Coming Out of Exile
By a mad miracle I go intact
Among the common rout
Thronging sidewalk, street,
And bickering shops:
Nobody blinks a lid, gapes,
Or cries that this raw flesh
Reeks of the butcher’s cleaver…
-Sylvia Plath, from “Street Song”
My heart breaks as I read this. My heart breaks for Sylvia Plath, for me, for anyone who has ever exiled their pain.
This poem may look nothing like exile. Yes, Plath wrote openly and viscerally about her depression, loneliness, and sadness, as do we often talk openly about our pain. But it is possible to exile our pain, even while we are expressing it.
We exile our pain by vilifying it, by shaming it, by finding remedies to “get over it” rather than listening to the wisdom it has come here to teach. No, pain doesn’t feel good. So it’s no wonder that we wouldn’t want to “get over it” as quickly as possible. But think about it, if our child or friend or parent were crying in pain, would we shut them up? Would we say, “You are annoying me and I just don’t want to deal with this right now”? No, we’d sit and hold our loved one and wipe their tears and listen to what they need to say—regardless of how rational or relevant or raw it might be. We would just listen.
The next time you find yourself negating or shaming a feeling or thought, take a step back and envision yourself as your best friend. Throw your arms around yourself and invite your feelings out of exile.