At the end of his autobiography, appropriately called My Autobiography since it’s hard to write someone else’s autobiography, Charlie Chaplin writes about his wife Oona and says, “I wish I could write more about this, but it involves love, and perfect love is the most beautiful of all frustrations because it is more than one can express.”
And I get it. Happiness is a great thing but for any kind of artist there’s also frustration in it. There’s a reason most fairy tales end with “and they lived happily ever after”. If they started with that there wouldn’t be much else to say, although some fairy tale versions–such as some of the Tales of the Arabian Nights–end with a line like, “And if they have not died they are still living,” which I think is more realistic. Happiness is ephemeral, which is what makes it nice when it comes along. It’s also hard to express, though, which is why most art is based on some kind of conflict. That’s why there’s also the saying that you know you’re a writer when something bad happens to you and your first thought is, “How can I make a story out of this?”
What got me thinking about this is that we have a new puppy and, well, let’s just say even when she frustrates me, mostly by chewing on my shoes or biting my finger because she’s still at that stage, it’s a beautiful frustration. And it’s frustrating that there’s so much I could say I’m not sure where to start. I guess introductions are best: her name is Junko. That’s pronounce “Joon-ko” because she’s named for Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Mount Everest and the highest mountain on every continent, and I don’t know what Tabei would think of having a dog named after her but I like to think she’d be happy because Junko the puppy is smart and fearless, just like her namesake. She’s a climber and an explorer.
There’s also something for me in the fact that this strong, brave little girl has brought happiness into our lives at a time when we’re feeling sad about the loss of a strong, brave woman. I don’t know what Justice Ginsburg would think of being compared to a puppy, although it would probably make her laugh, and really I’m not comparing them even though they’re both small of stature but with a big ability to make the world a better place.
Well, Junko is small for now but she’s growing fast. And when I’m at work and she’s in the other room I’ll sometimes hear my wife snap, “Stop that!” followed by Junko’s short, quick bark, and I know Junko’s done something bad and my first thought is, how can I make a story out of this? And that makes me happy.