Sunday, 9 June 2019

Extra humans

Hello.



Today I wanted to tell you about an important resource I've had since early childhood — an invisible supply of extra humans — that I thought might also be useful to you.

My family and friends, and the people in my church, are the most kind and loving tribe imaginable, but even so there are times when I need more support than they can offer me, and this is when my secret supply of extra humans comes in handy.

I began making up stories with imaginary friends when I was a very small child, and peopled my hours and days with their company. My first set of characters (at about four years old) was derivative — 'Melia, Pip and Roundy, lifted from Enid Blyton's Amelia Jane stories. Aged around seven, I moved on to people of my own creating, at that age a cowboy called Bob with a sinister antagonist who went by the name of Mr Beesley. I severed deliberately from Bob in my early teens and went on to a new set of friends, wild gangsters about whom I wrote my first (thirteen-year-old), attempt at a novel. I left them all behind, and tossed adrift on life's turbulent waves all on my own, until I had just turned thirty, a young mother, somewhat marooned and isolated from adult company by the daily responsibility of five small children to care for. 

I imagined, for the consolation of their company, the monastic community of St Alcuin brought into the wider world in my Hawk & Dove series of novels. 

I completed that series of nine books a few years ago, but the community continues to travel with me through everyday life. We still share our problems just as we did when I was writing the stories, and find solutions together. All kinds of things have happened to them since the events stopped being written down.

During this last year I've been working hard (and successfully) to address health challenges, and my supply of extra humans has helped me. For example, I know I should walk and exercise more than I do, but for reasons beyond the scope of this post that's not always easy. Recently I hit upon the solution of walking with Abbot John. He's quiet and calm and cheerful, nice to be with. He walks slowly enough for me. He makes an excellent companion. One day I think I will go for a walk with Father Theodore, because although he doesn't say much his insights are always worth hearing. I think I might learn from him as we walk along.

They are always willing to go with me when I have steep challenges to face like preaching or taking funerals. Sometimes they will even do it for me, which is restful.

Father William helps me with finance and Brother Cormac is very practical — and honest. Brother Conradus is always willing to listen and has a cheerful outlook on life. I think if I ever have to go to a party (this rarely happens, I am very reclusive) I might stealthily send Father Francis instead of myself; no one will know I have done it, but the event might more smoothly proceed.

For you, to understand your particular life challenges, a woman may be a better companion than a man. My story called The Clear Light of Day has Esme and Seer Ember in it, and they are interesting friends to walk with; but I still find Jabez gentler company — more helpful really — though Ember is certainly brisk and bracing!

I do sometimes wonder if this may be some kind of dissociative disorder (cf Martha Stout's work etc), but at least, if so, it seems to be constructive and benign.


I have a tap root of longing for my sangha, my community, and have always been attracted to groups with strong binding identities, like the Amish or monastic foundations or other intentional communities. I feel strongly drawn to those who have uniform observant dress; I can see that it allows a person to rest quietly inside the communal identity as a protective shell. I detect in myself longings and regrets for tribal versions of such an identity in the family into which I married and the branch of it I raised. But the tribe moved on and left me behind, and the ones I raised turned out strong-minded and highly individual — they did not want to move through life as a shoal. So, as one must, I lifted my desires off them and let them all go. But still I carry my invented community inside me, and wherever we go we all travel together and arrive in a posse; and this strengthens me.

I'm telling you all this in case you too are HSP, or an anxious or low-energy person, and find life momentous and hard to do. If that's you, then either you may be able to find some extra humans to come alongside you in my stories, or if those don't work for you then you may be able to people your inner world from the resources of your own imagination. It helps, and is handily quiet and invisible so that people don't think you have gone mad, as they might if they found you in a corner muttering to yourself, "It's okay. Keep calm. You're doing fine", etc..




15 comments:

Rebecca said...

Thanks for this tip! I have some of the same challenges and desperate ly could use a "community"!

Pen Wilcock said...

:0)

May your extra humans bring you strength and peace. x

Patricia said...

I found this very reassuring. I am not mad after all.!!

Pen Wilcock said...

No? Perhaps we both are . . .

Elin said...

My imagination has saved my life many times, I am convinced of that. As a child I would perhaps drift too much into an alternate reality that I could sometimes have trouble knowing what was true and what was not. As an adult I have no trouble with that but the drift into some of my "worlds" is an important part of what keeps me sane. Reality is somehow not enough and quite enough at the same time when I have my inner worlds too. There are people too in these worlds and they do in some way form imaginary friends. As a child I had the type that visited this world too but they seem to be gone but you never know if they will return at some point.

Pen Wilcock said...

What you say there — "the drift into some of my "worlds" is an important part of what keeps me sane" — that strikes a chord with me. It is the way I think things through, evaluate; and also how I manage the challenges of the solitude an HSP needs.

greta said...

which brings to mind the saints - st. joseph and st. francis are constant companions, as is the blessed mother. but also, ryokan, the little 18th century zen poet and miss clare who lives in fairacre. they all get along quite well as we travel the road together!

Pen Wilcock said...

That sounds such a brilliant band of fellow travellers! St Joseph — does he speak? In the gospels, he is entirely silent! Francis I know and love, and Our Lady, but not Miss Clare or Ryokan — I'm going to seek their acquaintance!

The Mother Abyss said...

Paracosms are important...

Pen Wilcock said...

Ooh — good word! Yes, they are indeed. Paracosmic friends!

greta said...

st. joe does NOT speak but he keeps me company. he DOES, however, leaping into action when i need help. you will love ryokan's gentle spirit. he has a sense of childlike fun as well as a love of poverty, much like st. francis. as for miss clare, she is just a peach.

Pen Wilcock said...

I am very interested to know Joseph is as quiet off the Bible's pages as he is in them. And just as good at rescue. I looked up Ryokan, and did indeed love him. You have some good guests gathered round your table there.

Buzzfloyd said...

I have several inner worlds where I tell myself stories. I spend too much time in them, I think, but the alternative would be to become crazy. I used to think maybe I *was* crazy because of it, but I've recently learned that this inner world-building and role-playing is extremely common among autistic women, particularly those with PDA. I found that interesting. I read about dissociative disorder, and concluded that I don't have that, but that I do use disassociation as a coping mechanism for anxiety almost exclusively. It's a very safe one that also helps you to learn and understand other people and situations, so I continue to do so.

Unknown said...

and you can find miss clare best presented in 'miss clare remembers' by miss read.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Buzzfloyd — thank you, that's a most interesting and helpful evaluation. I can well believe that "world building and role playing is extremely common among autistic women" — it makes a connective bridge that enables participation in situations one would otherwise need to leave.

Hi Greta — Thank you! That's the one I'll start with, then.