I lived in a nearby city in 2003, but I was too busy with work and school and the Wynnes (my spiritual family whose then-teenage children I chauffeured around in exchange for room & board) and my then-boyfriend (my now-partner) to spend time on anything else. Then in 2004 I began going to counseling to work through sexual abuse, and became mildly agoraphobic -- and in 2005 I was VERY agoraphobic and paranoid. It was difficult for me to leave the house even with my partner, I couldn't step outside alone (not even a step) without feeling panic, and when the mailperson came to the door I ran into the bedroom, closed the door, and waited with heart pounding until I was sure ze was gone. All of my energy those two years went into healing, and I didn't really have any energy to spend on anything else. 2006 I started to get better -- Ash and I became close friends and Hannah and I became soulfriends, and having someone who really understood me (Hannah) and someone who I could share everything with (Ash) plus my partner and of course my LJ friends fulfilled my need for companionship, so I didn't go looking for others. That year ended very badly, and I started out 2007 in a deep depression. That year I tried several times to find new local friends but it just didn't work (for reasons I'll explain later). 2008 was amazing, with HUGE steps forward in my relationship with my partner, having a relationship with Aurilion, having a short-lived but intense friendship with Ava, having even more amazing LJ-friends, spending time with Hannah and Nick, and finally meeting Kate in person. That fueled this amazing shift in me.
After going through the hard parts of recovery (the agoraphobia/paranoia), it became really difficult for me to be around people. I'm not sure why -- maybe because part of me opened up and I sensed things that I had been closed to before -- but it really drained me, no matter how much I liked the person. To put it another way, being around a person took 100 points of energy, but most interactions only gave me about 30 points of energy. So unless it was a truly miraculous meeting, one where absolutely EVERYTHING clicked and I felt that the person and I had mutual affection, trust, understanding, and motivations AND felt sure that we were building a relationship which would last (an experience that most people would describe as 'meeting your soulmate'), it ended up draining me a lot and making it an experience that I feared and dreaded, even though it WAS enjoyable. (even the miraculous meetings drained me, just not as much) So in 2007 when I was looking for new local friends I would meet someone and it would be fun, but it would drain me and I just wouldn't feel like it was worth the effort of doing again.
But 2008 changed that. While being flooded with so much energy from all the miraculous happenings of that year, a void in me that had existed for as long as I can remember was finally filled and I was able to learn how to better use that energy. It's like I was growing in drought for so long, and then I finally had a fully nourishing year -- now I have a much more effective root system and can draw water in even though I am in a mild drought again. And now it only takes me 50 points of energy to be around a person, so I can enjoy interactions that are just good or great (not miraculous) without feeling utterly drained afterward. (usually there is still a gap which makes it more draining than nourishing (since I find sexism very draining and almost everyone is sexist), but it's a small gap now and I can pretty easily make up for it)
It was a really big deal for me to go to the pagan meeting a few weeks ago -- to go out alone to a new place, at night, where I would know only one person, and knew that I would be driving home alone in the cold and dark through a part of town that I'm not familiar with. And it was a little scary, but not terrifying, and it took effort, but not a debilitating amount -- and I felt REFRESHED afterward rather than drained. It was an even BIGGER deal for me to go to the drum circle -- because I invited two people (one a near-stranger), organized it, and followed through, including driving to a new place, EVEN THOUGH I didn't feel good. It used to be that I would want to do something, but wouldn't make plans -- and then when I did make plans, would stress out so much that I got physically ill and then used that as a reason to back out. This time I went through with it even though I was on the first day of my period (when I usually never leave the house). And that was life-alteringly wonderful!
I'm so thrilled that these things don't take SO MUCH from me nowadays. (it's still difficult -- still a stretch -- but not prohibitively so) Even if I end up transplanted soon, I'm going to put down some community roots here, because I can, finally, and because I will be back.