"The mark of an immature man is that he would die knobly for a cause. The mark of a mature man is that he would live humbly for one" - Catcher in the Rye -WARNING WRITER SPELLING CHALLENGED! But Sometimes you have to say "what the fuck!"

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Escaping the "Bell Jar"

Repost from 9/6/04

Is an art, like everything else
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call.

-Sylvia Plath…”The Bell Jar”
I must admit, it’s been hard for me to post or blog as of late. Every time I write something, I re-read it and decide its to embarrassing, or too much crap to post. I decided today, I would just get it out there, regardless of how crazy it sounds. So, here goes…..

I know I have quoted Slyvia Plath before, and mentioned my association with her. I discovered this book when I was going to Berkeley, at that time I was Phi Beta Kappa, with other numerous awards and collegiate distinctions. I began to feel as if my awards and credentials would mean nothing outside of the “ivory league” walls. Upon graduation from Berkeley, my first job was that of paralegal. I was happy to be working in upscale San Francisco and making good money. However, I started to feel like a mere secretary, not that anything is wrong with that, but it depressed me because I worked so hard scholastically to be the best. I wanted and had hoped for more after graduation. I also found it depressing to try to survive as a single mother off “secretary wages”, especially in the big city. My life of personal struggle transformed into a life of financial struggle, and those obstacles of being on the “wrong side of the fence” financially. This is what has made me the “punk rock” chick I profess to be, being poor, struggling, and doing what I can to survive in this jungle we call life.

I became a political activist for a stint, and found myself doing quite well. I had connections with attorneys and doctors and drug policy, and also worked my way into gigs with publications. Though activism life is hard as well, as activists compete for headlines and publicity. As much as I was able to put people on the air, or in print through my journalism endeavors, the cut-throat reality of media whore life also became too much. I decided to focus full time on parenting and being a mom. So, I give up my activist crown, and move back to my hometown, where I can be close to my parents and focus on being a mom. I have spent the last 4 years here, doing just that. Working 2 sometimes 3 jobs just to pay the bills, and being the chauffeur, sports mom. I said my career was mothering and my job is to pay the bills. I believed that when my son was 18, I would go back to school, or seek a real carrer, but in the mean time my career was being a mom.

Now my son has decided to live with his dad, and not me. This of course, hurts like hell, but I also realize it is a guy thing and that teenage son’s need their fathers. I’m okay with it, other than the fact that it leaves me hanging by a thread wondering what the hell I’m going to do with my life. Days and nights have been hard, the bell jar has hovered around me. Some days, I don’t get up, I sleep all day. I can’t answer the phone, return emails, eat, or do really anything other than hide under the covers. I have missed work, and gotten myself in real trouble on my job. But sometimes you need to reach rock bottom before you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps. It’s kinda embarrassing that I have even been blogging though this time. Part of me, admits I’m artsy and crazy, the other part is really embarrassed that all these people on-line see me going through this. Talk about reality TV.

One of the greatest things about being down and depressed is that people come out of the woodwork to support you. You really can feel the love and support, and believe me, that has helped me get up, get out, and keep going. I have a few options I can play around with, now that I am living for myself for the first time “ever”. (Remember I got pregnant at 19, so I really haven’t ever lived for myself). My good friend Rosie the Rigger, has totally been there for me, and David. Offering me a place to stay in her apartment complex, putting a good word for me with the landlord. David has even offered me his place to stay as a roommate. All of this has given me hope that I can move forward and keep going. There have been also other bloggers, who have opened their homes and their hearts to me. I love, and thank you all for your kindness. *smooch*

I had a really bad fall last Thursday, I really wanted to give up, and I just could not deal with anything. Friends started to really worry about me, because I hadn’t contacted anyone, or really done anything but sleep, and attempt to go to work. See, when I get depressed, I get really overwhelmed, everything is too much effort, and I just get heavy and tired. However, close people around me were noticing my distress and pulled a semi-intervention. They insisted that I go see a shrink, though I have many feelings about this. I feel people are over-diagnosed with ailments and whatever so they can prescribe the world pharmaceutical drugs. I feel there is an overindulgence and dependence on pharmaceutical drugs and I hate playing into this. I also feel that diagnose such as major depressive, bipolar etc are like the new designer jeans, everyone has one. I haven’t wanted to play this game, so I have been avoiding it. I mean come on, are prescription drugs going to help me more than yoga and exercise? I just doing think so, but in any event I’m going to go to the headshrinker and let them see if they can fix what is wrong with me with some magic pill.

