The sun flickered between the blinds of the window, the cheap sheers dancing lightly. Marred by cracked walls and peeling paint, the room looked like the inside of a monochromatic kaleidoscope…blinding yet bereft. Much like us, the broken blinkers. We too have suffered the way this room has from time and detriment. We are starved of love and it is eating away at us from within. Do you wonder…can you stitch flesh that has long since fructified, threading the slow corrosion to work a semblance of unity? Or shall we remain febrile enthusiasts, bits and pieces flying but too manic to notice how close they clatter? Like tottering tea cups. So close to the edge. So close to fracture and fission. After all…everything we loved became everything we lost.
I’d done a free style writing thing yesterday and posted whatever I wrote in ten minutes or so. However, I felt like it was heading somewhere so I continued the piece and came up with this:
Paradoxical Parallel Lines
The sound of the sea kissing the shore splayed in the air. My hands were chilled from the cold, hiding in my pockets as I made my way across the beach. It was a rare place, where the ocean and the frost met and mingled, but where no one else ever did. It had become my place of wandering, deserted and lonely but peaceful and if anything at all, I needed that.
Toes digging into the pastel tinged sand, I made my way towards a few rocks jutting out, cutting the sea with their sharp lines and crevices as if they were right angles dissecting a white page. Reminding me of the math homework laying piled up at home, I sighed. If x were a variable I could solve, I’d be having a much better time with it.
The numbers stood in neat little rows, separated by brackets and addition signs, which looked a language of its own. I just couldn’t speak it. Nor read. I was illiterate in an enforced tongue.
People, on the other hand, I was better with. They were complex and confusing which I liked because when you box things up neatly like a little question answer package in arithmetic, things seem too compartmentalised and rigid. People aren’t meant for that. We’re paradoxes, both logical and emotional; contradicting ourselves so many times we’ve all become knots in the ceaseless string of life.
These were the thoughts that kept me occupied, so much so that my feet weren’t aware that they’d tripped over something until I hit the ground with a dull thud.
“Ouch.” I muttered, elbows propping me up to take a look at what I’d fallen over.
It was a boy. He was dressed oddly, as if from a different time, a different era. Kneeling beside this stranger, I found him knotted up in strands of fishers net and seaweed. Slowly, I untangled it all, having to cut the net with a sharp stone lying nearby. Yet, on looking over to his right, it seemed I didn’t need the stone at all.
There lying a few finger lengths from his hand, was a sword in its sheath. Frowning, I picked it up, unsheathing an inch but the minute I pulled it out, it was as if gravity had congregated to keep it down, hurting my hand.
“Don’t. It’s not for humans.”
Alarmed, I spun around to see that the boy was conscious. Lowering the sword I asked, “What do you mean it’s not for humans?”
“You can’t unsheathe it.” He said, trying to get up but faltered, his knees buckling under his weight. I hesitated about helping him. He seemed so odd that for once, I wished more people were around.
“And you can?”
“Yes.” He grunted, finally getting on his feet.
I frowned. “So…you’re not human?”
Bending down to retrieve the sword, he looked up at me sharply as if it were an insult. “No.”
With that he walked away, resolute and stubborn. Yet, sure. As if he’d come for a purpose.
In that moment, math had seemed more understandable than he.
I never saw him again, though I hadn’t really looked. I just knew that the beach was back to being mine once more, strolling around weeks later. It was better this way but I couldn’t help but be curious. I began to think of the time my teacher had drawn two long chalk lines on the blackboard saying, “These are parallel lines. And no matter how far you extend them, stretch them out to infinity, they will not meet.”
Maybe math is wrong. Maybe sometimes they do.
My schizophrenic mother spun tales out of her hallucinations as if they were bedtime stories.
The machine monitoring my fathers cracked heart beeped in the corner of his hospital room like a misguided melody.
My friend broke her teeth on vodka bottles and breathed marijuana.
My classmate’s mother called and cried that her daughter swallowed forty pills for a midnight snack.
Then I cried into the night and it hushed the wails with a soft, clean pillow.
No one listened.
Goodreads Synopsis: Sylvia Plath’s shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity.
Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.
In high school, I’d read a Sylvia Plath poem and remember my english teacher telling us how the poet had stuck her head in an oven and killed herself. Then, in college we discussed her many attempts at committing suicide, digressing grossly from the poem we were meant to read. Plath is well known for her tragic suicide and so the first thing that comes to mind when I hear her name is just that.
