Standing in the kitchen just now, mixing up a bowl of cornbread, I suddenly realized that over the course of the last five years I have slowly but surely withdrawn from people more and more.
I was thinking about the Enneagram, actually, and how Type 4 (which I am) is a Withdrawn Type (along with Types 5 & 9). I was also thinking about how we humans tend to use the same strategies over and over again in life, even if those strategies are undermining our happiness, or are against our own self-interest. Over and over we keep trying the same thing, it keeps not working, or not working in the way we expected, and yet we keep on doing it.
As I get ready to change my life--quit both my jobs, leave my living situation--I am asking myself what the best way to proceed is. Am I just doing something that I've done over and over before, thinking that this time it will work? If so, what is that thing? And what do I think the thing will get me? What am I missing? What are my blindspots? Is there any way at all that I could do it differently this time?
Thinking about all that, and remembering that 4s are a Withdrawn Type, I had that realization, that I've withdrawn from most of the people I know. I keep in touch with very few people now, compared to the wide swath of folks I used to email and handwrite regularly. It's been largely an intentional decision, too. I quit Facebook two years ago. I made my longtime blog private three years ago. I withdrew from much of my family. All those things were self-protective measures, and I don't regret dong them. I've become a much, much more private person than I'd ever been before, and that's felt like a healthy change. The privacy has allowed me to change in ways I needed to, without much of an audience.
The desire to live my life audience-free is a stronger and stronger desire in my life. Simultaneously, my desire to engage with others, participate with others, has also intensified. I want engagement, not performance. I realize that's a perhaps false distinction (I'm very aware of this because I live part-time with a professional dancer!), but it's a useful distinction for me lately, especially in a culture where such a high value is placed on performance (everything from hookup culture to Instagram relies on the high social currency of performance).
I wonder if I needed to withdraw for a period of time, in order to clarify who I am (and become more who I am), so that I could then re-engage from a different place, from a different narrative? I'm not sure yet. I know that in many ways I like my quite solitary and isolated existence. And in many ways I am lonely as fuck. I like how self-reliant I am. Sometimes my deep self-reliance seems like it works against me. Against my own even deeper desires, for closeness and interconnection, for example. I do know one thing: although almost everyone I meet also wants connection, almost no one I've ever met really has the wisdom and courage and stamina and fortitude and willpower and discipline and sense of humor to overcome all the obstacles to connection.
The Enneagram has taught me so much. One of the things it hasn't managed to each me is why things are as they are. Why do we undermine ourselves? Why do we act directly against the things we most want?