Pardon me while I breathe into this paper bag. I’m still a bit nauseous from a day of dizzying highs and lows the other week. The morning began with the news that a federal appeals court ruled in favor of a guy who wants to build a 9,000-square-foot strip club in our tiny town. That's 1.4 feet of nude bar for every man, woman and child who lives here -- a scale so vast that I can only assume that the owner is compensating for his inadequate (ahem) self esteem.
In case you’re wondering, that was a low.
Then I drove to Old Lyme, Conn., where I’d been invited to speak to the library’s book group about Weekends with Daisy. I spent the morning with a room full of smart, funny and insightful readers talking about some of my favorite things (dogs, my kids, and the rehabilitative aspects of training service dogs in prison).
That was a high.
My mood took a sharp turn downward when I came home to a voice mail from a stranger claiming that my dog bit her.
I don’t have a dog of my own, and yet (and this is what I find most troubling), it never occurred to me that she was mistaken. That’s how easily I accept blame.
According to her message, she was attacked on a Monday. As it turns out, I had Samurai on that day. Now, Samurai is so gentle that he wouldn’t bite you even if you’d bathed in beef broth and donned raw meat. Still, the woman had to be right. After all, she knew my name. She had my phone number. She had notified the dog officer. I wracked my brain. Did Samurai bite someone at the post office while I was catching up with my old neighbor, Bill? The leash isn't that long. How could I not notice? Or maybe it happened while an acquaintance was introducing me to her German exchange student?
I dug out Samurai’s rabies certificate and dialed the dog bite victim. She apologized immediately, explaining that it was a case of mistaken identity. Somebody suggested I might have been the woman whose dog lunged at her while visiting conservation land, but when she googled me and saw my photo, she saw that we looked nothing alike.
I was relieved and offered to help her find the dog’s owner. Still, an uneasiness clung to me. Why did I have so little faith in myself that I assumed Samurai could undergo a complete personality change, attack a stranger, and revert back to his sweet self while I chatted mindlessly in the post office?
That was a low. Not to mention, a topic for a therapist.
But since I don’t see a therapist, I took the issue outside with me for a walk. That’s where I work out most problems. I was grappling with my deep-seated fear that I’m irresponsible and self-absorbed when I saw a 3-year-old boy in the middle of the road. He was straddling a bicycle with training wheels. “Are you stuck?” I asked, looking up and down our quiet street for cars. He stared back at me, clamped his mouth into a fierce expression, and pushed down on the pedals. The bike picked up speed. I followed. “Good job! But you better turn around,” I pointed ahead to where the road curved out of sight, “Cars come down there really fast and they may not see you.”
The boy steered his bike into a U-turn and swooped into his driveway. I kept walking, eager to dive back into my self-criticism, but turned around for one last look. He was still in his driveway, staring back at me. “Bye!” he hollered. “I love you!”
That was a high.