Isolated or Insulated (living safe with people)



“I feel safer keeping a space, a gentle breeze between me and people, a buffer I like to think of as God.” S. Kim Henson

When John accused me of isolating, he mixed up his words and instead said, “It concerns me how much you’re insulating yourself from others.”

“I know you don’t mean that as a good thing, but insulating to me sounds like a safe haven,” I said.

Ever since that evening, when I catch myself staying at home more often and staying away from people a little more, I say, “Here I go insulating again.”

And it’s okay. I’ve accepted and figured out ways to deal with being afraid of people, especially ones who know how I should live.

We all judge, but there are variations of judgment. Some are good judgments and some are bad. Some are accurate and some inaccurate. Some seem fairer and more reasonable than others.

Some friends judge in negative ways and know they shouldn’t. I’ve done it myself and way too many times. We know we don’t really know how others should live.

Some judge and know they’re right. These friends scare me.

When I detached from my family of origin, a friend confronted me in a restaurant about my decision. One of my mom’s friends confronted me from behind the register at a gift shop. I put my purchase back on the glass shelf and walked out. A local reader of my blog sent an email warning me I should visit my mom or I’d regret it. None of these townspeople knew much, if anything, about my family’s dysfunction, disorders, and secrets, yet they judged.

When I couldn’t be there for a friend who lost her son, I wrote a blog post about doing the best I could, which meant showing up at a distance. The post, Compassion, aroused a judgmental response that said I should have been there for her. I chose not to share it in the comment section.

I could write on and on about how afraid I’ve been of people this election year. Their fierceness behind knowing they are right scares me and stirs up feelings of being judged, feelings that my choice of a candidate couldn’t possibly be right if it’s not the same as their choice.

While writing this and thinking about how I’ve vacillated between isolating and insulating, I looked up the two words. They showed up as synonyms in a couple of online resources, but I have no idea why. They feel very different when I’m living them.

Here are definitions that resonated and made the most sense for this post.

Isolate – having minimal contact or little in common with others.
Synonyms: solitary, lonely, companionless, friendless; secluded, cloistered, segregated, unsociable, reclusive, hermitic, lonesome, cutoff

Insulate – protect by interposing material that prevents the loss of heat or the intrusion of sound.
Synonyms: wrap, sheathe, cover, coat, encase, enclose, envelop; heatproof, soundproof; pad, cushion

I’ve isolated so people wouldn’t find out how afraid I was of them and how afraid I’ve been of just about everything. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose by putting up walls and a façade.

I was wrong because I lost myself.

By never letting anyone know me, I shut myself off from everyone including John and our two adult children. I remember our son’s bewildered face the evening at our mountain house when he questioned some of my choices, like no longer exercising and staying on Facebook for hours at a time. I admitted I was depressed. He had no idea and neither did our daughter.

John helped me distinguish between isolation and insulation, even if by accident.

blog empty roomI no longer want to isolate and keep people at a far off distance. It’s depressing to be solitary and secretive.

Insulation, on the other hand, has turned out to be the gift of learning to live among people and letting them know who I am. It’s the gift of blogging again.

 At the same time that I’m showing up, I also keep a space between us – a gentle breeze, a buffer I like to think of as God – so I can make my own judgments, as well as accepting others’ conclusions whether I agree with them or not.

It’d be helpful to hear ways you’ve taken care of yourself while living among and loving family, friends, and the not so friendly.

In this Together,

On the side: I’m learning from Summer Turner’s pilot program, Move Forward from INSIDE Your Comfort Zone, about how introversion has influenced my life, which in turn influenced this blog post. I’ll share more information and links when she launches her online course.


19 responses »

  1. Kim, I love this. I identify. Thank you and thank your husband. No judging. Some will never understand, but I do. ((Hugs))

    • Awww, Holly. Thank you. I’m so happy we’ve connected on FB and stayed in touch there. It’s wonderful to have you as a reader over here too.

      It’s been a long time coming for me to write the way I’ve wanted to (to write what I wish someone had told me years ago), instead of writing to defend myself or to prove I’m okay or to try to get others to understand. I’m not surprised at all that you’re one of the ones who gets it.

      Love you! ❤

  2. Wow Kim–with each post you go deeper and deeper into your story, and we, the readers, come to know you better and love you more. You put on a good act in public (love everybody, extroverted), so I’m thankful you’re sharing your true self with us as you find it for yourself. Many times I’ve thought that I had moved beyond my fear of people and of being judged, only to be judged even more severely and hurt once more. When you’re a manager in a large corporation, as I was, you’re expected to develop a thick skin and just suck it up, so insulating is more difficult. It’s only recently that I’ve realized that the problem is with the judgers and not with me. If I ignore the judgment and continue to love them, it really drives them crazy because I don’t play by their eye-for-an-eye rules. Most people are pretty dysfunctional and still carrying a lot of past baggage, so I take that into consideration in my dealings with them.

