I can count the number of people I interact with on a daily basis on one hand. There are no friends that I regularly communicate with. Occasionally I associate with individuals I meet at my children’s activities. We know each other, we smile, we discuss things having to do with our kids. We do not debate philosophy. We do not provide political or religious viewpoints. These short interactions take place in public, and cannot include issues that may invoke a passionate response. The collective is too diverse for such discussions, and the individuals in question are composed of various religious and political backgrounds.
I do have one friend from my childhood that I still attempt to communicate with once or twice a year. He is married, but has no children, which makes it virtually impossible for him to relate to me anymore. His life rotates around “stuff” where mine rotates around “kids.” Our political and religious viewpoints are still relatively similar, but when we talk it’s usually about his stuff, or his life, or where he’s gone vacationing. The overlap of our interests is narrow because of me. He will happily discuss sports, or construction projects, or automotive maintenance. These are not my areas of focus, and while I typically learn a lot from our encounters (primarily regarding construction), I do not always enjoy such conversations. Frankly, I find them somewhat boring. He is someone who can talk about virtually anything, whereas I seem to have grown much narrower in focus.
This is not the first time I have ruminated upon my social isolation. Everyone is different. I spend a great deal of time thinking about human social interactions. I view them from outside. It is the function I seem to have been born to serve, my purpose if you will. How other individuals interface with each other is fascinating to me. The varied ways people form social bonds, strong and weak, static and ephemeral, appears to me like cellular interactions in a mesh network. Ideas and concepts flutter around, filtered, altered, deconstructed, reconstructed and then handed off in bits and pieces. While I seldom take part, I am almost always observing. In many ways, my introversion relegates me to the sidelines. One could say I am socially retarded and underdeveloped in this area. My addiction to introspection forces my introversion, and my over sensitivity has resulted in the development of defenses that further enhance my isolation. For example, should I become embarrassed about something I have said, my first defense is apathy. I will simply cease to care about how other people think or consider me. And, should I assume that an attempt to communicate might lead to a revelation about my thoughts that may result in a negative viewpoint about me, I will reconsider who it is that I’m about to communicate and analyze their probable reactions to a level that will likely result in my disassociation with that individual.
Distance is a product of this defense. Isolation is a product of the distance. I am motivated by pain. Not so much as I used to be, because as a child I had none of the defenses that I now have. As a child, I could not summon apathy to my defense. I cared too much about what other people thought, so much so that I edited my own personality to attempt to fit in. But, as an adult, I no longer feel the need to fit in at all, and by proxy I perhaps fit in better than I used to. My hippie aunt used to tell me to just be myself. My Zen teacher used to tell me to just be. Both of those are difficult for a child, but as my brain solidifies, so do those concepts. It becomes easier to be myself, and easier to determine who that self is. Little bits and pieces of every person I’ve ever communicated with, built over the top of something I was born with, a personality I did not build myself, but rather had from the beginning. Like a house, there is a foundation that is somewhat solid and immutable. What lies above that foundation is constructed from bits and pieces that can be remolded. Oddly enough, that foundation contains elements of extroversion. Does it seem strange that an introvert can also be extroverted? Yes, it is there, a need for exposure kept in check by a need for isolation. These two components are constantly at war, and the introversion usually wins. Upstairs, the house is a mess. Looking at it, I can plainly see that too many remodeling projects have been started and too few have been completed. Something always gets in the way of finishing that kitchen or rebuilding that bathroom. And there are times when it’s simply faster to throw on a coat of paint rather than tearing the sheet rock down to the studs. It’s not surprising that I spend so much time in the basement where the cool solidity of the bare concrete walls provides a calming effect. I’m at peace there because I don’t need to change anything. I only need to sweep the floor once in a while.
Other people, I strongly suspect, live in many different ways. Some spend a lot of time upstairs. Some don’t remodel, they just add-on. Some constantly remodel. Others seldom build at all above the ground floor. Some people are towers, and others are ramblers. Some people live in their houses all the time, and others go out visiting on a regular basis. Some people are split-level. Many people live in duplexes. And then, of course, there are apartment dwellers who just rent. There are also those who live in mobile homes and RVs, simply for the convenience. They have rubber foundations and sheet metal exteriors.
Is your house in order? Do you really think so? Have you had a good look at it lately? I’m not so sure people take long hard looks at their own homes too often. You can live in it without paying any attention to it. I know I frequently ignore it. Sometimes it’s hard to look at it, painful to know that there are projects that need cleaning up and work to be done. At the very least, though, I think we should do the dishes once in a while and clean the floors. Maybe have a look at that crap you’ve thrown on the counter and the kitchen table, is there a better place for it? Flat surfaces can be such a collection point for refuse. And those piles of books you haven’t read, if you’re not going to read them now, maybe you should at least put them on a shelf.
Don’t even get me started about the ghosts. We’re all haunted. I don’t think anyone owns a home without more than a few ghosts in it. But that’s okay. They’re reminders of what might have been, what used to be, and what could be.
Is it okay to have visitors in your house? This is typically where I have problems. I don’t usually have people over, primarily because they’ll want to remodel in ways that I don’t agree with. I’m pretty definite about the design. I’ve got my own ideas about architecture. But, you let someone in, that’s almost always the first thing they’ll want to do. After all, they’re in your house, not their own house, and it’s very easy to be critical about someone else’s house when you’re visiting. It’s almost impossible not to be. That’s why I try not to be critical if and when I do visit someone. What they want to build should be up to them. Oh, when they tell me about the wallpaper I might say that I wouldn’t pick it, but I won’t tell them that they should change it. I may suggest that they consider other options. There are lots of different wallpaper out there. And, if I can’t reach the bathroom or the back yard, I might suggest putting a door in, but I’m not going to insist on it so long as I can get out through the front.
Houses are going to be different. If they were all the same, life would be boring. Some people live in neighborhoods where there’s an HOA that enforces exterior standards. You’ll find that outside their home, the grass is cut and the paint is fresh and of a color suitable for the neighborhood. Inside, however (if they let you visit) you’ll find vastly different interior architecture and furnishings. They only look the same on the outside. Inside, some of them are anal nitpicky perfectionists with everything in place, while others are absolute pigs and may even be horders. You never know what you’re going to find. I try and stay out of HOA neighborhoods. The enforcement of external standards seems to imply a bait and switch game. It’s the illusion of similarity that leaves me questioning the veracity of their claims to be unified.
Alright, enough of this. I’m back to the basement. I’ve got some work to do, and I do it best in a nice quiet location where I can’t hear the stereo booming from next door. If you need me, then send me an email. I’m better on paper than I am face to face. That’s why I’m in the basement.