Benjamin, my dog, is a friendly, outgoing, extrovert. A couple weeks ago I met friends at Central Market’s outdoor patio to listen to a blues band. During that hour I spied a young girl snapping the dog’s picture, two men asked to pet him, and one guy pet him without asking and later told him in passing that, “sorry,” he couldn’t “have a beer.” I am rather invisible beside him to the extent that strangers fail to recognize me as his owner instead asking friends “how old is he” and neighbors can’t recognize me without my white and black, four-legged companion.
The world is not always eager for a friendly dog and I spend a lot of our social time together teaching him that the world is a scary, ugly place which he should not approach. He doesn’t believe me, continuing to greet every person with licks and encouraging them to scratch his butt as I stand at the end of his leash quiet, apparently sullen. Not that I am. Wagging my tail and eagerly licking strangers does not come easily to me.
Late one night, following a revitalizing day of noisy solitude, in a fit of “maybe I’ll give that writing career another try” energy, I tasked myself with searching remembrances filed into a basket the cat likes to scratch on for attention or sit in because she fits. Mixed in with old short stories and fragments of ideas was a printout of an online Myers-Briggs test I took years before needing to sweep up pet fur everyday. While I have no memory of placing it into this basket for safe keeping I do clearly recall that seeing myself described as an INTJ made complete sense. Maybe others wouldn’t see it, but how you perceive yourself verses how others perceive you is part of what this personality description is about. Sensibly not everyone respects this test — we only get things very wrong when we think we have it very right — and it is critiqued as every psychological or astrological personality evaluation should be, but it works for me.
I am good at knowing what I don’t know, confusing others by appearing to change topics, not following the crowd, skipping social norms, and refusing to acknowledge depthless authority. I have been described as stable. I am good at being alone without being lonely. Attempting the level of social interaction this blog requires from me does not come easily.
Reading the INTJ description was a reinforcement of what I know to be true and so I didn’t spend much time with it. Eventually tired, I lifted the cat out of the filing basket, put back the papers, set aside a few to remember about (because maybe I’ll give that old writing career dream another try), and went to bed. I fell asleep to plans of the future.
That same night the dog got sick.
Breakfast was replaced with extra cups of coffee.
After work I coaxed the dog into the car, sliding into the driver’s seat via the passenger seat so that he couldn’t try to escape. His excitement over an unexpected after work adventure had been replaced with nerves as he felt the first sprinkles of a storm that didn’t come. The vet was not the soothing tonic he hoped for. An hour later I coaxed Benny back into the car, again sliding over the passenger seat — grabbing him as he prepped to jump out the door — and into the driver’s. I dropped him at home, made a quick trip to the grocery store for his bland chicken and rice diet, drove back home, started his dinner, and laid down on the couch. I forced myself to stay awake, talking to the cat who had curled up on my stomach, and telling the dog to stop drinking large gulps of water that he’d only throw up, but that he was good all the same ’cause I didn’t want him to get a complex about drinking water.
While driving home from second trips to the store and to the vet for things forgotten and things follow up I started to wish that I knew how to be the type of person who could easily reach out to others without feeling weak or selfish. While I have been enamored by time travel for as long as I remember, I’ve never wanted to travel back through my own time line — too many dangerous possibilities in that scenario. It doesn’t stop me from wondering about fictional me. Fictional me easily laughs her way between daily trials to new successes. She doesn’t write a blog for free, having received exciting job opportunities due, in part, to her ability to make jokes and express opinions that never accidentally offend anyone. Fictional me doesn’t sit at a stoplight willing herself to stay awake fighting back tears of exhaustion.
I kept telling myself that it was just because I was tired. I was tired of walking the dog no matter how much I hurt. I was tired of the cat’s desperate need for attention. I was tired of going to the store. I was tired of making dinner and fixing breakfast and packing a lunch. I was tired of telling myself that I was a grown up “now suck it up and act like one.”
Which is just what I did by the time I drove the six blocks home. While serving the dog’s chicken and rice I started to contemplate my own dinner. The leftover cheese steak from real me’s Sunday dinner seemed too celebratory, but toast and a fried egg, or some plain pasta might be sufficiently fitting.
Then the cat sneezed.
I opened a bottle of wine. While shredding a large strip of chicken for the cat (who was giving me telepathic looks to do just this) I gave up on my own dinner. Fictional me’s dinner would be more than a glass of wine and a bread roll, I mumbled to myself.
Fictional me never sticks around for very long. Real me, however, she’s loyal, never glib, and always doggedly typing out something for this blog that, I suspect, fictional me gave up on a long time ago.