Sylvia Plath wrote beautifully of the Bell Jar descending and trapping her within a confusing, oppressive fog. Her words are lyrical and poetic and for anyone who has suffered grief or depression you can relate to her writing with the greatest of ease, almost a sense of comfort. A very good friend told me that reading The Bell Jar would make you want to slit your wrists; however I feel Plath is almost a kindred spirit. Many of us can relate to that feeling of being overwhelmed by our circumstance, trapped inside the bell jar.
For most of us there are times when the jar is lifted. Fresh air fills our lungs and we can see with clarity again. This is very much how I was feeling during our recent holiday to the coast. Holidays are a blessing and a curse for our family. While my darling daughter gets so fatigued by the end of a school term that we start taking half days to compensate, holidays don’t always bring relief. If we stay home to allow her time to recharge her batteries, we, and our other daughters ultimately miss out on those ‘normal’ school holiday memories. Cabin fever sets in and we’re all champing at the bit to go back to school/work and get away from each other.
If we go away, like we did this time, and try to do the ‘regular’ family outings of the beach, the zoo, the movies it can become overwhelming quite quickly and my big girl goes downhill and into meltdown. In the past we’ve had grave concerns over safety near the water and traffic. In the past we have felt isolated and melancholy on holidays when we should have been happy and relaxed. In the past….
These holidays were the bell jar lifting. Going to the pool shared with so many other people and families has always been a little daunting. Not so this time. In fact, it came to be the highlight of every day. More than one holiday maker commented on our girls’ outgoing nature (read: the flamboyance to introduce themselves to anyone who stood still long enough to listen). We proved that our middle girl can literally talk under water. It was such a weight lifted when every person our big girl introduced herself to, child, teen, adult, all introduced themselves in return and struck up a conversation. Our big girl was able to initiate games of pool tag and to encourage others to create a whirlpool in the smaller of the pools.
At the zoo any language, cultural or cognitive barriers were broken when a Chinese tourist took some photos of our big girl with a red kangaroo. Without words, he asked her permission, got her to pose and then showed her the picture he had taken. It brought such joy to my heart to see her being treated so kindly and so respectfully by a complete stranger. There was no judgement on this holiday. There was no ignorance. There was no bell jar.
Being the incredible nerd and workaholic that I am I managed to squeeze in some planning over the holidays both for my classroom teaching and a coaching project I’m running next year. When I say ‘some’ planning, I think it totalled over 40 pages in the end, oops! That’s what I call a perfect holiday. A balance of play and planning!
While putting together science and English for my incredibly diverse class, I was able to create a program that will allow all of them to learn the same content yet respond at a level appropriate to their ability. I have 4 different marking rubrics based on their differing levels of understanding for just one subject. I have a lovely list of activities designed to get them experiencing the content, not just passively taking it in. I have designed handouts and teaching activities that allow for my students with poor literacy to still participate. I have readied myself to focus on my students.
Accepting that you are submissive to the life and duties of a full time carer can easily force you into a bell jar of anguish, frustration and bitterness. Very few people ever willingly make the choice to become a carer and I’m sure no one would ever wish to take on the role and live in the jar. We can however be a carer and live outside of the glass dome. There are opportunities to enjoy the beautiful moments and to pause long enough to see the potential life has to offer.