The Best Laid Plans

I'm awake before I intended to be with the flu circling in my system again, threatening to take over. My husband is laid low with it now, much as I was last week. Nothing this month is going quite as planned. I had planned to get in three weeks of writing before having to start teaching again, but first there was the parish profile that needed editing, then there were letters of reference to write, then I got a couple of days writing in, then I got sick. It is definitely a good thing that I was able to get so much reading for my classes done last week, even if it isn't what I had planned, but now this week looks like it's going to be rather different from what I had meant it to be, too.

Should I feel guilty? It's not like I intended for this to be the way things went, but on the other hand I am definitely taking advantage of them. Yesterday, when it became clear that I still wasn't going to be able to concentrate on my book, I went to the library and got a few articles that one of my readers here has recommended. And I took care of some admin and other stuff, including registering for the NAC in December (even though we haven't fenced the NAC in October yet; what is with the deadlines this year?). But I also spent way too much time fantasizing about something that may or may not be a big mistake: getting a dog.

I've wanted a dog for years, not in a big way, just in that quiet, nagging way that says, "Something is missing from my life." I've always needed a pet; in college and graduate school, it was guinea pigs, but the last guinea pig died a week before my son was born. We got a cat when my son was three and a second one when that cat was five. The first cat died last All Saints' Day, but the second one is still with us. She's nearly the perfect cat, certainly for us: doesn't sit on our books when we try to read, but will come and sit next to us when we're working on our laptops or watching DVDs. But cats aren't dogs. You can't take them for walks, for one.

It seems like a good time for us to get a dog. My son is old enough now to come home from school on his own, which frees up my comings and goings from campus immeasurably. I've been on leave, so I'm not going to be trying to write at anything like the same pace for some years now. I'm worried about what would happen with the cat, but she was around dogs as a kitten and I'm sure we could work on this. The problem is, my husband very much does not want a dog. Not now. Not ever. So what to do? At first I had said that we should wait until our present cat dies, so as to minimize conflict among the animals. But now that just feels like a sentence of doom. I could wait to get a dog until my husband dies, a treat for my old age. But, um, well, that doesn't seem a satisfactory solution to my longing either. Besides, who knows who is going to die first?

I don't know what to do here. My longing is real; I spent way too much time yesterday thinking about all of the ways having a dog would change our lives. About how, along with getting a dog, I want to travel in Europe more and what that would mean. About how having a dog would change our routines. About what it would be like having to schedule around the dog's needs for food and walks and company. I think I'm aware of the bigger issues, not just puppy mad. But maybe, as my husband says, I'm just crazy. It's never going to happen anyway. Precisely because it would disrupt our lives so much. In his words (approximately): "Everything is fine now, why do we need to change?"

Yesterday, my mother reminded me that if we want to get a dog, we should have the remodeling that we want done on our kitchen taken care of first (can you tell we're middle aged? oh yes!). Spurred by visions of having my very own furry daemon and the responsibilities that would entail, I finally called the decorator [correction: interior designer--there is, as I learned today, a big difference] whom I had met back in May. She came over yesterday afternoon, and now we have visions of chaos and new flooring dancing in our heads. None of this is going to go as planned, I'm sure, but in the end we should have a kitchen that we actually like, rather than the one with which we were saddled when we moved in here and didn't have the time (or the will) to refinish before I had to start teaching again and my husband started the job he has had for the past seven years now.

It's symbolic, I know. I can't have the house that I want--more accurately, wanted; the house urge seems to have died this past summer when I realized what it would be like in the apartment (empty) when our son goes off to college in five years--but I can have a more pleasantly decorated kitchen, with cabinets that I (and my husband!) chose and a floor that doesn't make you want to throw up on it (really, the one that we have now, thanks to the previous owners, is that ugly). So what, for me, would getting a dog symbolize? That our lives were not stuck in exactly the same pattern from now until death. That real change is possible. That we are open to the possibility that things might be different in a good way, not just waiting for each other to die. A bit melodramatic, I suppose, but I did warn you that I seem to be getting the flu again.

It's funny, I say I want stability (marriage, tenure, a permanent home), but I am also at the same time deathly afraid of nothing changing from now until I die. As if. There is going to be plenty that changes, not all of which I'm going to like. But what about the things that we can change simply because we want to? Like buying new clothes. Or learning a new skill. Or getting a dog.

I so wish I weren't getting sick again.


  1. Sorry you are not feeling well, and are suffering the distress of the other issues in your life. Thanks for the wonderful article on Mary, which I will use in my class. Thanks also for the reference to John of Caulibus Meditations on the Life of Christ. My wife Barbara and I are quite involved with helping children (and aduilts) pray with imagination, and his stories are wonderful models. I think we may have bought the last copy on the planet. Reading "From Judgment to Passion" is also creating a whole new appreciation of the imaginative way in which Christians in the Medieval times prayed and lived their faith.


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