In these early days Assia Wevill needs proof.
Will a village life be enough for us? I am planting the unsaid. The ground, the earth is fertile for the unsaid. I am planting my future delight, my afternoon delight. I am trembling healer. There is no childhood for me anymore. Tell me a story Ted Hughes. Write me a poem. It does not have to be romantic. Gaze at me. I will watch you while you sleep, while you work. Smile but to smile it has become an issue between us like malignant syrup. We are not just a marriage of two likeminded individuals but two souls. I cannot change what does not move me, what I do not desire, what I do not need. I am your apprentice and you are the master of this household who lifts the veil of my great loneliness, my attractive mask, my costume. I know that you think of my image as sensual. I cannot give that up. I too have a place in this world. Pull up a chair, sit at my kitchen table, and eat. Eat this German Jewess’s food, her recipe for seeds and shoots and wings and things. Eat my chicken. Drink from the glass of water I bring you now. I feel useful now. If you want me to peel the potatoes then I will peel the potatoes.
More killing. It is a mystery. Love is like that. Pure with all of its rituals it holds us in a death-grip and I warm to it, my heart warms to it, warms to you Ted. I am blinded by love, by my passionate rival, my nemesis, her unreason. Gaze at me, I am all starry-eyed. I am all yours. When I fall asleep you are there, when I wake you are there, articulate you and I know we are coming to the edge of a precipice when decisions, hardened choices will have to be made. I know you will leave your Sylvia. I know we will go to Spain. This is inevitable. We will both say goodbye to her echo. The echo of the past, the echo of adultery.
Sylvia is just a dead spot now, but who knew that she would shortly become a stain multiplying, multiplying, and multiplying like rain. I am farming and you are a nomad. I will prepare the house for us to live in, look after the children, cook, clean, prepare the meals, set the table with the proper shiny knives, forks and glasses feed the children, teach them German, play with them as if they were my own. You are my dream. I am your dream. In your own words, ‘I am and always will be your exotic Assia.’ We will prosper. We will build gods in this ghost house, little Buddha’s, with fragrant oil on our hands we will burn sticks of incense; their perfume will fill the room. I will not harm you.
There will be wild Saturday nights, encounters with other poets and their wives, who will you fall in love with next, who will be your next dream. Know this. If I cannot triumph, I will not be able to endure.
You will take me in your arms repeatedly and again when our love is at the wuthering heights of its purest intensity. You will pin me down. You will hold me. I will pin your down. We will laugh. I do not know yet that one day my soul will be dead and you, dear Ted, you the one I love the most in the world, hold dearest will be the cause of it.
We will hold hands. We will go into the woods like children with our blanket and our picnic basket of sandwiches. You will come to me with wildflowers in your hands.
I am half-in-love. You have saved me. You have rescued me from a life half-lived, from Nazi-Germany. I think of our children in school, while they lay sleeping in their beds, half-dreaming, comaed, protected against the-evils-of-human-nature. Nobody knew what anorexia was, what anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder was. They did not know what to call it then.
My mother was my father’s first lover. But I come to you with regret, lovers past and present, three husbands, discontent but clothed or even in my nakedness you can see the real me. Was I promiscuous? I do not know what the meaning of that word is. When men sleep with women are they promiscuous? When they take a woman to bed, do they feel pity, self-pity, no, little or low self-esteem or anguish? All they feel is the sexual impulse. I am the woman who is made of a much harder substance. To be significant is difficult. You are the most significant person that I know, the most famous person that I know of Ted Hughes. My Ted, my Ted, my glorious and infallible Ted. In childhood, my innocence went kaput.
Do not even look at me I should have said now when I think about it in retrospect. Do not tell me how sorry you are. You are evil. You are pure evil is what you are. Do not touch me. I know you have been with someone else. I know you have been with another one, another woman. Another one got in the way. Did you touch her the way your touched me? Do you even know what the word intimacy means? Coward! Fool! Cad or do you prefer scoundrel, rat! Get out! Do you even know what those words mean cheat? I carried two babies for you, aborted one but you felt nothing.
