One of my favourite endorsements for Being Mrs Smith describes it as a ‘hero’s journey’, where the hero goes off on a quest on which he encounters dangers, slays dragons and returns home wiser than before. I like that framing of our story, and in my view, there’s no more worthy hero than Mr Smith. But there’s more than one kind of journey, and I find myself called again, to embark on another. This time the journey is my own, and although I have Mr Smith’s loving support as he had mine, no-one but me can navigate this path.
I like to think of the writing of this book as the first chapter of the heroine’s journey. This is the journey on which, ravaged by the dénouement of his story and stripped bare in its aftermath, I am tasked with finding my way to whatever mystery lies waiting to be unveiled at the end of this new path.
Being Mrs Smith, and my part in the hero’s journey, taught me the futility of any attempt to define such a thing. I’ve learned that we don’t write our stories – we live them. They grow organically and it is our participation and not our narratives that grant us our place in them. I don’t know the extent to which we change the story by our participation – how can we know how things would have turned out had we acted differently? But I do know that the story of Mr Smith’s hero’s journey carried us more than we carried it – or at least that’s how it felt.
It's in the telling of our stories, though, that we learn. That’s one of the reasons why I wrote Being Mrs Smith. I wrote it for my readers, to accompany them on their paths, and I hope that they find it a worthy companion. But, at least in part, I wrote it for me, because I needed to. In the following months, I needed to be quiet; to contemplate, to withdraw and to recharge, to order and make sense of what had just happened. After that, I needed to see for myself, from a different perspective, how naked I had become. I needed to prepare for the heroine’s quest to find new threads with which to clothe myself again – threads to fit me as well as those I wore for Mr Smith when I went with him on his journey.
I haven’t found them yet. So far, I’ve taken tiny steps along the path, and from here it looks long and wide and, in places, treacherous. That’s okay. I’ve learned, from the telling of the hero’s journey, that I am stronger and more courageous than I knew. We find this out only when tested, and together, Mr Smith and I passed the test.
We did it. And if I can hold the hand of a hero, I can become the heroine I need to be to navigate my way through this new journey. I’m claiming my heroine status now. I must, if I'm to find those new threads. The new story demands it, and it is the new story that carries me forward.