Skeeter and various other devices (computer, tablet) are my companions in solitude. I'm still aware of the loss of coordination (speech, gait, hands), but they aren't. It can be easier to be in the company of inanimate objects. I don't need to give them any thought or consideration. Ironic that that's important to me, given that no one in my life makes any demands on my time.
I've come to differentiate peaceful solitude from lonely isolation–I don't think I grasped the difference when I was young. I always thought the more people around, the better–even as a shy child. I still prefer being with people and enjoy social occasions. My important peeps know about my Ataxia and don't care. I'm grateful for that. But, I don't foresee a time when I don't think about how my struggles appear to others, however close they are. In solitude, I can choose to not care.
Solitude may afford me the opportunity to figure things out on my own but, some day it's going to backfire on me. Family and friends always struggle with offering just the right amount of help–too little, too much, too early, too late? I'm often the one to get it wrong. I remember my children, hearing me fall out in the garage, trying to decide whether to ask if I needed help. I'd always said, "Trust me. If I need help, I'll ask." They could hear me on one side of the door and I could hear them. I should have just told them I was OK. Elizabeth gave in, checked that I was conscious, intact, and then went back in the house. Sometimes you just have to say, "Oh, to hell with it," and do what you think is best, no matter what a person with disabilities says. Life's too short to spend worrying about emotion when the physical is more urgent.
One morning, I met my friends for our customary breakfast club. Afterward, Jackie walked me to my car and reluctantly left me to get into my car and drive home. Tripping over a sidewalk crack, I promptly fell head over rollator onto my face and into the street. After ascertaining that nothing was broken and I had all my teeth, my next thought was, "Thank God there's no one around!" That sounds a bit self–destructive and if indeed I had hurt myself, I would have been grateful for the help. But, I was able to get in the car and drive home, thinking about how I was going to explain my face. Aside from the facial abrasions, I made Angelina Jolie look thin-lipped. My vanity needed to be put aside for awhile.
It's hard to deal with another personality change–the increase in “touchiness”. I was always known for not being sensitive (as opposed to insensitive). I've noticed that sensitivity increases as solitude decreases. On occasion, I have to give myself the surreptitious "timeout". If you are Ataxic, you’re also assumed to be unhealthy, demented or deaf (prior posts). I have to make a special effort not to sarcastically snap, "Thanks for the tip!", my sister-in-law's "Ooh–ooh, let me write that down" or my personal favorite, "Gee, I never thought of that". I'd like to say I don't, but I do–often. After all, I am my mother's daughter and she was such a smart ass. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t have the same “freedom to fail” that other people have. Not that I want to...break a glass, fall, forget, etc...but I’d like to at least be able to without the event being attributable to Ataxia, even though it probably is.
Although I've always been easy-going and friendly, I find I need to be more thoughtful toward that end now. I do want family and friends to look forward to being around me, rather than dreading the encounters. One challenge is convincing people that leaving me home in solitude is not punitive, without seeming to be reclusive or becoming reclusive. Skeeter has made a major improvement, as I have a way to venture out more. But, I still love quiet solitude and have learned to enjoy my own company (never thought that would happen).
I am, by nature, a nice person, but Ataxia has caused me to be an occasional stinker. I ran into a former co-worker in the grocery store last week. Fortunately, I had makeup on, so when she (trying to be gracious) said, "Tammy! You look good!" I took a deep breath, paused, and said "Thanks" instead of "How the @#*& should I look?" When I got home–timeout! All I can rely on is that I'm not known for being a stinker. When I am, I hope the unwitting victim remembers that.
The lesson: “What a lovely surprise to discover how un-lonely being alone can be.”–Ellen Burstyn
"Carry a cellphone"–Tammy Schuman