Maybe it's all the snow and ice, the biting winds and slippery roads.  Perhaps it's the crowded stores, bombardment of retail sales, and  prevalence of "going out of business" signs.

It could even be fear of the colds and flu that seem to be making the rounds.

Whatever the reason, I'm having a hard time convincing myself to leave the house these days. 

After all, I have everything at home I could possibly need ~ easy chairs to curl up in, plenty of books to read, music to listen to and play, and my dogs for company.  I have a multitude of options for communicating with friends - phone, Internet, email.  I can make my own coffee drinks, so there's no need to hit Starbucks or Caribou.  I can walk 2 or 3 miles with Leslie Sansone and my old Walk Away the Pounds videotapes, or practice a cat stretch and sun salute with Yoga Zone dvd's.   And why schlep through the frosty night to a crowded theater, when I can watch a movie on our 47 inch high def tv, wearing my jammies and drinking wine?

Truthfully, I love being home.  I enjoy my own company, my own space, and my own time to practice all the homey things I like to do.  I'm lucky enough to have married a man who feels pretty much the same way, so we happily co-exist with plenty of space in our own little privacy zones.   We're rarely restless or bored being at home, and now that we have a home in Florida, even our "vacations"  really involve just trading spaces, the pleasure of one home for the other.  We lik e hanging out at home, where a "big night" might involve back to back episodes of Dancing With the Stars and American Idol, prefaced by a round of tug-of-war or bouncy-ball with the dogs. 

But while I've always loved being home, have never been one to be constantly on the go (like my friend Pat, who is often out for the entire day and evening, six or seven days a week, even now that she's retired from teaching), I wonder if  I'm dangerously close to crossing the line between homebody and hermit.  It would be quite easy for me to stay home forever, I think, to become one of those people who find it simply too hard to leave the safety and security of an environment over which I have nearly total control.

In fact, we have people like that in our family.  My grandmother was one - her sister is another.  And my own mother - she, too, has leanings in that direction.  Home is the ultimate safe haven, where you can control what you do and when, where you needn't feel pressured to interact appropriately or perform adequately.   Home is where you're protected from people who might harm you, where you're (mostly) safe from the weather,  and where you can be as comfortable as you wish.  

But while I'm aware that a tendency toward agoraphobia exists in my genetic makeup, I'm not really worried about developing this pathological malady.  My feelings about being at home are rooted more in pursuit of pleasure than avoidance of society.  I involve myself in so many things at home - in writing and reading, in playing piano, in being outside with the dogs.  There's more a sense of accomplishment in the time I spend at home than a sense of escape from the "real world."  I'm not afraid of society, I just eschew it more often in favor of my own company, and in having time to spend in my favorite occupations.

One of my favorite writers, Caroline Knapp, refers to herself as a "Merry Recluse."  In a collection of essays which bear this title, she says she "has always been drawn to solitude, felt a kind of relief in its self generated pace and rhythms."   But she admits that "the most pressing challenge involves  negotiating the line between solitude and isolation, which can be very thin indeed.  Solitude is often most comforting, most sustaining, when its enjoyed in relation to other humans; fail to strike the right balance, and life gets a little surreal."

Ah yes, "striking the right balance," is once again what it's all about.   One of my co-workers, a single mom in her mid thirties, is constantly on the go, filling her calendar, and her son's, with as many activities as she can find.  Their life seems frenzied to me, hectic and crazy.  She seems to harbor a pathological fear of "down time," of simply being home alone with her little boy.  While for me, that time at home is golden, it's the prize at the end of a long workday or a weekend full of concerts.  It's the reward, not the punishment. 

And for this homebody at heart, it probably always will be.

How about you?  Are you a homebody too?  Or are you happiest when you're out and about?