Saturday, July 07, 2012

Confessions of a Closeted Recluse

I GOT WIERD SLEEP THAT NIGHT I SLEPT ON THE FRONT PORCH.   Although I was bundled up in my sleeping bag with extra blankets to shield my face from the cool midnight air, I still woke up to the sounds of garbage cans banging and dogs howling around 2am and then again around 4.  The second time was probably because I am such a light sleeper than when my porch camping buddy got up to go to the bathroom, I followed suit.  Then it was back to having wierd dreams until the sun begin to greet me some time after 6am.  I ignored the sunlight that hit against my sleeping bag, nature's little wake up call, and forced myself to drift off again until after 8am. When my friend sat on her futon and started playing Scrabble on her i-Pod,  I knew I needed to get up.

I was proud of myself though.  As someone who doesn't share space well, especially while sleeping, I managed to get through the night.  It would be an unusual thing for me to become such a privacy rat when it came to personal space.   As a fourth born, growing up, I shared a room and bathroom with my older sister for many years and I knew how to share.  It wasn't until I was 28, while cat-sitting on a regular basis for an ex-boss of mine, that I got a taste of living in complete solitude.  And I loved it.

I loved it a little too much and hadn't realized what kind of reclusive creature I had become until I went on a ladies church retreat in the summer of 2002.  At 31 years old, I still considered myself somewhat young at heart as I claimed an upper bunk bed in the cabin I was assigned to among eight other women.  In my mind I still saw myself as a 12 year old girl, so imagine my surprise when I couldn't fall asleep the first night of the retreat while being in a room filled with so many other people. This coupled with the fear that I would roll off my bunk and hit my head on the wooden floor.  Toto: We are no longer at junior high camp. 

"There are too many people here," I thought to myself as I took my sleeping bag with me and climbed down to the vacant bunk bed below me.  All of a sudden, I felt crowded, like I couldn't get any downtime to just chill and relax.  As long as people were around me, I felt busy and occupied.  I recognized that the presence of people gave my Sanguine side energy, even while they were sleeping.  I couldn't come down from the high, and I was exhausted. 

And so the years went by in my thirties where I would occasionally experiment with taking an overnight weekend trip, here and there, while others loomed around me.  I could never quite relax and chalked it up to "well, no one sleeps well when they are not home."  But this put a dent in any travel plans I wanted to do.  More and more I started daydreaming about taking a trip to Europe...alone.

Alone, where I could sleep in at my own pace.  Wake up late without anyone telling me I needed to be up so we could get to some art museum on time or start a hike before the sun came up.  To be on no one else's schedule, where I could just sit in a coffee shop with my laptop and people-watch for hours with no particular place to go, in a foreign land.  Yes, that sounded good to me. 

I felt like such a fuddy duddy, turning down group trips, especially anything missions related with the church.  I had done the whole missions trip thing in my twenties- group travel riding in a van, sleeping on floors, wherever you could find space.  I kept thinking I would get used to it, but with each trip I grew more and more grumpy. While others saw it as an adventure, rich with meaning and deep moments, I just wanted to leave.

I would have my deep moments later- about two weeks later- when I finally got home had time to myself to reflect about my trip.  Reflections of handing out food and clothing to those more needy than me.  Reflections about how others living in a third world had materially nothing compared to me, but were content with what they had.  Memories of cramming 30 young excited kids into an old rickety school bus and taking them to a playground in a park just a few miles away- kids who almost never left their small village.  They were good trips with good things,  but those thoughts never hit me in real time.  I was too tired and busy being cranky.   And don't get me started on the whole "one outhouse for 25 people" type of thing.  I just about cracked.  This was the total opposite of privacy.  You can't say I didn't try.  I tried for years.  I think it was safe to say that overseas missions was not my calling.

So there I laid, in my sleeping bag out on the front porch, a few feet from my friend as she played Scrabble.  I had made it through the night, without being too wierded out.  And I considered it a personal victory.


Katherine said...

So why were you sleeping on your porch with a friend?

theresa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
theresa said...

It was a beautiful night and I was trying to stretch my comfort zone.

Mike Tyler said...

Oh, Theresa, I so enjoy your writing!
Wow, I have known pastors that were similar in their disdain for the mechanics of travel while having a love for the stuff of ministry. Perhaps you weren't the only one on those trips that was hating it.
Kudos to you for stretching your comfort zone!

theresa said...

thanks Mike!