Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On Being a Hermit

                                                by Laura Crum

            An advance warning here: This blog post contains a small rant. I didn’t set out to rant, but somehow no matter how many times I re-wrote the piece the rant crept in there. So I gave up and left it in. The post is now sort of bittersweet. It tells a reasonably pleasant story that I meant to tell, and it also gives a true view of the frustration I often feel. I am hoping that there are a few of you out there who will both understand my joy in being a hermit and also my frustration with what Ratty (of Wind in the Willows) called “the wide world.”
Anyway, those who read this blog and my books may perceive me as a reasonably social person, but the truth is far different. In real life, I really am something of a hermit. And lately it’s getting worse. Or better. Depends on your point of view.
            In my old age (I’m 55) I am just plain happy at home with my husband and son and my horses and other critters and my garden. Doesn’t matter if I’m riding or doing chores, I can fill hours messing with the horses and/or wandering around the garden observing what’s in bloom (in the spring) or ready to be harvested (summer and fall). Truthfully I can fill happy hours watching the spring breeze toss the treetops on the ridges, or watching the goldfish dart around the pond, or the quail pecking in the riding ring, or the lizards catching bugs. I could seriously go on all day listing tons of small events here on my mini-ranch that happily engross me. I like to write, so often I write about these things. I like to take photos…and sometimes I post them here and on facebook. And I like to sit on the porch with a cup of tea in the early morning and a margarita in the evening watching the light change. I am never bored.

            Fortunately I married a man who is also happy to avoid the social scene, and our son, like us, is an introvert, who appreciates lots of time alone. I make sure my son has a social life with his friends that works for him, but my kid, like me, enjoys swinging on the barnyard swing and just watching the horses and chickens (and sometimes the deer and bobcats) for a good bit of time each day. Yes, we ride with our friends and do more ambitious things, but I think we get our greatest joy just being peacefully quiet here in nature.
            There is so much to see and do in the springtime….the chickens are endlessly entertaining. Toby the rooster struts.

            Our cat Tigger amongst the hens.

            A one day old bantie chick.

            The roses are really starting to bloom. This is Fortune’s Double Yellow rose in my wild garden. It’s not really yellow, but it was discovered by the plant hunter Robert Fortune in China in 1844, and at that time there were no yellow roses in commerce. So this rose was a big deal. And it is still a glory today. An early rose-- it is always in full flower in April.

                                            We ride and have much fun with our horses. 


            So my life is good and happy and I have no complaints. It’s just that I feel I don’t fit in any more in groups of people. There are friends that I care about, and one-on-one with them I’m fine. I can be polite and reasonably friendly with waitresses and checkers and such. I can hang around with my horse friends and talk horse. But put me in a group of folks that I’m just barely acquainted with, and I’m no good at all. In fact, I’m kind of miserable.
            The problem is that I think my social skills (what I had of em) are slowly vanishing. I’m becoming a hermit. I feel out of place with groups of people any more. I try. I treat others as I would like to be treated—which means I respect their space and I say what I mean and mean what I say. Somehow this isn’t working too well. Other people just don’t seem to play by this code.
            As far as I can tell, many people expect me to mouth things I don’t mean, and make nice when others are treading on my toes. And when I let them know (in my straight forward way) that this sort of thing doesn’t fly with me, I am perceived as a grouch (actually I think the right word has one less letter and also ends in “ch”). And then a lot of people seem to share a form of sarcastic humor that I mostly don’t get and don’t find funny when I do get it. If you take a shot at me with venom disguised as humor, I still read the emotional content perfectly, and I don’t care for it. I’m liable to let you know that I don’t care for it, too. 
            It feels to me that my instincts have become similar to my horses and other critters. I expect truth and honesty and simplicity, just as I get from my animals. I try to give it back. I’m not comfortable with the two-faced attitude shown by many people, and on top of that I don’t share their interests. I don’t watch TV and I don’t like popular music and I really don’t “get” a great deal of popular culture, from politics to fashion to sports. I don’t want to get it. I’m interested in the green color of the light before a storm and the specific scents of different roses and how many words my smart little dog has learned to understand. I could spend hours listing the fascinating things that delight me here at my home. But I find many people confusing, and, to be frank, boring. I do better with animals.
I often leave a group interaction with people feeling frustrated. I don’t try to manipulate any one into doing what I want them to do.  I really resent others trying to manipulate me. I don’t take covert shots at people. If there is something I don’t like or don’t agree with, I’ll say so—openly. And I am fine with others doing the same with me. It doesn’t threaten me when someone disagrees with me. But it seriously annoys me when someone takes a sneaky shot at me—in the guise of “teasing humor.” I had a “friend” like this once. When I let her know that her malicious little games were not OK with me she wrote me off and never spoke to me again. Since then I’ve been a lot more careful about who I accept as a friend. For me a friend is someone “who stabs you in the front” (I believe this is a quote from Oscar Wilde…thanks, Dahlia).
In short, more and more I feel like a misfit around other “normal” people and can’t wait to get home and shut my front gate behind me. Sometimes I lock it.           

