The Life of Bon: Boarded the train there's no getting off

Friday, February 14, 2014

Boarded the train there's no getting off

(This isn't a very lovey dovey Valentine's Day post, 
but I wrote mine yesterday on why our relationship works.  
Link up if you haven't already and make sure to visit others' blogs who linked up.  
There are so many great posts.  I am overwhelmed!)

I used to totally hate poetry.  I didn't always get it, and I felt like because I couldn't see all the hidden meanings and the nuances that I was stupid.  Most people don't like things that make them feel stupid.  So I declared that I didn't like poetry and I officially quit on it forever.

Then I was asked to teach AP Literature.  The AP Lit curriculum has a huge focus on poetry so I had to kind of dive in head first with it this year, whether or not I liked it.

And guess what?
I liked it!

There's probably a lot of poems that still go over my head or that I don't pull all the intended meaning from.  But I've learned to be okay with that and I've learned that I can just take from the poem what I want to take from it and not worry about the rest.  John Green says "The book belongs to the reader," and I believe that with poems, too.  The poem belongs to the reader.

It doesn't hurt that poets are generally a straight up crazy group of people.  They're fun to study.  It's easy to get sucked into their lives and their poems because most of the time it's all totally whack.

Take Sylvia Plath, for example.  Her dad died when she was young, and she missed having a male influence in her life.  She met Ted Hughes in college and was absolutely infatuated with him.  They married and had two kids and when she found out he was cheating on her, she couldn't handle the grief and practically went mad. (Very interesting poem analyzing the similarities in her love for her dad and her husband is Daddy.)  She already had a history of mental illness, (once tried to kill herself by crawling under the house for several days) and Hughes' infidelity drove her over the edge.  She stayed up all night long writing poems while her two children slept, and at the age of 30 she killed herself by sealing all the doors in the kitchen, turning the gas on and sticking her head in the oven. She died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Now.  Tell me that's not an interesting story.  Even the seventeen year olds listen up with open ears on that one.

I enjoy a lot of Plath's poetry, and I also really liked her book The Bell Jar.  It's about her descent into madness, but she writes the story as if it were happening to someone else.  It's pretty short if you are looking for a short, crazy book to read for the weekend.

All that background just to introduce you to this poem by Plath.  I always give this poem to my students when I am introducing figurative language and metaphors, and see if they can figure out what event she is describing.  I usually have one in a class of forty who can crack the riddle.

I'm a riddle in nine syllables,
Al elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils,
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.
Money's new minted in this fat purse.
I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I've eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there's no getting off.

I'll give you a hint if you are struggling.  It has nine lines and each line has nine syllables...

Figured it out yet?

She's pregnant!

I really like this poem, and I strangely identify with Plath.  My students always think it's weird and not very nice of her that she's not more stoked about having a baby- that she seems so hesitant.  I always defend her- it's a fear of the unknown, and I relate to it.

Last night when I was walking the dog, the last line of the poem kept repeating itself through my head,
"Boarded the train there's no getting off.  Boarded the train there's no getting off."

For me, there is no getting off.  The thing that is growing inside of me will continue to grow until it is forced to leave my body via a very painful and scary process, a process that will also likely leave my body in shreds.  I will then be responsible for the care and health of this living thing until it is 18 years old.  I will then remain emotionally tied, connected and involved with this thing for the rest of my life.

So yes.  I've boarded a train.  There's no getting off.

It's not that I'm not completely stoked to be on the train.  I like the train! It's fun! I think!  It's a train that I always wanted to someday board.  But the thing is I've never been to the place this train is going.  The place is very unknown to me.  There's a lot of stuff I can't have in this new place that I used to enjoy in my old place- like weekends sleeping in until noon and spur of the moment trips to Las Vegas.  Once I get to where the train is going, I can never go back to the old place.  People who have been to the place before say that I will LOVE where this train is going.  But they also say this place is a lot of work and you don't sleep much for the first little while you are there, and that sometimes this place makes you want to tear your hair out.  But the place is so totally worth it, they say.