Having read about her life, I was aware that The Bell Jar would not be an easy read but yet, that still didn’t prepare me for this raw, uncompromising narrative of Esther Greenwood’s very real battle with depression. Esther’s outlook is cynical, but realistic in its questioning of everyday existence and trivialities what with the need to go through the motions when in the end we all perish anyway. The symbolism used is not excessive nor is the writing flowery like you’d expect of a poet, demonstrated in the fig tree symbol:
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor… and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
The writing isn’t emotional or steeped in self pity and wallowing which is how depression is inaccurately portrayed. The novel has more to do with Esther’s thoughts and perceptions which contribute to the feeling of detachment from the self and other. I also appreciate how the protagonist’s depression isn’t justified by traumatic events and explained in that manner. Sometimes people can suffer from depression despite having a decent or wonderful life, just as Esther is living every girl’s dream working at a fashion magazine in New York yet is still unhappy. There isn’t a clear line distinguishing Esther pre and post-breakdown which paints her situation realistically.
What makes Esther’s descent into insanity all the more real is that Plath has suffered the same albeit with the insight to write about it well. When reading the book it’s evident that Esther is Plath’s fictional counterpart, which is why The Bell Jar has been described as semi-autobiographical. If you know about Plath’s life, you can easily draw the parallels between the author and character, an eerily intense merging of fiction and reality. This is as confessional as confessional writing can get. At times, I felt so uncomfortably aware that it was as if I was in Sylvia Plath’s own mind, experiencing what she went through. When Esther sits down to write a novel in the summer saying, “My heroine would be myself, only in disguise. She would be called Elaine. Elaine. I counted the letters on my fingers. There were six letters in Esther, too. It seemed a lucky thing.” I can’t help but wonder if this is what Plath had thought when she began writing the novel herself. (There are six letter in Sylvia too.)
I think it’s also particularly evident in the way Esther’s attempt at committing suicide by taking a large number of sleeping pills and lying under her mother’s house was written. The detached insight with which she writes in can only have come from experience. At times, it’s unsettling how calmly these suicide attempts are described and the fact that they stem from Plath’s own attempts intensifies that discomfort.
The novel also provides a look into how mental illness was perceived and treated in the 50’s and 60’s. The apt title says it all. Bell jars are used in physics to create vacuums and Plath likens this to the feeling of confinement, making the bell jar a symbolic representation of depression. This changed my perspective of mental illness and the timing couldn’t have been better now that I’m interning at a neuropsychiatric hospital. I’ve seen two ECT rounds and was told it wasn’t as terrible as the media makes it out to be now that they administer muscle relaxants and anaesthesia prior to the shocks. But when I’d gotten to the part of the novel where Esther is given her first electric shock therapy, I realised how far psychiatry has come. The novel portrays electric shock therapy, which was in its prime along with lobotomies at the time, in a torturous manner, saying, “…with each flash, a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant.”
Reading this book is a harrowing, emotionally intense experience. While it ends on a hopeful note for Esther with the lifting of the bell jar and a crack of fresh air, the author’s own fate hangs like an ominous epilogue to the book, completed in reality where fiction left off. It’s a difficult read, depressing and thought-provoking all at once. I would be lying if I said the book won’t haunt you once you set it down but…some stories are worth being haunted by. The Bell Jar is one of them.
I’ve been reading Boy Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl and in the back of the book I found three of his writing tips. I decided to rank these tips according to universality and scope.
‘A story idea is liable to come flitting into the mind at any moment of the day, and if I don’t make a not of it at once, right then and there, it will be gone forever. So I must find a pencil, a pen, a crayon, a lipstick, anything that will write and scribble a few words that will later on remind me of the idea. Then, as soon as I get the chance, I go straight to my hut and write the idea down in an old red-coloured school exercise book.’
This is the best tip about writing that can be given since it touches upon the very foundation of a piece of prose or poetry i.e the very idea behind it. In an attempt to lighten your bag load when heading out, never sacrifice a little notepad and pen to jot down intangible ideas because it’ll be terribly disappointing to lose them and having to wrack your brain to make it resurface doesn’t work as much as you’d like it to. A simple little sentence in a moment of inspiration can turn into a wonderful read.
Roald Dahl wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory based on this little thought he jotted down:
What about a chocolate factory that makes fantastic and marvelous things- with a crazy man running it?
This tip is universal and applies not only to writing prose or poetry but also songwriting. In the case of songwriting, a notepad to write lyrics and a voice-recording app to record melodies would be useful.
