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Table For One

Recess. The worst part of my day, second only to gym class. I didn’t like being on display. I hated that everyone would be forced to stand against the wall and watch me forced to practice tumbling. I didn’t want to be watched and they didn’t want to watch. They wanted to play. They wanted to run around in groups and fight for the swings and stand in line to go one-on-one at Tether Ball. I just wanted the fifteen minutes all to myself. I wanted to play quietly at the other end of the blacktop. I forged notes to get out of gym class.

——

Years later, it wasn’t cool to ride the bus. I couldn’t understand why anyone would disregard the peace and quiet that arose out of the chaos. Little kids laughing and talking loudly, the hum of the road, the ting of solitary rocks hitting the side of the bus as it clamored down dusty gravels to let the loud ones off ahead of me. I’d be alone in my seat for two and lost in thought, my headphones creating a symphony of background noise when paired with the cacophony shrieks of excitement the others let loose regaling that it was finally the weekend. They planned sleepovers and nights out with each other, maybe they could get some beer. I had a couple of books that I couldn’t wait to crack open.

——

I didn’t have the financial aid to get a private room so I was, again, forced into socialization. A room built for one but scheduled for three. It was a nightmare. I didn’t have privacy. Never alone. I hung out with my boyfriend all the time because, well, I liked him and it kept me out of that room. I broke up with him eventually because he was always around.

——

After serving a couple of years, I scored with a dorm full of single rooms. I was in heaven. I was still friend with the boy I had cut loose and he began to question me. Why are you always in your room? Why don’t you come out? Are you okay?

Then I began to question myself. Was I okay? I heard the commotion of groups outside my door heading downstairs. Outside. Going places. Doing things. I was holed up in my room with a delivered pizza and prime time television. The Internet. I would go into chat rooms and have conversations. The weekends didn’t allow for this activity. Why are you here on a Friday night? Find some friends you loser.

I had two good friends. They used words like hermit and recluse and would razz me every time I called and cancelled plans. Then, more seriously, they came over and started using words like disappointed and bad friend and worried and depressed. Loner.

“We care. We feel. We think. We do not always miss the absent one. We cannot always come when called. Being friends with a loner requires patience and the wisdom that distance does not mean dislike.”*

I started to hate my desire for solitary confinement. I started to have anxiety issues. I started to force myself to go OUT. It worked for about one weekend. I would have crying jags in the bathroom at big parties and fake sick so I could just go home. Once in the safety of my futon and blankets, I’d cry and wonder what the hell was wrong with me. I was a case for the professionals, I thought.

Therapists diagnosed me with clinical depression. Even though I didn’t miss work. Even though I made the Dean’s List. Wanting to be alone most of the time was ‘unhealthy isolation from the world around you’, they said. Locking myself in my room and writing all night long wasn’t healthy. Make friends, they chided. Find someone in a class and share something in common. Someone. Something. Sounds easy.

“For some loners, a paucity of friends is a matter of time. There is simply too much to do alone, no time to spare. Shared time, while not entirely wasted if the sharer is a true friend, must be parceled out with care, like rationed flour. And time shared, even with true friends, often requires loners to put in extra time alone, overtime, to recharge. It is a matter of energy: As a rule, loners have less for the social machinery, the talk and sympathy. Our fuel runs out. This is what nonloners don’t understand about us, what they cannot see. We do not choose to have such tiny fuel tanks. These can be quite inconvenient. They are why we seem rude, when we do, why we seem bored and often are. Spaced-out and often are. Running on empty. Not heartless. Not unappreciative. Not fools. We know the rest of the world has big tanks. We know they don’t know.”

——

Take this pill and it will expand your tank. Sounds dirty and delightful, right? I took the pill, I take the pill. Take your pill and everything will be alright. You’ll become a social animal and be more keen to advertising and pop music. You’ll need your weekends. You’ll be busy, a calendar full of appointments with friends!

This is what I know to be true: One therapist begets another therapist. One pill doesn’t achieve the therapist’s desired result and another pill is added. (You say you still want to sit at home and turn off your phone? Hmm, try this in addition to this and these.)

This is the notion I’m entertaining today: “We do not require company. The opposite: in varying degrees, it bores us, drains us, makes our eyes glaze over. Overcomes us like a steamroller. Of course, the rest of the world doesn’t understand. Someone says to you, “Let’s have lunch.” You clench. Your sinews leap within you, angling for escape. What others thrive on, what they take for granted, the contact and confraternity and sharing that gives them strength leaves us empty. After what others would call a fun day out together, we feel as if we have been at the Red Cross, donating blood….Being a loner is not about hate, but need: We need what others dread. We dread what others need.”

Can you imagine if, after I succumbed to the peer pressures and internal pressures, the visit with Therapist One would have resulted in her saying, ‘This is what is different about you, and this is okay. Not every person needs every other person. YOU’RE OKAY.’ How much better my last fifteen years would have been! It would have been so simple, would have explained everything.

I’m not alone in my house masturbating five times a day or plotting a killing spree. I’m not afraid of men or afraid of women. I’m not too smart or too stupid. I’m not stuck-up, crazy, cold, aloof, bizarre, unable to connect, incapable of love, lonely, selfish, secretive, or unfriendly.

I am a part of the human race and I need my space so get used to it.

* Quotes are taken from the book Party of One, The Loners’ Manifesto written by Anneli Rufus.

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One Response

  1. I stumbled over by following a link from Skinny Emmie’s blog, and even though this post is more than a year old it resonates with me. I used to be the same way, right down to the diagnosis. I hope you’re better now. (I like to read blogs from the beginning to the end, so maybe this is something you still struggle with).

    You write wonderfully, by the way. That is all.

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