(Referring to the perfect little ‘handbag’ dogs in Boca Raton, Florida) “They were petite, sophisticated and of discriminating taste. Marley was big, clunky and a sniffer of genitalia.”
“Marley had earned his place in our family. Like a quirky but beloved uncle, he was what he was. He would never be Lassie or Benji or Old Yeller. We accepted him for the dog he was, and loved him all the more for it. “You old geezer,” I said to him on the side of the road that late-winter day, scrubbing his neck. Our goal, the cemetery, was still a steep climb ahead. But just as in life, I was figuring out, the destination was less important than the journey.”
Marley and Me by John Grogan
This book, Marley and Me (and the film,) snuck up on me from behind, and got to me when my guard was down. The film is light hearted, ‘feel good’ and predictable, but when I watched some years ago and again recently, I fell for every line – both my heart and my tear ducts annoyingly reacted exactly on cue.
So why did I read the book this last week as well? I’m a bit of a literary snob. This biography is easy reading, unchallenging in thought and vocabulary, not exactly an epic tome like my favourite and preferred Dickens. Not my usual choice.
We had dinner with our Chinese neighbours recently. This is always a treat. We are culturally and in our likes and dislikes, completely different, resulting in an unlikely friendship. She and her husband came to the UK 10 years ago. She speaks good English, and although he tries, nothing that comes out of his mouth vaguely resembles the English language we know and love. So a meal with them is always an evening of laughs, translation, gesticulating and vigorous nodding, with my Hubby occasionally coming out with an almost perfectly pronounced Chinese word or phrase to delight our friends. Hubby is a brilliant mimic, by the way.
Like most of our neighbours, this family watched our thwarted building works of the past year with interest and some deserved panic as it encroached on their peaceful lives as well. Apart from food, the Chinese economy, fate and luck, the progress of our building works has been a favoured topic of rapt conversation. Suddenly at dinner, our lovely neighbour declared: “Your building works were like the movie, Marley and Me.” Imagine the confused faces at the table. This prompted her to continue: “Marley was the worst dog and caused so much trouble and damage. But if it wasn’t for all that, there wouldn’t be a story to tell.” I could have kissed her at that moment. Never has she spoken my own language more clearly and never has a statement been more true.
So I made Hubby watch the film and I bought the book on my Kindle. Like life itself, Grogan’s description of the antics of a family dog, was messy and didn’t go according to plan. Reading the book this week has spoken to me in surprising ways.
Change is upon us and change is messy. I’m not fond of mess. It’s all around me with autumn here. The sun is thin, it’s been windy and leaves litter the pavements. As I wrestle with change and the messiness of life I realise that I’m a bit of an idealist. I think I like change (in theory and in novels), but really, I prefer change on my own terms. Marley was never going to be Benji or Old Yeller… So what am I expecting in my own life and work?
I remember reading about how the company, Kodak, would not accept the impending digital revolution in photography. They refused to believe that film companies and professional photographers would ever use anything other than celluloid to record their works of art. Then all of a sudden the digital wave they could have rode all the way to shore, passed them by and the company lost their dominance in the market.
It seems I/we can’t fight change.
Did I mention that my Hubby is taking over the family business in the next couple of months? This is both a great privilege and a huge, scary responsibility. With it comes discomfort for staff. He wants to make sure that everyone is working in an area where they are most suited, motivated, challenged and valued. This, in a really unstable market, at a time where their industry is fast changing and when the tried and tested techniques of the last decade no longer work as well as they used to. It’s crunch time. Time to be creative and to think outside of the box.
May we, and you, dear readers, ride the wave of change, as messy and uncomfortable as it feels. May we stay open minded, keeping only a loose hold on to those perfect plans. This idealist is fast learning that life has another agenda, and though it may seem filled with ‘best laid plans’ going awry, therein lies your story .