[REVIEW] The Distance Between the Heart and the Mind// Eighteen Inches by Mirtha Michelle Castro Marmol//

When you are faced with horrors and injustice of the world, what do you do? Do you stand in front of them, boldly, EYE TO EYE – willing them to back down because you never will? Or do you duck your head and keep walking, hoping that the bright and malicious eye of fate won’t notice?

We are made of flaws. Little, big, and in-between. We are also made of passionwhether we know it or not, acknowledge it or not. The poet does. And that’s what got her into the most dangerous trouble of her life.

A passionate nature knows no bounds. It makes you do erratic things – things that you regret under the bright and practical warmth of the sun. The poet wasn’t immune to such regrets either. She was pained and scarred very early on in her life, surprisingly by people just as passionate as her – the only difference lied in the state of their passionhers sprang from love and hurt, theirs sprang from hate and loathing. That was it. And this little difference rocked her world – and not in a good way either.

All she knew was words and they just don’t cut it in a world based on actions. But they are certainly more than enough when all that’s left to do is to convert the years of self-reflection and suffering into art for the whole world to read and cherish.

Mother said I worried her.
She feared I loved too much.
She said,
It worries me that you’ll always feel the need to be the one who loves more. And there is pain in that type of love.”

Have you ever read something so completely different from your point of view and yet SO “YOU” – both at the same time? Well, that’s how reading Eighteen Inches had me feeling. It was peculiar. I felt strangely vulnerable for some reason. Witnessing the poet baring her heart her very soul and mindlike that to a bunch of strangers made me feel vulnerable, made me feel bold. 

At times I became so engulfed in my sadness that I disappointed myself. I knew better; I was expected to know better. I could do better; I was expected to do better.

Such an intensity of feelings – my god, I have never felt like this before. Reading her little reflections on a lost love, her past trauma, her hurt, her pain it was like she had transferred them to me and I was reliving them all over again. My heart felt heavy with her poignant confessions. It was almost as if I would burst out into tears her share of tearsand then maybe, maybe she would feel better, for I WANT her to feel better. That was the power her writing commanded over me. 

I felt dirty. I felt violated. What I didn’t realise was that it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything to deserve what happened to me. No one deserves to be pinned down and abused.

The journey from seeing herself as a victim as the CAUSE of everything bad that happens to her to a strong woman someone who KNOWS that she is right, she is blameless, and she deserves happiness is always a hard one for a woman. Some go through the most difficult, unfair, and vicious trials while others find themselves pinned down – not by loathsome predators but by judging eyes and scrutinising words. The intensity might be different but it leaves the one on the receiving end feeling insufficient, unprotected, helpless. The poet wasn’t immune to this feeling either. She had to suffer way too much and what’s more? She made herself believe that SHE was at fault. That, somehow, it was HER shame to bear, to hide from the world.

But can you blame her? Because I cannot. I have witnessed way too many people going through a similar dilemmathinking that every little bad thing that happens to them is THEIR fault, that they somehow MADE it happen. THEY invited all the hurt. THEY don’t deserve to have satisfaction of a good relationship because THEY must be lacking in something. 

We are so quick to pin the blame on ourselves, aren’t we? It’s way too easy. Easier than fighting back. Accepting defeat, turning ourselves weak is always easier than gathering up courage to revolt. 

But then, REAL courage is in forgiveness, isn’t it? You get hurt. You are pained. You get justice (sometimes) but you are still haunted by the trauma, by the memories, by the people who gave you those invisible scars – deeper than the physical ones. It’s only by confronting your past and then forgiving it completely – for it made you who you are now: STRONG – that you can be liberated. And the poet has summed this up in her painfully truthful prose. It’s difficult not to first sympathise with her and then applaud her for finally realising that she is invincible – no matter the trials she has faced. She always has been – no matter the temporary hurt. 

When I inhaled you,
it never crossed my mind 
that exhaling you
would be so painful.

Can you FEEL these few lines? Because I can. I can imagine her bursting into silent tears as she wrote this down – lost in “what could have been.” When you are drowning and you find your anchor, you hold on to it tightly, it makes you feel safe, secure. You never want to live without it. But what happens when you are forced to – either due to your own folly or because of cruel circumstances? 

THIS – bursting into tears at random hours, crying yourself to sleep, taking solace in the pain you feel, relishing the memories and then bitter regretting doing so – THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS. And I can feel it, I can feel it ALL in those few lines.

I want to live without the human perception of time.

