Do you know what you were doing?
Yesterday a Facebook memory popped up and reminded me what I was doing exactly ten years ago. Quite similar, weirdly, to what I am now doing, a decade on. Only this time I am doing it with three different dogs sprawled on the floor around me as I sit tapping on a different computer, writing a different book.
Ten years ago, according to Facebook, Renae, Susie-Belle and Twinkle were keeping me company as I was madly scrabbling – and scribbling – to reach the September deadline which I’d agreed with the publisher for Saving Susie-Belle. I was to deliver the manuscript, which was just over half written. It wasn’t my first book, but it was the first about dogs and the most personal at that point.
I understood what deadlines meant, I’d worked out how many days I had left and how much I had to write every day. I was strict and organised. Writing was a kind of refuge for me from a lot of other things going on. Making, and sticking to, a timetable offered a sense of security and structure that I needed.
I was in the throes of a nasty family trauma. I was running my own emotionally demanding health practice working with women experiencing infertility and pregnancy loss. At that stage had no clue how things in my life would eventually pan out. That, a few years on I would have started a charity and be responsible for people’s donations and have the trust of many to do the right thing with their money.
As I sat in my garden in England in June 2013 writing, what I was coming to understand was that the dogs were my lodestar. That whatever else was going on in my life, or would come about, they were the most important thing to happen to me.
I met my deadline. I delivered the book on time and almost as soon as I had written the last word, started working on the next. In the space of threee years, I had three books about the dogs out there. I was a driven person. Writing still drives me and every day I write something about the dogs. But I am no longer the same person that I was ten years ago, even though the memory yesterday might suggest otherwise.
A decade on the scene is similar: I am writing my 6th book about dogs and aiming to complete it by September; I have three dogs at my feet (lolling on the same cushions as Renae, Twinkle and Susie-Belle were!) Weirdly I am even organising a schnauzer walk next weekend. One with friends in England who I did walks with ten years ago. Friends who I first raised the idea of Schnauzerfest with.
Déjà vu is in my head. But I approach my days differently now.
Today I dictate my own time. The ripples from the family trauma are there, but distant. They no longer determine much in my life. I am no longer beholden to the whims of others. Everything feels much more positive. This, even though I am more closely engaged in the day to day reality of animal welfare than I was a decade ago. And everything there feels worse, not better. But I am a better person and from this I can do better. The dogs have helped me become better. They determine what I do with my life. And have done since Renae entered it in January 2011 and I knew I would adopt a sister for her. Who was Susie-Belle.
Today I feel like I will meet my September deadline, just as I did a decade ago. Only, with Albert Claude, Angel and Cerise beside me. Three dogs whose paths into my life were forged by the others.
If you’re interested in joining me on Sunday 11 June for a walk with schnauzers and other friends, drop me a message for details.