Today I turned down an invitation to have lunch with two of my closest lady friends, not because I didn’t want to go (god knows, I don’t see my friends enough these days), but because I couldn’t. I croaked the words into my phone from my bed and thankfully I didn’t have to offer a reason why. To be honest, I’ll probably spend more than one or two moments today beating myself up over not going to lunch.
The truth is, I can’t talk to any more people this weekend. I’ve counted the number of people I will talk to in the next few days (a friend who is going overseas for a long time, my family – nephews and nieces and all – for Father’s Day lunch), and I can’t talk to any more, for fear of – what? It’s hard to say. For fear that pieces of me will start floating away and I won’t be able to snatch them back.
Last night I went to see the Mortal Instruments movie with an old work friend, and apart from a few words before and after, we were silent together for hours, eating chips and choc tops. He knows me well.
This is how I get in August, at the end of a long parade of school talks and festival talks and related parties and events, all of which I enjoyed greatly, and which I liked to think I did OK at. I’m very good at creating the appearance of being relaxed and confident and outgoing – I genuinely love meeting students and fellow writers – but all this talking comes at a cost.
Today, instead of catching up with two of my dearest friends and one gorgeous baby, I will work on my MS that I’ve neglected all month, and it will feel like drinking a glass of water after fasting for too long. I’ll go for a quiet swim, I’ll walk the dog, and I’ll have dinner with a friend. One person. That’s who I can talk to today. I’ll have to carefully avoid my housemate, my neighbours, the other dog owners in the park, because I’ve got nothing left in the bank. I’ll type these words, and, curiously, find they come from a separate place than words spoken out loud. Typing words will give me relief, in a way that speaking words will not.
Isn’t that strange?
I wasn’t always this way. My twenties were relentlessly social. My fear back then was having no one to talk to on a weekend. And I know there are people out there who still naturally thrive on contact, who charge their batteries through social interaction, but I’m not one of those people, not any more.
Even further, I understand that most people don’t want to take anything from me at all, and in my friends and family’s case, they wish to give more than they want to take. But the problem is me. I am polite, and obliging too. I answer questions, I give information, I smile, I interact, even when I feel myself go into deficit. I think it’s rude to refuse anyone who is smiling and looking me in the eye and genuinely asking me how I am, what have I been doing recently? I answer, even when I can’t, even when it pains me to do so.
So I’m going to ride my bike to the pool now, and spend some time underwater, where everything is blue and muffled and yes, a bit womb-like. And later this coming week, I like to think I’ll cross the road and come say hello. I want to know what you’ve been doing, and I’ll tell you how I am as well.