Letting sleeping dogs lie

I guess everyone plays the roles required of them. It’s an essential part of being considerate and sensitive to others. And each role is a construct. When you’re asked a question, you want to give the answer that’s right for the situation, not the answer that’s inconveniently true. If someone says, “How are you, Xan?” I don’t reply, “I’ve been afflicted by the most terrible self-doubt”. That would be rude, embarrassing both of us. Language is call and response: Cows in a field, at night, locate each other. It’s not the statement of brutal, indisputable facts.

As previous posts have testified, I feel I have reasons to keep things hidden, so I have to remain alert. I don’t want to share my inner thoughts with other people. I might betray myself, reveal my true baseness. On the occasions when someone has penetrated the inner sanctum, and has been foolish enough to care, the revelations haven’t always been very pleasant for them. From my parents, to Lulu, to Jo, it has seemed to provoke explosions of anger, exasperation and distress. Better to keep things locked up, I think.

Ironically, the closer I am to somebody, the more I want to avoid upsetting them, the more important it is to keep emotional truths from them. If I’m feeling emotionally vulnerable, I can’t cope with the inevitable stress and friction, and if I’m just being a gloomy old bastard, there really isn’t anything worth saying about it. And, anyway, most of the time, I’m unaware of my own mental state.

Take Jo, for example. Our relationship has always been much more troubled than she had hoped for, while being, simultaneously, much better than I could ever have expected. We stagger from one crisis to the next, always precipitated by me. I expected this; she didn’t.

I expected this because I live in a constant state of existential dissatisfaction. I am now aware that this is an internal state, but I used to assume it stemmed from the external situation, so I questioned how desirable these situations were. I even (Fool of a Took!) questioned if my relationship with Jo was the right thing for me, whether I’d be more compatible with someone else. This doubt was too troubling even for me to suppress, and I became withdrawn and anguished, until, eventually, Jo dragged it out of me. When she did, it fundamentally shook her confidence in our relationship. She was distraught and very angry and she never quite trusted me again.

Jo has her own hang-ups, her own psychological history, and she feels an urgent responsibility to keep everyone happy. When I’m not, especially when I’m wilfully so, with no reason for it, she takes it as a criticism, or as a sign of a dissatisfaction with our relationship, and this makes her angry and insecure and miserable. This is all my fault, after my previous behaviour. Yet, if I unload to her, vomit forth my foul and leprous truth, breath upwards the stench of my green grave, she’d be even more unhappy and this would also be my fault.

So, when Jo tries to corner me on my feelings, I desperately try to duck under her arm and scarper: “No, no, no. I’m fine!”, I squeak, nervously, fluttering from wall, to wall, searching for an escape route. “Whatever gave you the impression I was feeling (morose/ frustrated/ irritable/ anxious/ doomy)?!”

Why spoil a perfectly nice day?

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