Reflections on my time living in community

I’m not sure how I managed to live in community for over two years. I lived with up to 6 people in a house that also hosted classes, events, and gatherings. I never calculated the amount of alone time I actually got, but I do know it was low.

On one hand, I had moments where I felt really connected to others.  I felt like I belonged and grateful to be a part of something. On the other, I am an introvert and only child with Sensory Processing Disorder. The amount of input was constant; frequent interactions, disagreements and discussions were inevitable.

I remember being in the hospital and one of the group facilitators saying, “This isn’t like home, where you can just go and relax…”  My thought then:  Where I live, I don’t have much downtime or relaxation.

The main quiet time I carved out for myself was in the early mornings. I’d wake up to meditate and do yoga before anyone else was up. There was a subtle magic to the three-story Victorian house during these times. Once the others woke up and the daily activities started, the house felt much more full and it became harder to feel my own energy.

The only way I think I could have lasted so long was that I (mostly) unconsciously shut part of myself down, the part of me that required quiet alone time. I turned the volume down on the part of me that needed to reduce stimulation in order to return to center.

I remember savoring the moments when everyone else would leave and I’d have the house all to myself.  I would relish the lull in activity. I managed better when I had opportunities to go quiet inside myself, take frequent walks in the neighborhood, and spend the occasional night away. However, as time went by, those moments could not replace the benefit of extended alone time.

I think that the amount of consistent input over time may have contributed to my increased shutdowns, meltdowns, and depression.

When I returned to my hometown, living with just one other person, I was stunned by how quiet it was in comparison. Constant interaction no longer felt like a requirement. I began to realize how overloaded I really had felt, and perhaps had chosen not to notice.

I think that living in that type of community can be beneficial for some people. It’s not a good fit for me.  I can live apart and still be a part.  I know myself better now, and I’m not inclined to repeat the experience.

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