I was reading yesterday's KosAbility diary about isolation and thought about it overnight.
I don't consider myself disabled, even though I am hearing impaired and recently, dexterity impaired, but I suppose some people would think I am. I also have such a huge network of friends all around the world. I'm not talking social media friends, people I've come to know just over the internet, but people I've cooked for, learned from, taught, people I've touched or been touched by.
That number is in the thousands. My children tell people I know everybody. That's not true, because there are lots of people I don't know yet, but I can see how they'd think so. When we were hit by that car when they were pre-teens, I knew the shop owners at all the shops on the corner, and I knew the responding police officers, and I even knew the other driver's mother and his insurance agent. I knew all my children's teachers and all the parents and siblings of their friends. I knew the cashiers and waiters and sales clerks at all the places we shopped and ate. I knew all their favorite authors and artists and scientists (the living ones, anyway...) and I arranged for them to meet them. So, yeah, as far as my kids were concerned, I knew everybody.
I do a lot of volunteer work, so I meet a lot of people that way, and I meet a lot of people through my day job, so that number is always increasing. Once I meet someone, once I cook for them, they are my friend for life. I may not see them for years on end, but when we meet again, it's as if no time at all has passed. We pick up where we left off.
I've met a lot more people since Itzl and I were partnered, like these people we met at the park:
There are even more people who know me that I haven't fed and don't know their names, but they've seen me, or I've done something for them (usually through some volunteer work where I was pointed out but never introduced), or they've met Itzl and petted him but we didn't exchange names, so it's always a shock to encounter people I don't know at all and who also don't know me.
I've occasionally spoken of estrangements from people because of my hearing loss, but I was never isolated because of it. In danger, yes, but not really isolated because for every one person who thought I was being snooty-patooty, there were a dozen or more who didn't.
My calendar could be jam-packed if I let it, with parties, meetings, events, concerts, dances, theatrical productions (as cast as well as audience), picnics, barbecues, ice cream socials, book clubs, and more, and my house would be even messier than it is now. And if I bothered to ask any of these people for help, they'd be there in a flash to do so, but I'm stubborn and I don't feel disabled, so I do stuff, like the recent housepainting and tree chopping. I admit part of the housepainting is beyond my ability to do - the 2 end gables are far too high for my scaffold and ladder to reach, so I will have to ask someone else to do those for me, and that Zombie Maple out back has a limb I may have to get help to chop off.
It's that asking thing that's so pesky.
I like doing things for myself, alone-ish (just me, Itzl, and Xoco). Most of my hobbies are ones that can be done in isolation: sewing, painting, gardening, herb-crafting, alchemy, cooking, baking...sure, I could do them with others, and sometimes, I do.
I can imagine what it would be like to be isolated, to not have thousands of friends all over the world, to not have hundreds of friends right here locally, to go where no one knows us. I can imagine what it would be like to need help and have no one to call upon. Because I can imagine those things so vividly, I do more volunteer work than I can sometimes afford to do.
Even without Itzl, I did a lot of those things. I did them with family and friends. With Itzl, I do even more because we aren't tied to other people's schedules.
Isolation was not my problem, it was having too many people around all the time. I was smothered and controled. Itzl freed me from needing to wait on other people to go places and get things done. Itzl freed me from needing lots of people around me to act as my sound waves and warning systems. Itzl freed me from needing to be around people all the time and gave me back a lot of privacy. More importantly, he restored my mobility and my scheduling.
My calendar became mine again. I didn't have to wait for someone to be free to accompany me shopping or traveling or doing volunteer work.
I love my friends, and I love being in contact with them. But I love my independence,too.