For a while in my late 20s, when I had time to kill, sometimes I would go to this large used book store. I would browse their clearance rack, which consisted of paperbacks for 25 and 50 cents, and I would buy things I knew I would want to read someday. I was reading a lot of Star Wars paperbacks back in those days, and I also bought several books by bestselling authors I was already familiar with. Over a decade later, there are still a few books I obtained that way on my bookshelf that I never read. Recently, I was looking through my bookshelf for something to read, and I came across one such book that I couldn’t remember if I had ever read. Looking through it, the synopsis on the back looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t remember any details beyond that. I flipped through the pages and found a bookmark on page 83, less than a quarter of the way through the book, suggesting that I had started it but never finished it. So I picked it up and started reading… and I finished it today.
Since the rest of this post contains major spoilers, I will only be discussing the plot in vague terms, and I won’t name the title or author here. If you are curious, let me know and I’ll tell you privately. This paragraph does not do justice to the actual novel, because I don’t want to make it too obvious from the start in case anyone else out there is reading it. Most of what I want to say involves the ending, where the main character has a plan to disappear with a large sum of money and start a new life, along with a woman who is both his accomplice and lover. Everything seems to be going swimmingly, wrapping up for his desired ending, except that the woman disappears with the money, leaving him alone and heartbroken without the fortune he wanted to start his new life.
I’ve always had an odd and cynical fascination with story lines of betrayal, particularly when the betraying is done by a woman who the main character thought loved him. I think this is a reaction to the many times that I have felt betrayed by those close to me, particularly by potential love interests. It’s a bit comforting to know that central characters also get betrayed by women, and that not every story has a happy lovey-dovey ending. It’s also comforting that this betrayal is a key part of the story’s dénouement, and not just the back story of a cynical supporting character with a negative view of the opposite sex. It makes me feel like I’m not alone in everything that has happened to me.
I see a sad but true lesson in this: you can’t trust other people with your plans. Others cannot be controlled or predicted. I’m not saying that every plan will end in betrayal. There are good people out there, and I want to try to be someone whom others can trust as much as possible. But the world just doesn’t work that way. With over seven billion people in the world, each having unique back stories, interests, motivations, and weaknesses, some of those plans are bound to conflict with each other, whether intentionally or not. The only one truly worth trusting is God.
I can’t make my peace depend on the way others treat me. I can’t make my happiness depend on finding the right woman someday. I’ve heard stuff like this before, over and over again, particularly the part about finding the right woman. You have to love yourself before you can love someone else. If you aren’t content alone, then you aren’t really ready for a healthy relationship. Some of that I had dismissed as Josh Harris-type mumbo-jumbo, on the grounds that if I were to concentrate on being content with being alone, then if/when the right woman did come along, I’d miss the chance to get to know her, because I’d be so dead set on being alone that I would purposely avoid doing anything that could be construed as dating. But there is a lot of truth in the idea of learning to be content alone. As I said earlier, I can’t predict or control others, and I can’t orient my entire life and happiness around waiting for someone else. Waiting for someone else to make you happy is also the classic setup for being emotionally needy in an unhealthy way. There has to be some balance, some kind of happy medium where I can learn to be content in a way that is not contingent on others, yet guardedly open to new friendships and relationships that may happen.
I’m not sure what this is going to look like. Maybe a temporary time of being more isolated socially as I figure life out. Maybe a lot of time in prayer and meditation. Maybe cutting out of my life some who bring me down far more than they build me up. Maybe I’m not quite sure yet. But at least I know something to work on.