What has given me a lot of hope has been my family. Especially my brother, who is about to go back to Iraq for his second tour. My brother offered me the idea of moving in with him, and taking care of his house, rent free, while he is in Iraq. Now, this would mean moving away from my redneck Kurt Cobain syndrome inflicting town, and also mean moving to a place where I don’t know anyone. However, this would also be a chance for me to get out of debt, start over, and I would be 8 hours away from my son in Arizona. The idea to me is very promising. Some say I am like Cher in the movie “mermaids” I just pick up and move when things get tough. I admit., I have done that quite a bit. But starting fresh and starting over, is just so easy and appealing. I’m not happy in my hometown here, I can’t take the weather, the blue collar restrictions, I cant handle seeing my sons friends, and knowing I’m not part of that life anymore.

I also called today a friend of my son’s whom I was very close to. His parents were splitting up, and because there was 5 kids, none of them really got the attention they needed. I was always there to drive him around, talk to the principal of the school if there was a problem, pick him up, feed him, help him with schoolwork, and motivate him. I know that losing my son in his life is the small part, as I was the pseudo parent for him. My losing a spot in his life also hurts, for both of us. In any event, I called him today and told him I would come to some of his football games, and that I was going to go through my son’s things and bring over old Vibe magazines, or ESPN’s or things that D really didn’t need anymore. This made me feel good, as I would like to have some sort of closure on these relationships, though its going to be totally hard to say goodbye, if I do decide to move away.

My life is alas in a flux, a David Bowie sort of Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes. I can handle it, I can roll with it and survive it. The next chapter of my soap opera life has begun, and I’m ready to walk through that open door. It takes a while to get over a big blow, a huge life change. I’m dealing with it and re-thinking my life and what I want to do. I appreciate everyone being supportive and reading my crap, and commenting, and emailing, and calling, and just being there. I’m also really sorry, I had to drag anyone though my shit. If I realized my life was going to be this tough, I never would have started blogging and involved anyone in the drama.

No matter what I do, where I go, I will continue to keep writing. That is why I started blogging, and that is why I do it. I’m glad for the friendships I have received, but that is the icing on the cake. For me blogging has been a way to be creative, a way to write, and work on my dream of one-day completing a novel. (I have already started like three). I want to stay in the practice of writing and being an artist. Since blogging is so much like a journal, well it is, you guys have had to sit through a lot of my shit. But, what doesn’t kill you makes us stronger. I’m no quitter, I’m a survivor, and if you guys stick around to read my crap, and aren’t burned out of me by now, I thank you. Life sure as hell is stranger than fiction.

-If anyone wants to partake in a new blog I am working on please stop by. It is a book club Round Table Confessionals , and we basically are going to be reading and discussing books on line. One day perhaps we will read and re-visit the “Bell Jar”. Lol.

Thanks Sylvia, for teaching me to be strong, and what I don’t want to become. I will never put my head in the oven or hurt myself in anyway. I love ya darlin, but I’m just more of a survivor. I have got a lot of life left in me, and I’m not going out like that.


-Some stuff about the Bell Jar I stole off the web.

