Tag Archives: Life Lessons

A yearly dose of The Bell Jar.

22 Dec

For the past 4 years, ever since I was 16, I have read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar around this time of year. Though I never planned to re-read it every year around the holidays, that’s just how it turned out. In all honesty, The Bell Jar is probably one of the most depressing books I have ever read, but it is also one of the most accurate portrayals of madness, or descending into madness, from a literature standpoint that I have discovered as well. I guess you could say I love it because of its psychological aspects. However, despite how depressing the novel is, there is a reason Sylvia Plath is viewed as an acclaimed poet and writer. Her words, when put together, form sentences that allow you to feel something. Granted, the feelings her words bring to light aren’t necessarily happy ones, but in all honesty, Sylvia Plath wrote about life, her life. She didn’t sugarcoat it. She didn’t pretend she was happy when she wasn’t. She threw her readers right into the darkness and the loneliness of her life and her mind, and in a strange way, it’s beautiful.

Here are some quotes from The Bell Jar I thought I’d share:

  1. “Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences.”
  2. “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”
  3. “I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.”
  4. “At this rate, I’d be lucky if I wrote a page a day. Then I knew what the problem was. I needed experience. How could I write about life when I’d never had a love affair or a baby or even seen anybody die? A girl I knew had just won a prize for a short story about her adventures among the pygmies in Africa. How could I compete with that sort of thing?”
  5. “I am sure there are things that can’t be cured by a good bath but I can’t think of one.”
  6. “Piece by piece, I fed my wardrobe to the night wind, and flutteringly, like a loved one’s ashes, the gray scraps were ferried off, to settle here, there, exactly where I would never know, in the dark heart of New York.”
  7. “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they executed the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
  8. “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 loosing 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.”
  9. “Secretly, in studies and attics and schoolrooms all over America, people must be writing.”
  10. “I had hoped, at my departure, I would feel sure and knowledgeable about everything that lay ahead — after all, I had been “analyzed.” Instead, all I could see were question marks.”
  11. “The sun, emerged from its gray shrouds of cloud, shone with a summer brilliance on the untouched slopes. Pausing in my work to overlook that pristine expanse, I felt the same profound thrill it gives me to see the trees and grassland waist-high under flood water—as if the usual order of the world had shifted slightly, and entered a new phase.”

Is there a specific book you make a point to read every year?

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Lessons from Lucy Grealy.

19 Nov

Another Instagram photo. 🙂

“I viewed other people both critically and sympathetically. Why couldn’t they just stop complaining so much, just let go and see how good they actually had it? Everyone seemed to be waiting for something to happen that would allow them to move forward, waiting for some shadowy future moment to begin their lives in earnest. Everybody, from my mother to the characters I read about in books (who were as actual and important as real people to me), was always looking at someone else’s life and envying it, wishing to occupy it. I wanted them to stop, to see how much they had already, how they had their health and their strength. I imagined how my life would be if I had half their fortune. Then I would catch myself, guilty of the exact thing I was accusing others of. As clear-handed as I was, sometimes I felt that the only reason for this clarity was to see how hypocritically I lived my own life.”-from Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

A Father’s Love.

17 Jun

I have always been a daddy’s girl, and that fact hasn’t changed even though I’m no longer a little girl. When I was growing up, my dad was my number one supporter. Though I know that my mom supported and loved me as well, there’s something really special about the relationship between a father and his daughter that can’t be replaced by any other kind of love.

Besides loving and supporting me completely and without hesitation, my dad has taught me practically everything I know about life, love, and what it means to chase my dreams and follow my heart. However, one of the greatest things about my dad is the fact that he understands me. He understands my feelings so well that more often than not I don’t have to say much of anything for him to know how I’m feeling. There’s something really incredible about knowing someone who is connected with you in such a way where you don’t even have to say a word for them to know what you’re trying to say.

I remember one specific memory from Shriner’s after my first intense operation in 2003. I had intense physical therapy at Shriner’s twice a day, and my mom and dad switched off every few weeks in terms of who was staying with me at Shriner’s Hospital in Greenville, SC. My dad was unable to be at Shriner’s as much as my mom could, but he was there as much as possible. Anyway, I remember one day right before going to PT. I had to be put into a small wheelchair with my legs strapped down into a bent position. I should also point out that before my intense PT I was in long-leg casts for eight weeks. Therefore, attempting to bend your knees after having your legs completely straight for eight weeks is a kind of pain that I can’t even begin to describe. Anyway, my dad was attempting to strap my legs down, but even before he put the leg plates on the wheelchair in a position where my knees would have to be bent, I started to cry. Not small whimpers, but the kind of sobs that come up out of your chest when you’re scared, in pain, and can hardly breathe. Even though my dad knew that he had to have my knees bent before taking me to PT, he couldn’t do it. I remember looking at him to see the anguish, fear and pain that I was feeling mirrored on his face as well. It was one of the first vivid memories that I have of my dad crying. Even though I didn’t know it at the time, this was a memory that I would come back to in my mind every time I was trying to describe the intense love that my dad has for me. I come back to this memory not because it brought me pain and fear, but because even though it shows my dad’s love for me, it also shows his empathetic nature that I have found within myself over the past few years.