            Here, back with my horses and dogs and cats and chickens and garden and little family, I let out a deep breath of relief and feel almost instantly happy again. Here I fit in. I’m good with a horse, I get along with my kid (sorry all you mommy bloggers, but its true), and I love all the plants and animals of this place—domestic and wild. I listen to my husband play his pipes and enjoy the wild notes drifting out over the ridge. The horses graze contentedly by the vegetable garden. The little dog sits in my lap; I stroke her rough fur and I can smell the jasmine. I feel a real sense of connection and peace. Yes, I am
 becoming a hermit. A happy hermit.

            Does anybody else feel like this? I keep wondering if other people might be “hermits” like me, and possibly share some of my frustration when it comes to interacting in the “wide world.” I don’t mind being a loner (not at all), but it is fun to share thoughts with like-minded folks, so I’m putting this out there just for fun. Any horse loving hermits reading this blog?


Anonymous said...

Pretty close. I'm a little bit older than you (almost 60), and at one time in my past had several high-status high-pressure jobs - I'd always been into achievement, and being the "best" at things - whatever that means. If was how I made my way as a shy, introverted only child with few emotional resources and no emotional support from my family. I was very successful for a while in worldly terms - high grades, good jobs, lots of opportunities to excel. But all of this took a big toll - I wasn't well-suited to this lifestyle, although I managed to do it for a number of years.

At some point I'd just had enough - enough of bigger jobs, bigger houses, more stuff, etc. etc. I've made a series of changes in my life, gradually getting by with less and more and more trying to simplify my interactions with the world. I hate socializing, sometimes even with people I know well - I don't mind small groups of like-minded people, and I can tolerate a wide variety of people so long as we're engaged in a common task that has some purpose. My faith tradition has recently become much more important to me, especially the aspects involving care for self and others.

I have no TV - haven't had one for years. Will no longer go to most movies involving violence - which rules out a lot. I'm trying to cut way down on email, internet, etc. - horse blogging has been an exception (for now) - and I try to take a "Sabbath" approach - no electronic media or radio one day a week. Being outside in nature, or being with my horses, or reading quietly - less and less fiction, oddly enough - are my most treasured activities. Simple cooking, and listening to or playing music as well.

I think you're right about wanting to be more like a horse - horses have living in the moment and appreciating the good things down to an art, and they don't tolerate hypocrisy or untruths.

I envy you your beautiful place - it would probably be too much work for me but it sure sounds wonderful.

Laura Crum said...

Kate--You and I share a lot of things. We do a lot of growing our own food and cooking it ourselves and making music here, too. And I mostly read memoirs these days (says she who writes mystery fiction). And I don't watch violent movies either. Thanks for an inspiring comment.

Laurie said...

Oh yes! I prefer the company of animals over humans myself--they're more honest, kind, and just great fun to be with. I tend to be blunt when someone triggers my BS meter too. And I'm perfectly alright with being me regardless if others like it or not.

Laura Crum said...

Laurie--You sound just like me (!)

Dom said...

I dream of becoming a hermit. Haha. The more I experience people, the less I want to. Me, Mike, and our horses, dogs, and barn cats would be enough for me to live happily ever after.

Laura Crum said...

