Thursday, February 18, 2010

I'm A Recluse (not a brown recluse spider, a human one)

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.



Liberty said...

I really enjoyed reading this post Leslie.
what a journey you have been on!
having only known you through this blog, I had thought of you as a nature-loving, hermit-like person - in a good way.
I am a huge hermit and recluse and don't see it as negative - though I realise most of 'society' does.

I am an introvert myself but I do believe one can be both an extrovert personality-wise and also reclusive... hard to explain.
You come across as extroverted to me. :-)

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Hey Liberty!

I have always been attracted to nature, whenever we (my family) went to visit more rural living relatives when i was very young I would dread to go back home, it would break my heart. I loved bugs, animals and every plant and tree --- but sometimes our surroundings are so familiar it takes a little growing time to realize you outgrew those lessons and now get to move on and choose your own. This is the lifestyle I now choose, regardless of where my health lead me.

Funny how we can tell certain things through the internet - i have thought you were shy and introverted :)
I am learning how to balance (still) the extrovert and the hermit that both need equal space.

Erik said...

Thanks for sharing, L :)

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Hey Erik-
yo' welcome. :)

Mokihana and Pete said...

Welcome to your place.

linda said...

This felt like a homecoming.

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Thanks Mokihana. :)

Linda- Yes, this is one of those times when PMS works to my advantage. ;) It's strange i never noticed I rejected a huge part of myself, and everytime we accept a rejected part it is totally a homecoming. I love the way you simplified it.

Kittie Howard said...

Leslie, you are so brave and so honest. Thank you for sharing. About two months I came across Celiac Disease, didn't know what it was and Googled it. You are a real champ for reigning in this disease and getting on with your life. If you are a recluse, that's okay. My grandfather was happiest picking pecans in the back pasture. We have but One Life. If you are happy living with nature and enjoying your family and friends when possible, I say Bravo! Hugs!

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Thanks Kittie for sharing about your grandfather :) ... i am one of those people who is happy doing simple tasks like that, it's calming, it gives me time to think - and you end up with pecans, shucked beans or some other goodie at the end.
It's so nice to come out the recluse closet! WOO said...

Leslie, I really loved this post. So real and deep and honest. And empowering. Thanks for sharing your rich life with us through your blog. xx Julie

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Thanks Julie :)
I know your honesty inspires tons of people on PLanet Thrive :)

mara said...

Oh leslie:( It makes me sad that you're art supplies are restricted, but at the same time your insights and explorations of the rural world around you have brought me so much joy, I know that they must have done that for you , like exponentially. So I don't feel bad for you. I am intensely proud of you for overcoming the kind of adversity that makes lesser people shrivel up and die. You haven't just gone on, you've thrived and I am so stoked to know you!You were awesome in high school and you are awesome squared now!

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Hey Mara!

Thanks so much for all those nice words, ya gonna make me blush. You know as meaningless as it should be, having someone who knew me then (highschool) and knows me now - say that i am/was awesome in both forms is really good to hear. It can become a challenge not to compare myself now, with my "old" self and wonder if i somehow lost my mojo --- ALSO there is always the question of whether people think i could have done awesome things, then got sick and failed to do so. I never wanted to be felt sorry for- but I did for a long time seek validation that i was still doing good things in spite of the change in goals and activities.
Thanks Mara for giving me that.