Most of the time I am incredibly excited to get to this place, and I wish the train would go faster.  I want to arrive at the destination now and discover the new place right away.  But then sometimes I am so scared of the train, and it seems to already be moving so terribly fast and gosh the train is too fast, why can't we just slow it down!?!  What if I made the wrong decision and I will hate it?  What if I will like the new place but the timing is all wrong and I really shouldn't be at this new place for another couple of years?  What if the new place is so terribly expensive and I can't afford it and I have to stop teaching and and and and and and...

Not to mention that who in the world am I to even get on this train? How do I have the nerve to think I deserve to go there or that I will be good at living in this new place?  (Just last night I received a comment on this post implying I shouldn't be a mother.  Most of the time I can brush mean blog comments off, but as I'm struggling a bit with my new role, I have to admit that this one stung.)

These are the thoughts that swirl around in my head when I'm walking my dog and watching my tummy grow.  I don't hear a lot of pregnant women say they are scared of the train, and sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one on board who feels doubt or fear.  I guess that's why I like Sylvia Plath.  I have no intention of sticking my head in an oven door, but that woman just gets me.

At the end of the day, I have to remember all the other times I felt fear or doubt and how it turned out.  I have to remember how scared I was to marry, how scared I was to teach high school for the first time, how scared I was to go to Argentina for 18 months, how scared I was to go to college and move away from home.  All of these things were scary at the moment, but have made my life whole and happy and beautiful.

I am who I am because of all those trains I boarded with no way of getting off. 


  1. A swell post! I love the poem and her background. Thanks for sharing Bon!!

  2. I never really got into Sylvia Plath. She has some dark stuff (rightfully so). But I do love me Lucille Clifton (she's a hoot!) I'm sure you've read her stuff..but as a refresher--check out Homage to my Hips on youtube! so funny.

  3. Anonymous10:02 AM

    I'm not pregnant (yet, hopefully soon) but I'm with you on being scared of the unknown. I suppose that we'll wing it til we get it, right?

  4. What a great post. I too love that line of Plath's! My favorite part of the perspective you shared is the last line, "I am who I am because of all those trains I boarded with no way of getting off." That's a beautiful sentiment encompassing the joy and terror of commitment... to other people, to change and to dreams! I'm not a mama (yet), but I appreciate your honesty and openness about the fear of the unknown, even during an exciting transition!

  5. Dont be scared Bon! I am 22 and just had our first baby. I had him naturally (no medications or pain control) at a birth center with midwives. Yes it was painful but it wasn't scary! I got the most adorable beautiful boy out of it. All your fears go away when you hold your little angel. I would recommend birth classes (bradley method) and educating yourself on birth to help get rid of any pregnancy or birth fears. The more you know the less overwhelming it seems.

  6. Thank you for this post! I second what said (and what your post is all about). I am not pregnant either but (God willing) hope to be soon. At this point though I am also afraid of the unknown. It is all a learning process, and although it will be stressful, it will be rewarding and worthwhile. You will be a great mother! I hear pregnancy goes very fast and as with anything, it will be missed when it's gone (even though you have a new beautiful bundle of joy in your life). Enjoy the train ride :)

  7. Don't ever let someone tell you that you shouldn't be a mother. That's just ridiculous. And Rude. I don't think you are the only one that is scared though. Not by a long shot. I'm not pregnant but have been entertaining the idea lately and I feel the same as you. That train you're already on? I want it yet am equally terrified of getting my ticket. I feel like all the parts I am scared of I am relying on other people to be right (the love you will feel will be better than anything, they will be so worth it, you will survive, I wouldn't change anything, etc). You are not alone my friend, because I have no doubt when I take that train ride my fears won't go away they will only multiply out of the fear that this is real and no longer a "what if"

