When I was a child (in the days before the glut of information available at a moment’s notice on the internet), there were times that I was stone-bored. Some of these times made me very creative about inventing games, but others I invested time in things like reading the dictionary (I got up to the letter P before I got frustrated at how many words I couldn’t recall and I stopped.). We had a set of Time/Life Encyclopedias that I would browse, and some scattered science-y books around that I would attempt to decipher. When the boredom got super-bad, I would even read the TV Guide.
Every Sunday morning at 5 o’clock am there was a show on called Mass For Shut-Ins. Coming from the background I did, I had absolutely no idea what this meant. It was a mystery to me the first time I saw it, and then when I saw that it was a repeating program, the mystery grew. I had no context for any of these words, so I did my best to guess based on other similar words I did know. What could “mass” be? Was it like “massive”? Or did it mean mass in the sense of how big and heavy something was? Could it mean masses of people or was it more like the word “amass”, like one could amass wealth? None of these really made sense as a Sunday morning TV show, but I tried to puzzle out the rest.
What could a “Shut-In” possibly be? Like a shutter on a house? That was the closest I could come to anything reasonable. Shut-In didn’t sound even remotely like any other word I knew, so I was kind of at a stand-still on that one. I knew what it was to shut something obviously, but shutting something in didn’t make any sense. And it certainly didn’t go with any of the definitions I could come up with for the first word (Mass). So I was just stuck.
As an adult, I finally learned about Catholic Mass, and at some point I heard the term “shut-in” used for a person who was homebound due to illness or injury. It was a big Aha moment for me, and things finally clicked into place that the TV network was offering a televised church service for folks who couldn’t get out of their house to attend worship. (Why it was at 5 am I still don’t know, but okay, that isn’t my problem…)
Recently I had another Aha moment, but it was less of a Wow moment and more of a Oh, Dear moment. I realized that I have become a shut-in myself. And while I don’t need televised church services, I took a mental inventory of all the things I do need to support my life as a homebound person and it’s a little alternate universe-twilight zone. I was speaking to a friend from Detroit who was running errands and I was very nostalgic, and she was asking me where I get this and that in Seattle and I was like, “Uh, nowhere because I don’t really leave the house…” She was kind of incredulous, and she was reminding me of all the things I used to do in Detroit (in spite of being sick) and I said, “Well, it isn’t really like that for me in Seattle.”
I had to do a real self-assessment to figure out if I am sicker or just a malingerer. Am I worse off or just being a drama queen? What changed since we lived in Detroit that made me a homebound person when in Detroit I was, at least sometimes, functional?
After a lot of reflection, I will tell you that it is a true and real thing that my life is smaller here than it has ever been before. That isn’t a bad thing; it is what it is. A lot of people are horrified: Don’t you go stir-crazy being at home??? Well, the answer is no. I enjoy being at home, and I’m quite happy within my four walls. I do get frustrated by the amount of things I am not able to do on a day-to-day basis, but I am not inherently bothered by being a homebody. Perhaps if I felt better I would be more on edge with excess energy I needed to burn off by getting out and about, but for now when I feel mediocre on a very good day, I am perfectly happy to take it easy and try to just manage my home to the best of my ability.
One of the things I do miss, though, is being an interesting person. When people are out in the world, they encounter other people and sights and sounds that spark their imagination. They see and do things that have the ability to inspire them and make them think about things in different ways. At home, I am me, myself, and I.
HOWEVER… I realized within the last few days that I have been selling my life short. When my mental acuity is present and accounted for, I can listen to lectures online. I can read articles and look things up. I had forgotten about all of this, because I have been feeling so crummy for so long that my mind has been preoccupied with things like keeping down food and staying calm around my kids. When your body is in survival mode it is really tough (read: not possible) to dig deep enough to find extra resources to expand your mind or increase your intellectual pursuits. But now I feel like I am (hopefully) climbing out of the hole a bit. And I am hoping to take advantage of this newfound state of grace to make my life a bit more rewarding. I am also hoping that will translate into me becoming a little more interesting.
I guess the proof (or lack thereof) will be on this page, so stay tuned…