The first time I ever slept with a man it was tantamount to rape. I never told this to anyone. Men were rough creatures and that is a truth, not gentle, not nurturing, and not giving, oh they were gentle and nurturing enough and giving to their children, to the light of their world but not to the unseen. I always thought of violence as being something external, something outside of myself not something that I would have to live with, that would enter me, something that I would have to accept if I wanted to have the most serious love of my life in my life. The brilliant and most accomplished poet of his generation Ted Hughes. I try to remember our conversations word for word and I write it down and read it repeatedly. The goal is to get married. The goal is to get married and live happily ever after and see the brightness in his eyes and read his work (replace Sylvia). I am getting older. I am getting fatter. I am losing my allure and one day, one terrible day I believe he will leave me for someone else. He will cheat on me. I write to my sister because I cannot take any of this anymore. The isolation and the fact that everyone thinks I am an interloper. Sylvia was not a martyr. Ted is not the villain as he is made out to be. Women cannot leave him alone. They want to be around him all the time.
Abigail George published this piece of creative non-fiction online at Hackwriters.com.
Finally diagnosed with Bipolar and understanding God’s purpose for my life
I’ve outlasted a lot of things. I’m over 35. I am nearing 40 years of age. I’ve made mistakes and lived with regret but I don’t anymore. And I’m finally able to make peace with the mistakes I’ve made in my past.
I can forgive someone who brought me pain. The suicidal thoughts that I’ve manages to overcome. I think of our happy my parents were in my childhood. I think of every childhood experience as happy except the memories brought back to me of apartheid. I don’t have to tell myself anymore, you can make it. By the grace and mercy of God, I’ve survived. And it is God that has outlasted my storms.
So for the millions of people out there who have been diagnosed with a mental illness or have a loved one living with a mental illness, be brave. You are going to get through this storm. You’re a fighter.
You’re going to make it and when you come out on the other side, talk about it, or write about your survival, tell someone about it, become a storyteller, or give your testimony. You might save a life in the same way yours was saved.
As I write this I think of Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath and being fake-happy. Pretending to love being alone and not being the proper example of a good daughter. You want someone to love you until the end of time. I want someone to love until the end of time. I want people to love me. To remember me. In some way I want to belong to the world. I grew up with a narcissistic mother who passed this trait to her only son and middle daughter. That and beauty. That and arrogance.
But beauty fades like fast cars. It’s just tears I tell myself.
Tomorrow I’d have forgotten about them. Anticipating waves or the vibrations of depression does nothing for the way you look on the outside. It is all for you. I do it, I write it for you. I don’t know who you are. I just know that you accept me for who I am. I’m growing older and in the blue-dark I can’t see that I am growing older. All I do, the poetry, the writing is for you. I’m selfish that way, I guess.
I don’t want happiness. I just want a brave personality. That and the writing is what gets me through the hours, the day, the night. And sometimes I try very hard through the tears not to even think of going there. Of letting go. Sometimes I think I love this world too much. I love you, the Reader. I do love you. Perhaps in the end you’re the only thing that’s keeping the chemicals from balancing me the right way up. It’s all for you the Reader. Everything that I’ve ever written. You’re the assignment. Perhaps you’re the mission.
I was finally diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder after Tara. I spent
6 months in a mental institution in Johannesburg. Mental illness stamped on my forehead for all to see, alongside a stigma, a family (and paternal and maternal family) that saw to it that I quickly became an outcast, felt like an interloper when spoken to. I was ignored, and sat quietly by myself at family functions. It was as if I was in high school again. I never cried about it, but I don’t think that made me brave.
I was half-mute like Princess Diana, and Maya Angelou as a child.
Something had happened to me. Somehow I had been transformed intrinsically in childhood (it was because of my mother’s mental, verbal, and emotional abuse), but was it the environment that changed, no, no. It was human nature. All the humans around me. Bright children, no matter how bright they might seem even if adult words come out of their mouths, all children are still innocent. And all children want is the mother-love, and I felt the lack of mother-love acutely with an acumen and focus beyond my years.