Long before Elizabeth Wurtzel made depression a hip 90’s affliction, Sylvia Plath drew upon personal history to develop the character of Esther Greenwood, a talented young woman who suffers a nervous breakdown and struggles to climb out of the dark abyss. The novel opens with the electrocution of the Rosenbergs, which foreshadows Esther’s electro-shock therapy:
It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. I’m stupid about executions. The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick, and that’s all there was to read about in the papers—goggle-eyed headlines staring up at me on every street corner and at the fusty, peanut-smelling mouth of every subway. It had nothing to do with me, but I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like, being burned alive all along your nerves. I thought it must be the worst thing in the world.
And indeed, it will be the worse thing in the world. After her first disastrous shock session, she wonders “what terrible thing it was that I had done.” With electro-shock therapy, Esther’s first attempt to escape her dark abyss is as hellish as is her tumble in.
First published in England in 1963, The Bell Jar traces Esther’s dark inner journey. Her years of academic success culminate in her winning a coveted position as a guest editor at a fashion magazine in New York, as Plath herself did. In the city, small-town Esther feels out of her element and quite alone, as she realizes that all of the prizes she accumulated at college are meaningless outside of the ivy-covered walls. She feels as if she is now on the outside looking in at the “slick marble and plate-glass fronts along Madison Avenue.” Problem is, her vision is doubly clouded, first by the glare from those colossal windows, mocking her with warped reflections of dreams she is convinced elude her, and second, by the surrounding glass walls of the bell jar closing in around her.
As a bright, unmarried woman of the 1950’s, Esther is a) expected to be a virgin; b) destined for a marriage where husband is first, wife second; c) if destined for a career at all, destined for one as secretary; d) all of the above. These pressures, and others, overwhelm Esther. At college, she feels the stigma of being a “scholarship girl.” She is angry at an ex-boyfriend whom she unmasks as a virgin imposter. Culture sanctions his sexual experience, whereas it would damn Esther’s were she to have any. She is angry at her mother for insisting that Esther learn shorthand, for that secretarial career Esther disdains. These personal resentments are also cultural ones.
The night before she is to leave New York to return home, Esther’s personality begins to unravel. The first “skin” she sheds is her wardrobe, which she flings from her hotel room. When her mother picks her up from the train station, Esther learns that she has not been chosen for a summer writing program she had applied to, and the bell jar begins its descent. After her first electro-shock session, at the hands of the callous Dr. Gordon, Esther finds herself in the car ride home wedged between her mother and Dodo Conway, a young mother from Esther’s neighborhood. Between these two symbols of maternity and suburbia, Esther bleakly envisions a limited future of servile domesticity, and the bell jar clanks down for good. Esther attempts suicide, trying to overdose on sleeping pills. Her wealthy college benefactress, Philomenea Guinea, volunteers to pick up the tab at a pricey private hospital, as long as there is no “boy in the case.” At the hospital, Esther slowly re-emerges under the supervision of a female doctor, who permits Esther to hate her mother, to refuse visitors and to buy birth control. She permits Esther freedom and air to breathe, air not soured from stewing within the bell jar.
The novel is told from Esther’s point of view, and it is her sarcastic tone that gives the novel an edgy sharpness and a dark humor that keeps it from dissolving into a self-pitying mantra. For example, after awaking at the hospital from her suicide attempt, Esther cajoles a nurse into giving her a mirror. Upon realizing that the bruised and swollen face with the shorn head is her own, Esther drops the mirror, which crashes to the ground. Esther is not nice. She delights in overhearing the young nurse being castigated and then she comments, “I listened with mild interest. Anybody could drop a mirror. I didn’t see why they should get so stirred up.”
With a poet’s attention to details and metaphors, evident from the very beginning with the Rosenbergs’ electrocution mirroring Esther's shock therapy, Plath weaves a smart story of survival. Or does she? In her famous poem “Lady Lazarus,” written near the end of her life, Plath alludes to her suicide attempt:
Is an art, like everything else
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call.
The poem ends on a note of triumph: “Out of the ash / I rise with my red hair / And I eat men like air.” In The Bell Jar, Esther is not so confident. In the novel’s closing scene, she walks to her exit interview at the private hospital, not so much an active agent as a puppet guided “by a magical thread.” The heart that brags “I am, I am, I am” is not bragging very loudly. Before this interview, Esther voices her uncertainties: “How did I know that someday—at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere—the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?” And hauntingly, in real life, it does. The Bell Jar was published in January 1963. A month later, on February 11th, Plath gassed herself in London.


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