Marguerite Duras is my favorite author, The Lover, my favorite book. I've read it at least a dozen times and each time, find some other connection, another reason to love it even more. So when Rachel Thompson asked me if I would be willing to share something about my life, something that was a turning point, I thought of Marguerite Duras and The Lover. Let me explain.
"I believe that always, or almost always, in all childhoods and in all the lives that follow them, the mother represents madness. Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we've ever met." –Marguerite Duras
Do my children feel the same way about me? I read this to my oldest son, who laughed and said, “Yes, that sounds about right.” I then read it to my youngest who said, “Of course we think you’re crazy, but we love you just the way you are.” And I am a joker, a smoker and once a midnight toker. This is the part of me that people see, the side that my children know. But there is also another side of me that I try to hide from others---the doubt, the depression, the madness. It all stems from early on, as it does for most of us. We all have demons, some of them scarier than others.
"Very early in my life it was too late." -Marguerite Duras
This is the quote from The Lover that I have read over and over again. Why does this resonate so deeply? Some things are better left unsaid, in the head, dead (I think maybe Dr. Seuss said that first).
As a teenager, Marguerite Duras lived with her mother and two siblings in French Indochina. It was the 1930’s and young Marguerite was trying to identify herself with the world around her. Her family was poor, and although political and racial tensions existed on extreme levels, she had an affair with a wealthy Chinese man. This affair was later written about several times during her lifetime.
At the age of seventy she wrote The Lover, and tells the story one last time. Why? Because she never felt she told it right. She never felt she gave the story the depth, the love, the hate, the spectrum of emotions it deserved. It was a defining moment in her life, one that she thought about and tried to figure out in her own mind well into old age.
I've always said that I hope when I am seventy years old, I have the courage to look back and redefine, redescribe, rewrite the stories of my life that have been most influential, whether they be good, bad or ugly. I'm almost fifty, and still find it hard to think about some things, much less write about them.
But, Rachel has encouraged me and although it has taken several months for me to finally say, okay, put it out there, I'm still anxious about sharing one small story.
"When it's in a book I don't think it'll hurt any more ...exist any more. One of the things writing does is wipe things out. Replace them."-Marguerite Duras
I sure hope you are right, Marguerite.