I was called insubordinate by a male teacher once. Years later when we met at a prayer meeting, he spontaneously embraced me. In that moment, I forgave him. For the corporal punishment he had meted out to me for letting someone else, a popular girl, copy out my answers in a test. I thought I would be liked. But I wasn’t. I was still a goody two shoes.
I still sometimes would spend break in a bathroom stall.
As a moony-moody teenager I would read. I was mostly withdrawn, serious, never smiling (I never smiled once at Collegiate, it hurt too much to smile, my mother would go on rampages then, hurling mental abuse at me in the morning for breakfast, afternoon tea, and supper which my sister made for us. My mother was depressed too in a sinister and deceptive way). Now let me get back to never smiling, and never playing team sports.
Let me talk about the (good) old days. Collegiate High School for Girls in Port Elizabeth (a Model C school). That year, 1995, I was of course a perfectionist. A bipolar perfectionist who only ever understood the world of achievement, achievement. It had nothing and everything to do with having a Khoi-ego, Khoi-identity, Khoi-personality. But I would only understand the knowledge of Khoi-anything later on.
In those days I relaxed my hair. My hair was so straight it made no curls or waves, and I wore it in a ballerina bun. I was skinny, not voluptuous or buxom like the other girls. Late to bloom, as the saying goes. At 17 years old, or 16, I forget, all I could think of was my shame. My shame that I was not White. The shame of not having straight hair. The mortifying shame of not being athletic, not being able to play sports, not being able to be singled out first for a game during P.E. period I did not play hockey, or tennis (my mother got her Transvaal colours for tennis in high school).
I did not have blonde hair, and freckles on my face, forehead, knees, and the rest of my body. I did not have freckles in secret places.
But I learned quick, and I also learned very slowly that people don’t easily forgive, and forget if you live with a mental illness. This made me withdraw even more into my mute-self. For most of my life I lived like this with a mute voice inside of me until one day I began to write. I was 8 years old.
In later years cousins on both sides of the family despised me (because I was mentally ill). I could see it there in there eyes, as they did not meet my gaze whenever I spoke. Family despised me (because I was mentally ill). I was not invited to weddings, or kitchen teas. Women-fold women-folk kind of things. They despise you (this I told myself) because society despises lunatics, and for a long time I was happy encompassing whatever this word meant. Lunatic. It was me who was more in touch with reality than the ones who thought I was mad, I have come to accept this now. I have other much more important, and significant things on my mind, and I am about to begin to write my first novel. This is what moves me to write this for other people suffering in silence, people who are being told to pull their socks up (or that they ‘re beginning to be too big for their britches). Don’t live a half-life. Don’t live a half-lie.
Thoughts after reading Kiran Desai’s “The Inheritance of Loss”
You will experience happiness, I was the one who told myself this. No one else. The museum has invited me again to one of their lectures, but I never go. They will stop inviting, like they my father, one of these fine days, and then where will that leave me, and the fine museum built with my father’s hands. The South End Museum in Port Elizabeth, at the cusp of the Eastern Cape where in 1820 the English arrived. Sir Rufane Donkin who was to be the governor of the Cape (did he plunder, steal, rape, colonialise I thought to myself or was it kismet, fate, destiny written in the stars. Sir Donkin came with a mad wife in tow. Was she a Mrs Rochester, like me, like me, like me.
Bipolar, mosaic, atlas that it is, well for me it did the impossible with its overpowering (aplomb), uplifting gift that it gave me.
Sometimes the day itself is perfumed with good thoughts of T.S. Eliot, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Pound, Nabokov, the Russian writers, the Russian poets, the Russian masters, Isobel Dixon, Ingrid Jonker, Plath and Sexton. To me the women had superpowers, and the men, intelligence seeping through their every pore, I wanted them to talk to me, pull me into their arms and hug all my sadness, grief, loss, loneliness, frustration away from the secret chasms of my heart. I wanted them to lull and pull the self-pity that looped itself like cobwebs about my self-worth. Beautiful people, the beautiful women, that beautiful lady that was my mother that smelled just like Yves Saint Laurent’s Algeria, the beautiful men, seemed on the surface tension of things to get everything. They were rewarded. I was not.