    • Mary, I nodded throughout your comment. I’ve figured out those same things – problem is with the judger, it feels better to love them, and most of us are carrying a lot of baggage. I grew so tired of feeling defensive when I was trying so hard to get it right, that I finally had to ask myself, “Then why?” Because I was letting people out there determine how what I told myself and how I felt in here (in my head and heart). Talk about crazy! I’m not sure why writing about it is so freeing, but it is.

      Thanks for reading my posts, as well as encouraging and loving me no matter what I write. 🙂

  3. In relation to you Kim, my choice has always been The Mask! I have developed many masks throughout the years that have become a part of me in order to cope with my feelings. My mask has helped me through some dark journeys and without it I don’t know how I would have survived. It has masked my feelings that I no longer wanted to feel but as days go by I’m learning to put down my mask to become who I was created to be! Thanks for sharing your stories as always I enjoy reading them!

    • I can relate, Patty. It’s wild that you mentioned a mask because I’ve thought about writing this story in a blog post. Years ago, I went to Charleston for a day trip with a friend. I have no idea what we were talking about, but she shared with me that she had a dream about me and that I was wearing a mask. I tentatively asked some questions, sort of afraid what else she’d say. She shared that she thought I always wore one. She wasn’t being unkind, just honest and she actually sounded a little concerned.

      She was right about the mask and for the same reasons you shared. A lot of times it was my only protection. I needed it. But now it’s suffocating! Sounds like you feel the same way.

      Maybe we need to have mask burning party. 🙂

      Thank you for sharing also. It’d be lonely on this blog without friends like you.

  4. This is an amazing post. And the comments are incredible too.
    First I thought “how funny, John would say ‘insulation,'” But then it became so much deeper

    When I moved down here life had been horrible for several years. I wasn’t used to feeling alone yet I wanted to be a recluse thinking it a safe way to live. That wore off but it was so hard to get back to myself—i suppose is the expression. I’m still working on it. And insulation sounds perfect.


    • Pia, for me, insulation is the perfect word. It may wear off too, but for now, it feels safe and I need that to write. I thought it was really funny “insulation” popped out of John’s mouth.

      I’m sorry for your horrible years. I know how it feels to be stuck in that kind of vortex and wonder if life will ever improve. I hope we both arrive at safer versions of ourselves, ones who write bold books that help others feel less horrible and alone.

      Thank you for showing up here. ❤ I appreciate you.

  5. Good for you Kim! I isolated for most of my life, with so much fear of letting others in. Through counseling I realized I was keeping others out, even the wonderful ones. So instead I learned how to tell the difference and then exclude those who did not love me the way I am. This is really working for me now!

    • It’s so nice to meet you, Laura. Good for you too! Discernment is such a gift when it comes to relationships and who we choose to be close to. Thanks for stopping by to read. I appreciate you sharing your experience.

  6. Hey Kim! Have you ever read the book: “Quiet (The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking)” by Susan Cain? When I first found this author (I think in an article about introverts in Time magazine 3 or 4 years ago) it was the first time that I found out that being an introvert was normal in about about 30 to 50% of the general population and not a bad or an unusual thing to be. For so many years I thought there was something wrong with me that I would rather be home reading a book than going to a party. Luckily for me my husband has always been very understanding about my introversion and he helps me in social situations where I feel uncomfortable.

  7. Oh my gosh, Gayle. Your comment is almost eerie. I pulled Quiet off our bookshelf THIS MORNING and put it beside my bed. Kelly gave it to me last year. I only made it through part of the book, so it’s on top of my pile to start over.

    Since watching our granddaughter, John’s been much more sympathetic to both our sensitivities and introversion. He hasn’t known better, but it’s comforting to have him understand now.

    I took a photo of my book pile. Wonder if I can share it in the comments. Thanks so much for confirming which book I’ll start tonight.

  8. From Facebook ~

    Gayle Sloan, Alice Loftin Long, Wanda Doyal and 6 others

    Theresa Jordan, Anjana C. Duff, Sarah Lynn Jaskowski and 12 others (updated)

    1 share

    Joel Carter Differences in Isolation and Insulation makes a great discussion on this topic, Kim Henson, about “Getting your Own Life while Loving the People in it.: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: every thing. Ecclesiastes 3:17
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · March 10 at 5:40pm

    Kim Henson Joel Carter, thanks for your comment and for including one of my favorite verses. It’s beautiful.
    Like · Reply · March 10 at 10:41pm

    Kim Henson Gayle Sloan

    Kim Henson’s photo of stack of books including Quiet
    Like · Reply · 1 · 8 hrs

    Kalli Norton I’m so glad I know you, even if from a distance.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 4 hrs

    Kim Henson Thanks bunches, Kalli Norton. I feel the same way about you.
    Like · Reply · 13 mins

    ed to talk when I’m down next week. I’ve gotten to where I leave the house maybe 4 times a month if Kenneth pushes. It just doesn’t feel safe. When I do go out I have a good time. 90 percent of the time he is with me.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 18 hrs
    Kim Henson
    Kim Henson Carolyn Mason Land, I sure understand. heart emoticon Give me a call when you’re here and hopefully it’ll work out for us both to leave our houses. smile emoticon Love you!
    Like · Reply · 2 hrs · Edited

