Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Meant to be

For the vast majority of the past thirty years, I strove to create a life that I thought would make me happy.  I went to college and got a job.  Then I bought a house, earned tenure and a secure position as an elementary school teacher.  But what I really wanted always seemed to elude me, for there is no clear syllabus for meeting the right man and falling in love.  There was no fast track to mommyhood. 
For years, every time I’d find someone attractive and try to get things started, it never worked.  Ever.
“It wasn’t meant to be,” my friends would lament. 
When I left teaching in 1999 and wrote my first novel, I thought, Now my real life can begin.  All I have to do is find the right agent.
For eleven long years, whenever a rejection letter showed up in the mailbox, I’d tell myself, “That agent wasn’t meant to be.”  Over and over and over again, I’d remind myself that when the timing was right, a door would open.
Finally in 2011, one miraculously did.
After signing a contract with an agent in New York in October of that year, Helen* pitched one of my novels to publishing houses all over the city.  For months, she’d email and let me know that while editors liked my style, they were going to pass on the manuscript…unless I chose to rework the plot.  Which I did.
But in the end, the manuscript was once again rejected by every house.
“It wasn’t meant to be,” my friend, Barb often reminded me.
Still, I endeavored to persevere.  I wrote another novel that Helen pitched alongside the first one.  After three years of waiting and wondering when the timing would finally be right, I made the difficult decision to opt out of my contract.  Since then, I’ve sent out dozens of query letters to new agents.  A couple of times in the past year, there’s been an interest in my work, but the momentum quickly fades and I’m back at square one.
Each time I told myself, “Just wait…it wasn’t meant to be.”  But a few weeks ago, in the midst of a difficult week, I finally realized that maybe it never will be.
Not the way I imagined.

I’ve often wondered, How will I know when something is meant to be?  Because it shows up at my doorstep?  Because it works out just the way I had planned?  Because I waited long enough and I’m due a reward for my patience and diligence?
These days I know better.  I’ve learned to not push the river.  While not easy, I’ve been practicing acceptance of the way things are right now, knowing that undetermined change is inevitable.  I’ve come to live by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words that I placed on my bathroom mirror fifteen years ago: All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen.
A little over a year ago, I met my significant other.  When we were first introduced, I had no idea that seven months later, he would become the love of my life.  Back then we were simply starting a casual friendship.  Over time it deepened, but still, I wasn’t looking for anything more.  At the time, we were both dealing with the aftermath of some difficult situations which we readily shared with each other. 
One day, he was in my office and looked the shelf above my computer desk.  “Which of your books do you think I should read first?” he asked.
Knowing a bit of his background, I nodded toward the thickest novel.  “That one,” I said, pulling the copy from the shelf. 
“I like the title,” he nodded.  “A TAPESTRY OF TRUTH.”
“It’s pretty twisted,” I told him.  “The main character is a Scorpio.”
“Like me, huh?” he laughed, bouncing his eyebrows.
“Maybe,” I shrugged.  “Wait and see.”
For his birthday last October, I gave him a signed copy.  “I don’t know when I’ll get around to reading it,” he admitted.  “I’ve got a lot of responsibilities.”
“You’ll read it when you’re meant to,” I replied.
Since then we’ve had many long, heart-opening conversations.  Many times, when he’d share something about his past, my eyes would widen.  “That’s freaky,” I’d say.  “That’s in my book…you’re Michael, the male character I love the most.  I’ve been writing you since 1994.”
It’s more than our love of Mentos gum.  More than the fact that we're both middle children.  More than our motivation to persevere.  There’s something I can’t quite put into words…at least not consciously. 
Thankfully, his granddaughter said it beautifully last winter.
My sweetheart and I took Anna* to the Toledo Zoo for the Lights Before Christmas display.  It was a cold night, so we stopped at the Carnivore Café for a cup of cocoa.  Over mugs of steaming hot chocolate, I asked Anna, “Do you like Papa’s mustache?”
“Yes,” she nodded.
“Did you like it when he shaved it off last month?”
“Yes,” she nodded, sipping her cocoa.
“Do you like him better with or without it?”
“I just love him,” Anna replied, lifting a brow and looking at me as if I was nuts. 
Thankfully I was taking pictures while she was talking and shot an adorable one of Anna and my sweetheart.  She’s giving me sideways grin and he’s looking at her as if she’s the most precious thing on the planet. 
Later that night, he said, “Wasn’t that the sweetest thing Anna said?  She just loves me no matter what.  It’s incredible that a little kid can be so wise.”
“I know,” I replied, hugging him.  “I just love you, too.”
Since then, we often repeat that phrase to one another, especially during times when we’re working through something.  When we’re tired of life in general.  When we remind each other that no matter what, true love is always between us.  
Over the weekend, I was skimming through a copy of THE LACE MAKERS, marveling that it’s been almost two years since I finished the first manuscript.  I’m contemplating writing the sequel this summer and wanted to revisit some of the main characters.  I found the scene where Karin’s little brother, Jurgen, is introduced.  At one point, he pulls on a sweater that Karin had made for him, saying to his sister, "Ich liebe dich einfach."
Tears filled my eyes when I translated the words:  I just love you.
My sweetheart often tells me, “Kate, you can do no wrong.  You’re my deal.”
“I’m not perfect,” I reply.  “I’m going to make mistakes.”
“Yeah, so what?” he smiles, reminding me that real love has many faces…and his unconditional acceptance is the one I treasure the most. 

As I look back on the timeline of my life, whenever I was experiencing something heart-breaking, so was he.  Whenever I was going through an intense transformation, he was as well.  Whenever I needed to make difficult choices in order to change my life for the better, he was making huge strides, too.  
When he and I first got together, I’d silently ask myself, Is this meant to be?  Are we supposed to be together?  Now I no longer need to question it.
In the past, when something wasn’t meant to be, I still tried to niggle my way into making it happen.  I’d poke and prod, then get pissed off when something didn’t go my way.  But I never saw my sweetheart coming.  And I’m sure he never anticipated me either.  We came into each other’s lives at the right moment, when both of us were ready for something real, something that would take us far from where we have been.  Something that is more comfortable and comforting every single day.
Now I know for certain that our love story was meant to be, for we’ve been with each other all along.

*Names have been changed.