Can a mortal transcend death without losing themselves in the process? The poet is asking this question and I have no answer. She does, though. Recounting the story of the death of someone who played a major role in her life since childhood up to her teenage years and beyond, she is forcing usmost emotionallyto seek deeper meaning in death.

But can we? Is it even possible to go on living without our loved ones?

I admit even the thought of it brings tears to my eyes. I wonder how much hurt she must have been while baring yet another vulnerable piece of her soul to us. It makes me want to hug everyone I love, let them know that I adore them with all my heart, that they have been a blessing in my life and I cannot even hope to do without them. I just want to hug them and cry and feel the solidity of their living body – knowing that everything is fine and that they will be like this for a long long time. But there is this uneasy feeling in my throat because I know that won’t be the case. And it’s this fragility of human life – this worldly vulnerability that inspires the poet to find the peaceful in her Nana’s death. And I just cannot help but be mesmerised and get emotional about how perfectly she has sculpted these feelings and experiences into the words. I am in love.

I am a collection of stories that I don’t have the power to erase.

Who hasn’t felt this way at some point or other in their lives? I have read and re-read most of the pages in this gorgeously written book and there was always something some feeling, some thought, some implication hidden in between the lines, some realisationthat I could relate to. The beauty of Mirtha’s words is that you can feel them ringing deep inside your heart. I love the way this whole book is structured, written, and expressed.

There is a uniqueness to it that I can’t quite pinpoint and I think I should let it remain that way – this book belongs to you as much as it belong’s to the poet’s heart. 

After having a string of disappointing and hurtful experiencesmost of them that she was left to face alone and quietlythe way she built herself back up again, always bearing in her heart the torch of hope and a brighter and more fulfilled future makes ME feel confident and strong as well! It’s her experience, her willingness to fight back, and her stubbornness to never accept NO for an answer that fills my heart with joy and pride! 

Look at me feeling proud for someone I barely know! But you see, I DO KNOW HER. Anyone who has read her poems, her prose filled with her honest experiences and thoughts can’t help but know – deep within themselves – a part of her soul that she bared, despite it being the most vulnerable of all! 

We develop intimacy with another human being the moment we release fear of judgement and allow space for vulnerability.

Sitting here alone at night, as I record my thoughts, I feel as if I just created a deep connection with someone whom I haven’t even met and maybe never will. It feels mystifying yet completely normal. 

Reading Eighteen Inches is like experiencing different hues of life blended beautifully and yet retaining their originality. No matter how you are feeling right now stuck, unloved, afraid, unhappy, adventurous, mischievous, pitifulthis book is the answer. 

I will go as far as to say that YOU NEED THIS BOOK IN YOUR LIFE. DESPERATELY. IMMEDIATELY.

SO! Are you – my wonderful, wonderful readers – convinced or DO I NEED TO MAKE ANOTHER POST?! Because..I CAN, you know! I CAN TALK ABOUT THIS ONE ALLL DAY!! 😉

TALK TO ME!
Do you like to read poetry?
Your favorite poet? Classic and/or contemporary?
Are you adding Eighteen Inches to your list then?

[REVIEW] ”You are a BAD, BAD mother.”//Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan//

[NOTE: The main character suffers from a serious case of postpartum depression + there are mentions of child abuse. Please keep that in mind before starting the book.]

Once a woman becomes a mother, she is rebornwith her center of life now being her children. Her every waking thought is consumed by anxieties about their well being and her dreams? Filled with hopes for her lovely little ones.

She would do anything to protect them. Anything at all.

And Jess was no different. She was just a mother, trying to protect her childrenfrom those little germs everywhere, from strangers and predators, from unnecessary exertions – but most of all from herself. SHE was her children’s biggest threat, her mental condition irrelevant to anyone else because no one – not even her own husband and her best friend – tried to see past her mask, to actually notice how distressed she had been lately. Everyone pinned it down to her obsession with perfection, her reluctance to place any trust in anyone other than herself. Her anxieties were irrelevant – something shrugged off as overthinking and even a certain kind of childishness.

But what will happen when she’ll be made to choose between protecting one child or keeping her family from falling apart?

What would she do?

SHE will fall apart instead, in her desperate tries to keep her loved ones from harm; to make sure that nobody snatches her children from her. She will break down like never before – subject to people’s scrutinizing eyes, judging stares.

Reading Little Disasters felt like I was thrown into a world where I would NOT have ventured if I knew what I’d be taking on in the long run. Oh my! This book tested my heart’s patience to bear shock way too much. 

