Essentially, she said: Telling yourself that a romantic partner will finally make you happy and cure all your existential angst is not a smart move. You've got to make yourself happy before you'll be able to share a happy life with another person.
Now, that may sound like a platitude ... but I also think it's a great point.
I'm not sure I completely understood what it meant to live a happy, fulfilled, complete life solo until I met a certain friend; let's call him Duke Windsor. We met during our days at writing grad school. Duke was, like me, single; like me, he was hoping to meet a nice boy; like me, he'd just moved to a small town (where our program was) where he didn't know anyone.
Because I have been bad, historically, not only about pursuing romantic interests, but also about pursuing friends, Duke had to court my friendship a little, before we really became tight. But after I hitched a ride to New York with him for Thanksgiving, the dye was cast.
Unlike me, Duke had a gorgeous apartment--full of nice plants and groovy things on the wall. Unlike me, Duke didn't spend every waking hour chained to his desk, feeling miserable because he had not yet written a novel, forcing himself to churn out miserable prose. Unlike me, Duke knew how to make any ordinary day a special occasion--and because he and I were the best of friends, I enjoyed the spoils of his life-artistry many times: He would take me out to hear the symphony, or take me out to the movies, or take me out for some nice cheese and wine. His life was full of attractive, interesting, enjoyable things ... whereas mine was focused obsessively around writing, reading, struggling to become a novelist.
Duke never preached to me about how I should change my life ... but I admired the way he lived his so much that I began to change naturally. I made more of an effort to decorate my place; made more of an effort to do the cultural things I enjoy; made more of an effort to throw dinner parties as generous and delicious as his. My existence is certainly improved as a result.
Duke and I had been friends for maybe six months when he--at age 38--finally met the incredibly wonderful dude he's planning to spend the rest of his life with.
So ... I guess what I'm saying is this: Build a life you love for yourself ... and the right boy will probably come.
(Guys: do you agree? Or am I just spouting bromides?)
(This photo of Duke and me was taken a bunch of years ago. I think I must've been tipsy, because my skin has such a nice glow to it--maybe that's just Duke's natural effect on me. Also, I think I'm skinnier now than I was then. And ... was it Valentine's Day or something? I have no idea what's up with the matching outfits.)
* * *
THIS BUSINESS OF MY BOOK: TALK ABOUT UNREQUITED LOVE!
Before I move on to tell you about the leading contender for Worst Break-Up Lines of 2010, let me say one last comment related to finding happiness outside of yourself--about "external validation."
Soma also said: The number-one thing that will unlock your relationships and your own happiness will be selling your novel, which I am absolutely certain you will do this year.
Now, first, let me say--as some of you have probably guessed: My novel has already been rejected by a few editors. So, despite the fact that I have a marvelous agent, despite the fact that I really believe in the book, despite the fact that I have an amazingly supportive readership (!) thanks to this blog ... I am seriously worried that my novel may never see the light of a bookstore.
The larger point I want to make is this: A book deal would be just one more external validation! And although I think not getting a book deal is probably going to make me deeply miserable, I also think it's not wise for me to expect that getting one will suddenly make me happy.
(And yet, of course, for a long time, I'd been sure that the one thing that could finally make me happy was publishing a novel.)
* * *
WORST BREAK-UP LINES
In other news: Yes, the worst lines of 2010.
Towards the end of last year, my friend Ruby Finch was hotly pursued by a certain guy, who shall remain nickname-less. Ruby is a do-gooder, and they met at a big do-gooding conference. Immediate attraction. However, the guy was just getting out of a relationship and, as he told her, he needed some time to figure things out. A few months pass with no word from him. Ruby has totally written him off ... when he sends her a box of chocolates with a note that says--in VERY strong language--that he's been thinking about her and wants to give things a whirl. They live in different cities, but regardless, dates happen. Everything feels pretty good to her. But after three or four fairly intense dates, the emails from him get shorter and shorter. Finally, it becomes obvious he is blowing her off. She sends him a note acknowledging that things seem to be over, and wishing him well.
He writes back:
Yes, I guess the ball was in my court ... and I left it there. :-/
But I enjoyed getting to know you. I think you do great work for America!
"The ball was in my court--and I left it there?"
"You do great work for America?"
After hearing that, I wanted to do some great work for America, and pick up that ball, and throw it at his head. But maybe I'm just being overly protective.
dear, dear commenters!
First, let me say--I think you guys know this, but--it's really heartening and humbling to check my blog every once in a while (i.e. 254 times a day) and to see all of YOU there, writing in to advise me and cheer me on.
-Secret Agent Wonder Girl! You rock star. I love that your Crimonology hottie is thinking about engaging in some criminal behavior with YOU! That's so great. I don't think I deserve any credit--you're the one who took all the risks and held steady. Keep us posted, all right? I'm glad you're having fun.
-Mandi: That's a very sensible take on things. Thank you for weighing in.
-Osu: To hell with the guys who don't prioritize you, sister!
-Chessenia and Edwinna: I'm glad you guys are here to keep track of me, and to help me keep it real!
-Sweet Potato: I'm very glad if my nuttiness is helpful in any way! I'm gonna look into that book you suggested.
-Soma: Do you see how much you're making me think? Keep it coming!
-Jenny! You have a good point. And I'm not sure I deserve any credit for "not settling"--I'm just constitutionally incapble of being around people I'm not really excited about. I like reading too much to spend my time with people who don't light my fire.