If you ever find yourself a hermit, you might be surprised at how easy the road was that took you there.
It was just the other day, after all, that you were hanging off the back of a friend’s motorbike on the way to a party, soul wide open to the stars above, heart receptive to the stories of those whom the night would send your way.
If you counted, though, you would realise that months had passed since you were that person. Maybe something difficult happened and you closed in on yourself to heal, not wanting to trouble anyone by asking for help. Perhaps you took one day at a time and didn’t really notice when all of your days became the same and your efforts to get through them mechanical.
The illusion of normalcy is easy to maintain when you show up for work every day. The semblance of purpose holds up when you throw yourself into tasks and get them done, even when they have little to do with things you care about.
All the while, you’re subtly cutting ties, declining invites, responding to texts with a word or two and hoping that will be the end of it. Soon your only interaction is with deliverymen and cashiers whose eyes you avoid.
How many chances to reconnect did you ignore or run away from?
Remember the Friday night you were forced to go to the café for cigarettes? The one person there was a girl who’d clearly had a few drinks, sitting and smoking by herself. She offered you a cigarette and a seat. She talked about her yoga, her running, her love of life. But her face was tear-stained and she needed someone to lay herself bare to. She was like you.
But you’d quickly made your excuses and left, smug in the knowledge that you hadn’t sunk as low as she.
You might, one morning, find yourself wide awake at half past three and find it remarkable that the city noise you know so well does in fact shut off sometimes. Then the silence is like death. There is nothing but you alone in a house that is too big for you.
There is, at that moment, only you in the world; all the ties that have bound you to others having been efficiently snipped, of course, by you.
The turning point may well come one day when someone you haven’t seen in a while comes out of nowhere and gives you a hug. Human touch is so powerful. We need it and fear it. It cuts clean through the protective fibres within which we sometimes stitch our own hearts.
When you find yourself at a bus stop with your head on someone’s shoulder pouring everything out, there is nothing left to do but to admit that you need people.
That will, however, probably be only half of your turning point.
Next comes the old man who will ask you to tell him the number of the approaching bus, because his eyes aren’t what they used to be. A couple of German tourists will need your help to find their station. A tiny old woman will ask you in the sweetest voice to help her cross the street, and look up at you and smile when you get her to the other side.
Yes, all of these things, or some variation thereof, will unfold to show you why you shouldn’t lock yourself away from others for much longer than you must. It is a fact that you need them. They make the heaviness not so heavy. They add decoration to your days.
Easier, perhaps, to forget when you’re trapped in the deceptive ease of your self-imposed isolation, is that living is not only about you. Every day that you exist, there are people in the world who need you too.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Shivonne Du Barry
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Author’s Own