Essential Self

Both of my grandmothers spoke Italian as their first language. One Grandmother was an entrepreneur and spoke without obvious accent; the other Grandmother never left the Italian neighborhood and her accent was thick and her English poor. As they aged into their 70’s they started speaking more Italian and less English, by the time they reached their 80’s they spoke almost no English all. They reverted to their essential selves.

My father’s case was a bit different. During the last week of his life, each time he woke from sleep he had slipped further into his past. It wasn’t all that remarkable until he he reached his teen years – before he had met my mother. He didn’t recognize her. He spoke as if he was 15 and it was 1930.  Finally, he woke as an infant. At that point he was transferred to a hospital and less than 24 hours later he died. He regressed to the ultimate essential self.

It occurred to me recently that I am reverting to my essential self. Until 2008, and despite my disability, I was engaged in the wider world. I had a job, friends, I was always out and about. A busy normal life. That all changed when we moved to Filthadelphia.

The first few months we were there I explored my new surroundings to the best of my abilities and then the depression set in and got deeper and darker. I was isolated, lonely and hated everything about where we lived.

When even my husband understood that our living situation was going to be the death of me – literally – it had become a real concern – we moved back to Northern Virginia.

And my life here? Insulated, solitary, reclusive. Aside from a weekly trip to the grocery store, I don’t go out.  The only people I speak to are my husband and the cats, on rare occasion the front desk person or someone I bump into in the laundry room.

Yes, the first 6 months here I was out and about a bit – exploring the new neighborhood, a trip or two back to my old stomping grounds. Friends visited. But then nothing. This area is very residential – really nothing to do and nowhere to go unless you want to drive. And I don’t drive. The buses run infrequently during the day and my friends got tired of the long drive to pick me up and drop me home. My disability has worsened.

BUT – I am not depressed. I am pretty happy most of the time. More happy than not happy.

It appears that I am reverting to my essential self. I was a child of solitude and quiet. Even as an adult, I would spend 3-day weekends locked in my apartment with the phone turned off. I NEEDED that quiet and solitude.

My solitude is my choice. My isolation is my choice. And even my happiness is my choice. (My shrink once told me that I was basically a happy person, and I think I am.)  Easy choices because they constitute my essential self.

I love my home and everything in it (except the bathrooms – but never mind about that.) I have less and less need for people and relationships. Especially people and relationships.  I have my internet friends and they fill my social needs.

It’s good for me to know this – to realize that I am fine the way I am; the way I used to be.  My essential, solitary, self.

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