People who have known me for a long time know that I have the worst sense of direction in the world. It’s almost pathologically bad, a kind of directional dyslexia. But that never interfered with my New York-bred fast and confident stride.
Out-of-town friends who would visit me in Manhattan were often appalled to discover that I was determinedly marching them away from our desired destination. But, really, what was the harm? There are far worse things than walking a few blocks out of the way in a great city. (I do understand the numbered streets, incidentally; it’s just the avenues with names that got me into trouble. And all of downtown.)
That irrational confidence driven by a desire to move forward carried over into other parts of my life. I honeymooned in Iran, Afghanistan and India. I quit a secure job in travel publishing to go to London for a year-long gig. I moved to Tucson, where I didn’t know a soul or have a job, on a whim, and got over my fear of driving there. (Which didn’t improve my sense of direction. It just ensured that I would go farther out of my way when I took a wrong turn.)
But in recent years, I started to get more cautious.
First, it was 9/11, which made traveling a hassle. Then I got a nonadventurous — a nice way of saying fearful– dog. And when that dog developed diabetes, I really started taking the path of least resistance.
Having decided that plane travel with Frankie would be too stressful because of the need to carry insulin and needles, and that my noise-averse pup would not enjoy New York or other big cities, I started flying to conferences and family events on my own and not staying very long. No pet sitter could care for Frankie as well as I could, after all. In lieu of real vacations, I started taking short car trips with Frankie, which he doesn’t particularly enjoy because they involve being in the car.
And, a few months ago, when a friend offered me a free stay of any length in her Manhattan apartment this summer while she is away in her upstate home, I went into what is now my default resistance mode.
I told several people about the invitation and why I didn’t think I could accept it and with such confidence that no one sighed and rolled their eyes at me like they used to do when they saw me striding determinedly down the wrong street.
Until earlier this week.
There was no eye rolling, but when I told a dog-walking friend about how I didn’t think a month in New York with Frankie would work out, he looked at me like I was insane. And the more I tried to explain my reservations, the more they sounded lame.
Yes, I have a laptop computer. Yes, I am capable of getting my freelance work done in NYC. Yes, I could send my clothing and a good supply of Frankie’s food ahead so I wouldn’t have to worry about schlepping luggage and only have my laptop and Frankie’s diabetes supplies as carry ons. Yes, New York has vets. And yes, I’m sure Frankie would prefer to spend a month with me in noisy New York than be left behind for even ten days in Tucson.
And yes, it would be a good idea for a person who is writing a pet travel book to experience different types of pet travel.
When, I wondered, had I become such a wuss — and one who blamed the dog?
Frankie isn’t ever going to be cured of his diabetes or of his essential temperament. Am I going to spend the rest of his days depriving myself of things I want to do as a result? And who is it more fearful, when it comes down to it — me or Frankie?
Oh, I’m not going to stop worrying — another default mode, but one that had never stopped me in the past from moving forward. I know it’s going to be a pain in the butt to get dressed and go outside at 5am instead of taking Frankie out in my back yard in my bathrobe. And he might indeed be stressed out in the city. And his blood sugar might go haywire.
On the other hand, after his last dental, Frankie has a slightly scornful expression. He would fit right into Manhattan.
So I called my friend and left her messages at three different contact places to say, yes, I would love to spend August in her apartment. I checked flights on pet-friendly airlines.
I haven’t heard back. I may have waited too long. Some noncrazed person might have jumped at the chance to spend a summer in a Manhattan apartment for free. And that would be sad. But at least I know it’s time for a course correction, for me to start striding determinedly towards “Why not?” again.