The Curmudgeonly Hermit

Who else is finding that staying at home as a patriotic duty is the best holiday they have had for a long time? Okay, I know that this is an unutterably difficult time for very, very many people, but the thing is, I can't do anything about that, all I can do right now is stay home and look after my family. And apart from the fact that there is no hugging for my extended family and that I can't see my darling oldest childers who live in another state, I am actually loving it.

I am a very sociable introvert. I love the company of other people but I don't need it to function well. Also, I find it really, really difficult to say no, so my typical week is cluttered up with social get-togethers that I don't want to go to, that I enjoy when I get there, and then fume about because what I really want to do is work in my garden and write and lie in the hammock and read and think about what I am going to write next. Consequently, enforced social isolation finds me living the dream. Once a fortnight I go out and buy groceries. I see Paul about once a week because he is madly working away up on the mountain with a deadline looming. I go to visit my parents once a week, taking groceries if it is grocery week, and we sit in their courtyard and drink tea then do some gardening with appropriate social distancing. Sometimes Rosy drops around to say hello. Yesterday I went to hers and we picked golden delicious apples from her apple tree. For the rest of the time I am living a very slow life that revolves around gardening, cooking, darning socks, mending, sweeping the floor, reading and writing. Oh, and having conversations with Posy, such as the one we had this morning when we were both sitting on the back verandah watching the rain in companionable silence. Eventually Posy said, "I like the way the rain makes little sparkly balls on the granny's bonnet leaves. It doesn't do that on the other leaves."
I sat and observed all the leaves for some time and then answered, "Huh, look at that. That's nice." End of conversation.

I think that in 'normal' times my life goes at too fast a pace. This, from me who has spent years trying to slow down and live mindfully. But still I fritter bits of life away doing things that don't need doing. The groceries, for instance. I have discovered that it isn't at all difficult to shop for two weeks and invent substitutes if I am out of something. Previously, in my 'normal' life I would pop out and pick up any little thing I was out of several times a week. I didn't want to do this, didn't enjoy it, but felt obliged to, somehow. I also felt obliged to catch up with friends and join in social occasions because it is a 'nice' thing to do, and I am always 'nice'. Well, honestly, not really, but I feel like I ought to be.

I don't quite know what to do with this revelation. If I don't keep up with people, will I ever have any friends? I like having friends. I just don't want to see them all the time. Some of my friends will be reading this. Hello friends! I love you, you know that! If I don't see people I may turn into a curmudgeonly hermit. Oh, but I really love the idea of being a curmudgeonly hermit. Maybe I could be a curmudgeonly hermit then invite all my friends over for lunch once a month. Or even better, every other month. Or go out once a month to some event then regretfully turn down all other invitations because I have reached my quota. Oh dear, I actually don't even deserve friends, do I?

Are there any fellow introverts out there who manage to be curmudgeonly hermits and also retain the odd friend? It appears to be a difficult course to steer. In the mean time, I will be the one happily watching the rain from my verandah and working on plans to never go anywhere ever again.


simplelife said…
You have just expressed exactly how I am feeling. I'm almost afraid to say how I am enjoying this lightness that comes from no expectations on me to turn up, to participate in activities that yes are mostly enjoyable but still leave me feeling drained or guilty for turning down the offer. Is there something wrong with me? I think for so long, perhaps all my adult life, I've tried to make myself fit the social extrovert persona, but that's not me.
I do feel guilty now though for liking this time because I know for so so many people its terrible, so much fear and suffering.
The hardest thing for me is not seeing or hugging my big kids and missing my monthly catch ups with my sister.
Cheers Kate
Anonymous said…
I so understand! I have always been a homebody, comfortable with my own company. I so appreciate that due to the circumstances I do not have to justify my desire to just "be." I am missing seeing my older daughter, and spending time with my mother, and I look forward to being with them again.
Stay safe, and well.
Jo said…
Kate, no, there's nothing wrong with you. You are merely a fellow curmudgeonly hermit. I suspect there may be more than two of us:) We can embrace our curmudgeonly hermitness if we please but it may result in us having only a very small circle of really, really understanding friends..

