Foolishly, but innocently, I went with my wife to pick out a dog. Though we’d looked at a number of dogs several times before, I knew in my heart we’d come back with Jackson.
The problem at hand is that I had no idea how difficult and challenging, how much work it takes to care for a dog. Nor did I know just how much of a concrete decision I was making.
In grad school, I studied with a wonderfully talented writer and a generous spirit, Abigail Thomas. Her memoir A Three Dog Life is a lovely account of life, hope, transformation, and love after her husband’s tragic accident.
In class, Abby read passages from all types of books: scientific, fiction, poetry, memoir. After the reading, Abby gave an assignment linked to the readings.
One assignment might be, “Now write a story where you encounter someone from your past.” Another, “Write a story that includes an orange, a back door, and someone with a tattoo.” You get the picture.
I loved having these contained options. Maybe they helped build perimeters of safety around my then budding writing skills. With these added options, I unexpectedly got a richness added to my writing. I always came up with stories I liked, some I even loved.
There is an axiom that says “Creativity is the Elimination of Options.”
I don’t know if this was Abby’s intent, but creativity blossomed in the class each week when person after person read their work out loud. It had a bit of magic.
The option to add Jackson to our family is both scary and expensive, as well as time consuming. The alternative option my wife like wouldn’t like: send him back.
The best option in this life story is to allow it to play out: to include a dog named Jackson, a wife who travels, and a writer who creates, and to see what happens.