My past life as a hermit…

Why I decided to come out of my shell

When I first moved in almost four years ago, I was enamored with the privacy on our street. Tucked in this miniature swath of forested countryside between housing developments, our small neighborhood is a mix of eclectic souls, each seeking a quiet connection with nature.

I was told my next door neighbor always keeps to himself. The previous resident lived there for 17 years and only spoke with him twice.

Immediately, that peaked my curiosity.

I admit I’ve been on a mission of sorts to understand his life as an extreme hermit. He never seems to have guests and I’ve only seen Mr. Shy a few times (name changed to protect his privacy). He lives way back in the forest, the front of his property a pasture for a roaming herd of cows and goats.

It’s a sanctuary.

One night, I heard sounds coming from his open window and I realized he was watching ‘That 70s Show’. So he has a good taste and a sense of humor at least. Why does he fascinate me so much?

Because I was him, for a long time.

For years I went to work and came home. Had very few, if any friends. Worked in my garden on the weekends, didn’t live close to family. Spend most of my time alone.

Sounds idyllic for an introvert, right? It was actually incredibly lonely.

The few friendships I had, I kept at a safe distance. Put up an inner wall, didn’t allow myself to get too close. Held back who I really was, rarely showed the amazingly creative and introspective inner world inside of me. Like a secret gemstone that’s hoarded by the dragon for fear that someone will expose her vulnerable spot.

I’ve looked back and realized I was quite frankly hiding from the world. A world that I found too rough, too stimulating and callous. I just didn’t understand why. I felt everything so deeply, all the pain and rage and confusion. And that was just the stuff I picked up from a distance.

Why didn’t I reach out to find friends?

I sensed that having close relationships would expose me to others’ emotions and struggles in an intolerably intimate way. Mere imaginings of potential human drama were enough to keep me in hermit status. I didn’t realize at that time that I was a highly sensitive person and an empath — unshielded, wide open.

I didn’t know I had a choice whether to engage in other people’s stuff; so I felt sad when my coworker was sad, I felt pain when someone else hurt. Shutting myself away seemed like the only option.

About four years ago, something shifted after I learned about the sensitive trait. Wow, I was born this way and nothing’s wrong with me. It’s simply how I process the world.

I realized that hiding out and choosing loneliness was not healthy.

So I embarked on an amazing journey of putting myself out there, testing what worked for me and what didn’t:

  • How long could I be out in the world before I need down time?
  • How many close relationships am I willing/able to invest time and energy?
  • Where might I find other people who would accept me exactly as I am?

I searched for an HSP group in my local area and was disappointed to find none. I signed up for a Meetup account and after taking a deep breath, posted an event. Within the first week, 25 people signed up and I knew this was real! I invited an entire group of strangers into my home for a workshop I created called Sensitivity 101.

What a huge leap of faith and trust for a self-proclaimed hermit!

At the end of the workshop, we stood together in a big group hug, tears on many faces. So incredibly grateful to connect with others who share and understand our sensitive experience.

This was only the first step in my journey to find my tribe. Since then, I have connected deeply with incredible people I met in different places, at different times, for different reasons. An eclectic bunch, we each have our own diverse quirks but also share many commonalities:

We see the world differently than most. We think on multiple levels at once, we feel deeply connected, we sense things others do not. We are the light bringers, the priestly advisors, we are strong sensitive people.

My Tribe, what you’ve brought to my life is indescribable. You erased the emptiness from all those years I chose to be alone. My heart is full.

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