Being a Shut-In, or How Big is Home?

Until Jjiraffe commented on this post, I never considered myself a shut-in. If questioned on that point, I would have thought about it, but I still would probably not have come up with that term. I would have rationalized my behavior with something like ‘I’m confining my world because bad things have happened to me, and the more control I have over my interactions, the less likely things beyond my control will affect me.’ That’s probably not healthy at all, is it? Okay, no ‘probably’ about it. But when did I start confining my world? What did I used to be like?

When I moved out ‘for real,’ I got a job delivering pizza because my BFF was the assistant manager.

Let me tell you a little something about pizza delivery. It is one of the best jobs ever. Hands down. I was 21 years old and I got paid to ride around in my car all night listening to the radio. Plus I got free pizza. I’m pretty sure the only thing that could have made it better for me at that point in my life was free drinks. But that’s not the point of this story.

The point of this story is that I learned the delivery area like the back of my hand. Better than the back of my hand, although I have made a point of studying the back of my hand so as not to feel like a hypocrite when using that phrase. You may have lived in the same town all your life, but you do not know your town like any pizza driver worth their salt. And while this knowledge made my routing more efficient, thus earning me more runs and more tips, the best part was that it made my home larger.

You know how you can wander to the kitchen in the dark in the middle of the night to get a drink of water without walking into anything? Doesn’t it make you feel safe to be so sure of your surroundings? Don’t you feel warm and cozy and secure? I do. I love that feeling. There’s also that tinge of elitist when you see someone else stub a toe or bark a shin on something you already knew was looming to attack.

I hate being somewhere unfamiliar. I want to be at home, where everything is familiar, where everything has its place, where if I’m looking for the crackers, I know they’re on the second shelf in the pantry, all the way to the right. So you can imagine how good it felt when my home wasn’t measured in square feet but square miles. It felt amazing. Even when I moved up into management, I still routed the drivers, I still delivered on occasion, so it was still home.

Then I quit. And I went to be a mobile phlebotomist at the blood center. And that was even better! Not only did I still get to use my hugely accurate mental map of home, but I was able to expand it by hundreds of square miles! I had my small home on the donor coach, and I had my big home of northwest Louisiana. It was during this time that I was diagnosed with PCOS.

Then I quit. And I eventually went back to pizza. And that was okay, because although my home was smaller, it was more familiar. Things were okay. Really.

And then they weren’t anymore. Things stopped being okay, and they kept getting worse. I couldn’t even take solace in my home anymore, because pizza delivery was part of the reason things got so bad. My work ethic was a shambles, and my marriage was a wreck. My husband was ‘working late’ every night because I was so crazy, and I was being shuffled from store to store because I was so miserable, no one wanted me. It got so hard going to work every day and not being able to look my coworkers in the eye because I was tired of seeing them feel sorry for me. I stopped going to friends’ houses. I stopped going to karaoke. I stopped everything except going to work.

Then I quit. And I went to work for the census for a few months. And that’s where my world started shrinking even more. I was a field supervisor, so I met with my crew once a day to collect their paperwork, then I went home to check it and complete their payroll. Then I would take it all to my supervisor. And that was it. I was out of the house less than ten hours a week, period. When the census job ended, I filed for unemployment while I looked for another job. And I found out that when you burn the bridges to your fall-back job, it can be pretty hard to find meaningful work. But that was okay, because I didn’t want to leave the house anyway.

My husband had started his job delivering Chinese food by then, so sometimes I would ride around with him because it was a pretty informal working environment. But it wasn’t the same. My world had shrunk to the house and the car. Some days it was only the bedroom and the bathroom. I was a stay-at-home-infertile (thanks Rachel @ eggsinarow).

I did actually get a job not long after I started receiving unemployment, but it was 2-3 hours a week, if that, and at a children’s clothing store, no less. Yes, some days I couldn’t do it, even for only two hours, and even only in the stockroom, where I was free to cry all I wanted. I stopped working there after about nine months when my friend, the store manager, quit. I don’t think the new manager even knew to put me on the schedule anyway.

I was a stay-at-home-infertile-extreme-couponer for a while, not like in the show, but I did pretty well if I do say so myself. I definitely saved more than I made working at the clothing store. That at least gave me something to focus on besides not ovulating.

Now things are different. I’m still only working part-time, delivering papers one day a week. I still don’t go hang out with anyone. I still don’t really go anywhere besides the grocery store and Goodwill. I love me some thrift stores. But I am reaching out to the world again. My world isn’t made up of streets and houses anymore, it’s ethernet and fiber optic. Even though I can’t see any of you, I’m not just sitting here by myself every day. Even though it looks like I’m alone, I’m not. And that’s what’s really important.

12 Comments on “Being a Shut-In, or How Big is Home?”

  1. Mo says:

    I feel exactly the same way!
    Yes, I’ve become a bit of a shut in in the last year, but I think my little fiber-optic universe is responsible for maintaining my sanity for sure…

  2. jjiraffe says:

    Great post. I love the way you talk about how wonderful it was to measure your home not in square feet but square miles.

    I’m so glad you have found another place where you can navigate easily, not stub your toe and widen your territory with miles of virtual road and friendly faces.

  3. Tigger says:

    I think I prefer the term “home-body”. When I’m not in school or working, I don’t leave the house except for doctor appts, grocery shopping, or our ritualistic “Saturday morning breakfast at IHOP”. I’d like to say it was the pregnancy that did me in, but it’s not. I was that way long before that. For 4 years I worked a part-time job, and if I wasn’t doing one of the aforementioned activities, I could be found at home. Usually on the computer, or one of the gaming consoles. And then I quit, because I was going to school, my mom was dying, and I was only getting 7 hours a week anyways. When I graduated, I couldn’t find work for 8 months. I stayed in. Repeat. Now that I have my son, you’d think I’d get out more. Nope. Class, home, class, home, shopping, home. I rarely leave the house unaccompanied by DH, except for class – and I swear to you that if I could figure out how to take him with me, I would. I don’t know when I became so scared of the outside world, but I did.

    I’m not “shut-in”. I prefer to be at home. Thus: home-body! 😀

  4. aprilvak says:

    You raise a good point. I think of homebody more as a name given because of preference. When I’m feeling good about myself because I’m busy cooking or cleaning or whatnot I would lean toward that. When I’m hiding because I’m unable to cope with the outside world, I’m a shut-in. I’m a homebody if I’m productive; I’m a shut-in if I’m ashamed.

    And same here. Hubby goes just about everywhere but my two hours of work. He’d go then too if he had a base pass. Except…when I think about leaving by myself I panic a little. When I’m on my way home from work, alone, I feel free, like my old self again.

  5. Cattiz J says:

    You are not alone feeling like this. Heck I’m not even working at the moment, well except for some dog boarding – in our house. Found you through Jjiraffe’s blog.

  6. Oh jeez, a children’s clothing store? I couldn’t even imagine how hard that would be. I had a really insensitive neighbor who would drag me shopping for things like that (she wasn’t even pregnant) and it always made me want to kill her.

    • aprilvak says:

      I’ve had friends ask if we wanted any of their baby stuff for when we had kids. I’m glad I only took a couple things. They went to Goodwill years ago.

  7. Must be a common feeling. I have no desire to go anywhere, most days I’d rather be at home.

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