‘The reason I collect good ideas is because plots themselves are very difficult indeed to come by. Every month they get scarcer and scarcer. Any good story must start with a strong plot that gathers momentum all the way to the end. My main preoccupation when I am writing a story is a constant unholy terror of boring the reader. Consequently, as I write my stories I always try to create situations that will cause my reader to:
- Laugh ( actual loud belly laughs)
- Become enthralled
- Become TENSE and EXCITED and say ‘Read on! Please read on! Don’t stop!’
I think this tip falls in the mid-range of universality. Good plots can sometimes be an amalgamation of ideas jotted down over a period of time and then can be built on in a steady flow.
My only point of criticism is that some books try too hard in keeping the interest of the reader by intermittently placing an action sequence or a sex scene in the middle of the plot (think Fifty Shades of Grey) so I think you should write the plot according to your interest and stay true to it without thinking too much about what keeps the readers interested in it. Some readers like fast-paced beginnings, some are patient enough to endure a slow yet steady start so it’s impossible to please them all. The only thing you can do is write in a way that makes you interested. There are always a plethora of readers just like you and your writing would certainly appeal to them. I think Roald Dahl is one of the few that can write for himself and others in same enjoyable way.
All good books to have a mixture of extremely nasty people- which are always fun- and some nice people. In every book or story there has to be somebody you can loathe. The fouler and more filthy a person is, the more fun it is to watch him getting scrunched.
This tip falls in line with the traditional protagonist vs. antagonist plot line and while it certainly works well with Dolores Umbridge and Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, it isn’t the most universal. Mystery novels don’t let you know who the antagonist is so your scathing hatred for them is rather subdued and in some cases the main character is the antagonist who you don’t want to see getting scrunched like Dexter in Darkly Dreaming Dexter.
Image Sources: Google
This is my last post as part of NaBloPoMo and it’s been a great month because of it. It’s also the first month that I’ve posted each and every day of the month. I’ve really come to appreciate the scheduling feature since it’s allowed me to space out my posts and ensure I don’t miss a single day considering how you can easily get bogged down with work and other things. Ever since I started my blog in April I used to post immediately but by scheduling I feel that I’ve become a more organized and efficient blogger, not to mention writing and drawing on a more regular basis. That is perhaps the greatest thing I’ve learned after participated in NaBloPoMo. Looking over the posts ranging from art to list articles to opinion pieces to a poetry chain, I’ve written more diverse posts to make the most of the whole experience. This drive seems like it might even continue into December which is exactly what a challenge like this should do i.e push you to continue beyond its expiry date.
I’d recommend participating in NaBloPoMo to anyone who wants to be a more regular blogger since it gives you just that little nudge and motivation to post every day for an entire month. It’s not as daunting a task as writing an entire rough draft of a novel in a month like NaNoWriMo and it allows for more flexibility in writing. In fact it doesn’t even have to be writing, it could be painting and photography as well. The main aim is to keep at it. Unlike NaNoWriMo, you can sign up for NaBloPoMo every month, not just November (but it has become the somewhat official month for the challenge). Please do give it a go if you’re looking for some inspiration! Hopefully, you’ll love it as much as I did.
We have six basic emotions and of all of them sadness requires a combination of treatments to cure it. The traditional eating a pint of ice cream whilst sobbing on the couch just doesn’t cut it anymore (or never cut it at all, if you ask me).
So what do you do when you’re down in the doldrums? In addition to my own, I asked around and people have been kind in sharing what helps when they’re feeling a little down. Here goes…
1.) Have a Friends marathon. It’s hard not to laugh at Phoebe’s rat babies, Ross’ sandwich fiasco or Joey’s bag. Even if you feel sad again once the episode ends, just keep watching and watching. Ten whole seasons should do the trick. Plus the bloopers.
2.) Look up pictures of ‘winterscapes’, the ones with streetlights illuminating snow covered streets and Christmas lights adding colour to a white canvas of a park in the middle of winter. There’ll be cabins with fires burning brightly, looking like windows to happier times contrasted against their dank cold surroundings. Remember how the seasons merge and think ‘This too shall pass.’
3.) Take a blank white sheet and a few vibrant ink pens. Touch the nib to the page and look closely (very closely) as the ink creeps and flows across it. You don’t even need to draw anything, just repeat this and feel enthralled by the movement of ink.
4.) Lie still in bed, tucked under the sheets and close your eyes. Feel yourself, every bit from your toes to your forehead, melting into the sheets, dissolving into the warmth. (This is how I fall asleep at night and it’s a blessing.)
5.) Travel back in time to those days when getting mud stains on your clothes and cartoons on a Saturday morning were all that mattered by re-reading a childhood book, cartoon, anime or movie. ( I find Johnny Bravo, InuYasha and Harry Potter to be quite effective in this regard.)