  8. I always loved the poetry in AP Lit because I was the jerk who got all the references.

  9. What a wonderful expression of exactly what pregnancy feels like sometimes! Sometimes you just want to complain about all the strange and awful things that happen to your body during those looong 40 weeks. We just don't tend to say it out loud because we fear coming across ungrateful for the gift or if we can't handle pregnancy we won't be able to handle a baby. Well I'm here to tell you that pregnancy can be hard and it's okay to talk about it out loud. It's okay to say I feel like I'm going to vomit and it sucks! There were times in my pregnancy with my son that I said I will NEVER do this again and I wished the time away! But I never once regretted the pregnancy and toward the end I started to feel this bond with him that was so wonderful and when he was born I was lucky enough to feel an immediate love and devotion to him like I had never felt before. A love so deep that I didn't want him away from me for a second. Sometimes as an infant when I held him I longed for him to be so close that it felt like we were one again. Still with all that love and devotion, you doubt yourself daily. I sometimes STILL feel like I'm on this train and I don't know where it's headed. I often look at mothers of teenage boys and think - how the heck am I going to do THAT? How will I handle letting my child drive and go places with people I don't know or trust. I have all these what if scenarios that run through my head. The answer is though that I just have a trust and believe that everything is how it's suppose to be and there is an ultimate plan for my life that involves this tiny person. That quote people love to make into printables "I can do hard things" has never been truer for motherhood. It hard in a way you have never experienced, but it's wonderful in ways you have never experienced. Motherhood changes your world view completely. So, don't be afraid to say your anxieties out loud, because I bet most honest mothers will say they remember feeling that way too. . . and some days you may feel like putting your head in the oven, but then they say "I love you" out of no where and you close the oven door and start fresh!

    1. I also just wanted to add in reference to your post you linked to that I am a redhead myself and never wanted a redheaded boy - girl I was okay with - but then my nephew came along and he is the cutest redheaded child ever. Evidence >>> ;)

  10. Oh girl, I am with you on the being scared part. I'm pregnant right now with my first as well, and it's equal parts the most exciting and terrifying thing ever! I go from thinking, "Let's get this show on the road!" to "Holy #@%& how is it over halfway over already?!" I think it's totally normal, because let's face it - nothing can prepare a person for this. You will be a great mother, simply because you will love this little human with all your might, and in some ways that's enough to get you through anything.

  11. Sometimes I wish people who comment would think about how they would feel if someone said something like that to them.

    Worrying about what ifs means that you're going to be fine, because you care.

  12. What an awesome post! And thanks for telling us the answer to that riddle ;) I was never one to "get it" when it came to poems either. You really described such a common emotion of taking a train to the unknown. It feels both exciting and scary at the same time. And when I start to feel more fear than excitement I try to remember that God ordained the train in motion, and unless He chooses to stop it for whatever reason, I can trust that He is in control and will give me the strength to endure the ride! I remember feeling so many of the same emotions when I was pregnant 4 years ago, and yes life does change once you bring a child into this world, but never have I wished to not be a mother to our biggest blessing!
    Eva Marie

  13. Anonymous11:08 AM

    I'm obviously late to your good news!!! Congratulations! I am expecting our first baby as well. I have wanted this for a long time and I also thought I would be more nervous and constantly thinking about labor. I honestly have felt nothing but happiness and excitement so far, but I fully believe all those fears of "oh shit this is really happening, what have I got myself into and we are going to be responsible for this baby how do I raise a baby?!?!?" Will come the further along I get. There is A LOT of emotion that comes along with this journey.

  14. I so appreciate you posting this. Not only for the literary part (which is fabulous), but for the honesty. Fiance and I are obviously engaged and we've started to have the more serious talks about when kids will play a part in our marriage. I've always, always wanted kids, so the thought was never scary before, but now that it's actually in the semi-near future, it's like... OMG this will be real someday. Real to the point that I started having dreams of being fully pregnant and in labor and telling the doctors and nurses "Nope, no thank you. Not quite ready for all of this to happen yet. Go ahead and tell the little one to wait a while longer."

