11 July 2016

The Extraordinary Shrinking Hermit

I haven’t left the house much these past two weeks. [I wrote this before I swanned off to Jaipur, but now I'm back and I feel like this week is going to be exactly the same.] And when I say “much” I mean that I have made precisely two outings — one was a three-minute walk to the local market and the other was a much longer drive to see a friend. Otherwise, I have been at home, “hermitting” as they say. At first it was a nice break from the week before where I had been almost hectically social, but as another weekend came upon me, I wondered how long I could keep this up.

I work from home and in those hours I stay in my designated office area, a small room off the terrace with a door I can shut. I usually emerge at lunch time, but sometimes, on preoccupied afternoons, I take a plate from the kitchen and retreat to my shed again. In the evenings, I move about three feet, from my room to the couch in the living room. There I read with coffee, or watch some television. Sometimes friends come over. Sometimes I cook. It’s a nice life.

Accurate representation of my friends and I

Such a nice life that I wonder if I ever have to leave again. There are some things you leave for — in my case, primarily to see people who might not be persuaded to come over. But I understand now why my favourite hermit JD Salinger didn’t want to see anyone. He locked himself up in his house for so many years, people assumed he was dead long before he was. I've been collecting stories of people like that these days, perhaps to cement my own views. There’s Olivia de Havilland, who played Melanie in Gone With The Wind. She’s been living in France for the past 50 years. People probably assume she’s dead as well (she just turned 100). Wikipedia has a list of famous recluses, including, but not limited to: Emily Dickinson, Harper Lee, David Bowie and Lauryn Hill. I’m not a recluse (yet) but it’s possible to shut yourself away from the world and not go crazy as well.

I used to be such a social person. I also used to have a job that required me to leave the house. Maybe those two went hand in hand. Once you’re out, you may as well stay out. Once you’re in: same.

As a writer, you often have to go outside to sell your books. I do that too — and I enjoy it. But to be a writer, you need to spend a lot of time by yourself, holed up in that one spot, your computer still warm from when you left it. I’m lucky that I’m seldom bored, loneliness is impossible when you live with someone and have pets and I enjoy long hours of doing nothing. I’ve brought Doing Nothing to an art form.

In short, I like staying in, staying at home. People ask me what I’m up to and I say, “Oh, nothing much” but every day is full of small observances. The dynamics of our three cats, I watch as one asserts his dominance and it creates a sort of domino effect among the other two. I have a personal reading challenge that I hope to complete this year. The other day, the roof of my study sprung a leak and so I had to move my writing to the dining table outside, which meant looking at the house a whole new way.

I wonder what my younger self would have thought of my life now. Likely, she’d have thought it sounds deadly dull. But how wrong she’d be. 


(A version of this appeared as my column on mydigitalfc.com)

1 comment:

  1. Ah! Our younger selves and the stories they had had to tell.
    Could relate so much to this one.

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