I'm with you, Dom. Its nice to know that others feel this way, too.

Breanna said...

I hear you on the honesty thing. I get really tired of the "fake" people, who are all smiles and friendliness. I usually have to keep my mouth shut around people who don't know me, because I say what I think.

Promise said...

I love what I do (I'm a graphic designer) and find a lot of happiness and contentment in it, so I don't think I could ever be a total hermit. But I am just as comfortable (if not more so) on a country road as I am on a city street...and nothing in my profession says I couldn't work remotely eventually!

The more I interact with society, in general, the more I wonder what the world is coming to. Why people are so greedy and uncaring, rude and abrasive. Why it is so hard for so many to just say "Thank you," or "You're welcome," or "Please," or "Have a great day," and MEAN it.

I find the idea of house parties, dinners, happy hours, entertaining guests, etc to be daunting and often dread them or find a reason not to go. I find having to be social in situations like that emotionally (and sometimes physically) draining.

Yes, I am better with my close friends, my animals. I can happily sit in front of a campfire or horse pasture for hours and just look and listen. I sleep better when I read for a while before bed...I carry my kindle anywhere (pretty instant escape, into a book, right?) and often muse that I might one day become like my grandmother and pull out my book and start reading when I have had enough of a particular situation!

Oh, and I guess I should note, I'm not even 29 yet. LOL

Laura Crum said...

Breanna--I do the same as you around folks I don't know well. And I make every effort to avoid that sort of social situation.

Promise--That's an interesting point. Because I WAS pretty social in my 20's and 30's. I liked parties and hanging out with groups of people and the very social horse events I competed in (cowhorse, cutting and roping). It was only in my forties that I began to tire of the "social" part of life. Its interesting how we all have different paths.

Promise said...

I guess, to be fair, it depends on the group of people! I'm not totally antisocial and if I am going to a get together/party/whatever with my boyfriend or a friend or my mom, I'm fine, but after awhile of being social, I just want to go home, put my jammies on and call it a day!

F.J. Thomas said...

I can relate to a certain extent. I work in the business side of the healthcare industry and there are many times that I feel out of place. It's hard for me to relate on a social level. I also don't relate on a management level either. The tendency is to be politically correct and manipulate people and the situation so that you get what you want. I don't do well at all with that as I think you should address issues head on and deal with it much like working with a horse. The older I get, the harder time I have relating to non-horse people and tend to be withdrawn.
I do still love to compete and hang out with horse friends. It gives me time to share with people that understand the ups and downs of my life. I will say however that I'm not as driven to go all the time and enjoy time at home a little more.
There's nothing wrong with being a hermit!

Laura Crum said...

Promise and FJ Thomas--I hear you. A little socializing goes a long way.

Merry said...

Hey! I don't remember writing this, but it reads like I did. Thanks for putting some of my feelings into words!

Laura Crum said...

Thanks, Merry! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Not so surprising we might feel a lot alike, don't you think?

Val said...

I completely get what you are saying, Laura. I, too, can be rather blunt. I actively chose not to be sometimes, because I am aware that it is in my best interest at work. Since we are expecting our first child, I have been warned many times that our life is going to change and we will not be able to "go out" anymore. That is not a problem if you are already a semi-hermit. ;)

I don't mind purposeful socialization, but I can hardly stand idle socialization, like chit-chat. As a teacher I have a very social job, but since I am not a very social person, I do not crave face to face interaction after work. The only exception is horse friends, because I never tire of discussion that involves horses or the farm. Being with my husband and our animals at home or at Harley's farm is how I recharge my batteries. Even though I love teaching, the amount of human interaction that I get on a daily basis often leaves me drained. My husband and I don't watch much TV, although we love movies; it is just very difficult to find truly good movies. When we do, we like to re-watch them. Surprisingly, this is very relaxing!

I enjoy blogging, because I get to interact with many more horse people/animal lovers than I know locally. That helps recharge my batteries, too!

Laura Crum said...

