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I recently finished reading Slyvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Admittedly, I was not super familiar with Plath or her writings before I read her book. Yes, I had heard of her and her untimely death, but beyond that, I knew nothing. In fact, I didn’t even know what to expect when I started reading the book. Well, at least until my dear friend Terri asked if I was emotionally stable. Whelp! I was totally stable, but starting to question my decision to read this book during the bleakness of a global pandemic. My morbid curiosity got the best of me, so I read the book. Alas, the scene in Family Guy between Lois and Meg finally made sense to me.

Despite the gravity of the book’s storyline, I decided it was important to read it. Plath is a terrific writer, who I was starting to enjoy. However, there was something off about the heroine from page one. Her internal dialogue was not something I could relate to. For example, I didn’t understand why she referred to people in their lives by their full names. Instead of saying my boyfriend at Yale, she would write Buddy Willard. I’m not sure why, but it just struck me as odd. I found myself unable to relate to Esther and her apathy towards her amazing internship in New York.

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At one point, just like when I read Nabokov’s Lolita, it was uncomfortable to read. Perhaps because I know the ending of the author’s story or the honest and unbridled look at a person’s downward spiral was unnerving. Also, I felt like I was intruding on a deeply personal struggle. As Esther, aka Sylvia, devolved into her depressive state it got harder and harder to take. I struggled to relate to her struggles. Perhaps this is because the majority of downward spirals I’ve witnessed have taken a narcissistic bent on social media.

There was, however, one theme that I felt we could all relate to during this pandemic. Plath writes several times how Esther feels trapped under the bell jar with no air and no escape. For those stuck in the bell jar, the word itself is a bad dream. To me, 2020 kind of seems like a global bell jar. I say this, by no means, to minimize Esther’s/Slyvia’s struggle with mental illness. I say it because we all have felt like we’re trapped without a way out of the 2020 “bell jar.”

Eventually, Esther receives the treatment she needs and is able to resume her life at college. For us, eventually, the pandemic will abate and the bell jar will be lifted. In the interim, it’s important to find ways to lift the jar and give ourselves room to breathe. Here are a couple of ways you can do that:

*Get outside – walk, run, hike, bike, swim. The great outdoors are cathartic as is exercise.

*Adopt or foster a pet

*Exercise – Youtube has plenty of free workouts If your gym is currently closed.

*Find a community to connect with. It doesn’t matter if you’re meeting up in person or on Zoom. Connect with people.

*Check-in on family members and friends. Particularly, check-in on the elderly, who haven’t been allowed visitors due to the pandemic. Imagine how lonely they must be and how grateful they would be to hear your voice.

*Start something new. I will be starting a book club this week as it is a great way to connect with people. If you’re interested in joining, let me know.

*Watch playoff hockey- the games have been incredible and there is no better sport in the world.

Here’s a list of our day’s activities:

*I read Mary Barton, by Elisabeth Gaskell. This book is more my speed.

*Vinyasa with Jennifer at Open Heart Yoga Studio

*I ran two miles today and walked a mile..

*BBG 2.0. week 11 day 5: cardio and yoga

*It’s tough to be a parent, especially in this environment. I am lamenting the start of a new virtual school year.

*We have one more week until we start virtual school.

*Since last Monday, I have ran 12 miles and walked 8!

*Today I received my first Butcher Box.

*For dinner, we are cooking bison chilli. It should be good!

*I am missing the mountains. I wish we were still travelling.

*After this week, I will only have one week in the BBG 2.0 cycle.

*I learned a new word today tittynope. This word means a small quantity of something leftover.

*I took my puppies including sweet Anakin for a walk.

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4 Comments

  1. Hi, Lis & I have been in a book club for 10 years & we meet once a month, taking turns at each other’s homes or a cafe. During covid we have been having Zoom Meetings that work really well. This year we have all enjoyed our books each month. I enjoyed reading your review above about ‘The Bell Jar’. I haven’t read it & probably won’t from your review, but I appreciated your review on it. It was great. I will have a look at Mary Barton, by Elisabeth Gaskell. We are currently in Stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne, Aust. I am enjoying reading your blogs. Tracey

    1. Thanks Tracey! “Mary Barton” is definitely a welcome change from the “The Bell Jar.” We’re still in phase 1 here, hopefully things will improve here in Florida. Thanks for stopping by!

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