Webster’s dictionary defines love as “an intense feeling of deep affection,” which seems fitting since scientists and poets and musicians alike have all been looking for the true definition of love for centuries. As well as teaching me empathy, my dad has also taught me what love truly is. From holding his hand ever since I was a little girl to the recent days of listening to him relearn how to play the guitar, I have known what love is through my dad’s expression of it towards me. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful to have such an amazing father in my life. And even though I am getting older, I know that my dad will always be here to welcome me home into one of his hugs that holds more love than I can even express. So yes, today is Father’s Day, the day that we go out of our way to tell our dads how much they mean to us. However, for me, every day is Father’s Day. No amount of words can express the insane amount of love I have for the man who taught me to follow my heart, no matter what.

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person: he believed in me.”

Barbara Kingsolver Quotes.

12 May

Since I’ve been on a recently discovered Barbara Kingsolver kick lately (I just finished The Bean Trees and am now reading Pigs In Heaven), I thought I’d share some Barbara Kingsolver quotes since I haven’t done a quotes post in a while (Quotes obtained from goodreads.com).

  1. “The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”
  2. “Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”
  3. “It’s what you do that makes your soul.”
  4. “What keeps you going isn’t some fine destination but just the road you’re on, and the fact that you know how to drive. You keep your eyes open, you see this damned-to-hell world you got born into, and you ask yourself, ‘What life can I live that will let me breathe in & out and love somebody or something and not run off screaming into the woods?”
  5. “If we can’t, as artists, improve on real life, we should put down our pencils and go bake bread.”
  6. “In a world as wrong as this one, all we can do is make things as right as we can.”
  7. “Morning always comes.”
  8. “Every one of us is called upon, perhaps many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, loss of a job…And onward full-tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another–that is surely the basic instinct…Crying out: High tide! Time to move out into the glorious debris. Time to take this life for what it is.”
  9. “Literature duplicates the experience of living in a way that nothing else can, drawing you so fully into another life that you temporarily forget you have one of your own. That is why you read it, and might even sit up in bed till early dawn, throwing your whole tomorrow out of whack, simply to find out what happens to some people who, you know perfectly well, are made up.”
  10. “It’s surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time. ”
  11. “To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know.”
  12. “She kept swimming out into life because she hadn’t yet found a rock to stand on.”
  13. “In my own worst seasons I’ve come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again
  14. “Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say.”
  15. “That was when we smelled the rain. It was so strong it seemed like more than just a smell. When we stretched out our hands we could practically feel it rising up from the ground. I don’t know how a person could ever describe that scent.”
  16. “If you ask me, when something extraordinary shows up in your life in the middle of the night, you give it a name and make it the best home you can.”
  17. “It’s one thing to carry your life wherever you go. Another thing to always go looking for it somewhere else.”
  18. “Anybody can get worked up, if they have the intention. It’s peacefulness that is hard to come by on purpose.”
  19. “People read books to escape the uncertainties of life.”
  20. “Don’t wait for the muse. She has a lousy work ethic. Writers just write.”

Happy Saturday everyone! Is there a particular author that has some of your favorite quotes? What are they?

Finding Daddy Cox By Mike Cox: A Book Review.

6 May

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned Mike, one of my writing mentors that I met when interning at the Columbia Star newspaper in January of 2009. When I left my internship at the Star, Mike gave me 3 books as parting gifts, one of which was his own book he wrote in 2003, Finding Daddy Cox.

Finding Daddy Cox is the story of Mike’s grandfather, Cecil Cox, which includes all the lessons that he instilled in his children and grandchildren that are still evident in the Cox family today. I remember Mike telling me how he wrote this book for his family, and as a token of remembrance for the grandfather that he resembled, but who died when he was five years old. There are parts of the book that have still stuck with me, like Cecil’s conversation with a blind man where he describes every part of the sunset so that the blind man is able to enjoy it as well. I think that was one of my favorite parts of the book. Overall, Finding Daddy Cox is full of life lessons that you’d expect to hear from an old Southern family: discipline your children but show them you love them, the importance of hard work, how to deal with pain, loss, and fear, and the realization that one’s family is the cornerstone to all of life’s understandings. Even though Finding Daddy Cox was essentially a collection of stories that Mike had heard about his grandfather as he was growing up, Mike put his some of his own self into the stories as well since he had heard his whole life how much he and Cecil Cox were alike.

I think what was most interesting to me was reading a book that was written by someone I know. I could hear Mike’s voice through the words, and that was really cool for me. Though the book was stories of his grandfather, I could see how Mike used his own writing style in certain descriptions of things, though I’m sure he had plenty of help from the people in his family who were still around at the time who assisted him with the stories.

I definitely recommend this book. I mean, I guess it’s different for me because I am friends with Mike, and so I know him pretty well. However, Finding Daddy Cox was a great portrayal of an Old Southern family and how certain traditions and ways of upbringing can have such a long-lasting effect on the generations to come.