it’s a beautiful day outside. it isn’t raining and the skies aren’t dark grey and during winter on the west coast, it’s hard to do better. i could go out for a walk, get some fresh air, and bask in the real light but the thing is, i don’t want to. there are people out there.
i leave the house at least once a day, deliberately. small trips mostly. i pop into the local bodega and buy a lottery ticket. i buy my groceries in small batches so i’m forced to go to the store frequently. i go to the library once a week. i meet with my counsellor. i volunteer weekly. i don’t do these things because i want to, necessarily. i do them because if i don’t, the next time i have to leave the house, it will be harder. i do it because i don’t want there to be a day when i can’t.
i like staying in. it’s quiet. it’s safe. i like that my books are all within reach. i like the tidiness and obsessive organization apparent everywhere. i like the soothing colours painted on the walls. i like my scented candles. no one can hurt me here.
i like that most of the time, i’m alone. sometimes i get lonely but people can be challenging. i like that i don’t have to make eye contact. i like that i don’t have to avoid hugs from well-meaning friends. i like that there is zero chance that i will be startled by the unexpected anger or aggression of someone nearby. i like that i don’t have to pretend to not be overwhelmed.
out makes me a little hyper-vigilant. i startle easily. i’m always a little on edge.
i like that there is no one around to compare myself to. i like myself more when i’m not trying to rank myself against others.
people are hard. they require interaction. men are especially problematic. they’re a little scary to me. i know, intellectually, that most men are decent. i know that it’s unlikely one will try to hurt me. my brain knows that, but my gut reacts differently. too often when i’m out, i am afraid.
my fear is not a reaction to something someone has done. i’m not responding to overt actions. it’s a visceral, automatic response. i trusted badly at times, and bad things happened. for some reason, those memories hold more weight than the memories of times when things didn’t go wrong. regardless, i mostly want to be elsewhere if people are involved and mood-altering substances are not.
out would be easier if i could do it drunk. out was easier when i used tranquilizers. out while sober often feels like torture. which is a lot of words to use to say that i’m unhappy when away from my refuge.
it’s not even that i have to go out, not really. no one does anymore. there is nothing i need that i cannot order online and have delivered. there is no longer a need for me to engage with the world beyond the confines of my home at all. i could feasibly limit my interactions with others to social media.
i would be fine with staying in except for the one thing i can’t seem to logic my way around. we are social creatures in our hearts. we need personal connections. we need to interact. we need to speak and be heard; to listen and to engage. we need touch. without these, we wither and die, if not actually, then spiritually and emotionally.
so i do it. i leave my home and venture out into the world. i make eye contact – which i loathe. i interact – which i also loathe. i do it because i am aware that not everything i want, like staying hidden, is good for me.
i wish i could be a seven-year-old girl again. i wish i could be that little girl who got up early and sneaked over to the neighbour’s house for fresh bread and jam before my parents got up. the one who got on her bike and rode around the neighbourhood, helmet-free because you could, with the wind in my hair, meeting life head-on. the one who went exploring by herself on forest trails. the one who clambered around building sites just to see what was what. i want to be brave like her.
so i go out. i remind myself that the people i am encountering are just people. they’re someone’s mother, father, brother, boyfriend, child. i remind myself that they are human, like me. casting them in familiar roles makes them marginally less scary. it makes them real, not shadows of problems from my past. i go out and will continue to do so every day, in the hope that one day, it won’t feel like a chore. in the hope that one day, i will be glad to.
(february 8, 2018)