Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"write a little every day, without hope, without despair."

There comes a time when all your outlets are blocked, as with wax. You sit in your room, feeling the prickling ache in your body which constricts your throat, tightens dangerously in little tear pockets behind your eyes. One word, one gesture, and all that is pent up in you--festered resentments, gangrenous jealousies, superfluous desires--unfulfilled--all that will burst out of you in angry impotent tears--in embarrassed sobbing and blubbering to no one in particular. No arms will enfold you, no voice will say, "There, There. Sleep and forget." No, in your new and horrible independence you feel the dangerous premonitory ache, arising from little sleep and taut strung nerves, and a feeling that the cards have been stacked high against you this once, and that they are still being heaped up. An outlet you need, and they are sealed. You live night and day in the dark cramped prison you have made for yourself. And so on this day, you feel you will burst, break, if you cannot let the great
reservoir seething in you loose, surging through some leak in the dike. So you go downstairs and sit at the piano. All the children are out; the house is quiet. A sounding of sharp chords on the keyboard, and you begin to feel the relief of loosing some of the great weight on your shoulders.

This is from a journal entry Sylvia Plath wrote the summer she was eighteen. She took a job nannying for a family at the seashore, and evidently was struggling with some feeling while there. I read it this morning, yet another gray day dawning, and felt some resonance.

I do not have to finish anything, to be anything--a master of a pose, a wife, a friend, a teacher--in a complete form. Every piece of work or action, every choice I make is a practice. It is an easy thing to say, but sometimes I feel like I am in such pursuit of things, of mile markers or evidentiary benchmarks, that I feel like I'm pulling, or tugging my way down the road.

I would love to be able to blame the way I'm feeling on something easily corrected, like my diet. Like the absence of sunshine. Like too much or not enough sleep. But it isn't that. I don't know what it is, or where it comes from, but it is both truer and more elusive than that. It is something thin and invisible and undetectable, but ever-present. It's terrifying in its ever-presence.

I don't know if I can afford to feel this way right now. I have things to do, there are expectations. The clock doesn't stop, people still want me to produce. I cannot hit the pause button on my life, or my relationships, while I take a week to recuperate.

I'd like to continue writing, to chronicle and to confront and to keep making work despite this awful feeling descending on me like fog or rising tide. But I fear I sound incomprehensible. It's like writing high: you think you're all wise and poetic, but really you're trite and indecipherable.

I have also tried to tell myself that these vacuoles of despair are part of my legacy, part of the journey of being an artist. The writer's life is many things, among it a rhapsody of rejection, and the emotional sewage that comes with that is just what the talent through the ages has bequeathed me for choosing this path. Maybe if I look at that then this feeling has a purpose: maybe it will increase my talent; maybe it will increase my determination; maybe I will know better how to cope the next time. But even that sounds a bit hollow in its consolation. It feels like a positive spin.


1 comment:

CC said...

So glad you wrote this out, lady! Sigh, is right (or write?). There's no escaping this compulsion to figure it all out, is there? A pulse in us that won't ignore itself.

I read your extremely resonant entry a couple days ago and, of course, didn't know how to respond. But, you inspired me--along with some conversations that have come up recently--to write it out.

Check out my latest entry if you'd like... it's pretty much a direct response to this and a continuation of a conversation we had aloud once.