Monday, June 27, 2011

I've figured out the secret to a happy life...

Okay, fine, there's probably a bunch of secrets, but I've been thinking about one in particular. It's not even like it's a secret, as it's one of those things that you hear over and over and say "Yeah, yeah, I know" before completely disregarding it and going back to doing what you've always been doing and then wonder why you keep having the same experience over and over.

The particular secret I'm talking about here is the idea of expectations. Specifically, that when you have them - whether they be about a person or a place or a meal - you're setting yourself up for disappointment. Because, unfortunately, a lot of the time life (or people or places or meals) doesn't end up unfolding in the manner in which you wrote the script....So what happens is that not only are you upset because people aren't saying the right lines, but you're so CONFUSED about what's actually happening vs. what you've planned that you end up missing the whole experience. Which, a lot of the time, can sometimes prove to be even better than the script you wrote. With less typos.

The reason I've been thinking about this is because I recently bought my first house. Even though I'm already 42 years old and a lot of people I know bought their first houses like 10 years ago which was around the time I was walking away from my TV job and giving up a steady paycheck in order to write. And even though I was doing this really brave thing, it didn't feel like that at the time. What it felt like was that I HAD TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY LOST MY MIND and that not only was I not following the herd and moving closer to being a card-carrying responsible adult but that it would only be a matter of time before I couldn't pay my rent and I'd end up living in the alley behind my apartment with all my other homeless neighbors. (And even though I lived near very fancy Vogue-approve boutiques, there were a lot of them.)

If I were to be totally honest, the truth is that even after I started making money writing and stopped worrying about where I was going to get the shopping cart I'd be pushing around town after I lost my apartment, I had kind of given up on the idea of buying a house. Not just because I didn't think I'd ever be able to come up with a down payment, or even know how to begin the mortgage process (my mortgage broker Seth who has now become a friend once complimented me for being highly organized which I found hysterical because that's ridiculously far from the truth), but also because I was under the mistaken impression that houses were things you waited to buy with a husband or a wife or a partner or a significant other or whatever PC term one likes to use nowadays. So even though I wanted a house, there was this voice in the back of my mind that said "yeah, okay, but you can't do it alone - we'll talk about it when The-Guy-capital-T-capital-G comes along."

But the voice didn't say that I couldn't RENT one by myself, which is what I did. In the Hudson Valley, two hours north of the city, where I went every Friday-Sunday. And before I knew it, the area felt like home in a way that nowhere else ever had - not even Lost Angeles, which is a place I lived for seventeen years. And when that dreadful winter was over and spring arrived, I loved it even more, to the point where there was no question that when my lease was up at the end of August, I was going to renew it.

But then one day, in one of my attempts to avoid doing what I was supposed to be doing (ie. writing), I was perusing real estate listings. There's a lot of beautiful homes up there - homes that look like they belong in Pottery Barn catalogs or in movies directed by Nancy Meyers who did It's Complicated and Something's Gotta Give (and, who, incidentally wrote the movie Baby Boom which, when I tell people my story about going upstate, they all say "It sounds like Baby Boom. Maybe you'll end up with a vet who looks like Sam Shepard." Which, you know, wouldn't be the worst thing in the world seeing that I have two cats and will probably get a dog down the road.) And while those houses are all beautiful, they're not really me. They're too neat and perfectly put together and everything matches and while the owners say things like "Please--make yourself comfortable" you KNOW that the first thing they're going to do when you leave is rush over and fluff the pillows and wipe up the tiny drop of condensation that fell from your glass onto their coffee table as you took it off the coaster.

But as I perused (okay, fine--as I AVOIDED WRITING) I came across this converted barn which happened to be located in the same town I had been renting. In fact, it was pretty much down the street. And although the pictures weren't great, and it was hard to get a sense of the place, that voice - not the screaming one in my head but the soft, ladylike one in my gut--said "You need to go look at this house."

So I emailed my realtor-slash-friend Mary Mullane and asked her if she knew the house, and she did, and we made an appointment to see it and when we got there it turned out it was this big pink barn thing. But I didn't know it was pink because I'm colorblind. I just thought it was...I don't know...beige-y looking. And not a very attractive barn. I kind of thought we'd walk in and do the polite thing and walk around and then leave but as soon as we walked through the door, it was like that moment in fairy tales when the heroine eats a magic bean or whatever the hell they do that makes them wake up in an enchanted castle. And that voice -- the ladylike one--whispered "This is my house." And then -- no joke -- Mary leaned over and said "This is your house."

Long story short, as of this month, it is indeed my house. Well, mine and Wells Fargo Bank. Maybe at one point The Guy will join me and the cats, but at this particular moment because he has yet to make his identity known, it's just the three of us.

I love my house, but it's not for everyone. It's a quirky pink barn with 30 foot ceilings and tons of light and a pond and a see-saw and a clawfoot tub and a sauna and a washer and dryer in the bathroom and a pond full of alga. It most definitely won't be featured in a Pottery Barn catalog, even after I spend my life savings furnishing it. But my favorite part about it is that the day I went to look at it, I didn't have any expectations. Meaning I wasn't DYING to be a homeowner, and I wasn't DYING for this to be the house that ended up being mine. And when I was negotiating for it and it looked like it might not work out, I was okay with that. Because as much as I loved the place, I trusted that if it were meant to be mine, it would be..

And because I didn't have any expectations, it made that first afternoon I went back there after I had signed my life away at the closing, and used MY key to open MY front door and sat down in the middle of MY living room floor that much more special. I guess because it all felt like the product of some sort of grace versus me making it all happen.

Which is a very, very sweet feeling.