6.) If you’re like me and don’t particularly love the chick-flick genre, watch these anyway and feel the lightness of the films: Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, It’s a Boy/Girl Thing, Kate and Leopold, 17 Again, The Devil Wears Prada. ( I love Meg Ryan rom-coms as you can see.)
7.) Enjoy the warmth of a piping hot cup of coffee or tea (whichever you like) or enjoy some soda travelling down your throat, cool and fizzy.
8.) Be grateful some people have gotten off of your roller coaster. Perhaps they were never meant to ride it all the way through or they were merely destined to fall off halfway through. Either way, only the worthy will make it through till the end with you.
9.) Listen to 8tracks playlists and be reassured by the fact that they have been made with care and the intent to comfort. This soothing study playlist is a treat for the ears and I found it better for relaxing than studying.
10.) Put on layers of clothes (sweaters, scarves, shorts and tank tops) and layers of makeup just for fun and more importantly for yourself, no one else.
11.) Paint your fingernails any colour you like, blue for the sky hanging like a sheet above your head, pink for the blushing cheeks of lovers or red for the strawberries in your frozen yogurt. Take it a step further and add designs. Be a Michelangelo with ten tiny canvases. Twenty if you add your toes.
12.) Take a black permanent marker and draw along your body, tentative tattoo designs on your wrist, ankle or even go so far as doodling an entire sleeve. Wash it off, watching the black ink dilute into purple as the water drips down onto the floor. Like washing away regret and pain, circling down the drain and forever disappearing.
13.) Don’t resort to drowning your sorrows in alcohol and excess sugar. Instead, enjoy the best of both worlds by making some banana flambe. Freak out about the flame the first time you make it and remember that feeling. (I made this in a bar tending class and it’s amazing.)
14.) Cry (because sometimes there is nothing else to do but just that.)
15.) Stop crying and wipe your eyes on a pillow case or smear the running mascara on a two-ply tissue. That explosive ache is gone for now.
16.) Spend some time with an animal, your pet or one at a local animal shelter (cat, dog or bird etc.) because they know better about what is important in life. (Eat till you sleep and sleep till you eat.)
17.) Listen to an entire album from start to finish, one that reflects your mood. In order. Because artists put thought into that and it’d be nice to hear the tracks as it was intended. Bands I’d recommend are The Script, The 1975, Imagine Dragons, The Fray, The Killers, oh and Hans Zimmer scores. Music can do so much, take Alexander’s Feast for example.
18.) Sing along to the songs, even if you can’t sing all too well. Scream the lyrics, whisper them softly, it doesn’t matter. Connect to what you’re singing, hearing and feeling. It’s a harmonious moment.
19.) Look back at old photographs featuring friends, family and photo-bombing strangers. Laugh at the good old days or be glad the bad ones are over.
20.) After that, take lots of pictures and selfies. One day, in the future, you may need these goofy ones to make you smile when you’re down. It never hurts to plan ahead.
21.) Dance like a ballerina or a nut case but just get off your bum and move. The released endorphins should do you some good. It’s scientifically proven, after all. (Some good tunes for this are Problem, I Love it, Happy and Shake it Off, by the way.)
22.) Binge-watch Breaking Bad and be thankful that your life hasn’t been ruined by your old high school chemistry teacher like Jesse’s was.
23.) Take a hot bath or shower.
24.) Make something for someone ( a bookmark, a snack, or a sketch) and smile when their face lights up when you gift it to them.
25.) Take a nap and sleep it off.
26.) Slap some cocoa butter lotion on your hands and hold them really close to your nose. Soak up that heavenly scent.
27.) Add extra cheese and/or butter to whatever you’re eating because everything is better with butter and cheese. (Disclaimer: This only applies to food that goes with cheese and butter.)
28.) Take an old magazine and newspapers, cut out the dullest articles and make black out poetry with them. Revel at how the mundane can be made marvelous.
29.) Use an entire stick of Post-its with reckless abandon, posting them wherever you like. Write curse words and tape them to distasteful pictures of distasteful people or write motivational pick-me-ups and stick them on the wall beside your bed so you can wake up to a note from a less cranky you.
30.) Read an autobiography and know that everyone struggles and the words on those pages are so much more than that. They are someone’s life.
31.) Buy yourself something be it online or in a mall, even if it is just a pair of scissors or a glue stick.
32.) Do your hair up in funny ways. Straighten, curl and braid to your hearts content.
