“What has marked you is still marking you. There is a place in us where wounds never heal and where loves never end.” Michael Ventura (in Meeting the Shadow)
A place where everything is remembered, nothing is forgotten, where pain and love endure forever: a place of shadows and echoes. I found this idea so powerful that I have quoted it at the start of Honor’s Shadow: a story that is all about wounds that never heal and loves that never end.
Romantic love is the most obvious connection to make when thinking about old loves (it is for me anyway!) But then our love affairs, especially the early ones, are already prescribed by the even earlier, intense love we have for our parents: a relationship that creates the pattern in our brains for most of our subsequent passions. Perhaps all our later relationships are an echo, a reflection, a reminder of those early experiences.
When Ventura speaks of wounds, he isn’t talking about the traumas of cruelty, neglect, or abuse. He’s referring instead, to the everyday experiences of loving parents, under the incessant pressures and worries of adult life, trying to raise balanced, happy adults. And to the complex experience of the small child, with few resources, attempting to survive, physically and psychologically in a world far too complex for their limited understanding. No wonder nature has provided for intense love between parents and children – the survival of the species depends on it.
In Honor’s Shadow, Madalena is neglected from birth: she never knew the motherhood mirroring that would teach her to know and articulate her feelings. Neglect can have a worse impact on a developing child’s emotional life than abuse: if I look into a world that doesn’t look back at me, that doesn’t see me, how do I become someone? So Madalena has no words to explain subtle feelings:
“In the course of her everyday life, Madalena had three straightforward categories to describe how she felt. There was Good – how she felt most of the time. There was Not So Good, which was how she felt in response to any obstruction to what she wanted, such as her (rare) inability to persuade Jack of something, or the failure of shops to stock the items she wanted. And finally there was Terrible, for anything to do with Jack’s mother and Jack’s refusal to marry her; and that was also how she’d felt (or possibly worse) since she got that damn letter.”
When Madalena meets Bud, a new friend, she finally begins to develop an awareness of her feelings, as he reflects back to her the fear and anxiety that is gnawing at her, as she tries to discover who is threatening her life of luxury.
Honor and Madalena, twenty years after either of them had been involved with Thomas, can both still feel their love for him, and his love for them. Neither of them have been able to completely forget him, and it doesn’t take much provocation for Honor to be overwhelmed by her memories of how she was both loved and wounded by her first love.
It’s the people we love the most who have the power to wound us so deeply.