Lois has recently become a dog, an aspiration neither she nor I knew she had.
For more than three years, our boxer/pit bull/dummy-dumb-dumb mix has been quite the social media star, famous for being as weird as she is large. She drapes her 80-lb self across our shoulders. She can’t figure out fetch, no matter how many times we try to teach her (it’s not just that she doesn’t give the ball back; most times, she runs in the direction of the ball, looks at it and then keeps running). She waits outside the shower to try and lick the soap and prefers people to dogs and has a tail (named Natasha) and tongue
that won’t quit. Other dogs don’t get her. She’s been the quirky center of our lives, and we have never challenged her assumption that she is a human, just like us. A uniquely stupid human, but human all the same.
But now, we have an actual tiny human in the house. From the moment we announced she would be coming, the concerned inquiries began to percolate. “What will Lois do?” “Are you worried about Lois?” “How will Lois handle it?”
I wasn’t worried about Lois. I don’t know why. I figured she’d sort it out. So I wasn’t surprised when she did. From almost the day we brought our daughter home, she has understood that the tiny person is breakable and if you want to lick it, you have to wait until no one is looking. She wants to be involved, sitting right next to me as I nurse, making sure we know the baby is awake at 4 am (don’t worry, Lois. We know), but if she’s not allowed to be, she doesn’t get upset. She’ll just try again next time.
What I have been entirely surprised by is her change in behavior. This creature, who has never sat or slept anywhere but on a piece of human furniture, now sits and sleeps on the floor. A lot. And we never told her she had to. She plays outside by herself. She gets a toy and amuses herself. Like a dog. Like a real, mentally and emotionally stable canine. Weird. And weirder, she seems totally fine with it.
This evolution has been happening while I’ve been exchanging emails with a friend who is considering getting into freelancing. As she shared her concerns about being able to pass as a legitimate professional writer, I emotionally
flashed back to my own feelings of inadequacy when I first started out. I wasn’t surprised to recall the feeling; I was surprised to realize it was gone. I was surprised to witness myself giving someone advice about how to do what I do every day. I was surprised I knew stuff that was valuable and sounded like expertise. One thing I found myself telling her was that she is definitely going to feel like she’s faking it when she first starts reaching out to editors and sources. Sometimes you have to force yourself into a role before you know if you can do it.
It turns out Lois can be a dog, and she can be happy in that role. We had no idea she had it her (and believe me, neither did she) until our circumstances gave her no other choice. The baby with opposable thumbs will always be higher in the pack hierarchy. No debate. Likewise, it’s difficult to know you are something you claim to be–a freelance writer, a business owner, a professional musician, whatever–until you throw yourself into the role without a backup plan. It absolutely feels like you’re faking it, until one day when you’re not.