    Mary Lancaster Sounds like you read my book lol always love people but love to keep a little space. Always afraid I cant measure up.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 2 hrs

    Kim Henson A lot of us can relate, Mary Lancaster. What’s the name of your book?
    Like · Reply · 2 hrs

    Anjana C. Duff I’m so proud of you for blogging again and being so honest. I think it is extremely cathartic for you, and I can see that you are resonating with many, many people. No reason to question anymore if you’re on the right path. smile emoticon
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 2 hrs

    Kim Henson Thanks so much for your support and cheering, Anjana C. Duff. heart emoticon But you did see the post about the profession I was born for, didn’t you? I’m supposed to be a doctor. wink emoticon If this doesn’t pan out, I have Plan B. LoL.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 2 hrs

    Anjana C. Duff It’s always good to have a Plan B. Glad you’re prepared! wink emoticon
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 1 hr

    Dale Booth Kim, listening to you speak, I know I’m not as intelligent as you. but what I would say is listen to your heart
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 25 mins

    Kim Henson Dale Booth, don’t ever think you’re not as intelligent! If I was smarter, I would have followed the advice you just gave a LONG time ago. Thanks so much! Tell Kathy I said “hi.”
    Like · Reply · 3 mins

  9. From Facebook ~

    Pia Savage

    I’ve met some amazing people down here. Kim is one of them. Her talent also amazes me.
    Show Attachment

    Christy Young and 2 others

    Kim Henson Pia Savage, you’re too kind. I’m soaking up every word. heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · 13 hrs

  10. From Facebook ~

    Wanda Doyal, Sara Wise, Laurie Bruun and 4 others

    1 share

    Summer Turner I love your insight about God as the insulating “breeze”! This turns a key in my consciousness. I love this whole blog (and not just because you mentioned me — thank you for that!) smile emoticon
    Unlike · Reply · Message · 1 · March 10 at 4:10pm

    S. Kim Henson Summer Turner, it’s been so helpful to walk beside you and learn more about myself by way of your insights. I’m happy to mention you anytime. heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 10 at 10:44pm

    Summer Turner You are helping me get used to becoming known to a wider audience.
    Unlike · Reply · Message · 1 · 23 hrs

    Rebecca Barnes-Hogg Beautifully written Kim. I appreciate your generosity in sharing your experience and insights. You are helping so many people through your writing. ♡
    Unlike · Reply · Message · 1 · March 10 at 6:37pm

    S. Kim Henson Rebecca Barnes-Hogg, I appreciate your time and your encouragement that makes this writing thing so much easier. heart emoticon It’s hard when a blog post just sits there.
    Like · Reply · March 10 at 10:47pm

    Wanda Doyal A Thunder Vest♡
    Unlike · Reply · Message · 1 · March 10 at 8:52pm

    S. Kim Henson Bahahahaha, Wanda Doyal. Only from you. grin emoticon
    Like · Reply · March 10 at 10:42pm

    Wanda Doyal You know I live and respect you ♡
    Unlike · Reply · Message · 1 · March 10 at 8:52pm

    S. Kim Henson And I love and respect you! Thanks for making me laugh and making my night, Wanda Doyal.
    Like · Reply · March 10 at 10:42pm

  11. From Facebook ~

    Carol Anne Wright Swett shared S. Kim Henson’s post.
    March 10 at 8:32pm ·
    heart emoticon
    Show Attachment

    Machelle Baker

    S. Kim Henson Awww, Carol Anne Wright Swett. Thanks for sharing. heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · March 10 at 10:48pm

    Laurie Bruun shared S. Kim Henson’s post.
    March 10 at 7:37pm ·
    Show Attachment

    Kim Henson I appreciate it, Laurie Bruun. heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · March 10 at 10:48pm

    Laurie Bruun It’s meant to be shared.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · 19 hrs

  12. From Facebook ~

    Jeanie Johnson shared S. Kim Henson’s post.

    Perry Tesh

    Jeanie Johnson Words of Wisdom that I can relate to. Written by my Friend., Kim Henson.
    Like · Reply · March 10 at 9:38pm

    Kim Henson You’re so sweet to share, Jeanie Johnson. heart emoticon I love you!
    Like · Reply · Just now

  13. Kim, You always give us, the readers, reason to think about ourselves and the way we react to situations. I, for many years, had a facade of always upbeat and happy and yet feeling very inadequate about my own life. I finally realized that everyone has baggage and NO One life is perfect. We need to love ourselves first before anyone else can. (Except maybe our own family and husbands who often save the day for us.) Please keep writing your heart and continue to give us the ability to dig deep into our own thoughts.

    • Hey Annette, it helps so much to have company on this journey. ❤ I would have never guessed that about you. You seem like the type who's always been confident and comfortable with yourself. Thanks for hanging out here and sharing the truth. It helps all of us.

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