This is the cycle: I invite friends over for dinner — as I did last night; Dwight, Laura, and Robin — and I really enjoy the process of choosing a menu, doing the shopping and cooking the food. The dinner itself is always fun too, but in a way “I” am not there.
I am a solitary stationmaster in a tiny little train stop in the middle of nowhere. I live and work in the station all alone, all the time. And then a train comes in and passengers disembark with their various needs and wants and because I have prepared well, there are no problems. And then all the passengers get on the train and leave and I clean up and wait for the next train and what it brings.
“I” am the person I spend time with when the station is empty. “I” am the person with who is constantly talking to himself in a private internal dialogue. “I” am the person who thrives when walking alone. The self-dialogues that happen in motion are the best ones. Freed of the demands and seductions of my surroundings, the walking dialogues are long and uninterrupted by practicalities.
Real “me” exists only when I am alone. The other me is “reactive me;” the stationmaster who becomes whatever the passengers need: Baggage Boy, Timetable information person, Seller of Snacks, Lavatory Attendant, Emergency Responder, etc. “I” disappear and the various functionaries required emerge.
A stationmaster is dealing with strangers. At my parties, the passengers are my closest friends. Still, there is a certain anxiety with all social interaction. At least there is with me. I suppose extroverts do not feel that anxiety.
Being reactive is fun. To continue the metaphor: The passengers are why I am there. They bring excitement and all your skills to the fore.
But like the stationmaster who must “retreat” from the demands of the passengers and go into his office, shut the door and focus on the demands of his job, I retreat to the kitchen and when I do, “I” am back. I am alone again like the stationmaster must be in order to be sure his needs are met.
The isolation we seek while our guests are present, allows us to make sure all that we planned our guests is done. If I don’t do this periodically, I always find a course or sauce I forgot to serve after everyone leaves.
And when everyone does leave, “I” am back for good — well until the next train comes. I clean up right away, restoring balance and harmony. Everything goes back to its place. And then “I,” too, am at rest.
The stationmaster would have no job, were it not for the passengers, but true happiness for him is a sunny day when there is no train and he walks in the forest.