It's December 31, 2005. I'm on my way back to Seattle to live there for the third time, except now I'm on my own.
Just hours earlier I spent my last night in Los Angeles, watching Breakfast at Tiffany's on my laptop and eating pizza on the floor of my empty apartment. The next morning I had my last breakfast as an L.A. resident (that time, anyway) at a little café that was part of a lovely flower shop. I sat by the window watching the rain and listening to Frank Sinatra. That's when I opened up my brand new journal and wrote the first sentence of a fresh start.
"I want my life to be like an Audrey Hepburn movie."
Three weeks earlier, my husband had ended our ten-year marriage by leaving me a note and moving out while I was in Austin for my best friend's wedding reception. Even better, he left the "Dear Melanie" letter on top of a birthday gift that arrived while I was gone -- a boxed set of Rock Hudson and Doris Day romantic comedies. And yes, the gift was from him. I honestly couldn't make up something this good if I tried, right?
A few days later, a very dear and wise friend said, "Now you can just think about you. Make your life exactly the way you want it to be." That's when I decided to model my newfound freedom after my vintage heroine. I will live like Audrey in all of her roles. I'll be Holly Golighty and keep men at a distance. I'll focus on my own life like Sabrina Fairchild, maybe even run off to Paris sans cooking school plans, instead of obsessing over the David Larrabees of the world. I'll ride on the back of a Vespa in Italy with a stranger who doesn't know I'm a princess.
In a sense, I achieved my goal. At the age of 36, I was living alone for the first time in my life. I had a great wardrobe and plenty of cigarettes. But like Holly, I was detached. For nearly two years I bounced back and forth between spending time with my ex-husband (yes, we tried reconciliation... I know, I know) and unavailable men. I put my heart in a bottle and threw away the key.
In 2007, I met the man who would later become my husband and I was absolutely terrified. I fell for him so fast and so hard. I felt connected to him in a way that I'd never experienced in my entire life. And that's when I realized that no matter what you think you want your life to be like, you can never know how you'll feel about it for sure until it happens.
You dream of an ideal life and imagine what it would be like, then get discouraged when it doesn't happen. Or maybe it does happen and you get your dream, but it's disappointing because it's nothing like you thought it would be.
Then there are the peak moments. The ones that surprise you. The times when you get extremely lucky and your reality turns out to be much better than any fantasy life you've ever dreamed of. The times when you realize that you'd rather have brunch in your yoga pants with the person sitting across the table from you than nibble on a cold danish in front of a jewelry store as the sun comes up and you're wearing a fancy dress from the empty night before. That's the kind of magic that's better than anything you'll ever see on the silver screen.