I think I’m a solitary creature, unsocial, a hermitess. I love living alone (with dogs.) I’ve typically endured more than enjoyed my housemates, during any era in my life. Sadly, I didn’t understand this about myself when I was trying to understand the “why isn’t this marriage working?” problems of my youth. I’m pretty good at long-distance and remote (writing!) relationships, but face-to-face, I’m never exactly sure how to relate to people. I can be amusing, or an organizer, but that’s exhausting for everyone. I usually prefer solitude, books, writing, dogs, and gardens over human chitchat. However, two glaring contradictions rise in protest as I think about this.
First, my current circles are huge. I’m on the fringes of many circles, and have many useful relationships with people based on shared interests. I’m important to people in many circles. I’ve lived in the same town a long time. But, that’s not the main thing that’s bugging me.
No, the strange thing is the sheer guessable quantity of known-by-name persons I have known in my lifetime. That population is greater than I can grok, overwhelms me if I seriously consider my long life of peopling. I’m staggering with evidence of this today, because I dragged the last of the bound journals in from the garage. With them is a stack of index cards, about two hundred of them, on which at various times in the 80’s, I tried to catalog my human interactions by name. Some cards contain nothing but a name, now meaningless to me. I apparently once knew someone named Joyce Dahms. She’s a mystery. Lots of these cards have nothing but a name, and yet many of those undescribed names recall a person who was important, sometimes huge, for me. Others have nice little notes, about where I met them, what they looked like, or personality traits. Classes, jobs; pretty, rough; loud, shy, funny. The notes seldom help me remember someone if the name doesn’t click into place first.
When I was twenty-three, I hand-wrote a list of names on two sheets of notebook paper. There were more than three hundred names, representing everyone I could remember from the time I first began learning people’s names. Beginning in childhood; Jackie G–, who lived across the street in Sinnemahoning, PA when I was five. This list went from PA names to WA names, tracking the Air Force marriage, our friends in Texas and Germany, into my brief real estate career and then, the early years of my bartender life. That list has been lost for a long time now.
I’ve grieved the loss of that list, have searched hard for it in some moves, but feel resigned. One of the worst times in my mostly lovely life with Will was when he would not relax and let me take the time to sort my papers from the bus when I did my archival burnings there on Harvey’s land. This reminds me that I want to contact the Skagit land trust folks and visit those forests. Oh my gosh, my circles overflow.