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The Other Door

            Since the beginning of the Covid shutdown last March, the clergy at my synagogue have been hosting zooms to discuss both serious and unserious topics, to maintain our social connections from home. Sometimes I can’t make it to a session with the Rabbi or the Cantor, but it’s reassuring to know they’re always there and always coming up with something interesting to talk about. Ellie comes to every zoom, sitting on my lap, while Cricket sleeps in her bed next to me.

The one time Cricket came to Zoom

A few weeks ago, at one of our clergy connections, the Cantor was asking us how our idea of time has changed during the pandemic. He looked into references to time in biblical and Talmudic sources, but to me it seemed obvious, as in so many other areas, that dogs are the secret to mental health in general and to structuring time in particular; having to take the dogs out four times a day – marking breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime – has kept me on a regular schedule all year, despite not always remembering which day it is.

“I’m ready to go again!”

            The dogs even make sure we stay aware of the seasons, because they don’t believe in skipping walks on cold days or rainy days or hot days. In reality, they do have preferences, but until they get to the front door and see and feel the weather for themselves, they are always confident that it’s beautiful outside. Often, when I open the door and the front steps are covered with snow, or rain and wind are aiming themselves straight at us, the dogs look up at me as if I’ve betrayed them, I told the group, and the Cantor said, yes, they want the other door.

What?!

Our cantor is a big fan of science fiction, so he would be the one to see that connection, but it sounded so right.

Is it possible that my dogs actually believe that I am choosing this snowy/rainy/windy world on purpose, just to annoy them? Of course it’s possible! They want the door that opens to the outside world that’s warm and smelly and rich with sounds, none of this weather business, and they are convinced that I could get that for them, if I wanted to. Mean Mommy.

“That’s my line.”

            Of course, this idea sent me cruising down a rabbit hole and I mostly missed the rest of the discussion about the nature of time. I was too preoccupied with the possibility that we could choose a different door and get a different world. If it were possible, would I choose the door to our world, or to somewhere else? I don’t know. There’s something reassuring about not having a choice, and having to make do with what reality brings. I love the Harry Potter books, and the idea of magic wands and magic words, but, too much magic could mean that there would be no rules and no consequences to our actions, or to anyone else’s. How would we learn how to adapt to other people and take responsibility for our behavior, if when one world gets tough we could just choose another door? Would there be infinite other doors? How would we know which one to choose? If we could choose the more pleasant, easy world, would that lead to a happier life?

            It’s a truism that reality is stranger than fiction, and often more frustrating and chaotic, but it can also be more interesting and definitely more varied than what we could imagine for ourselves. The desire for alternative facts, and the belief that all news is fake if it’s not what we want to hear, have become prominent (again) over the past few years. And I understand it. I understand finding reality overwhelming and incomprehensible and wanting it to be something different, something more comfortable and less challenging.

            But isn’t that what fiction is for? We get to read and write stories about what’s behind that other door, as a way to escape reality, but also as a way to reshape how we understand our realities, and find ways to cope with them, and tame their chaos. When we return to the real world from the fictional one we can feel rejuvenated, and use the knowledge and insight we’ve gained from our trip through that other door to make our real lives better.

            This is just a thought experiment, unless you know something about alternate dimensions existing in our world that I am not privy to. But sometimes it helps to think through these impossibilities, like if we’d choose to live forever, or what we’d do if we won the lottery, in order to appreciate the value of the world we actually have.

            Except, does this thought experiment really lead to more contentment with the here and now? I wonder if Cricket and Ellie would find such joy in a breezy spring day, full of smells and sounds to explore, if that’s what they experienced every day. And I think, probably yes.

            But we’ll never know for sure. Right?

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

95 responses »

  1. I agree with your point that books and writing give a chance for a sojourn in another realm/door. Great share. Thank you, Rachel👍

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  2. I like the idea of “another door,” and had to laugh that Cricket and Ellie think you are choosing the rainy one when a better choice is available. Have you ever seen the movie “The Butterfly Effect?” I saw it not too long after my husband passed away – when I was still wishing I could have done something different to have a better outcome. It sure gave me something to think about.

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  3. Let’s hear it for the multiverse!

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  4. Oh, couldn’t you see Cricket on ‘Let’s Make a Deal?’ “Which door is it gonna be, Cricket? Door #1, #2 or #3?” Of course, she would pick each door until she got what she wanted, and Monty Hall would just have to deal with it!

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  5. This is a very interesting idea that little dogs think we may have some control about the quality of weather behind the door we open to the outside world. Our little dog plays a great game with my husband when he appears with her leash and a coat. She dashes into the kitchen and runs around the center island . He will play along and pursue her and as soon as he stops she goes over to the door and waits for him to put her coat on. Lately it has just been a light raincoat but in the winter it was a puffy warmer coat. But it’s not about the coat it’s about the game. Days when no coat is needed she looks disappointed!

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  6. Have you read The Midnight Library? I think you’d like it

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  7. Interesting ideas, Rachel. And I do love your dogs!

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  8. Infinite other doors? I believe there’s a science fiction story waiting to be discovered! Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

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  9. “The Door Into Summer” by Robert Heinlein — that’s what you were referencing, yes?

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  10. My dog has full access to the back yard all the time. I know what the weather is like by how long she stays outside. No snow here, but if it is raining she is faster than a speeding bullet doing her business.

    I like your intriguing idea that the dogs think you are controlling the world. It makes perfect sense from their point of view.

