The Bell Jar

I am completely wrecked by reading ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath.

I was told not to by so many people. But that’s not how I live life and I jumped in.

To start I was so engrossed in the writing. Each sentence was beautiful. Sometimes I would have to stop, press the book to my chest, and enjoy the prose. Plath’s descriptions of the minute details blew me away, they were magical.

As Esther’s (the protagonist) mental state starts to unravel so does the writing. It becomes more halted and confused. It is hard to know what actually happened and what she imagined. I loved it. This is EXACTLY how my brain works in this state. Moments of clarity amidst a writhing sea of untethered stimuli.

I won’t tell you more, I don’t want to spoil it for you. If you’re in a good place and want to read about mental health in another time- pick up this book!

An Ode to the Library

This year I got a gift that has made me so happy. It was something I didn’t even know I wanted. At risk of sounding like a product endorsement… it was a Kindle.

I read a lot. I go through up to 3 books a week. I like to tell people it’s research for my writing but to be honest its entirely to escape.

The library and I are best friends. We started our relationship at a very early age. I read all the books at my level in my elementary school library. I was quite precocious. For example I read ‘Little Women’ cover to cover without help in grade 4. I always read with a dictionary beside me and over time my vocabulary out paced my parents.

I started riding my bike to the city library on Saturdays. Sometimes my family would come, or just my sister, but usually I could go alone and spend all day there if I wanted. The smell of that library will always be the smell of freedom to me. A magical doorway through which I could be transported anywhere.

In grade 5 I discovered Agatha Christie. She was my first love. I read everyone of her books, sometimes twice. When I had read her entire repertoire, I looked up a ‘what to read next’. For some reason when I took my stack to the checkout counter the librarian baulked. I was taking out true-blue Adult Fiction in grade 5 and she didn’t think it was appropriate for me to be exposed to that. I confidently told her to call my mother for permission, which my mother thankfully gave. She did say if the librarian saw something truly bad, she should not allow me to have it. This began the first-name relationship with the librarians. One in particular would chat with me and recommend some of the best books I’ve read.

The cool part about being a child in an adult world is sometimes you can see the truth through the glamour. When I look back on my thoughts and feelings about those books, I can not re-kindle them. My life has changed me profoundly from that child soaking it all in. I think I understood things entirely differently back then.

When I turned 15, I applied for a job at the library and was successful. All I did was hangout with books all afternoon. I lovingly returned them to the shelves. I sorted them, removing old ones (which sometimes came home with me). I helped people find things and recommended books to other avid readers. A huge part of my job was organizing the kid’s section. Almost every shift it would need a complete overhaul. I don’t think any child ever put a book away properly. The picture books were the best, I think I read all of them during my 3 years working there.

When I graduated high school, I was more upset to leave that library then I was to leave my friends. I think the worst part is they retired the old girl and build a glass monstrosity to replace her. I never heard the news and didn’t get to say goodbye.

Luckily my new hometown is blessed with two excellent libraries: the university and the public. The university is several floors tall, with ample study space. The computers were so slow and difficult to deal with it was almost comical. I invested in my own printer pretty quick to avoid that shit show.

While the library was quite lovely it was like a cheap whore, it had no character and wasn’t filled with much that was useful. But it was a wonderful quiet space in which to steal away for an hour between classes to read or study.

The public library on the other hand has inspired some great work. When I first walked in it looked dismal, and I was worried that I would never find a new best friend, but once you get around the corner a huge sweeping staircase leads to a vaulted room of glass. All of the adult section is up there, beckoning you softly into her bosom. The space is completely open. It’s full of trees and soft couches. There are so many books it dwarfs my old friend. This new library and I were instantly in sync. I wrote wonderful essays and poems up in that palace of glass.

But my illness would steal this away from me too.

I became so anxious that I could not focus on reading. I was unable to write a word. I ran. I ran from that sacred place in tears. My sweet muse was no longer a safe place. I mourned. I had nothing to read so I retreated into television. That crap corrupted every original idea I had for writing.

And then: the Kindle.

Suddenly I had access to millions of books again, and I didn’t have to leave my house. I read so much those first few weeks. I had been stranded in the desert of knowledge and now I had found a fount. I could almost feel my mind expanding, taking a deep breath.

Soon ideas started to flow. I quickly learned that I could create my own space in which to be creative. I now have an office. It’s the littlest room in the house, but its all mine. I set it up with my reading chair, a desk for writing and sewing, candles lightly scenting the air and all the knick-knacks that are ME. I feel safe here. I feel like I can write again.

Though nothing will replace a good library, I feel as though I have a temporary fix. One day anxiety will not own me. One day I will be able to go out without fear. But today I have my own ship in which to shoot for the stars.