Disclosure: This post was inspired by the novel The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, where Monsieur Jean Perdu–a literary apothecary–finally comes to terms with the woman who left him many years ago. Join From Left to Write on October 8th as we discuss The Little Paris Bookshop. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
This journey of rebirth, renewal of spirit, learning to live again after the loss of his lover 20 years prior… it feels so familiar, even though it’s not my story to tell.
Much like Jean barricades the bedroom that reminds him of Manon, shuttering up his feelings of loss for these many years, shutting himself down from experiencing the same again, I realize that I have done this.
The older I get, the more I identify as being an introvert. But it’s deeper than that. It’s not just that I need time alone to recover. I rarely actively seek out new people to talk to; I hesitate to participate, even though I’m pretty darn comfortable going out on my own to do the things I enjoy. I’m cautious about who I include in my life. And afraid to let them know how much they mean to me.
From a young age, I suffered many friendship losses.
The people with whom I thought I could entrust my soul were often the very same who were quick to fling the trampled remains of myself at my feet and spit all over her. The confidantes who were only confident in tossing me to the wolves. I don’t remember much of high school, and it’s for a reason. That room has been bolted shut, covered with shelves overflowing with any methods of escape I could find to assist me in pretending it never happened. But it did.
I don’t make friends easily.
I’ve been burned too many times to give of myself freely now. Or, I do give of myself, but on limited terms, without delving deep. Some may think I’m a snob. Others may think I’m a bitch. It has nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with the walls I’ve built up inside to prevent others from harming me. It’s self-preservation. It’s a perceived safety-net to keep me from ever being that hurt again. And it doesn’t work.
Because, no matter how much I force it all down, lock it away, and ignore it, that past is always with me. And even if it’s not something I want to think about, it shapes who I am today–which is not necessarily a bad thing. I just celebrated my 38th birthday and I am much more secure in who I am at 38 than I was at 18–given the chance, I would never go back.
But denying it all happened? That’s no good either.
And, as Jean learns when he frees Lulu, his book barge, from her dock and takes her down the river to finally tackle the memory of his lost love, when you finally do open yourself up to new people, a beautiful life can emerge. It doesn’t have to end there.
I’m still working on it. But it will take some time…