Martha Gellhorn Appreciation Post

In her novel Love and Ruin, Paula McLain brings readers into the life of Martha Gellhorn. This fiercely independent American novelist was also Hemmingway’s third wife, and the only one to ever leave him.

I had to force myself to take this book in bits and pieces because I wanted to be in Gellhorn’s head for as long as I could. She started as a mistress of Hemmingway and their connection was so intense that they felt it was only right to give it a real chance.

What Gellhorn soon discovered was how difficult it is to be married to such a big personality as Hemmingway. She was still an ambitious woman and found herself struggling to fight for her career. In the end, she left him to be a war correspondent in WWII and Hemmingway never forgave her for it.

Is this a spoiler if it’s a historical fiction novel?

Her story fascinates me because she was a feminist in a time when women had to choose between a family or a career. The best way to describe her is as a “heroine for the ages,” as they called her.

This novel has me on a feminist reading binge, so if there are any recommendations, I would love to hear them!

My Body vs. Me

As I take a bite of the whiskey barbeque wings and swallow it down with a princess yum yum beer, I feel my insides turn and twist against me. It’s been like this for about two weeks now, yet I continue eating and drinking things that don’t work well with me.

What do I have exactly? I’m not sure. But there’s blood in my stool and I get cramps every time I eat and sometimes even breathing hurts.

I have a theory that my body loves to bleed from every place it possibly can. When this wasn’t happening, I would get three-month-long periods, sometimes longer. When I’m not bleeding from down there, my nose opens up and the smell of iron stains my nostrils until I feel lightheaded and drained.

If by some miracle I manage to keep blood in my body, I wake to feel my teeth stuck to my gums. It hurts so much that I keep my mouth shut and switch to liquid meals if I can.

I barely remember the moments when nothing is wrong with me. When it does happen though, I’m usually too disassociated to notice.

I don’t know if I can fix anything in me. I guess growing up is paying more attention to your body and learning and growing with it. It’s the most complicated relationship that I have. It always makes me think of how vincible we all are; and how we were never meant to live forever.

Excerpt From a Book I’ll Never Write

It was impossible to see anything under all this fog. No matter how much Diana tried squinting her eyes, it was still difficult to make out what was in front of her. She knew it was nighttime. It was colder than most days. Diana rubbed her arms fiercely and clenched her jaw to keep from shuddering. She was walking pretty much blindly until she heard a noise in front of her. She looked up and made out a dark figure ahead of her. He was walking away slowly enough that Diana was able to follow. 

    She was wary of this decision, but she figured it was better than waiting around for her vision to get better. The man in front of her was not aware she was only a few feet away. She kept following until they reached a fence that was ten feet high and went on further than Diana could make out. The man went around near some bushes and found an opening wide enough to slip through. 

    Diana did the same. By now, she was genuinely curious about what this guy was up to. As Diana stepped to the other side of the fence, she was alarmed when she realized it was a cemetery, the same one her father was buried in. She kept walking through it even though she was afraid of how hard her heart was beating. As she dreaded, he stopped right in front of her father’s grave. 

    Something came over her just then, and she was determined to find out who this guy was and why he was here of all places. The closer she got, the more she feared what she would find. When she was right behind him, she reached out a hand to his shoulder. He jumped up and turned around slowly. 

    It was her father. 

Grief Bursts

The thing about these bursts is that they happen when you start to think you’ll be okay. I was in the middle of a grocery store the first time I got one. It’s the most mundane of tasks that cause them for me.

In between aisle with all of the Gatorade, pop, and oversized chocolate bars the air was knocked out of my lungs, and my heartfelt fast and heavy in my chest. Of course, I couldn’t let my aunt or cousins know because how would I explain something like this to them?

Years ago, when my blood pressure rose higher than a balloon that flew too close to the sky, I was given a Coca-Cola and a chocolate bar to calm my nerves. I grabbed one, thinking that’s what was wrong, thinking that would make it better.

As I reached for the milk chocolate bar, I felt the tears build up in my eyes at the thought of my father having a few bars of candy after work, right before dinner. It never spoiled his appetite either. I like to think he lived eating the sweetest candy and the saltiest foods.

Before he even tasted his food, he would reach for the saltshaker, sprinkle his food two times over, then mix it all before finally taking a bite. All of this was going through my mind as my aunt walked away, moving on to the next aisle.

I swallowed the knot in my throat and just took the soda with me, still feeling off somehow. I talked about this with my therapist the next time I saw her. She smiled and nodded, and when I finished, she said this was completely normal.

She said it could be years from now, and I could still sometimes feel these “grief bursts” she called them. It happens because our minds have a way of remembering people in certain situations, as minor as they may seem.

