I know it’s bad when people start looking for me.
Since it’s been so long since I was completely able-bodied, my last frame of reference for that is from freshman year of undergrad. That was the first year I’d learned about introversion and extraversion, and I remember earnestly asking my roommate, “Do you think I’m an intro- or an extravert?”
“Are you kidding?” she asked, incredulous. I really wasn’t. To her, I may as well have had an “E” tattooed to my forehead, what with my talkativeness and the fact that I rarely went anywhere alone.
They say that people become increasingly introverted with age (not sure who “they” are), and that’s certainly true for me. But — and this is a big but — no one can be sure whether this is due to the age thing or the “stroke thing.”
I’d venture to say it’s a mixture of both. Just as the body tries to return to fetal position after injury (take note of the way you instinctively pull inward when you get hurt — even if it’s just a bump to the shin), I’m fully convinced that the spirit does the same once it’s been threatened.
So I sometimes go into phases of cocoon. I thought to address this today, not only to partially justify my unexplained absence since the fall, but also so that you know that if you find yourself doing this from time to time, it’s not just you. And that this is perfectly fine, even necessary.
We humans can be a pretty vain species — compared especially to most other living creatures, we are virtually the only ones to spend countless hours in front of mirrors fussing about how we look to the general public. And I know personally that once the stroke happened, my own self-image took a huge blow: I couldn’t wear what I wanted to wear or move how I wanted to move, and so I became really self-conscious. Like, to ludicrous amounts compared to my former self.
I didn’t dance for years, even though I’d always loved dancing. I hid my ankle brace and my shoulder sling under legwarmers and jackets so no one might notice. I hoped privately, tenderly, that if I ever met a guy I liked, that he’d somehow know who I was despite the gimpy package, see the me that resided within.
Hiding my condition was what was familiar. In fact, for the first year I knew my now live-in boyfriend Anthony, I didn’t let on. I didn’t want him knowing about this shameful thing. Because that’s what it was — not a big crazy trauma that happened that I could never have prevented — but a secret to keep from the world at large. I was ashamed of it; I didn’t want to admit that it was true, even though there was no way to deny it.
Like I said, ludicrous, right?
So eventually I developed a sort of magical skill. Though I’d thrived on attention growing up (I loved recognition and loved to stand out), I began to learn how to fade into the background, become invisible. Retiring my right to be seen became a new type of comfort, because being invisible meant I didn’t have to work so hard to upkeep an image of perfection that wasn’t possible to achieve, let alone maintain.
But invisibility comes with its own share of issues. It can become too comfortable — and then, before you know it, you get swallowed up in it and you become lost and disconnected from those who really matter. “With great power comes great responsibility,” and for those of us skilled in camouflage, our responsibility is to make sure we don’t keep hiding indefinitely.
I’ve found that the best way to find my sweet spot between the poles that exist within me is to make sure I balance them out by being more moderate. Last year, I more or less took the entire year off of any kind of hardcore work because I was in fetal position, recovering from a traumatic work environment. It was a completely unconscious decision.
Something clicked into place, though, as soon as the New Year arrived. I decided to pick myself up again and make 2016 my year of creation. I launched a new creative media business, began learning to do energy healing, and I continued to work on sorting out some emotional processing that had become halted in past months or even years through my writing. (I do so for my own healing as well as to make the writing for this blog and my upcoming book even stronger.)
Inevitably, I hit some roadblocks — committed to too many huge projects all at once, got into a minor car accident, and pushed my taxes off till the last minute yet again — which have added to this period of cocooning.
I call it cocooning because, well, take a look at this lovely thing I stumbled across on the Internet recently (cleaned up and turned into the pretty little header image you see above):
Beautiful, isn’t it? It may seem like I’m a hot mess some days. But inside, anything important about who I am is still here. Old lessons from an earlier time (positive and negative) are also still with me, and when I’m ready to step out of this cocoon, I’ll be ready to spread my wings.
To our healing,