January 2014, Argentine summer
I feel an odd half-death in the city, the only life to interact with is other people. The wind is tainted with the exhaust of a million vehicles. Each one taking the road signs and stop lights as mere suggestions, impatiently honking their horns as they pass on all sides at frightening speeds.
Concrete boxes of all shapes and sizes define the shape and landscape of this place. A whiff of something sweet comes from strategically planted trees. Miniature manicured gardens attempt to disguise the protective gates that keep out strangers. The dirtiness of the sidewalk competes with the gardeners, with its haphazard trash strewn about and the droppings from dogs that careless owners refuse to pick up.
A kiss for a greeting but no greeting without an introduction. Finding joy is complex. Individual interactions on the street or in a store are purely transactions amongst strangers, no honest pleasantries are exchanged with the cashier and each person goes their own way in this crowded metropolis. Without extroverted energy you will find yourself alone, even when uncomfortably pressed against dozens of people on an overcrowded bus.
The city forces me to face uncomfortable truths. Truths about myself. Venturing outside means, without fail, encountering hundreds or even thousands of people. Going for a calming stroll requires walking past countless strangers who are going through the motions of their own lives. There is kindness in the hearts of the people, but it is fleeting. Literally, it goes as quickly as it comes as the millions of people continue rushing through the streets.
Instead of taking the opportunity to meet new and interesting people, I find myself needing more and more time for myself. My energy is drained by the constant need to behave extrovertly. I renew myself through solitary swims at night in the pool, but often someone arrives during my rejuvenation process and the presence of another soul halts my inner progress.
My natural introversion has come out in its full form since moving to this gigantic city.
I do not dislike people. I am not a socially anxious individual. I love to laugh and tell stories and have fun with friends. I am not easily embarrassed, my life is an open book. Making new friends is something I’ve always been able to do with ease. I love discovering the threads that connect the fabrics of our shared experiences. I feel protected and joyous knowing that my blanket of connections spreads all over the world.
I am afraid that when I turn down invitations, people take it personally. It is personally my problem.
My need to be alone is not depression, it is not even anxiety, it is exhaustion.
Recently, I was given the chance to discover the true source of my exhaustion. It came at the perfect time, my anxiety was growing and I did not know what could relieve it. I visited Posada Itaca, an oasis of a farm only an hour and a half from Buenos Aires.
Posada Itaca is run by an American expat named Guy and his señora, Claudia.
The farm is comprised of several rustic, quaint, and beautifully decorated cottages of various sizes. A large swimming pool is surrounded by gorgeous landscaping and wide open natural beauty. We rode horses, went on bike rides, and swam in the pool. They raise dogs, sheep, and horses. An adorable friendly kitty befriended me. They grow pecans and all the cottages are warmly painted, eclectically decorated, and simply gorgeous.
Besides when I was on a bike or a horse, I spent the entire time without my shoes on. The grass under my feet brought me home. The noise of the country, with the fast hum of crickets and competing songs of birds, was a slice of heaven.
We were there to celebrate my boyfriend’s mother’s birthday. My energy was dangerously low from the previous months in the city, and I spent more time than I meant to in silence. Those who are used to the city or have an outward disposition find it hard to understand why I would happily choose time alone so often. The silence is not always sorrowful, it's often joyful silence. I did not mean to neglect anyone, but I had to care for my heart.
The night we were there was exactly one year since the house fire that almost took my life occurred. The same fire that my boyfriend saved me from. One year from one of the worst days of my life I was blessed with being in one of the most beautiful places in Argentina.
Unfortunately, I didn't fully appreciate every moment as I was struggling with the nervous energy of the horrible anniversary and an acute homesickness that overcame me.
Even when most of my work is solitary, since I am a writer who works from home, I realize I need time alone simply because there are so many people in this city. The energy of the city is exhausting, even when I’m not in the thick of it.
Escaping to the country reminded me of who I really am and what I need to find joy and energy. I need the feeling of a horse underneath me at sunset, a bike ride on a dirt road where the only visitors are roaming sheep. My energy comes back when I am strolling around a secluded pond with someone I care about. A streetlight and a painted bench next to a pond covered in gorgeous water lilies is just one of the ways this farm is the ideal escape.
The people who work here love what they are doing, it is like being welcomed into a family without the pressure of socializing. Like back in Vermont, walking past someone is a rarity, but when you do everyone greets each other with a wave and a hello (here it's an hola or buenas). The greeting comes from the heart because you aren't around so many people that you're trying to avoid them. You have space and can connect with nature as much as your heart desires.
Then again, if you get tired of the adorable kitten following you around, you can close the door to your private home and watch something on a new flat screen TV. If you need to, free WiFi is available everywhere. I chose to leave my computer on the table and take in the spaciousness, gaining some energy back from the greenery.
I have left pieces of my heart all over the world, but my energy belongs to the countryside.
24 January 2014
By Kristance Harlow