season. The leaves fascinate me. Each unique, each magnificent in its own way, each with a story to tell. It was this time last year that birthed the photographer inside of me. I never thought I had many talents when it came to taking pictures. But the leaves inspired me. I wanted to capture their fleeting beauty. I failed miserably.
I could see the photo in my mind. But I lacked the proper equipment to make that photo a reality. Yes, it is nice to have a phone on your camera or tablet, but they aren’t much good for anything other than selfies (something I detest). So, I asked Alan for a real camera for my birthday. Come spring and the blooms, he bought me one…and I was off. I have not stopped since.
Now, especially, something drives me out the door each sunny day. That is a good thing. As I try to get healthier, so I can have a nice long life with him, walking is my primary form of exercise. I need the steps. I also need sunlight. Living this far north, I have become susceptible to SAD (seasonal affective disorder). The Victorians, who built the area in which we live, would say it is the fresh air as well. Whatever it is that motivates me to leave the safety of my @HomeCrazzyHome, I know that on the days I am able to get out, I feel better.
That does not mean I find it easy. The noise, traffic, and litter assail my senses. I see what our greed and hubris are doing to this planet and I rail at humanity as a plight and pimple on the ass of this earth, lower than cockroaches. And I avoid people. AVOID. I have even considered buying noise-canceling headphones.
Imagine my surprise the other morning when I found myself engaging in, not one, but several conversations with them. It all began as I entered Cwmdonkin Park, the childhood haunt of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. These little old ladies were walking their dog. I love dogs, I would have one if our cat, Little Miss Fluffy Paws, would allow it. I often talk to dogs, just not the people they own. But these ladies noticed my camera, and so began something I find tedious…small talk.
As I finished talking with them, I noticed some trash. As I usually do, I picked it up to take to a bin. Another noticed what I was doing and commented. Conversation two began. I was on a roll.
The third one of the morning I actually sought out, I know it shocked me too. One of the caretakers was taking a break under the pavilion with a book. I wanted to know what he was reading. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I even recommended a series to him. (M. K. Hume’s The Merlin Prophecy)
But it was the next encounter that sticks with me. A woman slightly younger than me was walking down the hill as I took still more photographs of the leaves. What ensued was a real conversation – things I love to talk about most: life, society, meaning, and nature. This upper-middle-class woman, this stranger, shared with me her personal struggles with stress and mental health – something she may not have done with her closest friends. We talked for several minutes before I continued on my way. I had a couple more interactions with other people, but none as meaningful as that one.
When I got home and told Alan and PanKwake that I had talked to people, they were flabbergasted. Alan even checked my forehead to see if I had a fever. Perhaps I did – a fever called compassion.
Does this mean that I am going to go talking to strangers all the time? Hardly. Most people don’t have anything to say that is worth listening to. But it does mean that I am not buying those headphones. I don’t want to close myself off to those rare moments like that one where two souls, two complete strangers, intersect for a brief time, touching one another, and leaving an imprint that will last a lifetime. Those are priceless and not to be missed. Perhaps they are even worth the risk of being hurt?