The Joy of Coming Home
I have a lot of interests. I love dancing, acting, yoga, aerial acrobatics, writing (obviously), reading books, reading articles, learning new things, playing guitar, singing, playing piano, watching films, watching TV, arts and crafts, going to galleries and museums, going to talks and lectures, listening to podcasts, going on walks, being in nature, visiting new places... you get the picture. I like a lot of things. I also love seeing my friends and family, naturally.
But most of these things require me to leave the house. Yes, I could spend my days inside, reading and playing my guitar and listening to podcasts (and, tbh, that is how I spend a lot of my time). But even I, lover of solitude and routine, need to venture outside sometimes. If only to buy milk.
I experience a lot of anxiety going out. The outside world is loud and smelly and unpredictable. I shut the front door behind me with the knowledge that I will likely be confused, scared, and/or overwhelmed at some point before I return. It's a daily battle to even get over the threshold. But, like I said, I like a lot of things. I have hobbies that require me to leave. And, I suppose, that's for the best. I might grow cobwebs in here otherwise.
I also, like everyone else, have times when I have to leave the house and don't want to. Recently I had to go out to dinner. I mean, I didn't have to, I suppose. But it was one of those engagements that I felt like I couldn't say no to. (This issue of not saying 'no' deserves it's own blog post/ series of posts which I'm sure will come at some point, but for now let's just agree that we all know the feeling.) The person I was seeing is very lovely, but I had little inclination to make the effort in exchange for what I knew the cost would be.
As I said, just the anticipation of what I will struggle with can make it difficult to make it out of the house. Once I'm out, there is a bombardment on the senses: too many people on the pavements, it's too hot on the tube and too cold outside, too noisy everywhere. I get to the restaurant and it's loud. Loud even for a central London restaurant - the music is blaring and I have to shout, like you do in a club, in order to be heard by my friend sitting about a foot away. Halfway through dinner I go to the toilet, as much for a break as anything, and I spend a moment sat on the loo, trying to relax my jaw which has tensed up and is giving me a headache. I think of ways I can get away soon.
Luckily both of us have to leave fairly early (they have somewhere to be and I have "somewhere to be"), so I say goodbye and, with relief, put my headphones on, wrap my scarf around me, and pace it back to the tube station with an I'm-walking-as-fast-as-I-can-without-looking-like-I'm-running-away-from-you stride.
The feeling I get sitting on the train home is what I call my Autie Guilt. I am afraid that people will think I don't like them, or am rude, or am a weird super-introvert hermit person (that part may be true). But the truth is, it's just too hard for me. The cost can be humungous, particularly in a loud restaurant like that night. When I get back home, after an hour round trip and two hours at dinner, I collapse on the sofa next to my boyfriend (who is quietly lamenting over the football) and take stock of how I'm feeling.
My jaw hurts. I have a headache. Not just from the jaw clenching, but the shouting and the volume in the restaurant, too. My eyes are blurry (my most reliable indicator of exhaustion). I don't take my coat or bag off for about 30 minutes because I don't have the energy. I mentally go through my plans for tomorrow and think about what I'll realistically be able to do. (Deep down I know tomorrow is likely to be a write-off because I'm so tired, but I'm stubborn and hope that that's not the case.)
It's easy to get disheartened, and I often do. I want to have the ability to go out and do a million things and not feel like I've been run over by a bus afterwards. But I don't. So instead I try to find the positive in the situation I'm in.
There's a really annoying quote from Eckhart Tolle that several of my yoga teachers have preached over the years: 'Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.' It makes me want to give my most withering expression and roll my eyes. But, even more annoyingly than the quote itself, I think he has a point.
I can't change my limitations. I have tried. It did not work. In fact, it failed spectacularly. So, how do I accept them as if I had chosen them? One of the ways is in appreciating the joy I feel when I come home. I'm sure few people experience the level of relief that I do when close that door behind me. I'm in my refuge. My safe space. I don't have to mask anymore. It is quiet and warm (or will be when I've prepared my hot water bottle and wheat bag and made a cup of tea). I put on the lights the way I like them and get under my fluffy blanket and gradually decompress from the outside world.
It is frustrating and upsetting that I find the outside world such a difficult place to be sometimes, particularly when I have so many hobbies and interests that I want to enjoy. But it is blissful when I return, so I try to enjoy that part as much as possible.
I got back after that dinner and my boyfriend made me a cup of tea (when it was half time) and I put on my comfy clothes and hunkered down for the rest of the evening. I'm sure for most people the dinner would be the highlight of their evening, and I'm glad I went. But for me, coming home was the highlight. And I guess I'm lucky that my home is the place that brings me so much joy.