I did a tough thing a few weeks ago. I hired a dog walker for Zoe and Zephyr, my two whippets.
It hadn’t been something I was planning on doing. We were tight, the Zs and I. We spent our days together and walked the streets of Cambridge for miles every day. Aside from Zephyr’s reactivity (he explosively barks at every dog he sees), we were happy. We were working on his problem. I didn’t want to let go of our time together.
But then life threw me a curveball—a big one—and my current plans changed dramatically. I found myself looking for a part-time job. No big deal, I thought. I would still have plenty of time to walk the Zs and to write. Right? Wrong. I did find a job, but it quickly morphed into more of a full-time position. I liked it and my skills were desperately needed, so I put in the hours. I kept writing for an hour in the morning, figuring when things settled down, more writing time would come.
The Zs found themselves adjusting too. Despite my being able to race home to walk them, they were forced to spend long days alone in the house. Gone were our leisurely midday walks. I swore they seemed depressed. I relented and got that dog walker, suspecting deep down that Zephyr’s behavior problems would lessen if he spent some time with someone else.
And as I let go of the Zs, I let go of many items on my project list, which had gotten quite lengthy. Gone was the non-fiction book I wanted to write. Gone were the series of essays I wanted to publish. Gone was the business I wanted to start. I had two things to do: work and write. It was kind of a relief.
Lo and behold, the Zs adjusted to the new routine and quickly to their new walker (“I’m surprised how quickly,” said my dog walker, and I wasn’t sure if I was happy or sad about this). Sure enough, Zephyr’s reactivity issues started to moderate. He and I had experienced a lot of emotional ups and downs together. Without me, he was free to let that history go and focus on being the confident dog that I knew was in there somewhere.
I started to eke out more writing time, including at night, something I’d not done with any regularity ever, being the morning person I am. The dog walker is keeping the dogs well exercised so I come home to content and happy dogs. Zephyr’s reactivity even with me is diminishing, keeping me calmer than the days when his episodes left me emotionally fraught. I picture pleasant times at my laptop, novel in front of me, dogs dreaming at my feet.
By letting go of much of what I want to accomplish for now, my brain was suddenly free of all that junk that was rattling around inside of it. I had had so many projects that I was working on that I actually never got anything done, but now things are happening. Progress is being made at work, with the novel, and with the dogs. My head and heart feel lighter. My writing is freer.
A month in and I don’t miss working on all of those projects. I know I’ll get to them at some point, and when I do, I’ll be able to focus more on them. I even found time to read for a couple of hours this past weekend, something I’d not done in recent memory. Letting go has been good for all of us, and perhaps by the time Zephyr’s reactivity is completely under control, my novel will be done. Then we can work on our next project together.