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 another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, 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. ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 7
I love Sylvia Plath.
Yes, she’s rather morbid. Yes, she had “issues”. Yes, she eventually killed herself. But I think it was that internal struggle she was dealing with that made her writing so freely profound, poetic and yet harsh. She had a way of wording things and of looking at life in a way that was beautiful in the same sense as a deadly storm.
OUR OWN BELL JARS
The whole “bell jar” bit didn’t make too much sense to me until, somewhere in the middle of the story, Plath drops the words “…because wherever I sat – on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok – I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.”
I thought, WOW. THAT is what the bell jar is. The bell jar is what we pull over ourselves. We live in this little world of our own, yet we can let our own negativity suffocate us if we don’t lift that jar every once in a while. No matter where we go, we carry that emotional baggage with us, a kind of baggage that no change of scenery will alter enough for us to completely forget if we don’t cause some kind of resolution or absolution within ourselves.
DEALING WITH DISAPPOINTMENT IN LIFE
I’ve come to realize I’m never disappointed when I expect someone to back out, no matter how much they swear they’ve committed. I just shrug it off. But that’s hard to accept all of the time, to expect disappointment. I love the anticipation of something. It’s what makes the days happier. Why ruin that with expectations of letdown? (“I couldn’t see the point of getting up. I had nothing to look forward to.”) It just makes one feel inadequate. (“The trouble was, I had been inadequate all along, I simply hadn’t thought about it.”) And Plath’s character continues to struggle under her bell jar for a long, long, long part of the story.
“Yes, I was infatuated with you: I am still. No one has ever heightened such a keen capacity of physical sensation in me. I cut you out because I couldn’t stand being a passing fancy. Before I give my body, I must give my thoughts, my mind, my dreams. And you weren’t having any of those.”