    So thank you for keeping it real, my dear. You're going to be an amazing mother-- F the haters! It is one thing that I will never get over when it comes to blog readers and those who comment negatively, just because they feel as if they have to-- who are they to call you out on anything personal, ESPECIALLY when it comes to something as intimate as becoming a mother. Shame on them.

  15. Congrats on the new addition! I can see how a comment like that would sting, but let it roll off. One thing that I think is totally off-limits when you're commenting on folks is their ability to parent, and that person probably went too far with their assessments. You will be fine, no one knows what they're doing as a parents, so just get on the train, and enjoy the ride as best as you can!

  16. Wow, Bon! I appreciate you writing this... It's exactly how I feel at the thought of having kids soon. And you're right, no one really talks about those feelings. You aren't alone, and I think you reminded others today that neither are they.

  17. I agree with you that I don't usually like "traditional" poetry (though I'm super into slam poetry - try showing some kids stuff off the Button Poetry youtube channel!), but I loved our units on Plath. I ended up doing one of my final presentations on a close reading of her poetry and it was so interesting. I love the comparisons you're drawing, and I hope the train gets to its destination soon! (Was that a workable metaphor? Not sure.)

  18. The last two lines gave it away for me. Oh you ate a whole bag of apples? Yep been there ;)
    Side note, I did not tear with either of my lil guys.
    Also don't forget your kegals! (Can I talk about vaginas on here?) I was so bad about that and now I get nervous every time I sneeze. Or run. Or jump. :/

  19. This is a beautiful post. My husband and I were just having a conversation recently about how we feel about trying to get pregnant. I love the metaphor of the train, and I completely feel the same way about it even though I haven't boarded yet!

  20. This is such a great post! I can SO identify! When I was pregnant with my son (now 22 months old) I was TERRIFIED but so excited! I had all the same thoughts as you. I am here and love it! It is hard but so fun, most of the time! You will wonder what you did pre-kid!

  21. Well, I certainly felt apprehensive when I was pregnant and even for a while after Henry was born about being a parent and the fact that life would never be the same. And even still, every once in a while, I feel a pang of sadness that my old life is forever gone, even though I was so ready to move on. But it is TOTALLY worth it. And the truth is, that some parts of my old life will come back again. Eventually my husband and I will get to go to movies and spur of the moment trips. It might not be until all of our children are in college, but that's ok.

    But you aren't alone. It's just not something we talk about a lot. :)

  22. Such a great post! I can only imagine how crazy it must feel to think of all those things!

  23. So I love that John Green quote and I have learned to love poetry too. I am sure it is the strangest, most amazing thing to be pregnant with many many random thoughts!

  24. First of all, I LOVE Sylvia Plath and her poem, Daddy!
    Second of all, the train metaphor and you being a bit nervous about where it'll stop reminds me of the Inception quote, "You're waiting for a train. A train that'll take you far away. You know where you hope this train will take you. But you can't know for sure. Yet it doesn't matter."
    Third, you will be an AMAZING mom! I know it! You care so much about your students, and if you care about someone else's angsty teenager that much, then think about how much you will love, protect, and nourish your own child!

  25. Anonymous5:50 PM

    What an insightful poem by Plath. Very insightful and honest. One thing I've been learning as I get older is people don't voice their uncertainties about certain life situations so then you're suddenly blindsided by a reality check. I love your blog and the fact that you're an English teacher and share your lessons here. You're honest as most writers are (hallelujah for blogs!) and I wish you the best on your journey into motherhood (and congrats!) :)

  26. words cannot describe how accurate this is right now. I'm expecting and I've been feeling the exact same way for the past little while. I mean at times I want the train to hurry up and reach the darned destination already, and then at other times I just can't comprehend how I'm gonna be ready in a few months for a whole new life. I kind of understand why she's not so stoked at times - pregnancy can really suck sometimes! I was never one for poetry either really but Sylvia Plath is really amazing.. I can't wait to read as you experience the whole motherhood kit and caboodle because I have NO doubt you'll be able to vocalize how all of us feel/will feel at times in such an eloquent way! Congrats and good luck!