Val--I like blogging, too. And we also have favorite movies that we watch over and over. "Bagdad Cafe" and " The Secret of Roaninnish" are two of my favorites. I have a teaching credential and taught for awhile in my 20's. But I found it absolutely draining. So I moved on to working for horse trainers (draining in a different way). And from there to writing novels...which suited me best. When I rode eight or more horses a day for money, I never wanted to ride my own horses when I got home (!) And you're so right...not "going out" post child is not a big problem for me at all. On the contrary, it makes a lovely excuse not to do things I'd rather not do anyway.

juliette said...

Please sign me up to join the group of non-joiners. Something about being with my husband, Brian, and daughter, Maizie, and my horses makes me ONLY want to be with that small group all the time. I've always been like this but it has gotten worse in the last four years.

I love blogging and reading blogs but I do despise the computer and internet in ways. It robs me of my time outside.

Like Kate, I envy your location - on your blog it looks like heaven on earth. Our farm is nice, but landlocked by suburbia and encroachment and noise. If I were where you are, I would drop out entirely I think!

When I come home from the simplest of errands, Brian has to endure my rants because even small, easy interactions seem ridiculous to me anymore. My horses and our cat and said husband and daughter hold my attention. Everyone else out there are usually kind and well meaning, but they seem silly these days. Not sure if it is them or me, but it does make me feel better to know that others feel this way too. Thanks for the post!

Laura Crum said...

juliette--You really sound just like me. And you know what, my little "ranch" is surrounded by suburbia, too. I chose a place where the hills screen us from view of other houses, and I've planted trees and shrubs to help with the screening, but a quarter mile from my front gate is a busy road. One reason I lock that gate when I turn my horses loose to graze. You know, pretty much everything you said in your comment could have come out of my mouth--thanks so much for commenting. Like you, I find its a nice feeling to know others share my emotions.

falconfeathers said...

I thought you were writing about me in this post...except that I don't have a husband and my kids are all in their 20's experiencing life on the East Coast with me in the West.

I always was a loner or only had a couple of friends. Some people have since told me they thought I was stuck up as a teenager, but in reality, I was shy-scared to death of social interactions.
I get headaches at family reunions and social gatherings.

My job is in the medical field...managing people all day...I love coming home to the critters and peace. But I would also love to have a man to share it with. I don't want to be totally alone.

CG said...

Raising hand over here! I once wondered what was wrong with me?? I would rather be home with my animals than out "visiting". Social situations exhaust me.

Then we took some psychology test thing at work and I found out that I'm just a 10/10 on the introverted side! Whew, that was a relief- lol.

Social gathering always end up giving me a headache too.

Laura Crum said...

falconfeathers and CG--Its interesting that so many bloggers feel this way. I wonder if blogging is particularly appealing to introverts?

TBDancer said...

Count me among the "I prefer animals to people" crowd. I'm almost 70 (it still surprises me to write that ;o) and have found that while I need interaction with people now and then (otherwise I have problems making sentences ;o), I do prefer alone time--with my animals or sitting at the computer, composing emails and getting my news from various websites. I don't have TV either--canceled DISH in November and honestly don't miss it. I enjoy the $90+ I save each month, too.

I live in a politically conservative part of southern California--which suits me just fine. There are dirt roads and lots of "open land" for riding--and we have four seasons, which makes for a nice year.

My time alone includes trying to come up with a suitable blog topic that involves horses--specifically OTTBs--with a smattering of being the "older adult rider" and trying to learn dressage. I am a writer part-time for the local paper--I work three days a week, more or less, in advertising--and have been published in both fiction and non-fiction in several magazines over the years. There's "a novel in me somewhere," and I'd like to pursue Print on Demand or other publication possibilities OTHER than sending a heavy manuscript box to some "dead tree publisher" in New York City. I've done the agent thing and the "over the transom" thing, so far to little or no avail. But that involves concentrating on finding out about all this stuff--and I am easily distracted with a dog that simply MUST have another cookie or some appointment or other.

You are among friends, Laura, and I think your blog's attraction to those of us who follow it comes from the fact that we see a bit of ourselves in you.

Laura Crum said...

Thanks TBDancer--Sounds like we are on the same page. And good look with the novel. Publishing via ebooks has opened up a whole new world for authors.

jenj said...