Patricia, doesn't it seem wrong and cumbersome that in 'normal' life we don't get to just be? Okay, and I am going to ask this question - I wonder how much of socialising (for introverts) is done out of guilt? I'm thinking of just leaving the socialisation to the extroverts who are, after all, really good at it. Except for maybe once a month or so, when it will be rare enough that it will be fun and something to look forward to.
Penelope P. said…
Wel that just about sums up how I’m feeling about it all. I felt a feeling almost akin to relief when the U.K announced another three weeks of it, and immediately felt very guilty because I know how awful this lockdown is for so many people, and that for key workers it’s not even a possibility. That said,my reality is that I don’t have to be anywhere ,or do anything, and I like that!!
Beznarf27 said…
Welcome to the "curmugeonly hermit and proud of it" club. Most of my friends are online and we have excellent relationships from a decent distance. I am very much like you in that I have been enjoying the heck out of enforced self isolation. I admit, I do pop out every day to walk Earl as otherwise the bill for new furniture when he has eaten it due to extreme boredom would be truly magnificent. I have collected all the pine mushrooms (slippery Jack's) this year as it has been a truly wonderful year for shrooms and have jar after jar dehydrated in the pantry. I feel like I am living very close to what my grandmother lived when she had a little garden, a wood stove, lived on a small property and cooked/did most of what she wanted and needed all by herself and I am absolutely loving it.

I know that it has been a seriously difficult journey for many people who don't live like this. We have been trying to simplify our lives now for years and our current situation isn't very much different to our norm aside from buying lots and lots of apples from the little old lady's organic apple stall up the road and processing them in all of the ways. Possums eat anything that even remotely resembles an apple tree on our property so I have to do the next best thing which is support a fellow local in their endeavour to make a bit of cash. I have large buckets of dehydrated apple slices. I got the idea from some of your glorious past posts and there is absolutely NO resemblence to what you buy in the shops. My apple slices are like eating sweet sunshine if that makes any sense. The flavour is amazing and I can tinker around and make anything from soft slices through to tasty apple chips by letting them dry for a bit longer.

I have been wrestling the birds and the Portuguese millipedes (my new nemesis on the block) for my fig crop from the little fig cutting trees that I planted a few years ago and dehydrating them in slices also. We are so very lucky to live on a tiny island off the coast of another island where we grow our own potatoes and carrots and onions because there is a great supply of them here and we aren't likely to run out of staples.

I feel like I am living how I am meant to live, again, if that makes any sense? I feel close to my ancestors and just reading that makes me cringe a bit because I can't explain that any other way but I do. I love reading your posts as I tend to resonate hugely with your ethos and as a fellow introvert hermit I salute you from a seriously decent social distance ;)
Treaders said…
I always thought I was an extrovert because I'm very comfortable around other people and never met a stranger, BUT I'm not having any particular problems being on my own in this lockdown (day 40 today), and yet I see my married neighbours struggling. Sure I've had a couple of "down" days but mostly I'm not bothered. I feel terribly for those worrying about the economics of the lockdown (and of course those that get ill), and I will be glad to see my kids again, but other than wanting to climb the mountain at the back of my house I'm not particularly bothered. Bah humbug? Anna
simplelife said…
Two thoughts:
1. Interesting how we are all so clear in expressing our understanding of how difficult this time is for so many. Not sure what that means for everyone else but I know for me it's a mixture of guilt and fear of jinxing myself.
1a. I don't recall anyone ever acknowledging the difficulty for me when they expected me to live in their noisy busy world. Hmm maybe that's my inner grumpy old lady talking
2. Jo I have a very small number of friends and I like that. I find the amount emotional energy required to be a good friend limits me to only a couple of good friends. I have 4 adult kids and 1 husband, they get most of my emotional energy.
Rambling thoughts that turned into 3 thoughts really.
Cheers Kate
Mary said…
Yes, I can identify with your description. Just a few days ago I told my daughter how relaxing this stay-at-home period had been, and that I had to become a hermit after this. She said,"I thought you already were."
Kathy said…
Even people who want to and have slowed down now realize just how much more they can do to stop the busyness of their lives. I spend most of my time at home and we don't have $$ to go to dinners, holidays or big days out so apart from seeing my own family and my very close 4 friends life is pretty much the same for me. I'm enjoying having the teenagers around all the time vs dropping them to catch up with friends or new part time job. There is no set amount of time you need to catch up with friends however if it's regular fortnightly or monthly and is continuous friendships will's when people don't make the effort and things drop off you can lose friendships. When you are young you have lots of friends and acquaintances and when you are older you can count your friends on your fingers however the friendships are deeper and more worthwhile. Have a good week. Kathy, Brisbane
Jo said…
Penelope, yes, equal amounts guilt and relief!