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  11. Always a delightful story. Thank you, Rachel! Shavua tov!

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  12. Interesting thought candy, to imagine different possibilities, to wonder if we can create a whole different world by making a small choice. I am going to look up that Heinlein story mentioned above. Your dogs are adorable, as always!

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  13. What a wonderful story! As an avid reader, I always use books to ‘escape reality’ for a while and invest my thought in another person’s triumphs and tragedies. I think it’s adorable that Cricket and Eliie believe you are all-powerful like that.

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  14. I hadn’t really thought about it since we don’t have a dog but you’re so right that caring for them gives the day both order and rythme. No wonder sales of dogs have soared during the pandemic.

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  15. My old cat used to peer out of the cat flap on our back door on a rainy day and then wander round to the front door. When I showed him the weather was just as bad out front, he would always look at me, most dischuffed.

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  16. Great read and insight. I never thought about the other door before. Of course, cats just want to see tuna behind every door.

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  17. Love the idea of other doors. Reminds me of the movie ‘Sliding doors’.

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  18. Can Cricket and Ellie be any cuter? I especially liked the top photo, but all the others were soooo cute!

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  19. I love that concept of The Other Door. I may have to borrow it sometime!

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  20. What a beautiful possibility – another door. I love that concept and thank you for sharing it with me! You might take it a step further and say ‘in our minds, we can always choose a better door..” One reblog coming right up! Other folks need to read your post! Such wisdom in one so young!

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  21. Pingback: Sunday – A Day Off – Open the Door | sparksfromacombustiblemind

  22. I have never read a Harry Potter book, but you are dead right about dogs keeping you grounded. Out and about at the same times, every day without fail, in all weathers. If my dog could talk, he would say, “Pandemic? Lockdowns? What are those?”
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  23. I agree with you about how reassuring it feels not to have a choice really. It sort of allows me to not actually take responsibility. I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t always wish she had a choice.

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  24. First, I just want to say that your groomer does great scissor cuts on the girls (and the bows are so pretty, too).
    My older son is schizophrenic. He lives in his own world some of the time (less now that he gets his meds regularly). I is full of mothers who are queen and Madonna’s (the artist) who are the mothers of his children, as well as not so nice things like being able to see which people are really werewolves (like the police and my ex)) and those big grey birds at the lake that are really pterodactyles.
    As hard as it can be, this has taught me to value reality. I still enjoy a good fictional show or book, though!

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  25. I suppose it’s reasonable for pups to expect that we have access to an “other door.” From their perspective, we were alive before them and, as far as they know, we are eternal. Our skills at acquiring food and the other necessities of life are unparalleled and we always share our bounty with them. We tend to their ills and pains, judiciously mete out judgment and punishments when they misbehave and we spend hours amusing them. And on and on. Come to think of it, in the eyes of our pets we could be gods. Gods to dogs, now there’s a phrase to that will annoy your dyslexic friends. So, yeah, get on the stick and open the “other door.” Right now!

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  26. What a magical reflection on the role of dogs, time during the pandemic, and perception. It was a beautiful journey, with Ellie and Cricket.

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  27. Loved this one! Particularly the idea that the dogs believe they will go forth in a beautiful day until you open the door…brilliant. I believe that’s what two of my dogs believe, but Spike seems to anticipate weather changes from a place that doesn’t require a door. I find that fascinating, too.

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  28. What an intriguing idea! ❤

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  29. 💫⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

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  30. Reblogged this on DrWeb's Domain and commented:
    A thoughtful writer, intriguing ideas, and dogs :).. enjoy her writing athttps://rachelmankowitz.com/ –DrWeb

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  31. I second the suggestion to read “The Midnight Library.” My husband and I joke about our OPL. This is our “otherwise perfect life” that things keep interrupting. Sadly many people don’t get that we are joking. I love the idea of another door and I think that is what CS Lewis and Madeline L’Engle explored so well in kids’ fiction(which I love as an adult.)

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  32. I often have to think about what day it is during this strange period. Fiction (especially sci-fi/fantasy) is also a good mental break from reality and is healthy for the imagination. But reading any likeable book works. Have a good one.
    Art

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  33. Wonderful post. I will be thinking about opening that “other” door.

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  34. The other door…
    Interesting.

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  35. What fun to think about!

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  36. I like the idea of another door 🙃

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  37. Have you read the novel “The Revisionaries”? It’s a trip and this post reminded me of it!

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  38. I like that your synagogue has come up with this. I love all the creative ideas that are out there acknowledging and figuring out a way to keep us connected. It is so important.

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  39. Wow! So beautifully written and perceptive!

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  40. Yes! My cats do that. They think that if I keep opening the door one time it will be dry and sunny.

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  41. I love the idea of another door. It reminds me of my shamanic journeys which always give so many insights and teachings to help me in this world. Your book sounds very interesting!

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  42. Great thoughts about “the other door.” We may or may not find the other door in our lives, but what a comfort to know that through the provision of Jesus and His sacrifice – we can live forever, and we will see our precious pets again in Heaven. As for my dog, Savannah, she is exactly as optimistic as your beautiful babies and she checks out both the front and the back doors on stormy days…and then goes out anyway. That’s good for me on days when I would never leave the house if I didn’t have to take her on a walk!

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  43. I tried the “reblog” button, but it doesn’t seem to be working. So, I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to share your blog on my post. Have a good day.

    Reply
  44. Pingback: The other door reblog | copdtravails

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