Something dawned on me this week, something I have been fighting against accepting as part of myself for many years now. I realized I am totally a reclusive person. I live a highly reclusive life.
It wasn't always like this, which is why it's been a strange ride to get from point A to point B. Growing up I was considered the extrovert, I had not a shy bone in my body, I cared rarely what anyone thought of me (especially adults), I was slightly rebellious without being dangerous and joined in lots of activities like piano, dance, plays, art classes and mardi gras balls. I had a deep love for animals and the outdoors but my family did not, so we lived a city lifestyle in every sense, and that was what I was accustom to. Parties, events, performances, school, people 24/7 - even after Catholic church there were donut eating social gatherings on the weekends. When I turned 20 I moved from New Orleans to New York City and lived in one of the most crowded, noisy, intense places in the United States, for a few years. Everything at your finger tips in New York, you could live without ever leaving your tiny apartment if you wanted to... you could order bandaids to be delivered to your door if you got a cut. Even though I had a tendency to be domestic, I went out everyday in NYC, rain, cold or shine and took in all the modern adventure I could. Museums, clubs, sushi, taxi cabs, subways, buses, art shows, deli's, higher paying jobs.
None of this made me motivated enough to rebel, and run off to the quiet forest. Although I dreamed of it, talked about it, planned it in my mind (a re-occurring 'i am moving to asheville mountains theme'), nothing seemed to come of it. I loved my social life, my city life, my art life - i loved what I was familiar with more then I could be brave enough to change it. City living made me feel 'important' by society standards.
Then I got sick. Real freaking sick, not like a flu but something so much more sinister, so much more mysterious. I could no longer eat hardly anything, could hardly walk, my voice was nearly gone, I had no strength left in my body to even will myself to keep on living. Breathing was labored, sleep was impossible. It took the doctors months to come up with a diagnosis, which ended up being Celiac Disease. They said I would be better in just ten days on the gluten free diet, and when I wasn't for months more they shrugged their shoulders and sent me home to live or die.
I did die. I died in every way a human can die and still be breathing - my Celiac diagnosis was so serious (double copy gene, rare version) and so much damage was done that I would no longer be able to go out to eat with friends. Ever again. Not only that, but suddenly I could not eat half of what I previously had ate that was not even gluten! A special diet might not sound like a big deal, but in reality 3/4's of my social life had been centered around food - how could I ever go on a date without ever being able to go to dinner, and if someone cooked for me it came with this huge list of complications and special pots and utensils.... and oh my god I could not use any of the toxic art supplies I had been using daily and all I had were artist friends which all we talked about was art, plus all my make up & nail polish (punk rock glitter bonanaza) had to be thrown in the trash cause none of it was "hypoallergenic". I felt stripped down of everything I loved, all the fluff, all the fun, all of what was familiar. Not to mention, I still could hardly walk and had to be pushed in a wheelchair if it was longer then 10 foot distance - and I had lost so much weight I didn't even want anyone to see me at the gaunt 80 pounds, I was entirely stripped down and humiliated, I had no idea who I was and was seeing a new person in the mirror, someone I had never met before.
Then I came to the mountains of Western North Carolina. I was motivated. I had nothing to lose, in fact I had nothing at all. I arrived with two suitcases, one with my life, one with gluten free food and a pillow. I had been offered a place to stay in Balsam, NC while I would see a doctor in Asheville. The place ended up being a remote, quiet, deeply wooded reclusive paradise surrounded by 100's of acres. A pond, a labyrinth to practice walking therapy on, trails, creeks, a room and bathroom to myself - where no one but a few close relatives would see me. It was the first peace, first self love, first motivation to be where my heart desired in my entire life - and once I tasted nature, I never turned back. That was in February of 2002.
I have fought the realization that I was drawn to a reclusive lifestyle, because every friend and immediate family member I have lives in a huge city and lives exactly as I had before - I thought being a hermit meant you were a hag, a jerk, a uni bomber, a crazy lady, militia type freak... not that you could just simply have a deep social life with nature, a deep connection or love that was more soothing then Chinese Take-Out ever could be, from breathing the fresh air, from touching the trees while hauling up a trail. Nature gave me physical and emotional therapy - it gave me a place to be sick and not judged, a place to heal and not watched, it gave me time to realize that all of it is the same life for all of us, just different details. And that we are happiest and most kind, most at peace when we let ourselves be surrounded by the details which we truly enjoy.
So basically all I am trying to say, is my name is Leslie and I am a recluse.