I’ve been taking a look back at the books I’ve read this past year and there is a very steady theme running through… even before the big unhappiness bomb, there was One’s Company by Barbara Holland (about being an independent woman alone) and Crucial Conversations by May Sarton (a piece of fiction about divorce). Between then and August when the divorce/move out announcement came, there was What About Me? by Jane Greer (a relationship help book, you versus me), On My Own by Florence Falk (helping women face their aloneness), Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto (memoir of divorce), The Dog of the Marriage by Amy Hempel (short stories about relationships), Cleaving by Julie Powell (memoir of an affair), Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann (fiction/affair), Willow Cabin by Pamela Frankau (fiction/affair), Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple (fiction/affair), Fidelity by Susan Glaspell (fiction/affair), Falling Apart in One Piece by Stacy Morrison (memoir of divorce), and the Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones (a cookbook for, well, for one clearly).
Obviously I was a little preoccupied and my subconscious was ticking away and carefully digesting what it could, piece by piece, in order for me to process and cope as each new wave of revelation came. My most recent piece of fiction was Peking Picnic by Ann Bridge. It took me months to get through, which for those of you who know me, will realize that for me to be in a book longer than a week is rare. My love of music (listening loud and often) has returned full force in a way it hasn’t existed since the very beginning of the marriage (hooray), but my love of reading (at least fiction) is still lacking. But finish it I did and found this gem somewhere in the middle of the book that I thought was brilliantly applicable, so I share it here.
“In her experience all the richest and most valuable things were mixed up, somehow or other, with being hurt. Sooner or later everything that was nice hurt as well: love affairs hurt (like the devil); marriage hurt; children hurt…And directly from being hurt, it seemed to her, sprang all the qualities she valued most, in others or in herself—courage; a measure of insight, and self-knowledge; and the secret sense of strength, of the indestructibility of the human spirit in the face of disasters, which is the most precious possession of all. All these things could only be had at a price, and cash in advance at that—the price of being hurt, again and again, and sometimes almost to the point of extinction. Happiness…was the flaunting honeyed flower of the soul; but the root was pain, and the twin fruits of knowledge and strength.”