Sunday, 6 June 2010

'He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty'

I wanted to try and get away.
Everything has been hard.
The two people in my life who know about my eating disorder, who know I see a lady once a week, are the two people feeding it.
If I wrote about the things my mother says to me... well I can’t.

I can't leave. I have to write. If I don’t write... if I don’t write, it’s because I’m cured and my mind is empty and emotionless.

I watched a fictional TV programme this evening where the characters travelled back in time to meet Vincent Van Gogh. The exploration of Van Gogh wasn’t deep by any means, but it touched the nerve of his genius quite simply:
The Doctor to Van Gogh: “I’ve seen wonderful things, my friend, but you’re right, nothing quite as wonderful as the things you see.”
His madness was so beautiful. What a mind, what an exceptional mind.
Of course I would never compare myself with Van Gogh’s artistic genius, but it brought me back to the name of this blog: A Head Full of Beauty. I may have an eating disorder, I may be depressed, I may be fragile and unstable, I may be all these terrible, ugly things; but I see things in the world that the others don’t – can’t. The normal people, the healthy people; they wake up in the morning, get out of bed and live – and by living, so carefree, so engaged in the world, they can’t see it. They can’t see it. They feel so little - so little compared to the ones whose senses are so engaged and raw - not only to pain, but also to beauty.
It’s something I say to Alex all the time. You don’t see the world like I do.
He doesn’t see pain and sadness, but similarly, he doesn’t see beauty. And I mean real beauty – like Van Gogh saw it – for him it was the beauty in “the complex magic of nature” – they weren’t just flowers, they weren’t just stars - they were so much more exceptional in his vision, and he captured it, he captured everything in his wild, untamed head beautifully. It is a similar pain and beauty that I often see in so many of you and so many of your blogs.

A quote:
“He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world – no one had ever done it before – perhaps no one ever will again.”
I believe, however, that this is the case with several of the greats in the literary canon – Plath, Tennessee Williams, Blake... In fact, most of the authors, poets and playwrights I studied at university had that one thing in common – a mental illness. And who can deny the beauty that they created.

Something you may not know about me – I have always wanted to follow in their footsteps, I aspire, one day, to be a great author.
I wrote this when I was 19; after I read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for the first time:

How is it that old books can harbour such a smell of dust? Dead air, trapped deep between the yellow pages, like a memory of all the years it’s laid keeping the secrets of their illustrious words. But the smell is sweet to me, as if I’m inhaling the breath of my ancestors, giving me cause, reason, inspiration, to revive the heritage they’ve left me.

But the deeper I read, the stronger and harder they seem to warn me. Their works were born of struggles; a medicine for loneliness, a cry against silent suffocation, or simply the result of having bordered on the edge of something that no-one else could understand. A reader can almost feel their minds burning, so brilliantly creative, and yet so emotionally destructive at the same time. The abandoned words were warning me. But too late? I first read Sylvia Plath’s poetry when I was seventeen years old.

I admire any woman who can write so brilliantly, but I don’t want to be the next wearer of the bell jar. The more I read, the more I write, the more I have come to see that I have also been ‘stewing in my own sour air’, almost as if I were intent on following in her footsteps - but I’ve pledged not to write with that breath in me. I don’t want my hand to craft in ink of misery and madness. I’ll give it up before it takes my life. All my children care is that I am a good mother; I do not need admiration from anybody else, nor for any other cause.

There is so much goodness in the world, so much integrity – I have always looked for it and always cherished it in order to keep alive the hope that such virtues grow in me. And in just the same way, there is so much art that has been born from the love and happiness that grow within the writers who still live and breathe with fresh air.

Why I write:
Aesthetic enthusiasm, George Orwell called it. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement.
I wrote that essentially, I didn't want to be a great writer if it meant I had to suffer. I didn't want to be able to see the world and feel the world in the way they did anymore. I wanted to give up my dream of writing a masterpiece, so that I could join the rest of the world, and live, and raise a family, a plain, unfeeling, happy family.
I didn't try. Or maybe I did. Or maybe you can't escape the head you've been given.


  1. I see the beauty in you as well. No one who hasn't ever been through (or even isn't currently going though) what we are does not see the beauty in the words our "messed-up", "crazy" minds put into these blogs, nor do they see the beauty in bones and thinness. I say that they're the messed up and crazy ones for purposely missing out on so much beauty.
    I too would love to be an author...regardless of the pain i might have to go through to get there. Always have wanted to get a novel or a poem published. You, however, hold much much potential of being one. Your words are always so lovely, and i always love reading your blogs.

  2. You write in an unequivocally beautiful way. I love love love reading your beautiful posts.

  3. My. Lord. I read this... and I was just... Awed. I felt as if you had put every thought, every emotion, every idea I had ever established into one post. You are a goddess with words, and your words make me feel something. This, is beautiful. THIS is me. THIS... is inpiration in its most raw form.



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