As the hermitage goes along, I learn more and more about what I was trying to accomplish in doing this. You guys do that too, right? Jump into something with both feet, hoping to learn why you felt compelled to do so as you go? Right?

I confess, there have been days when I cheated on the physical exercise aspect. In my defense, I’m old and did a lot all at once, so my body responded with a polite “Go fuck yourself if you think I’m doing this all the time.” I sleep in knee braces, so consider that message received.

I’m realizing, however, that my larger goal was to do a little gardening in my life and minimize interaction with people who tend to frustrate me and generally leave me in a worse mood or state of mind. And to this extent, the hermitage has thus far been a resounding success. I haven’t gone on Facebook at all this month, which really is a huge step towards keeping a better mindset. I deleted it from my phone, so that I wouldn’t get any push notifications; which is how I learned that if you don’t log in for a couple days, Facebook will straight-up email you and be like “Baby, where you go? Did I say something? Your friends are asking about you. You okay?”

Where Facebook has come to kind of symbolize the worst of my daily (or nigh-daily) interactions, Twitter has actually been a bellwether for the better interactions in my life. To explain: You know that charge you get when you tweet at someone you don’t know but respect a lot? That charge is awesome, and I realized that it’s not wholly exclusive to interactions with people I don’t know. There are people in my life who give that same charge in conversations, be they simple exchanges about how happy we are to have each other in our lives, or extensive conversations about whatever damn thing happens to be obsessing our brains at the moment.

When I moved to LA — stop me if you’ve heard this one before, or maybe just skip this paragraph — I was gobsmacked by how many creative and driven people I was surrounded by. Ideas had momentum! People spoke this language that I had always been made fun or or shunned for speaking. All around me were people who cared deeply about writing and storytelling. I mean, I always joked — because defense mechanism — that I cared too much about this stuff, and now there were people telling me I could care so much more about it! I was in lurrrrrrrve.

I’ve been thinking back on that time lately, trying to find usable lessons for this Year of Returning West, and I think it really does come down to something as simple as chasing that energy, that charge. When I’m not engaged with something that’s providing that spark, I can get really, REALLY passive, and the last two years have helped me learn how to distinguish between a positive engagement and a negative engagement. It’s always a little weird to have some massive realization about something incredibly simple — I really feel like I’m about ten years behind my peers in emotional development, which is not a thing I recommend being — but that distinction seems to come down to owning one’s involvement in the engagement and making the other party acknowledge their own participation in it. Seriously, is there anything more simple than “If you’re going to care about someone, it will behoove you to tell them that”? 

But anyway, Twitter. There really are a lot of lessons to be taken from it. I follow one account because they seem pretty smart, but they also retweet EVERY SINGLE PERSON who tweets at them. At least, I have to think it’s every single person, because if not then their metric for inclusion is waaaaay too broad. So you look at that and say “Well, I certainly don’t want to be that person.” Or you look at the people who only tweet stuff they think will be contrary and get them attention, or people who monologue endlessly, or…or…or…

So yeah, the hermitage is going well, and I do feel like I’ll emerge from this month much better equipped for making the necessary changes this year in order to return to my rightful place out west. Also, the hair is growing back and doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would. So that’s nice.