December 23, 2019:

My therapist asks: Why has re-reading The Bell Jar triggered such an intense outpouring of grief?

Three reasons:

  • Her writing is beautiful. She writes with economy, rhythm, strikingly assured imagery. Her similes and metaphors are frequently unexpected, surprisingly evocative. I feel her intelligence, her mastery. I'm aware of what a loss her death was.
  • Her description of her suicide attempt is so lonely. To crawl into a womblike space, in darkness, assured of solitude. Inside the earth: her grave while yet alive. With no-one to hold her hand as blue and red lights flash behind her eyelids and darkness falls. No-one to cry for her when her breathing ends. Writing this now triggers another upwelling of bone-deep grief. I think, I'm crying for my own loneliness.
  • The depth of my inability to protect her is infinitely sad. Her, or anyone else. Where my failed relationships for over a decade have all been misguided attempts to protect the women I partnered with.

And I know where this need to protect them originates. My mother as a child, locked in closets for years and years. With no-one to protect her. Raped at eleven, with no-one to protect her. Battered and bruised by her husband, with no-one to protect her, not even me, mewling little wide-eyed infant in my bassinet. Later in adulthood in her depression and her resignation, where I'm unable to shield her from her history and the damage she carries with her like weights around both legs. Or the many times I hurt her, or failed her, from ignorance or self-involvement or my own depressed fatigue. So that I want to save someone, someone brilliant and beautiful and worthy, as if to apologize for not saving her.