Fran, eating sweet sunshine is a perfect description of home-dried apple slices, if sunshine were chewy! Like you I am more and more interested in living the small, quiet life that our great-grandparents lived, and the enforced restrictions of our current life seem to point to the possibility of it being a valid option, if we choose it. I think I have been frustrated with myself for some time that I have been choosing convenience and busyness over the kind of life I really value.But I have the power to change that, and I want to live the way I currently have to live. I think it has many upsides:)

Anna, fabulous work, you! It is often by quietly communing with your own self for a while that you discover who you really are. I am finding that myself. I am also cheering for the moment when you can climb every mountain!

Kate, I love the thoughts of your inner grumpy old lady:) I have realised that a polite "No, thank you," is probably all I need to navigate my preferred life. I think that some of my frustration is that I want permission from other people to stay home. I am not going to get that, I will have to firmly state what I need and want. This is not an easy thing for those of us brought up to be nice.

Mary, little do they dream of the extent of our true hermitness:)

Kathy, you are so right that this time has helped those of us who realise we want a slow life to prioritise it even more. We can be very choosy about what we do, and often I do things without a lot of reflection on their value. I am very fortunate to have very good friends, and now I think of it, most of us are hermits and we can get together after months of absence and just take up where we left off. I really like that. Also, we are there for one another, and know that we will always be willing to be useful and present in a crisis, however absent we are on a regular basis.

simplelife said…
Argh permission I think you've nailed it Jo.
Anonymous said…
oh yes. I have become much more introverted over the years! It is bliss to be able to go for a walk and just give a cheery wave and not feel obligated to stop and chat (I live in a small town). The only problem is the Zoom meetings my friends set up. They are weekly, and I find it exhausting to try and talk to several people at once, but can't find any reason not to join in. I do love my girlfriends, but we didn't see each other this often in real life!!
Loretta xx
GretchenJoanna said…
As is evident from the comments, many of your friends are in the same club. Even the ones who aren't, probably wish they could understand, and I bet they forgive you for what they can't grasp.

I've been wondering if I should pester my builders to come back sooner and finish up, because construction is an "essential" here, and I think they probably are working, somewhere. But at the same time, I am enjoying this leisure so much, I hate to enter back into that business of phone calls and trying to persuade people to do things. They'll be back eventually.

Besides, I don't have to spend much time in the cluttered rooms. I can be out in the garden, even if I'm not working in it :-) Thanks for the encouragement, Jo!
Anonymous said…
I'm not an introvert but I would love more time to be reclusive, to be on lockdown, to be in a less busy society The first and a bit of the break was heaven. Then the madness of work and changes and organisation began.And not having "things" on my schedule, like gym and book club and whatever - even things I like. And to not have the expectation of doing something, going somewhere in the break was great too. And like you, not having to pop out to buy things we may have run out of either. It feels freeing. Lucinda
Evi said…
Oh yes yes yes!!!! I was just telling the Best Man this the other day - I love to see my friends but there's just too much social activity to keep up with! And I'm a reasonably social soul who is inspired by others doings and thoughts! I go when I'm invited but often I'd really rather stay home and have them visit me on the odd occasion. This lull has certainly made me realise that I'm not quite as social as I had thought and I'm relishing not being able to go for coffee or join in with a gathering or visit because social etiquette demands it. And I'm pushing out the shopping day as long as I can, although I think thats partly because its so gloomy with all the one way aisles and rules!
Thanks for the enlightening explanation.....I am a sociable introvert ;)
Jo said…
Loretta, yes, those video calls are tiring, aren't they? So much concentration required. But a social etiquette dilemma indeed. I carefully never installed zoom which resolves that problem for me. Paul and I installed Discord, but then we decided we'd rather chat on the phone.

Gretchen Joanna, having builders in is a privilege of the more fortunate, no doubt about it, but not necessarily while they are actually in the house. And yes, the phoning and arranging, eek, also not my forte. I'm with you in feeling that many things are best left to a time when they will happen 'naturally' without me having to make a phone call:)

Lucinda, all the best for all the difficulties you are now contending with in your working life. I hope your break set you up a little bit for the this term. Thank you to all you peeps who work in education xxx

Evi, it's so interesting, isn't it, that so many of us feel the same way. I honestly expected some pushback on this particular topic after coming out as so curmudgeonly..

Popular Posts