Filling the spaces

It’s true more often than we realize: each new love is built from the wreckage of the loves that came before.  In Kath, Mike saw Lisa; in Art’s eyes, she resembled our mother.  I can’t look at Mike’s face without seeing Dad’s.  Art, to Ma, was the living ghost of Harry Breen.  We love those who fit the peculiar voids within us, our hollow wounds.  We love to fill the spaces the old loves left behind.

– Jennifer Haigh, Faith

This passage, from Jennifer Haigh’s lovely novel Faith, has been haunting me for days.  It’s not an understatement to say that this is the central theme of the novel I am so clunkily attempting to write: an exploration of the holes inside each of us, punched out in the shapes of our earliest loves, first dear friends, and family members, around whose contours our own are shaped.  I am fascinated by the ways our lives are shaped and directed by early experiences, and by the disproportionate power of those we first love.

I am thinking this week about the people in my life who contributed to those hollow wounds, those whose words and input will echo throughout my life.  For many of us the – most, even – I suspect that the response to those who early, and irrevocably, shaped who we are is subconscious.  Certainly we are rarely aware of the spaces as they are being gouged out; more likely we happen upon them, later, either because they howl and ache or because we trip over them, startled, on one way somewhere else.

Are you aware of those who shaped and defined your own peculiar voids?  My sense is that for some these people are obvious, and for others they are a surprise.  Maybe that combination exists, actually, in each individual life: we are carved out and hollowed by both those we might imagine (a parent, a first love) and those whose power we did not understand in the moment (a friend, a quick relationship).  I often think of the interior of others as a landscape (or as of a night sky, full of sparkling) and so I love this image of there being hollows and chasms in that terrain, molded by people long gone.

And on we walk.  Empty and full, shaped and carved out, swollen with love and devastated by loss, every single day.


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  1. Posted March 21, 2012 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    “We love those who fit the peculiar voids within us, our hollow wounds. We love to fill the spaces the old loves left behind.” Oh yes, absolutely! Most specifically, I am VERY aware of the people in my life who fill the void that was left behind when my mother died. I have managed to surround myself — wittingly and unwittingly — with a litany of older, nurturing women who remind me of different aspects of my mother. One of the saddest/kindest things a nurse said to me when I was in labor, referring to my doula, was, “Is that your mom?”

  2. Posted March 21, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Yes, this! I love it. Just today I received an email from a dear college friend who relayed a story then said, “It made me think of you and remember that you know the person I sometimes think of as the “real me.” The one before.” I know exactly what she means, and I think it’s sort of what you’re getting at, right?

  3. Posted March 21, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Wow Lindsey your imagery and language blows me away. I have never thought of people as carving their image into me but of course that is what happens. This is just so lovely!