There is a wonderful scene in the 1939 film version of Wuthering Heights (I was a weird kid – I absolutely adored this movie) in which Heathcliff and Catherine sneak on to the grounds of the Linton house at night. The Lintons, the rich neighbors, are having a grand party. Heathcliff and Catherine watch through the window, unseen. It’s exactly what’s meant by “nose pressed up against the glass,” watching but not being able to participate.
You can see a lot in their faces as they watch the others dance. Catherine, the daughter of a landed “gentleman,” gets a look that lets you know that she’s intrigued, beginning to want to let go of her wild childhood and take her place in the Lintons’ world. Healthcliff, the servant who adores Catherine, knows that even if he could stop being poor, he would never belong there. He will always be watching from outside the glass.
I’ve thought about this scene a lot. I’ve used the image in my writing. It illustrates how I’ve felt sometimes, able to see “the good life” but not able to live it. Most of my life, the Heathcliff in me has weighed heavy inside my heart.
Yesterday, I got a rave review for my novel that comes out in a month and a half. In my email, I got an invitation to a launch party for another author’s book. I packed to go to a book signing and remembered I needed an extra outfit for an industry cocktail party and the “members only” dinner afterwards with people from my publishing house. I did this all in my snug and comfy house, a cup of my favorite tea by my side.
If that’s not being inside the party, I don’t know what is.
I find, so often, that when people strive, they don’t always appreciate what they get. We yearn for the mate who will choose us and then start to notice his flaws once he’s ours. We work hard for the bigger house, then grumble about the landscaping bill. It makes me wonder, sometimes, if dissatisfaction isn’t an end to itself, an excuse, a habit. The unexamined life is often complained about.
That’s why I share these small wins here. That’s why I hug a copy of my book to my chest inordinately often. That’s why I sometimes clean the wood of my floors by hand, on my knees, so I can marvel at its grain. (Don’t worry, not often). Part Heathcliff, part Catherine now. Someone has opened the door of the party for some fresh air, seen me lurking, and extended a hand of friendship to let me in. It is an unbelievable feeling. I live a life of impossible splendor, of magical beauty, of infinite luck. And I am so deeply grateful.