Well, that is it. Six days of being with friends: complete. Words cannot describe how exhausted I am. And it is not so much physical tiredness — granted, we did a lot of walking and I am not currently the fittest person — but, rather, the emotional and psychological tiredness. Nonetheless, it was, from my point of view, a successful weekend.
After dropping Alex off at the coach station and saying goodbye — complete with a handshake and a semi-awkward hug (we can blame Alex’s stiff upper lip. “Emotions? What are those, old boy? Something women do?”) — today, I headed to the usual Catholic church on South Street for half an hour of silence. I had been hobbling into town as we walked to the coach station, but after leaving the church I felt refreshed, incredibly calm and my limp had disappeared. Once home, I had a hot bath and I must say that I am very surprised that I can walk at all considering the condition of my feet. On Sunday (the 18th), myself, Alex, Harry and Jack visited Withypool and had a walk around the moor, looping round to the southeast of the village, before following the river back northwest to the pub for a quick pint. It was there that my boot situation became quite clear, as, by the time I was home, the creasing of the toe-section of the boot whenever I took a step had worn-away most of the skin from the top of my toes. This developed into a limp the following day, when I had been wearing different shoes, and it sort of goes on like that… I do not have to explain in detail all of this, but I have been in considerable pain for the past four days, hence my difficulty in keeping pace with the others at times — so my apologies to them. Anyways, I mention this because next year I wanted to walk from Exeter to Stonehenge on a sort of pilgrimage. I have also expressed interest in mountain climbing with Alex; doing the “Three Peaks” of Britain at some point. I think that it is safe to say that it could be later than I imagined, doing all of this, due to me having to not only become fitter, but get some more walking-appropriate footwear. I am glad, nevertheless, that I realised this now because I would not want to be four days into a trip to Stonehenge to realise that I would not be able to make the next two weeks or so.
This brings me onto the main point of this sort of gathering — this “extended weekend” — which is the necessity to create strong bonds of friendship, both for the development of the self, but also for the other. A country is only as strong as the men whom comprise it, and these weekends are a microcosm of that. On Monday, myself, Alex and Jack met Jacob and Joe in Exeter, where we had a bite to eat and a couple of beers. Afterwards, we walked down to the quayside for a spot of afternoon tea, where I explained this to Jacob; that even if, in our little group of five young men, there are differences — for example, between someone who is more a “worker” and another who is more a “priest” — it is the working together through these differences, through the complementation of eachother’s abilities, which creates society. A cathedral is built by workers and artisans, funded by kings and the Church, designed by artists and engineers, all of whom are fed by farmers and fishers, all of whom again use the cathedral as a place of worship once it is built. This is what we call “civilisation.” Not lone men anxiously isolating themselves in the wilderness, not lone men coldly dictating to those smaller than them, not lone men turning inwards and forgetting their responsibilities to those around them, but all of these things synthesising together to form a whole, strengths complimenting weaknesses, wisdom complimenting ignorance, etc..
The past week was the first time in several years, since my mid-adolescence, that I have spent more than a single day with people, doing things outside of the comfort of my own house or the quiet countryside. During the first two days, I was quite alright; I had enough energy and was talkative and upbeat. When I woke up on Sunday morning, however, I felt totally and utterly drained. I had barely slept, but I could feel that it was the presence of Alex and Harry which was sapping my energy; all of my attention was on them and what we could do, what I could do for them, what was happening, etc.. Granted, when we met Jack and got to Exmoor I piqued-up, but the walk surprised me, and the last stretch of it hit me like a hammer. I had to take a second to catch my breath after climbing up this hillside, and I said then to Jack that I felt emotionally tired more than anything else. That feeling stayed with me until I get to sleep that evening. Although Harry had gone home, there were still people to be aware of. Once more, I did not sleep well.
Now that everyone has gone home, I feel quite calm, and I do not feel the usual melancholy I have felt before after parting with people. When I was sat in church, I realised that this melancholy is not loneliness per sé, but, rather, the fact that I am still subconsciously trying to think in an outwards manner past the point. The lack of this being reciprocated then effects me, and I begin to feel tired. I think that in any social situation, there is a degree of feedback, but that I have difficulty in switching between interior and exterior; there is little “flow” between the two, as I have spent so much time in isolation, sometimes going weeks without speaking when my isolation was at its worst a couple of years ago. For example, yesterday, on Tuesday, myself, Alex and Jack went to Exmouth, the coast. I was becoming incredibly anxious as we were approaching the train station. I was not worried so much about missing the train, but more about the fact that I was responsible for Alex and Jack, and that the whole trip relied on me. Also, I am not too familiar with the rail system, which added to my anxious mood. As soon as we boarded the train, I was absolutely fine, but it was bizarre leading up to that moment because I was so palpably nervous. We had a good chuckle at my autism, of course, but, jokes aside, it is the shift between focussing on myself to focussing on others which I find so strange and unusual. I am sure that, because we all plan to do more in the New Year, I will eventually overcome this clunkiness, however.
It was a successful week, all-in-all. There were no major blunders regarding activities (aside from being late home from Exmoor, thus missing dinner at my grandparents’) and everyone got on well. I will likely mention more little things here and there in future writing, but, for now, I just wanted to clear my head of some preliminary thoughts now that I have peace and quiet.
Thank you to all of the guys — Alex, Harry, Jack, Jacob and Joe — for coming to Exeter. I hope that you all had a worthwhile time and that I was a tolerable host!