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 passion – whether 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 passion – hers 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.
“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 mind – like 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 tears – and 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 dilemma – thinking 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 us – most emotionally – to 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 realisation – that 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 experiences – most of them that she was left to face alone and quietly – the 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, pitiful – this book is the answer.