empathy

A letter to Sylvia Plath: Would you have written poems for Ted using the word “fuck”?

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath

Dear Sylvia,

How did you do it?

How did you manage to survive for so long, for 30 years? Most people view your suicide as a tragedy and, while partly it is, I see your passing as the last breath to one deep sigh.

So… how did you do it?

Young Sylvia Plath by the beach

Young Sylvia Plath by the beach

I am four months shy of my 25th birthday. Already, the world feels like it is ending daily. In the morning when my bare feet touch the floor, it feels like glass shattering. And I’m the only one who can hear it. Tasks which are supposed to be simple – making coffee, cooking breakfast, taking a shower – feel like climbing a mountain, a rocky upwards trail with no seeming end.

I was 6 when I first thought about suicide. How old were you when the world first ended? Was it when you were 8, when your father ceased to get out of bed? Was it when you were 23, when you fell in love with Ted?

Speaking of Ted, had you been born in this generation, would you have written poems for him using the word “fuck”? Maybe you’d have been too eloquent for it. But isn’t there something so raw, so hungry in such a vulgar verb?

“Dearest Ted,

I want to fuck you.”

Though this could hardly be considered poetic or romantic. Still, whichever pile of words you’d have strung together, you wanted him. No… You hungered for him. You loved him with such fervor intent you let him devour you, destroy you.

“I desire the things which will destroy me in the end.”

Sylvia, for you, these were your lovers. Yet what must I do when that which I desire, that which will destroy me in the end… is ultimately myself?

Sylvia Plath and husband Ted Hughes

Sylvia Plath and husband Ted Hughes

The one who smiles without deception. The version that did not debilitate all she touched.

In the afternoons, when you can see dust dancing, I miss who I was so much I forget what to do with my hands. What is worse than being an adult and witnessing the slow dismantlement of your mental health? Our mothers, everyone… they expect us to function as useful parts of society, yet how is this possible when all I want to do is sit on a bench and try to remind myself how to breathe?

We were given awards in college, medals for writing, applause for being exceptional women. But where was the recognition, the value in our trying?

I am getting married. Yes, soon I shall enter into that state of so-called marital bliss. I have achieved many goals that I have set for myself ten or so years ago. Finish an education. Get published. Write a book. Save money. Find a mate. Settle down. Have a career. This and more. Why do I not still feel alive? Satisfied? Is death the only way to feel complete? (Don’t tell my fiancé this).

Sometimes, I think you sold your soul to the devil. Death in exchange for greatness, the one you were denied when you were still living.

I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night…”

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes interview from 1961

Now you have, with your words. Does that make you happy to know, finally? I imagine you would’ve been satisfied to see your books flourish. Perhaps, though, you would have ended up the same. Today, social media defines your sense of worth. It is near-addictive to hear theping, ping, pingof likes that will determineyour relevance in this fast-paced, short-spanned world. Thus, you would’ve had more of a need for validation and approval; the type that not even our friends and family can fully give.

Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath

Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath

Besides, let’s be honest – everyone is afraid of the depressed. Even the ones who love us.

People can’t stand to be around you when there’s a funeral in your head. It is tiresome beyond belief to be with someone so needy, unsure, paranoid, and ill-tempered, and no amount of “It will be okay” will ever convince you otherwise. They know it, we know it. Despite the I love you’s, despite the warm embraces, despite the magnificent art created. You and me, we gals… we’re nothing but lepers.

“I am. I am. I am,”Your heart once said.

“Empty. Empty. Empty,” Mine replied.

To be depressed is to be both terrified and terrifying. And so, in the end –

we are our own undoing.

Ever Yours,

Sade

P.S. Let me know when you’ve figured it out.

Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, and short-story writer. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, she studied at Smith College and Newnham College at the University of Cambridge, before receiving acclaim as a poet and writer.

Sade Andria Zabala is a twenty-four year old Filipina surfer sometimes living in Denmark. She is the author of poetry books War Songs and Coffee and Cigarettes. Her work has appeared on places such as Literary Orphans, The Thought Catalog, The Rising Phoenix Review, Hooligan Magazine, Germ Magazine, and more. In her spare time she likes to eat words and drink sunlight.