A big, no, a huge part, of this has been caused by knowing my emotional condition. There are way too many times when I just feel like my presence would be a burden in a people's lives. I can be exceptionally well disciplined in hiding my mental and emotional state around people with whom I don't feel a serious connection. Since my job provides the bulk of my social interaction, I find myself in that controlled state a lot. My supervisor told me once that she would never believe it if someone said that I had been rude. Honestly, part of this is natural talent, part is acquired skill, and part is simple professionalism.
If there is a deep connection with another person, I cannot help what comes out of me when I am cradled in the love of a friend. Because I make those connections very carefully, I treasure them. I don't want to abuse them. I don't want to take and never give, and this last year, I've had nothing to give. I don't mean material things, though I long (and am working to be able) to be generous again. All I've had to offer anyone has been what's inside me. I've needed to work through the insanity of grief, here, in my private journals, in my head, but I haven't wanted to spread it too far around. I'm sure my friends feel like I've blown them off. I don't blame them and can only hope for their tolerance and forgiveness.
The nature of my work (as well as the nature of life) means that real solitude is rare. I've always been an empathetic person, but I made an effort several months ago to shut it down. I didn't want to feel the anger, the lust, the disgust, the greed, the vanity, the pettiness when I was around people. I didn't want to feel their happiness when I couldn't find any for myself. I had enough negativity of my own to deal with. Unfortunately, I also cut myself off from feeling the love, the innocence and the wonder.
I've been too apart. I've been working to re-establish that ephemeral connection with other people. It is a connection, even when no words are spoken, no eye contact made, when we move past each other untouching. The Bible tells us that we are all one in God. Quantum physics is pointing to a possibility that this could be literally so, that every person, every thing is just an indivisible part of a single entity.
So I've been trying to make that connection again; to see myself in the black guy with the gang colors also shopping in the dollar store, to find myself in the haughty woman who's berating her waiter while I wait for my daughter the waitress, the redneck in the truck in front of me with the bumper sticker about prying his gun from his cold, dead fingers, the girl scratching the meth induced sores on her arms in the convenience store, the teenagers buying expensive dresses, so blithely confident that life will always be wonderful, the Republicans who keep sending me stuff bashing President Obama, the woman who brags of her road rage as if it's funny. Can I feel something of them in me? Can I connect with saint and sinner and know that we are all the same?
Can I really be the hermit I think I am if I do?