I'm taking a break from a few things at the moment. The things from which I'm taking a break are activities where I'm in a room filled with people. At the best of times, that's difficult for me. This isn't the best of times.
A few people have told me how strong I appear. One in particular said she admired my ability to pick myself up again, no matter how many times life had knocked me down. There has to be a limit, though. There's a point where, as much as we try to be strong, we feel ourselves collapsing under the weight of the burden we're carrying. I think I'd reached that point a few months before I decided to do something about it.
Doing something about it, for me, means disconnecting. The last time I went to a dance class that I'd usually attend on a regular basis, for example, I had to leave early, and I knew I had to take a break from it. For a moment, I wondered if the best course of action might be to challenge that part of my personality, to resist the urge to shut down for a while. Fortunately, I knew myself well enough to realise that I needed to take some time out, to think things through and maybe recharge a little.
I've often pictured myself sat on the side of a hill, watching everything happening below: taking time to breathe, as it were. Someone recently said that, even though I'm physically present, there's often the feeling that I'm somehow separate from everyone. Yeah, I feel that too. That's the point where I really want to be somewhere else.
I admit that I effectively shut people out, and it's easy for them to think that I'm not affected by things, that I don't feel anything. The truth is that I feel things too much, that I care about people and things too much, and that aura of cold detachment is like my shield. That shield can be lowered, however, and that's what had happened.
I pretended that being asked so much about my fiancée, our plans and when we would see each other again didn't hurt, that it didn't serve as a reminder that she wasn't with me, a reminder of how much I missed her. I pretended that the events of the last six months hadn't brought me to a point where I was already struggling. I guess they couldn't see that I was already wounded and that, though it would normally be taken as a sign that they cared enough to ask, and be appreciated, every enquiry about the woman I love felt like a dagger between my ribs.
I smiled through the pain. I didn't know how to tell anyone that I was hurting, in a way that wouldn't lead to them feeling hurt too, so I said nothing. Eventually, I could no longer hold my shield, and felt exposed, vulnerable. I started to talk about how I was feeling and even - horror of horrors - became visibly upset.
I watched someone who had once been a close friend as she danced, and reflected on how things had fallen apart between us. What had once been a good, solid friendship had steadily deteriorated to the point where, should either of us dare to lower our shield, we would invariably find the other had inserted a blade between our ribs. For a time, I was only aware of how badly I'd been wounded. Now, as much as it's her habit to cover her wounds, to admit no weakness in her defence, I see that my blade struck a number of times.
Empathy is a terrible burden, when we realise we have hurt someone.
I need to find the strength to hold my shield again, and maybe repair some of the holes that have started to appear in it. The alternative is that people see how vulnerable I am without it, that I'm wearing no armour behind my shield, so to speak. Needless to say, I'm currently limiting myself, as much as possible, to spending time with people I trust completely, or whose ability to hurt me is limited.
Right now, I'm sat on the side of the hill I spoke about earlier, metaphorically speaking. It's a warm day, and a breeze is blowing. Every so often, a trusted friend will come to sit next to me, and ask if I'm okay. My reply is that I've just retreated for a while because, as much as I've tried to dress my wounds, they're still bleeding, and I need to rest.