This topic is often on my mind as I live in a neighborhood full of recluses. I’m referring to people who prefer to live in seclusion, not to the venomous recluse spider. (Sorry to trick you with that spider cover model shot!)
Last week my favorite musician Neil Finn released his song “Recluse” on his “Dizzy Heights” album. The refrain is “It’s people that you lose…when you become a recluse.” It’s true, oh yes, it’s true – I’ve lost many friends in shutting myself off from them, literally and figuratively, especially since I suffered from bipolar depression for so long
Here’s a link to Neil performing “Recluse”:
When we moved into our neighborhood to buy our first home I was naive. I didn’t research what kind of housing situation would best suit our growing family. For over fifteen years I had been a renter in run-down, depressing apartments, studios and houses with landlords out of a Dickens novel. I wanted to be a homeowner SO bad, as did my husband Craig, and our yearning clouded our judgment. I didn’t ask our realtor to show us a variety of homes the way I should have done. My confidence was lower than a snake’s belly, (forgive me but I love that phrase), my depression was high, and there was a part of me that felt I didn’t deserve to have the home of my dreams.
Our street wasn’t conducive for walking anywhere safely. There were no sidewalks, it was steep, and people sped on it. Driveways were hidden from view, as were all of our neighbors. Every time I backed out of our driveway, which was just past a blind curve, I prayed that no one would slam into me. (I found out that the curve had a history of many car accidents which our realtor had failed to mention to us.)
After we moved in we had one neighbor personally welcome us, but her visit was quite strange and brief. Someone knocked on the door, and when Craig opened it he faced a woman with a bright red, unnaturally shiny face. She shoved a freshly baked loaf of bread at him without saying a word. Then she fled back to her house next door.
We later discovered that “Jenna” had a chemical peel done on her face and wasn’t up to socializing. I was touched by her gesture and stopped by her house to thank her. We had a long, enjoyable conversation, but she soon moved away.
Once when we had guests over, I had them park in our small driveway. I parked in front of a neighbor’s house on a side street. I wasn’t blocking anything and there was plenty of room for others to park. I returned to my car to find “NO PARKING” traced in the dust on my dirty rear window, along with a note on my front window saying not to park there. The messages seemed overkill to me – one note or the other would have done the trick. I could understand the neighbor’s righteous ‘tude if I was doing something egregious, but I was innocent! I found the curt notes to be downright unneighborly, to say the least. It’s safe to say that I won’t be trick or treating at that house in the future!
I have mixed feelings living around my fellow recluses. I suspect we all may be mentally unhealthy to a certain degree as a result of this isolationist-style of living. Living among non-social people wasn’t a problem for me during the years I was depressed, but now that I don’t spend all my time in bed, I feel differently. I don’t know what 99% of my neighbors look like, let alone what their names are. It’s weird. But even if we wanted to sell our home to move into a more family-friendly area, we couldn’t swing it unless my SuperLotto ticket hits the jackpot.
I’ve visited beautiful communities perfectly designed for families. These locations have playgrounds, tennis courts and picnic areas accessible to everyone living within a certain area. Kids linger on the sidewalks and hang out on driveways to play with one another. I wish that style of living was what we could afford.
I grew up in a neighborhood chock full of families. However, most of our neighbors were unfriendly and some were downright obnoxious. Most of my town’s population consisted of wealthy, white people. The nicest neighbor on our block was African-American; she became a family friend and always greeted me warmly. She and my Mom, now both in their late seventies, are still close.
The families that lived directly on either side of our house were awful. Then again, my parents alienated them because of their disturbing, deafening arguments. I’ll never forget the woman who lived right next door to us. I’ll call her Mrs. Hideous. She sent my parents an “anonymous” poison pen letter, but it was obvious that it was written by her. When my parents read her letter, it upset them so much that it caused a terrible argument in our household. I’ve never been able to forgive Mrs. Hideous for her cowardice, ignorance, and for making me sick with anxiety during that argument.
Thank God we don’t live next door to someone like Mrs. Hideous – I prefer to reside next to a recluse any day, either human or spider!
I’ve had moments of fancy (usually when hypomanic) in which we throw a block party here. I’m sure we’d get a decent turnout since there never has been a block party in the seven years we’ve lived here. Free food and drinks will bring out even the reclusive types. I imagine such a scenario for sixty seconds, and then I think, “Nah.”
Although come to think of it, if we threw a party, Craig could give an impromptu book signing for his book Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West. It is a local history book, after all, about his great, great uncle who was an aviation pioneer/maverick. Craig would never do something presumptuous like that, but it would be entertaining for some guests, I’m sure.
Here’s my shameless plug: if you want to learn more about Craig’s award-winning book visit:
Don’t get me wrong; I am grateful for a roof over my head. I know there are many folks who are less fortunate and they wouldn’t care if they lived next to hermits. Whenever I obsess about a subject, I know there’s a lesson in it somewhere. If our situation changes unexpectedly and we are able to relocate, I’ll make sure our search will be in a circumspect manner. I won’t desperately bid for the first possibility that comes up. If we are lucky enough to move to a place with the characteristics I desire, I’ll be able to fully appreciate it and never take it for granted. Being a quotoholic, I found two quotes from the website Goodreads to inspire me about this topic, and I hope they inspire you as well. The first quote is from the one and only Oprah Winfrey, who knows a little something about lack and about abundance.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough”
The other quote is from Elbert Hubbard. I never heard of him until Goodreads, and that’s the beauty of this website – it’s fun to discover new sources. He was an American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher who lived in the 1800’s. Hubbard was an influential advocate of the Arts and Crafts movement, and said:
“I would rather be able to appreciate things I cannot have than to have things I am not able to appreciate.”
It’s all about perspective. I’m slowly but surely changing my point of view…is there anything in your life, momentous or tiny, that you are changing? I’d love to hear about it so please feel welcomed to comment away.