I’m trying to work, and Pete is bugging me. I say, I need to work. Leave me alone. Why? he asks. I don’t know why. I just need to work. It looks to me like you’re just sitting there, he says. How can you be working if you’re just sitting there? My work is all in my head, I explain. I think things and I write them down. I think things, too, he says. Let’s go outside and chase squirrels. Ha, I say, the things I think are way more important than the things you think. Maybe to you they are, he says, but not to me. I want to go outside and chase squirrels.
People don’t chase squirrels, I say. Maybe you should, he says. Chasing squirrels gives my life meaning. Well, work gives my life meaning. So, he says, chasing squirrels and work are the same thing. That’s possible, I agree. Often when I’m working, I feel like I’m chasing something I can’t catch. See, he says. That’s why we need to go outside and chase squirrels. You need practice.
I explain all the reasons I can’t chase squirrels. I’m not fast enough, I don’t see well enough, my hips don’t jump, my knees don’t run, my hands aren’t quick, also, I lack the motivation. Squirrels don’t interest me. Wow, he says, have you seen a doctor? Maybe you should try one of my heartworm pills.
I ‘m not taking medical advice from my dog. Okay, he says. I’ll wait here until you change your mind. He flops down on the floor next to my desk. Now, I feel guilty. And I’m thinking, shit, sometimes sitting here banging on this keyboard feels as ridiculous as chasing squirrels. In fact, sometimes when I look at my life, I feel like I’ve been chasing squirrels for 68 years, making up reasons why my work is important, keeping myself busy with busywork, using up all my energy working, and then feeling like nothing I do matters.
That’s because you’re chasing fake squirrels, he says. Let’s go outside and chase real squirrels. You’ll feel better. Okay. I give up, shut down my app and put my boots on to take my dog for a walk. He races out the door straight for the trees, scares up a grey squirrel and runs as though his life depends on it, zigging and zagging, leaping and bounding obsessed, until the squirrel runs up a tree and he’s left standing on his hind legs, front paws on the tree trunk, barking up at nothing. The squirrel is long gone.
I keep walking until he catches up with me, deliriously happy. Did you see that? Did you see that? he asks. Wasn’t that cool? I almost caught it. I almost caught a squirrel. This is the best day ever! But you didn’t catch it, I say. You didn’t catch the squirrel. Of course, I didn’t catch the squirrel, he says. If I caught the squirrel, there would be nothing left to chase. So, why even bother? I ask. Oh, he sighs. Do you understand nothing? The process is the destination.