Oh, me too, me too! I'm lucky that my "day job" is with a bunch of other introverts, who do silly things like IM and email each other even though they sit one or two cubes away. I'd much rather be at home than out socializing. I can DO the social thing, but not for long and I find it exhausting - moreso as I get older.

So... cheers! To all us hermits!

lytha said...

horses themselves appeal to introverts. almost every horse crazy person i know is slightly off socially. i agree though that blogging is a resource for introverts, especially in comparison to twitter and facebook.

horsegenes said...

Well since we have actually met in real life - I can say without reservation that you are a genuine caring human being. I very much enjoyed our ride and our many email conversations. I appreciate your honesty and am confident that no matter what we feel, say or do we can agree to disagree and happily move on. Unless of course one of us decides to become an axe murdered! I pretty much draw the line there. :)

I am truly a social person and love to be surrounded by good people. Love it. I love to have friends over for dinner and often on summer evenings my house becomes the place to meet and enjoy one anothers company. What I don't do is stress over it. If you show up the house might be a mess, you might get hot dogs for dinner, or ?? My house is my home and we LIVE there and I won't apologize for it. I love to laugh (laugh with - not at) and listen to stories and adventures. If you want to take snid shots at good people you aren't welcome. I don't tolerate bullies or assholes. Pretty sure you and your family would fit right in.

Don't get me wrong, I love my alone time. Often I take off on a ride by myself and just get lost in my head. It is a balance and we all need it.

I understand what you mean by being a hermit but I think more of what you are describing is that your time is precious and spending it with people and animals that you enjoy and make you happy is more important to you than being an accepted by the masses as a social butterfly. I get that.

And if I lived by you...I sure hope I would be gettin' in invite for a margie on the porch every now and then.

Laura Crum said...

jenj and lytha--Its interesting that so many horse people feel this way.

Kel--You can come drink margaritas on the porch any time. The thing is (and since I actually met you in real life I can say this), you are a very direct, straight shooter sort of person. I felt totally comfortable with you. Uhmm, to use someone else's phrase, you absolutely did NOT trigger my "bullshit meter." And I feel absolutely confident that in any interaction--email or whatever--that you are going to speak your honest truth and be comfortable with me speaking mine. So yeah, people like you, especially horse people, I am fine with. (Barring the axe murder, of course).

I do think you are more social by nature than I am, but my best friend is, too. It seems to make a nice balance between us, actually.

Anonymous said...

You're funny, was there a rant in this post? It just sounded like the honest observations of someone outside the media crazed society we've become. For a long time now (and I'm older than you and Kate) I've noticed that people try to live their lives like TV characters. Nowadays, even children seem to be imitating children on commercials. To me that's very creepy. And don't get me started on the weird phenomena of looking through your i-phone to see what you're looking at, or the constant tweets and texting. As you said, horses and plants and even children haven't changed.

I also grow a lot of my own food, and buy what I can from local farmers I know. Although I have a few friends I love to see, especially the ones I meet to ride with, I can spend days without leaving the farm. In the summer, when the garden is full of vegetables and herbs, I don't have to leave. I spend most of my days puttering in the barn or the garden and taking my dogs for walks. I also like to have a cup of tea in the afternoon, but I don't get the smell of Jasmine with it. And when I go on a trail ride, it's beautiful and I can't complain, but I don't get the ocean and awesome views you have.
I think you're very blessed with what you have, you love it and you don't need to go out looking for more. No need to call it a rant. There's also no need to keep it to yourself, I think a lot of us share your viewpoint. "The Secret of Roaninnish" is one of my favorite movies too. I also love the old folk songs about the Silkies.

Laura Crum said...

redhorse--That constant looking at the i-phone thing drives me crazy. Even though it has nothing to do with me. I don't do it, but I can't help feeling creeped out by those who do.

I think the rant part was when I went on about how I don't really feel comfortable with most people any more. To be honest there was a whole lot of that part that I deleted because it was just beginning to sound too unkind. Some of my friends do peer incessantly at their phones...even though they are good people. And some of them follow professional sports and watch TV...etc. So I tried not to go on and on about that. I didn't think the beauties of being a hermit part was so much a rant...just the I don't get along with people part.

