I heard this quote for the first time the other day; Madonna has just directed a film called W.E. (stands for Wallis Edward) about Wallis Simpson, the twice-divorced American woman whom Edward married after abdicating the throne. I don’t know the context of the remark but it’s been buzzing around in my head for a few days now and I felt like writing about it.
In my novel, the one I’m taking an extremely long break from for no other reason than I’m Lazy, the main character – a woman – goes through a bit of a transformation after a) she loses her job and b) almost loses her marriage. But she pulls it togther and keeps going, and in doing so becomes a more authentic version of herself. She starts to figure out which parts of her feel the most honest and real, and which parts she has been trying out for everyone else’s benefit. I’m not sure if I’ve written it well enough to give this impression but there’s a challenge for me in the editing phase.
I went through an ‘emotionally compelling situation or challenge’ when I had the kids, and this had quite a profound effect on me, as it does on all women. I became somebody quite different, and not always in a good way. Ten years or so after Madeleine was born, a situation arose that was also challenging, and the ‘new me’ dealt with it in a way quite different from the way ‘old me’ would have handled it; and that was the moment I recognised how much I had changed. The next time something emotionally compelling happened, ‘new me’ handled it in more of an ‘old me’ kind of way, and it was… amazing. I came through it almost unscathed.
A woman’s life can really be a succession of lives… yes, I believe it can.
Each new life can be marked by a change in circumstances – a big event, a new partner or job, gaining a qualification or having a baby or moving to another country. But it’s the changes that happen after those things that really count as the new life. You do become a different person, and so you do things differently. Yes, getting older is part of that but it’s the experiences that shape you.
I’m going to start writing again soon, and I have been inspired by this quote from Wallis Simpson. My main character has three lives to live, each one marked by a new challenge and each one resolved through a fundamental shift in who she thinks she is. What remains to be seen is if her husband – like mine – has the intestinal fortitude to stick with her through each incarnation. For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer… for who she is and who she might become.