I’d been thinking about my grieving woman novel, which is shaping up to be the story of a woman in search of herself. She is directionless after her loss, has a lot of unfinished business to take care of, and is trying to figure out who she is now that she is no longer a wife. I wondered if people would accept that this woman is finding out all sorts of things about herself that she didn’t know — after all, a person in her early fifties should have some idea of who she is.
Then I realized that even if we have a strong identity and know almost everything there is to know about ourselves, it’s still possible and perhaps necessary to revise our self-concept, especially after going through a trauma such as a major loss.
I saw that our psyches are like nesting dolls or boxes within boxes or doors within doors (choose your cliché). You never see the doors, so you think you know who you are, but a great emotional upheaval can cause a door to open, letting you see more of yourself and what you are capable of, revealing a part of your identity that might have been hidden from you until that moment.
You get to know who you now are, adding to or changing your idea of yourself, rethinking the past in light of this new awareness. You get comfortable with this revised self-concept and then BAM! More trauma, and another door. You never have to go through the door, of course, but if you do, you might find riches of which you were unaware.
What can I say? It was the desert. Wandering in the desert is traditionally a place for both sun-induced absurdities and great insights.