A few months ago, there was a social situation in which I was obligated to go through the motions of being present knowing my presence wasn’t specific to the situation. My absence would have gained more attention than my presence. It was only in attending that I became invisible.

I was irritated. I knew it would happen, before it happened and I felt there were better ways to spend my time than playing the background to someone else’s obligatory pity lunch. I couldn’t say anything before the meeting because it would have spoiled my partner’s mood and made the situation more awkward.

I’m speaking vaguely because I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, or assign feelings to others. I own only my story.

After thinking about it, I realize it isn’t an issue of assigning blame anyway. There is no fault, just a cast of characters playing roles rather than observing people for who they are in a specific moment. My irritation was misguided. Now when I think of it I feel wistful and mildly disappointed.

*****

Does irritation materialize faster than sadness? Could it be that anger feels like a driven emotion and disappointment feels unmoored?

Being in a relationship changed me in ways I never anticipated. Changes both good and bad. Most changes I didn’t notice as they were happening. Viewing one’s self from the inside distorts the image.

Sometimes I miss my single self, in the wistful way one laments lost youth. I miss the self-reliance of being solo, the drive and the self-assurance. Not surprisingly this list relies much on self.

Comfort led to complacency and inertia. I have tried to blame my inertia on my partner. He lacks motivation so why should I be motivated. At least that’s what I told myself. But maybe he doesn’t lack motivation, maybe he is more easily contented with words, and I prefer action. Inertia is not caused by a third party; it is a force imposed on the object, by the object that must be overcome to abandon stasis. Inertia is self-inflicted.

As I walked my dogs, I could see a woman ahead crossing the street with an empty wine glass and a white, toy poodle trailing her steps. I paused, knowing my dogs are incapable of passing closely to other dogs without pulling and straining. 

Once the lady stepped on the curb, she saw me and appologized for her loose dog. I smiled and told her I wish I could allow my dogs off leash.

I wished that moment was mine. Calm dog, empty wine glass, and preoccupied with a visit across the street.

“Do you like everyone that you meet? [pause] Why would your dog?”

Learning to be a partner to my dog is teaching me things about human relationships. Social conventions are learned abstractly though interaction…trial by fire. Some are adept students. I was not. I am still learning. Slowly.

If I had adopted a dog before now, and enrolled in obedience classes, I don’t know if I would have been ready to learn the things that I am learning now. It seems late in life, but some things we do not learn until we are receptive.

Lately, I have noticed family members trying to avoid unnecessary conflict. Events are not friction free, but body language indicates people are measuring responses carefully, not walking on eggshells, but rejecting passive aggression for thoughtful measured responses. There’s no absence of sarcasm, but battles are selected with care.

From kindergarten until second grade, I was desirable, with a steady boyfriend and a string of suitors. I guess I was something of primary school tease. Boys liked the way I played.

My boyfriend watched soap operas and had an older brother, so occasionally we kissed and held hands, but mostly we played games with wild abandon enacting elaborate imaginative scenarios. His mother arranged for me to go home with him after school. We spent the afternoon eating snacks and playing in the woods nearby.

A few weeks later during show and tell, my boyfriend pulls a Wonder Woman Underoos undershirt out his book bag and announces to the class, I left it at his house.

Our kindergarten teacher was….amused? Shocked? Laughing hysterically? Who knows?

The undershirt wasn’t mine.

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