A theme of this book is accommodation of self to a relationship and the fear of losing too much of yourself in it, even while you recognise the gains. ‘Your gut says you can trust this man, you’re in the right place, you can make a new life here, but you are no longer sure where you begin or end.’
I hope I’m not alone in this – that when you enter into a new relationship, you kind of lose something of yourself. And perhaps that’s something that happens as you get older more, because you are more yourself. I think you approach a second relationship, at least I did, completely differently. You’re far more pragmatic. As I said at the outset, I really wish I could sum myself up as neatly as that sentence that Jim sent me. But somehow he seems to know himself much better in this relationship than I do.
One of the things I think you write beautifully about is making yourself vulnerable in a relationship and how hard that is, and the aftermath of grief and how that affects you. You say ‘You often hear that grief makes you stronger. I don’t agree, or not for me. I’m weaker, more aware of my fragility, more guarded about life.’ It’s another example of where you turn a truism on its head and take us inside your experience.
It’s at the heart of the book – that sense of exposing yourself. And that moment in the book where I realise – obviously, I’m constructing this for a reading audience – that I haven’t really dealt with things. What has happened in the past is affecting my present. I guess that realisation that we’re not as whole sometimes as we allow ourselves to think we are, it made me feel a lot more vulnerable. Can I do this? Can I keep doing this?
Some of the best things ever said about re-partnering from Maggie Mackellar and Jo Case in The Wheeler Centre. (Two great writers who are also now friends of mine).