I was surprised when I began to recognize the strong need that was growing within me to pull back from many of the relationships and activities that had defined me for a long time. It wasn't that I wanted to permanently step away from all of these things, but rather that I felt an increasing lack of energy and drive for them.
At the time I had been active and busy, feeling successful enough, enjoying my work and relationships and all of the trappings of the life and identity I had crafted. I began to have very little desire to socialize or work on hobbies and activities that I had enjoyed, and felt very unmotivated. I went to work every day and took part in a minimum of activities, and even those were a chore. I didn't even want to write. Thank goodness that my husband and I have had almost thirty years of witnessing each others' processes and learning to trust them, or I think he would have been wondering who this new person was and where his wife had gone.
I started hearing the word "hermit" in my head because that is what I was beginning to feel like, and it felt foreign and negative, mostly because I thought a hermit was someone who couldn't deal with people and was forced to isolate himself from life. I didn't want to be a hermit; I wanted to be me in my familiar life with its typical interactions and responses, anxieties and validations. I wanted to be comfortable in "my place," secure in where I fit in to the big picture.
In looking back I can see the wisdom in pulling back from what I thought I knew about who I am, but at the time it was very disconcerting because I had no idea where it would take me. I was afraid to stop interacting in the world as I was, and getting the responses that I was used to getting, because those responses from others proved to me that I exist, and that who I have become would be allowed to stay.
I got to a point where I recognized the wisdom of this urging to slow down and pull back into myself as the same quiet but insistent voice that has guided me many times in my life in a direction that I had no conscious awareness of wanting or needing to go. I only know that it speaks to my heart and I must follow, and it is not always comfortable.
And so I sat with the discomfort of feeling like what I thought was important maybe wasn't, that the characteristics that made me me probably didn't, uncertain about my own deepest needs and priorities and fears beyond the persona that I had thought was all of me.
I allowed the hermit within me to express as fully as possible and spent a lot of time alone. I tried to listen carefully to my feelings and what my body needed. I tried to give myself as much compassion and space as I possibly could through the process. I tried to find a way to just be with myself in the middle of all of it, and not try to escape into busyness or distraction. I realized just how loud the doubts and fears were when I stopped being so busy. And I managed to mostly stay with it, not gently and peacefully, but with an ever growing amount of awareness.
I recognize the gifts that this time has brought. In tarot the hermit card means introspection and looking for answers within, a solitary quest in which answers do not lie in the material world but within us.
It allowed me to explore the question of who I am, if I'm not my personal tendencies and habits, my relationships, my trappings, the way I look, my job, my particular abilities and handicaps, my loves and prejudices, my fears and hates and hopes. It allowed me to find that place where I am all of these things and none of them, and where I can hold that dichotomy as the truth of myself.
Honoring the hermit within me helped me increase my ability to honor myself in all of my parts and shifting shades; a spectrum of color living in me and as me, the full range of darkness to light.