And Why It’s Now the Precursor to The Dating GPS
Four years ago, Anita and I were gathering ideas for the vision of The Dating GPS. We wanted to put together a book that had a two-fold goal: to help women take accountability for their personal lives and, also, to help them recognize what a good man looks like. This seemed simultaneously like a simple mission and, also, a tough uphill battle. So many variables: post-feminism, economic crash, media manipulation, online dating, you name it.
Right as we were recruiting the right team for this book, I was going thru a new relationship. One that just days after our 20-year high school reunion and on July 4th ended in me receiving a break up text. From a guy I really liked.
I was devastated. I was in tears. I felt my whole world shatter. It felt awful.
I called Anita. She said, “Starting today and for the next 30 days, keep a diary.” I was like, “Are you kidding me?” She said, “No. You’re a writer. Go, write.”
So, reluctantly, I did. No matter how I felt that day, no matter what occurred, no matter what time I was going to sleep, I closed out each day’s events and emotions with a new diary entry.
After one full month, I sent the draft to two key people: jimi izrael, the NPR Barbershop radio host and author of The Denzel Principle: Why Black Women Can’t Find Good Black Men, and to Barri Evins, the west coast screenplay guru. Jimi wrote a killer forward. Barri’s response to me, “This is good and you’ll get readers to read it, but I’ll only work with you if you cut the bullshit and tell the truth.”
And, so, the grueling four-year process on both books began. One one hand, Anita and I were working our tails off on building the message of The Dating GPS, because we want women to live healthy and happy personal lives. On the other hand, I was pouring my heart out on a real life story where yet one more relationship I had ended in disaster.
How did I reconcile this?
As life usually operates, in total contrasts, it was while working on both books that the reflection, self-realization and healing happened. It took Barri four long years to get the truth out of me and, also, to push and elevate my writing to be better. To be clearer. To be simpler. To write less like an academic or a journalist, my two writing safe zones, and more like a human. Like a woman going thru the pain of heartbreak and then finally admitting the source of all that pain. And relationship dysfunction.
As both manuscripts were wrapping up, last December, and as many things in life seemed to be coming to an end, I took the opportunity to give myself the gift of travel. Long-term travel. So, this Winter and Spring, as I globe-trotted on my sabbatical, of all the cities I went to – Chicago, Dublin, Coral Springs, Austin and Cancun – Dublin served as the ultimate playground for my heart’s healing. Before I left, Anita advised, “Go to Ireland and make out with all those cute Irishmen.” Every instinct inside said that would have happened.
Instead, I used the month in Dublin to just get to know myself. Between the stunning scenery, the Dublin Jameson International Film Festival, where I got to meet John Hurt (who signed my writing journal!) to all the museums – the writers! the art! the Vikings! – I spent many hours alone, each day either walking the city or enjoying a good book in one of its many cafes. On my birthday, Valentine’s Day, instead of joining kind new friends for an incredible feast, I chose to walk the River Liffey, at night, with a light mist tapping my shoulders.
My cousin Slava, who served in our military, all over the world, gave me this advice before I left for Ireland, “Cuz, when you’re overseas, by yourself, you will really get to know yourself. You can’t run from anything. Because you is all you got.”
His prophetic words rang true. In Dublin, I fell in love. With myself. For the very first time. After the journey of co-writing The Dating GPS and completing and publishing Diary of the Dumped, combined with this life-altering trip to the mecca for authors, everything within me shifted. It adjusted. It put life in perspective and into focus. I didn’t have to be perfect. I just had to be whole. And it was ok for the world to know me as is: flawed, complicated, contradictory and not always having all the answers. Sometimes, too passionate. Sometimes, too stoic.
A couple of months ago, I returned back to Cleveland with a fresh pair of eyes, a whole heart, a clear mind and a new life perspective. Since then, Anita and I have been wearing our business hats, driving the best marketing strategy for The Dating GPS. And, something unexpected has happened: Diary of the Dumped has built a certain momentum that my previous three books haven’t. Almost immediately, the book sold overseas, with Kindle copies selling in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Two different Cleveland area libraries have invited me to do book readings this Fall. Various publications have given the book press and more are lined up to do so. And, the 5-star Amazon reader reviews appear weekly, with readers sharing that the book is funny. And that it will help others heal.
I’ve never thought of myself as funny. But Barri and Anita like to prove me wrong on some things, including this. And the first time I heard that the book will help people heal is when, last year, a certain Oscar-nominated film producer read the manuscript and called me to tell me the same thing.
Break ups are universal. And whether you’re a businesswoman, immigrant, restless soul, free spirit and an artist like I am or whether you’re a structured, rural, four-generations deep American, chances are our hearts all feel the same thing when someone stomps on it. If reading this book can help you feel not so alone, then the four years to complete it were for a purpose.
As Anita and I seek the right agent and the right publisher to call home for The Dating GPS, we both want to encourage you to first read Diary of the Dumped. Go through the process of digging in your own relationship dirt. Do the work. Clean the slate. Recover from the wounds and battlefields. Because only then can you honestly make room for what’s real and true and good and be ready for that right and special to person to come along and to join you on your path and love you as you are.
First, though, you gotta love yourself.