A baby has been hurt and her mother is in the line of fire of suspicions from everyone around her. They think the worst of her. 

You are a bad, bad mother.” 

Her thoughts keep playing tricks on her mind and her outer world just reflects more of the same.

And the worst of all? Her best friend – the paediatrician who admits Betsy, Jess’ daughter – is suspicious of her friend as well. Lizthe smart, the quick, the no nonsense doctoris torn between her duties as a friend and her responsibilities as a professional. And the way Sarah has captured her dilemmas is outstanding, worthy of praise. 

I can’t tell you how much I adored the author’s way of weaving a gripping plot around these few but VERY intriguing charactersthe way Liz’s memories entwined with Jess’ present circumstances left me in complete adoration of Sarah’s writing! Not to mention the ease with which she manages the delicate timing of the flashbacks ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTFUL. It added to the grim excitement that surrounded the plot as I flicked page after page, desperate to find out the EXACT relation between these two friends and their circumstancesthe past and the present.

Little Disasters is just as much about motherhood and it’s trials, it’s highs and lows as it is about marriage, the role of a partner, and the need for communication. I was left riddled with a series of scenarios that started and ended with a bold IF ONLY:

If only Jess had shed her fear of being judged and came clean to Ed about her mental state.

If only she hadn’t tried to be so PERFECT and ORGANIZED all the time.

If only Ed had picked up on his wife’s trauma a little bit earlier, and without contempt and horror in his eyes.

When you have lived with someone for more than a decade, you get to know about how they like to do certain things and how best to approach themespecially when they are shelled in and emotionally vulnerable. And the fact that Ed had been too busy with printing money to give his wife and her hard work and struggle at home a good thought was really irritating to me.

But then, so was Jess’ inability to put aside her fears and confess. Much as we’d like them to be, MEN ARE NOT MIND READERS. They usually don’t suspect anything is particularly WRONG unless it’s on a rather HUGE scale OR unless you yourself point them towards the thing that’s been bothering you. We want them to just KNOW but they almost never do. They just tend to train themselves to take things on the face value because its easier and less emotionally taxing to do so. So being OPEN with your partners about what’s been bothering you IS THE BEST THING TO DO.

But of course. for a perfectionist like Jesssomeone who had had a serious case of OCD and Cognitive Personality Disorder (which everyone had been unaware of) – this was difficult to do. And I completely understand! But that doesn’t take away from the fact that this behaviour of hers led her into the extreme circumstances she found herself later onbeing held under suspicions of being the sole cause behind the serious skull fracture of her baby girl.

Her situation made my eyes well up more than once. Her desperation, her sadness, her frustration at not being able to touch her baby girl, to hold her or any of her children was too painful to witness.

Can you imagine? Taking a child away from her mother?

And then the way Liz’s mother’s secrets crept up just in time to escalate the plot and give it even more intensity and meaning left me thrilled AND cold – both at the same time. THE HORROR ON MY FACE WHEN I FOUND ABOUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO HER BABY SISTER CLARE WAS BOTH GENUINE AND VERBAL. I couldn’t cope with a revelation like that! 

And now, I let out a deep sigh, as I finally close the book – feeling as if I have physically endured what Jess and Liz mentally went through. And it’s tiring. And yet, as Galadriel said, hope remains for people who are true and brave of heart. Who come face to face with realisation that forgivenessfor yourself AND for others is the only true way to rise above pain and hurt. 

Look, I didn’t know what I was taking on, how emotionally screwed up I will feel, how utterly helpless in the face of Jess’ confusion and frustration, at the thought of a few months old baby lying in the hospital with her head all but cracked open, from the horrible and pitiful secrets that engulfed Liz’ mother’s past AND present

BUT YOU DO.

YOU HAVE A CHOICE! 

Remember, if you do decide to read Little Disasterswhich, despite all the tears and agony, I still 100% recommend keep in mind that you will be thrown amidst an emotional and psychological storm that will leave you feeling helpless.

And the fun part? You will love it nonetheless. Every single second of that suffering. 

SOO??!?! Have you read Little Disasters yet? Did you like it?! SAYY YESS!!!
What’s your favorite book by Sarah Vaughan?
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY – Have I convinced you to read this one?! I hope I have BECAUSE IT IS AWESOMEE! You cannot afford to miss it, I am telling you!

PLEASE DON’T MISS OUT ON THIS ONE?! *puppy dog eyes*