So, I’m in the kitchen, washing the dishes and going about my usual Friday getting-ready-for-Shabbes routine when I think about a funny thread on Facebook and laugh out loud. Yitzchak, my 13 year-old, asks me why I’m laughing, and I tell him the truth: I wrote something funny on a Facebook thread and thinking about it cracks me up. He chides me, as he always does, for laughing at my own jokes.
Full disclosure: I enjoy my own company. I make myself laugh.
Nu. So what’s wrong with this picture?
It’s true I’m somewhat of a recluse. I work from home and feel kind of timid about going places. I need encouragement to leave my four walls and see real live people.
But there’s a reason for that.
Obeisant and docile
Years ago, I lived on a hilltop settlement led by a charismatic religious figure. I lived there for a long time. It was a cult.
I wasn’t one of the believers, so I was treated as a pariah. In fact, I was once called in for a meeting with the cult’s leader, who told me that when the settlement was only a dream, three women had come to him and begged him not to let me come live there — they feared me.
I was only there by his merciful grace.
He knew how to look inside of you and see your secret fears. He knew that not being liked by my peers was my biggest bugaboo, and so he played on that to get leverage over me and keep me obeisant and docile.
For years, I looked at my neighbors and tried to think which one of them had begged him not to let me live on the settlement. I would even sometimes relate the story, ending with, “And to this day, I still don’t know which three women asked that I not join the settlement.”
Then I would watch their faces and body language for a “tell.”
There never was a tell.
I finally figured out that it had never happened. No one had ever complained about me. No one had ever said, as the cult leader claimed, that I was feared by the other women. It was just a head game he was playing with me.
The effect of this mind game was to turn me into a recluse, unsure of myself, afraid to put myself out there and gauge my effect on others, afraid to attempt to make friendships. I stayed at home and read and read and read until the used book store told my husband — sent on yet another book-scouting trip for me — that there were no more books in the store I had not yet read.
Only once we thankfully left that horrid mountaintop with its sad dogmatic Moonies did I find that I could make and keep friends. I found out that people thought I was smart, funny, and talented, and that I had a voice: my own unique perspective and my own way of looking at things.
I thank God every day that I am not on that mountaintop. I love my life today. But I did gain something from that experience: I learned how to be comfortable with my own company and to appreciate my own brand of humor and intelligence.
The time of my life
It may sound a little vain, but the truth is, in some ways, I’m my own best friend. So if you hear me giggling when I think I’m by myself, it’s no mistake. I am by myself. And I’m having a grand time — the time of my life.