Susanna Kaysen

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Susanna Kaysen

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Why did she do it? Nobody dared to ask. Because - what courage! Who had the courage to burn herself? Twenty aspirin, a little slit alongside the veins of the arm, maybe even a bad half hour standing on a roof: We’ve all had those. And somewhat more dangerous things, like putting a gun in your mouth. But you put it there, you taste it, it’s cold and greasy, your finger is on the trigger, and you find that a whole world lies between this moment and the moment you’ve been planning, when you’ll pull the trigger. That world defeats you.

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It’s important to cultivate detachment.  One way to do this is to practice imagining yourself dead, or in the process of dying.  If there’s a window, you must imagine your body falling out of that window.  If there’s a knife, you must imagine the knife piercing your skin.  If there’s a train coming, you must imagine your torso flattened under its wheels.  These excercises are necessary to achieving the proper distance.

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Robert Lowell also didn’t come while I was there. Sylvia Plath had come and gone. What is it about meter and cadence and rhythm that makes their makers mad?

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My ambition was to negate. The world, whether dense or hollow, provoked only my negations. When I was supposed to be awake, I was asleep; when I was supposed to speak, I was silent; when a pleasure offered itself to me, I avoided it. My hunger, my thirst, my loneliness and boredom and fear were all weapons aimed at my enemy, the world. They didn’t matter a whit to the world, of course, and they tormented me, but I got a gruesome satisfaction from my sufferings. They proved my existence. All my integrity seemed to lie in saying No.

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I know what it’s like to want to die. How it hurts to smile. How you try to fit in but you can’t. How you hurt yourself on the outside to try to kill the thing on the inside.

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Scar tissue has no character. It’s not like skin. It doesn’t show age or illness or pallor or tan. It has no pores, no hair, no wrinkles. It’s like a slip cover. It shields and disguises what’s beneath. That’s why we grow it; we have something to hide.

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