White Horse Pilgrim said...

This is interesting. I ran an equestrian business where I did a lot of guiding, which was quite extraverted in a way. But in another way it was a way - by no means calculated - to induct others in a quiet, beautiful introverted world. Now life is a bit quieter and most rides are solitary. Over the years I've become pickier about whom I associate with. So I gain more pleasure from the friends I do hang out with, whilst becoming better at avoiding the people with sociopathic tendencies. Being picky does keep the social circle small.

I can't avoid working. At least I've found a job with constructive, creative colleagues. That makes it easier. The hardest part nowadays is commuting as there is so much negative energy about the transport network. That's where one sees the grind of life oppressing so many people. It takes willpower to keep the darkness at bay, and sometimes I don't succeed. Those days I'd love to be a hermit, only that's not an option financially.

One thing I like about time with horses and riding is how the world's worries recede and disappear. Focusing on my horse and the trail I can relax in my own little world which somehow seems timeless and good. The people I do meet on the trail mostly seem to be relaxing too, which brings out the best in them as indeed it has in me.

Laura Crum said...

WHP--I so agree about the way the world's cares disappear when one is riding a horse down the trail. For me, this also happens puttering around my garden, looking at plants and animals, domestic and wild. And I find that the friends that are the easiest for me to be with are other reasonably-like-minded horse people. This is, I think, one reason I enjoy the horse blogging community so much. We all share a deep interest in horses and writing, and I think we are mostly introverts as a there is a real common ground.

Unknown said...

I have to agree with the idea you can be happy being a hermit at times in your life or if that is the lifestyle you choose. Right now I live in Kawasaki, Japan near Tokyo. There are times I miss my old hermit lifestyle of riding my horse alone in the NH woods. Here in Japan, sometimes I stay home to avoid the rustle and bustle of the trains ( as I did today). I do not like to go on the crowded streets of Shinjuku all the time. If anything, I am happy to go to the racetrack, watching the horses gallop on the track while I take photos. I am the only foreigner there most of the time. I do not go with friends. I am constantly asked why I spend so much time alone and at the end of the day I prefer it, even in this metropolitan area. I came to Japan because I appreciate the culture and I wanted to learn about the horses here and write their stories. That is path I chose to walk alone, quite happily.

Unknown said...

And I still have my horse, waiting for me back home and my awesome friends who are taking care of her for me :D

Laura Crum said...

Heidi E Cruz--What a fascinating adventure. I will admit I do not envy anyone who is living in a city, but that is just me. And how lovely that you have your horse waiting for you at home. Thanks so much for the comment!

lilyrose said...

I wonder if age helps us to weed out all the nonsense in life. As I approach 60...I am finding more reasons to stay at home with my horses and dogs. They are good company. I don't need to make small-talk or listen to gossip with them. I have also been going through spurts of giving/throwing things away. I feel a need to unburden myself from unecessary stuff. I have never been comfortable in crowds, so I'm sure I will never see places like Disneyland. But I have no desire for that type of fluff. I could quite easily become a hermit if my husband would allow it. Lucky for me he enjoys long, quiet rides and just hanging out at home reading. I suppose that's why we've gotten along so well for these past 40 years. Most TV is a huge waste of time...however, we enjoy watching old movies...westerns mostly.
I enjoy reading several blogs...mostly horse-related ones. I rarely comment, but I do enjoy yours very much.

Laura Crum said...

Thank you, lilyrose. I think we have a lot of things in common. I appreciate the comment. Wow, forty years of marriage, and it sounds like a very happy one. What a great thing.

stilllearning said...

I am with you. Being a hermit is certainly less drama, something I am over, done with, and choose not to participate in, if at all possible. While I do not desire fluff or truth couched in flowers, I can't say I need it in barbs, daggers and full blown gossip either. So if I find an occasional person who will deliver the truth as just what it is without the aforementioned containers or deliveries, that person has a chance of being someone I could really like and appreciate. I do not know everything. But at this stage in my life I do want people in it that enhance my life and do not tear me down.

Laura Crum said...

Thanks for an insightful comment, stillearning. I always enjoy your comments--we seem to be on the same page.