I don’t know about you, but I find people kind of exhausting. Hard for me to admit. Not as hard as it used to be.
It’s not that I don’t like people (some). There are a few I could mention of whom I feel extraordinarily fond. Plenty of others I like quite a bit. Some more I like a bit. A few more, I tolerate. Still more …
You get the picture.
I don’t mean to be lopsided. I am aware that not everyone likes me. Which I am also more okay with than I used to be. Although I am still further away than I would like from not giving a damn about the opinion of others.
The long winded point I am trying to make is that I sometimes find it taxing to be around people, often because of the judgement that is flowing both ways. And also because of my introversion. It’s only in latter years I’ve discovered that the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that an extrovert feels energized by being around others while an introvert feels depleted. Nothing really to do with being shy.
So who do I turn to when I want a little non-judgy, easy-to-be-with, non-draining company?
The animals in my life.
I’m not talking solely about pets, although these do loom largely. There is something about the unfailing optimism of a dog that makes the longest and hardest day dissolve into nothingness. They don’t care if you’ve ****** up, at work or in a relationship. They wag their tales and lick your hand regardless. No one can tell me my dogs can’t read my mind, getting visibly excited about an upcoming walk when it is merely a thought in my head. And sensing my sadness with a sympathetic, deep brown gaze or a warm, heavy chin on the lap.
The cat is different. He is half wild, which is what I like about him. He sits there like a zen master, eyes closed but ever alert, never fully sleeping. He is statue still, save for the slight ripples of breath that pass through him. And when he purrs … the noise travels through me and thrills my inner self, as I feel his comfort and satisfaction and therefore remember my own. Even the hamster in her daily doings … She goes about her business so instinctively, knowing exactly who she is, not doubting her purpose. Just being.
I take my daughters horse riding on Saturday mornings. And when they’re in their lesson, I sneak out for some therapy. My favourite is an Appaloosa, speckled as an egg. I imagine he knows me as he nods his head over the stable door. I run my hand down his long, equine nose and follow the curve of his velveteen cheek, his muscled neck. He nuzzles into me and I nestle into a horsy hug which lasts as along as the time I have or until someone appears with his food. The breathing is rhythmic and calming and I know that he can track my heartbeat.
The breathing of large animals is always grounding, even a group of cows will do, their heads extending over a neighbouring wall. Life is here. It does not judge.
I live close to the national reptile zoo, bring children there whenever I get an excuse. Do you find it hard to believe that I find it soothing to be around snakes, lizards and snapping turtles? Because I find it strange myself. But I’ve found that these creatures have a presence also. An innate dignity that exists in all animals but can be sadly lacking in some humans. This talent for being, not trying to be. It smooths out all the wrinkles in my soul. Fills me up again, so I am better prepared to handle those people who have forgotten who they are.