33.) Stalk your favourite celebrities on Tumblr (they’ve got the best pictures after all). Find out what they’re up to even if they’re just going to Taco Bell in the afternoon.
34.) Follow a microwave mug recipe and eat it all up. Shouldn’t take too much time. (Might I suggest a microwave brownie?)
35.) Read The Perks of Being a Wallflower particularly the poem Charlie likes (I find it raw and fascinating but that’s just me) and see how it makes you feel. Interpret and connect to it instead of your own sadness.
36.) Take a coloured sheet of paper and fill it up with inspiring or funny quotes and lyrics that could get you through a run-down day. Remember those beautiful words neatly arranged before you.
37.) Look up some Youtube mash-ups featuring your favourite artists. Maybe you’ll discover some new tunes. I recently found an Ed Sheeran/ The Fray mash-up called How to Save a Small Bump. It’s beautiful. Check it out.
38.) Watch some kids play duck-duck-goose in circles or riding bicycles in the street. Remember that innocence is a blessing.
39.) Start a blog to spit out those wondrous thoughts in your head and meet people who enjoy your lovely drabble.
40.) Watch funny animal videos or GIFs. These bouncy goats are particularly hilarious.
41.) Roald Dahl wrote that his father would take his mother on ‘glorious walks’. Read this passage:
Every time my mother became pregnant, he (his father) would wait until the last three months of her pregnancy and then he would announce to her that the ‘glorious walks’ must begin. These glorious walks consisted of him taking her to places of great beauty….His theory was that if the eye of a pregnant woman was constantly observing the beauty of nature, this beauty would somehow become transmitted to the mind of the unborn baby within her womb and that baby would grow up to be a lover of beautiful things.
Pregnant or not, alone or not, take a glorious walk so that the beauty of the world (not necessarily nature) can be transmitted to your soul. It’ll learn to love the beautiful just as a baby does. ( I found this passage very enlightening.)
42.) Find a spot whilst on this glorious walk and sit down. Engage in stream of consciousness writing. Write whatever you feel passionate about, be it monkeys in the zoo or parasols in the rain, splattered with droplets descending from the skies above. You will be surprised at the well of honesty your voice possesses.
43.) If real life gets to be too much, play the board game Life. Get married, buy a house and add some kids to your mini car playing piece on that big old board. If that isn’t your game there’s always Parcheesi, Monopoly, Jenga and my personal favourite Clue.
44.) Draw a moustache and horns on people’s pictures in the newspaper. Make them downright hideous and laugh.
45.) Talk to an old friend and reminisce about the good old days even if you’re not old enough to properly call them the good old days.
46.) Write an open letter to yourself and tuck it away. Read it in a few years.
47.) Watch Sia’s Chandelier music video and appreciate the dancer’s fluidity and the simplistic visual artistry of the video as a whole. Allow your thoughts to mirror the same grace.
48.) Clean and organize your desk, closet or entire room. Put everything in its place. Do the same thing with people in your life.
49.) Take a quiz on where you ought to live. Look up the country or city and immerse yourself in a plan for a house or apartment there. Pick the wall colours and kitchen cabinets and where the furniture ought to go. (Do you believe in feng shui? Go for it.)
50.) Print out pictures of far off places that make you feel whole, like Mathew Street in Liverpool, Banff Alberta or castles in Ireland. Stick them together and stare at the board. Call it the Anywhere But Here Window and voila. You’re somewhere else for a while. When you feel better you will come back.
I sincerely hope these little cures help on a rainy day!
What are the things you do when you feel sad? Share them in a comment maybe, spread the cure and heal the world with happiness.
Image Sources: Google
He & She:
The way I see it, clear as day
I don’t need those joints passed
in secluded circles at house parties
or dank alleys, nor the brownies
that make you feel fuzzy and odd.
I am calm and fuzzy enough.
“It opens up your mind, you should draw
or write,” They said like teachers to amateurs.
But they were none the wiser
Drifting higher off of nothing but cheap thrills
When I did the same, I learned
the truth was that I could imagine, write
and draw all along.
My mind had always been open.
The cream-coloured sky hung like suspended milk above their heads, dappled with clouds of lilac and tainted hope. Cerulean leaves blew past them in a hurry to go nowhere just as the rose tide rolled in, curling and lapping at the maroon-tinged sand. The chill played hide and seek between their ribs, tickling emerald bones while the spectrum continued its deception.
Yes, the shades had shifted. The colours collided. But any inkling of dye dripping into a picture is better than black, white and grey.
After all, monochrome is no way to live a life.