I often wonder just how much I shield my heart from the risk of being hurt.
It's not that I don't care. I do. I appreciate out loud. I feel great empathy and I trust. I cherish the gift of friendship and treat it with reverence and respect. I share my heart, my ears and the-story-of-me easily. But I have an escape clause. I can listen, feel, empathize and care. Then, I can simply turn it all 'off' after I walk away resume life-as-I-know-it just as easily.
A friend who needed a gentle ear called me a few nights ago. She knows far too many people who know people who are getting sick. And dying. It is not just one or a few. It is not just elderly people who have had a good life. It is people our age. It is happening far too often. She is so very sensitive and she physically feels what her friends are going through. And it hurts. It hurts her so very, very much. She can't turn it off and she can't find a release valve for her pain.
In that moment, I felt for her. Ouch. I cannot imagine claiming ownership of someone else's pain, physically feeling it and taking it home with me.
I don't feel like I would be as effective as a support person if I carried the weight of another person's burden on my shoulders. I am very stoic in my supportive role. I know that when I have been the one who has crumbled and fell I need to surround myself with quiet strength. So that is what I unconsciously give.
Then again I wonder. Do I care enough?
When I hear a friend talk about their broken heart, I know that I have never loved that deeply. My heart is bubble wrapped in a protective coating that prevents me from the inevitable fall.
If someone doesn't call (or call back) there is a reason for that. I justify it in a way that I justify when potential daycare families don't follow up on their planned appointments or return phone calls. If a relationship starts out that way who needs it? And I stand by that reasoning.
My love life could be written into a Disney movie. It is pretty much (who am I kidding? it IS) non-existent. I create little fantasies over small 'school girl crushes' that I have had as the years pass me by. My heart is safe in my dream world. Then when I do actually dream of what that reality could be, the dream is of the Walt Disney variety. It consists of eyes locking and hearts beating a little faster. Then it fades to black (or daylight).
I keep my heart safe and protected in my bubble wrapped little world. I have loved before and it is intoxicating. I have also lost at love. A heartache is worse than a hangover the next morning.
My friend that wears her heart on her sleeve and takes on her friends' pain as her own is also longing to find the love-of-her-life. She is not content to sit and wait for the phone to ring. She is proactive and makes those phone calls herself. She has been rewarded at times, heartbroken at others.
What is the right way? Is there a right way?
I am completely self-sustaining within my little world. I live in a supportive and supporting environment. My heart is open to feel all that life sends my way. But it is surrounded by a porous layer of protection. Perhaps not of the bubble wrap variety after all. Maybe it is more like the styrofoam packing peanut variety. It moves and seeps into the places that need protection the most.
What is most important of all, is that I don't build up a callous from repeated wear and tear on a broken heart muscle. And that ... is simply not going to happen.