I have not written a blog for the Huffington Post since September of last year. My exile started the day I said goodbye to one of the greatest sources of unconditional love I’ve ever known: our dog, Bear.
When he died, I was grief-stricken beyond all personal fathoming. I’d never known pain like that. It affected me so much that I felt the gut-wrenching desire to talk about him to anyone who would listen.
I thought maybe that I wanted to write a book about how he changed me, made me a better caregiver, father, husband, human. I had even picked a title: The Bear...Life, Love, and Two-Way Conversations I’ve Had With My Dog.
Yes, I’ve had them. Stop judging me.
I wanted others to share their own stories about him, about how he really got people where they were. My dad was a dog lover, so Bear was all over him. My mother was a bit timid, and he never jumped up on her once.
He knew. He always knew.
My dad was so taken with him that he wrote a poem titled Ode to the Bear. It still hits all of my feels whenever I read it.
But he didn’t just touch my family. My friend Fred wrote this amazing eulogy, describing him as...
a devoted and fiercely loyal companion who ruled his world and those around him with pride, grace, dignity and unrelenting love and compassion.
This story was going to shake the world somehow. All I had to do was let it flow out of me.
Only, it didn’t happen. I sat at my computer, day after day, wanting to write so many things, so many stories, so many moments that were now eluding me. I could grasp nothing, pin-down nothing, write... nothing. I had lost my metaphorical voice, and I didn’t know how to get it back. Me... word-puker extraordinaire... couldn’t write.
I had hit a wall creatively. This didn’t feel like writer’s block. It was more like writer’s extinction, and deep down, I was terrified. What if I never had anything to say again?
It was in my lowest literary misery that an unlikely lifeboat presented itself. My friend Erica works for a local company called KolbeCo Marketing. She said that her boss, Lauren, wanted my help in concocting some funny scripts for one of their clients. The start of my phone conversation with Lauren didn’t go as well as I would have hoped.
“What do they do?” I asked.
“Processes,” said Lauren.
“What kind?” I asked.
“Everything from on-boarding new hires to setting up automatic purchase orders to streamlining a chain of command to get things done more efficiently than anything else ever conceived,” said Lauren.
‘There’s no way on God’s green earth that any of that could be funny,’ I thought while driving to our first meeting. ‘I am absolutely positively the wrong person for this job. Not only is the subject matter something that I have no experience with, but I can’t write fiction to save my life. And since now I can’t write non-fiction either, I’m going to fail miserably and will never be hired to write again.’
And then we sat. And we chatted. And we laughed. And she started asking me questions.
“What could be funny to have someone order?” asked Lauren.
“Staples,” I said instantaneously. “Do you know how many damn staples there are? And none of them fit the other. Swinglines won’t fit an EVO.”
“How in everything holy did you know that?” asked Lauren.
“I have no idea.” I still don’t.
One script idea down, several to go.
“Okay then, name one thing that comes to mind in regards to something going wrong when you think of a new hire,” asked Lauren.
“Two people hired for the same job by two different people,” I said, again, instantaneously. “The amount of things that could go south is almost limitless.”
Lauren’s mouth dropped. “I had not thought of that one.”
Before that moment, I hadn’t either. And in the moments after, five more ideas came into being. She’d come up with an idea, I’d add a few things, and then we might as well have been drunk with the things we were saying.
“What if they were both completely competent women, and both showed up for the same time for an interview?” I asked.
“What if the men in the office offered to vote one off at the end of a competition?” asked Lauren.
“Like Survivor!” I said.
“With tiki torches!” said Lauren.
“Right in the middle of the freaking lobby!” I laughed.
We were crying laughing at this point. I sat there, completely stunned at what just transpired. I wanted to be sure I hadn’t taken things too far out of the realm of normality. This was, after all, for a really successful client who wanted their story told in a different way than the norm.
“How crazy can I get with these?” I asked.
“There are literally no limits,” smiled Lauren. “I like outlandish.”
And with that, over the next few weeks, some of the most ridiculously funny things that have ever popped into my brain have ended up in these scripts. The name of the fictitious company where everything goes wrong is Bailey, Frost, and Myrrh. Why Myrrh? Because I thought it looked funny on paper. And it does. And Lauren agreed.
And the owner of the company we’re writing these for agreed.
There are all of these characters jumbled together, who don’t necessarily like or respect each other a great deal, who make the folks in The Office look completely and utterly professional. We even went as far as to find stock photos of faces that really match the biographies of each character. They are, without a doubt, the most ludicrous things I’ve ever written, and by far the most fun.
But what the exercise did for me personally was that it taught me that by leaping my way out of my comfort zone, into a place I didn’t think I would succeed, I raced through any self-imposed barriers I had created for myself. And it didn’t hurt that Lauren gave me no barriers, either.
“Go nuts with it. I trust you. If we have to reign it in a bit, so be it,” she said.
‘Kind of an amazing metaphor for life,’ I thought as I walked back to my car. ‘This is going to be fun.’
And so now here I sit, my block now obliterated, word-puking at my desk with an eight-month-old little girl at my feet. Her name is Summer, and she’s a nutcase. She hates the car and loves water... which are polar opposites of Bear. But she has his heart, and she’s crazy about our boys Sam and Ben, and that’s all I could ask for.
Well, I wouldn’t mind it if she stopped jumping up on my mother. It scares the shit out of her.