He died in January 2016, and five years later, I still get them sometimes. It’s not often, and not nearly as painful, but they’re there. Now I think of them as a reminder of the life he lived, and while it still hurts, in the end all the memories I have of him are to cherish and to share.

Write for the Sake of Writing

Every student in my major came in with big dreams of having their work published. We would eagerly sit with our pens and notebooks, taking in all the advice we could from professors who made it happen for themselves.

But as soon as we got a big assignment, we would complain about the amount of writing we had to do. One of the most prolific writers of all time said that to be a writer, you must do two things above all else, read a lot and write a lot. Stephen King also says that he writes because he can’t not write.

Perhaps this is what every writer should ask themselves, why do you write? Does it consume you with adrenaline and help you work things out? Or does it feel like a chore that you keep procrastinating until the last minute, where you throw some words together and hope they sound good to whoever’s eyes might glide across them?

If you are wondering if this is something you want to do professionally, you should first ask yourself if you can write for the sake of writing, not for the sake of fame.

The Seasons Still Change

It was winter when you died,

Your least favorite season.

Missing you is the only thing

That keeps me warm.

The snow is melting beneath my aching feet.

The pollen this is all consuming

And you’re still gone. You were

The only one who could make

Me laugh so hard my stomach 

Hurt. How can someone so selfless and

Kind hearted be taken away just like that? 

These questions haunt me on long summer days.

Today is your birthday. The leaves 

are dying.

I look for you in the sky because 

Once you loved me there and back. 

Letter to a Past Self

You know that boy you have a crush on? You will not remember his name years from now. Remember that fourth-grade teacher that yelled at you because you said the word Damn out loud? You will let this go, and you will have many more embarrassing stories that will overshadow this one.

Right now, you are probably getting off the bus and walking the one block back home. You will pick at your food, drink your soda, go into your room for a nap, wake up to do homework, shower, and sleep. The routine of this is so mundane that your body picks itself up in the morning and takes you to where you need to be, even if your mind is somewhere else.

I am writing this to let you know that this will all make sense one day. All the daydreams you have and the fact that you are never present in any situation, even if it may seem happy. There is not something wrong with you, and you will find ways to focus on being present.

I know you are scared right now of every authority in your life. You should know this will dramatically decrease in your college years. There will be more freedom than you know what to do with, but this only means you are the only person responsible for you.

If you’re wondering why every time a guy gets close enough, you shut them out, it’s because you are not ready yet. When you are ready, you will know. If there’s any advice I could offer about it is to take things slow because rushing into things is not smart in the state of mind you’re in right now.

That brings me to one other thing, your father. Right now, the ache in your chest feels like more than you can handle. It seems like something you will never recover from. But I promise you will. You still miss him every single day, but at least now you can talk about him without breaking down. So even though this grief is consuming every part of you, you must remember to breathe, take care of yourself, and take it one day at a time.

In the next five years, you will fall in love, fall out of love, and then fall in love again. You will travel to places you have always dreamed of. You will also make mistakes, many of them, but you will learn from them. You will rescue a kitty from the streets where your mother was born.

This will teach you to care for things other than yourself. Don’t worry, your teenage years can be about finding yourself, and so can your twenties. But please remember that the world does not revolve around you. Remember to help people in any way you can, because you will not be able to get through this alone.

RIP to All the Foods I Can’t Eat because of hang overs or Food Poisoning.

I skipped last week’s post because I wanted to take a break for the holidays. Writing today only confirms how stressful it is to write this time of year. That’s why I write something fun and silly now.

So here it goes, foods I may never eat again:

  • Powdered doughnuts. This was caused by food poisoning from Mole (Mexican dish), which I also can’t eat anymore. It’s unfair though because it wasn’t the powered doughnuts that made me sick but just the thought of them makes me gag!
  • Hot chips. I’m actually quite upset about this one; although its no secret spicy snacks/food feel terrible on the way up. They were my favorite snacks as a kid and now I can’t finish half a bag without getting sick 😦
  • Red wine. This one isn’t food but my worst hangover was the result of red wine. I threw up for about seven hours on this one. By the end of it I was just surprised I had anything left in me.
  • Ginger and Peppermint. These two go together because they both occurred during an LSA trip. It is only the smell of ginger and peppermint that I can’t stand anymore. Someone suggested they help with the nausea you get from tripping and I ended up puking out my guts anyway.

I hope this post distracted you if you’re feeling stressed or just down right now. It was fun writing and letting these foods and smells go once and for all. I’ll try to get back to writing poetry next week. In the meantime, what are some foods/drinks/smells you can’t stand anymore for one reason or another?