I’ve been working quite a bit on the Kickstarter for my book project, and that’s taking up a bit of mental energy. It’s a leap of faith, really, no less daunting than it was to move to New York City last year with almost literally nothing but an idea that things would, somehow, work out. Meanwhile, the mind wanders.
Speaking to a good friend tonight, I mentioned how Jack was the first person who every really thought I was (a) good enough as-is and (b) a remarkably creative person. In the book I wrote for him, it made the list of things I liked about him:
- He insists I am an artist.
- There are lots of ideas and smart things and plans in his head that I don’t think anyone would guess. And he shares them with me. This is both interesting and endearing.
- His goatee. And how it scratches me when we kiss.
- He noticed I have only one dimple, which no one else has.
- I feel exactly as fabulous with him as I do when I’m buying new shoes.
- There’s this thing that happens when we lie in bed and kiss and I forget about everything anxious and fussy and I feel like and content and Zen-moment-ish.
- When we laugh together it feels like an inside joke.
- He doesn’t laugh at me unless I’m telling a joke or otherwise intending to inspire laughter.
- On his first visit to my apartment, he brought ice cream. And truffles. And encouraged to eat many of them. Seriously.
- He’s okay with me being me.
- Helping other people is important to him.
- He makes me laugh, but not in obvious ways that just anyone could. He’s both wit-smart and deviously hilarious.
- He likes to be touched the same way I do.
- I like watching him talk while snuggled up on his chest in the crook of his neck because the shape of his teeth and lips are fabulously attractive.
- The plentitude of kisses. And the quality thereof.
- We fit.
- Wind turbines. [Note: Jack was an investor and huge proponent in alternative technology, including and especially wind turbines.]
- We are equally parts nerdy and wild.
- His glasses.
- Jack himself. I like Jack.
None of these things had anything to do with whether we had common interests — largely, we did not — or whether we fit into each other’s ideas of what sort of person we “should” be with. Would Jack have picked me out of a lineup? Probably not. Would I have him? Probably not. But within hours of our first date is was obvious that there was a connection there that went far beyond movies we may both have liked (or not). I indulged a lot of his interests during our time together — I hated that he couldn’t (or perhaps didn’t want to) stop smoking — and movies I loved (e.g., Wendy and Lucy) were ones he teased me for liking until — quite literally — the day he died.
Many years ago I heard in a movie that love is a policy, not a feeling. I still largely believe that. It’s why we stick with people through times when we question our sanity for doing so, and it’s why we keep our commitments even if they don’t feel like the most enjoyable thing in the world. In many ways, I feel as though I failed with him in regard to that principle. The only reason I’ve stopped feeling guilty about it is that I know, or at least have come to know, that loving him as a matter of policy would have brought me down with him.
But I also equally believe that love itself — the feeling part of it — is a great deal about the person we become in the presence of people we love. We first saw this as a culture with Jack Nicholson‘s “you make me want to be a better man” speech in As Good As it Gets. But it’s more than just that — it’s the person who you actually become when you interact with someone else, the person who you become not to live up to someone else’s expectations or demands… but the person that emerges when you all allow yourself to become (or want to become) exactly as amazing as they think you are.
Jack was, no doubt about it, the first person in my life who ever realized the creativity I had lying dormant inside of me. He was the first person to tell me I was beautiful without an agenda, the first person to conceive of me as an artist, and definitely the first person who ever listened to an idea I had and responded with “let’s do it!” rather than explaining the 82 different ways in which I’d be making a big mistake. He taught me to believe in myself, despite my sometimes nontraditional life, and he also taught me to be proud of standing up to my full height rather than slouching around because it didn’t seem like anyone else cared whether I floundered or floated along.
I would not be the person I am today, were it not for Jack. I would not be living in New York City. I would not be doing a Kickstarter. I would not have the courage to wake up every morning, not knowing what will come along, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Because more than anything, Jack believed I not only could succeed as what he called “an artist” but also that I had a capacity for doing so that far exceeded anything I could or would have imagined for myself. He made me want to be the version of myself that he saw in me rather than the one I had resigned myself to accepting.
That version of me lives in New York City. It’s here right now, today, without having to pretend or posture or fake it ’til I make it. Along the way, I found other people who think I’m equally talented and fabulous and what-have-you, and that’s a remarkable confirmation of the seeds Jack planted in my brain. And so if there is one lingering regret I have about Jack and grieving and things left unspoken and undone, it’s that I never got to thank him for believing in me. I don’t believe in Heaven, but I do believe in connections between people and I’m not entirely convinced that they disappear upon death. So I like to think that Jack knows, in some way, the things he did for me, and that he knows enough to take credit for a good deal of the successes along the way.