I have this imperfect list of thoughts when I was reading Kiran Desai.
Oh, how I hope to be a respected and wonderful writer as she and Anuradha Roy is. Arundhati Roy, the writer of “The God of Small Things”. Sometimes I feel like a guardian, or rather a guardian angel when I write. I am hidden subtly, but also at the same time beyond opinion, and I also find that I am beyond caring for the approval of others. And by that of course I mean my sly and beautiful mother. Hair attractive as it falls about her face, hairpins/hair scarf/hair band loosened by her movements during the day and I try not to think of her telling me to make up my bed, or how they laugh at me, and look at me with this infuriating smile on their faces as if they know better.
Sometimes I think to myself who is the enemy now. Is it me, is it me who has to every year be put away for a week for my own good, to recover from ill health
I was sixteen years old when my mother dragged me to the Indian-looking psychiatrist who had studied in Vienna. And as I think back to that year I think of my identity coined now. That “term” on the inhale, and exhale of every breath that I take. That of a Khoi-female identity. Khoi-writer of prose, and poetry.
Young women learn government fundamentals in nationwide leadership program
This July, two teenage girls from every state in the country met in Washington, D.C., for the 73rd annual American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation. This one-week government-in-action leadership development program is designed to educate future leaders on U.S. government fundamentals and the rights, privileges and responsibilities of citizens.
The girls selected to go to ALA Girls Nation are chosen from week-long ALA Girls State programs in each state. The young women become “senators” for a week and participate in mock political campaigns and debates, visit historical sites, and meet their real-life counterparts on Capitol Hill. For a number of the participants, the program’s impact extends beyond the weeklong event: Many go on to serve in the military and credit ALA Girls Nation as their source of inspiration.
New ALA member and U.S. Army Capt. Virginia Clark, stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia, is an ALA Girls Nation alumna. Though she says she has always been patriotic, her experiences at ALA Girls State and ALA Girls Nation helped her realize she wanted to serve her country. “Being around really motivated people made me realize I wanted to be around people who were spending their time doing things rather than looking for the next great party,” Clark said.
Reflecting on where she has been and where she is going, Clark says she owes it all to the American Legion Auxiliary. “I wouldn’t have gotten into West Point without ALA Girls State and ALA Girls Nation … I 100 percent owe, I think, my current life and my career — I met my husband at West Point — to the fact that I went to ALA Girls State and ALA Girls Nation.”
For some girls, the Washington, D.C., leadership program is their first opportunity to connect with peers with common interests. For others, it is the first time they encounter students whose perspective differs from their own. For all, it is a moment in time where similarities and differences come together to symbolize strength, democracy and freedom.
Former ALA Girls State and ALA Girls Nation attendee Allyson Snelling, who is attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, chose a career in the military because she “loves everything it represents.” She adds, “The values and lessons I’ve learned during my short time at West Point have made me a better person and leader.” Snelling said the program taught her the power of one voice and the importance of communicating with others. “Being able to communicate with someone you may completely disagree with is becoming a lost art,” she said. “ALA Girls Nation taught me that it doesn’t matter if you agree; it matters that you understand.”
ALA Girls Nation alumnae have gone on to hold leadership roles in industries spanning government, media, education and law, and many have become high-ranking members of the military.
Notable alumnae include Jane Pauley, national media personality; Susan Bysiewicz, lieutenant governor of Connecticut; retired Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, former superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy and former Air Force aide to the President; Ann Richards, former governor of Texas; and Susan Porter-Rose, former chief of staff to First Lady Barbara Bush, among many others. ALA Girls Nation is proud to be a foundation of support to the future strong women of this great nation.
The American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) is a nonpartisan organization committed to advocating for veterans’ issues, mentoring America’s youth and promoting patriotism. They advance the mission of The American Legion, incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization founded on four pillars: Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism and Children & Youth.
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