  27. I'm pregnant with my first as well, and yes I'm excited, but I'm also nervous and anxious. There are a lot of "what-ifs" associated with it, and honestly, I feel that if a new parent ISN'T nervous to some degree, something is kind of wrong with that picture. It's a huge responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly! They're either not being honest about how they're really feeling (which to some degree is okay, as long as they're honest with themselves deep down) or they're not taking the new parenting gig seriously. It's a lot to take in, and the fact that you're so worried about it shows that you actually care. Great post!

  28. I just read the comments from the other post you linked up about your fear of ugly babies. People are seriously uneducated LUNATICS who don't know what satire is! I did love that post and thought it was hilarious, because everyone has that fear to a certain degree. I just pray that our future little girl doesn't get Ryan's flat/long second-toe feet because then she'd never be able to wear sandals. Such a weird thing to be afraid of I know haha

  29. I'm one of those bloggers that doesn't dive into controversy very often because I don't like rocking the boat or causing drama - I blog to enjoy it, so I don't get into debates or things that will stress me out. I'm originally a high strung person, so partaking in such things will only cause me to die sooner due to the stress I put on myself lol. My point in saying that is that I just commented on the girl who called you a bad mother - I don't usually do things like that, but it burned me up. I think that poem relates to every aspect of life and I love how you related it to all the major events in your life that were uncomfortable. I'll definitely remember this poem next time I'm making a challenging decision or I'm scared to move forward! Thanks for all your awesome - I hope that one day I'll get the opportunity to meet you in real life. I think I'd like you a lot!

  30. With my first (Olivia) I hated pregnancy so much that all I thought about was getting through. And then one day in the parking lot at work I just got freaked out realizing that the bigger this baby got the harder it would be to get out. And then I remembered epidurals and I chilled out. Sometimes I long to give birth again because those first two days in the hospital are so magical. I did regret having Olivia and Axel when they first came home from the hospital, but that went away after a couple of days :)

  31. Yes I agree with the others a great post............

  32. Well said! And it is scary. When it's unknown, it's unknown! So as exciting as it is, there are a whole lot of changes coming your way that you just can't fathom and that's a bit terrifying. And when you've been there before, you KNOW the changes headed your way (or at least some form) and that's scary because some of them suck for a while, even when there are so many positives to balance it out. Basically I'm right there, 35 weeks pregnant with my second and still in near denial that it's happening. I can't stand not sleeping and I will be there, I have to be there to feed her, and I'm just going to have to go through it. But coupling that with raising a toddler?? Scary! So don't feel alone Bon. You will do great, scared and excited as you may be!

  33. You know, there are some serious Negative Nancys in this world who seem to just go around to blog posts and say the most hateful things, for no good reason, because they obviously have never read your blog before and don't know you at all. Don't let that mean person have you second guessing your abilities as a parent, because you are obviously going to be a great mom!
    Also, have you ever seen the video, pregnant women are smug? It seems about accurate to me. I know I am going to feel just as scared and nervous when I get pregnant. Heck, I'm already so nervous about it and I'm not even pregnant yet! I don't think there's anything wrong with being scared of the whole giving-birth-and-raising-children thing. In fact, I think it's more troubling if people aren't scared, because fear drives us and pushes us to do our best and to be prepared for anything.

  34. "I don't hear a lot of pregnant women say they are scared of the train, and sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one on board who feels doubt or fear. I guess that's why I like Sylvia Plath. I have no intention of sticking my head in an oven door, but that woman just gets me."

    First off, I really love how you tied in Sylvia Plath to how you feel about your pregnancy considering that she felt the same way herself. Like you and Plath, I feel that even though not all pregnant women admit it, they are deep inside scared of what will happen once the baby arrives. I know I was once our lives started to turn to shambles (almost got evicted from our home due to getting behind on our rediculous amount of rent, no car, my hips starting to hurt me when I slept or walked, our ceiling falling through, etc) and it did not get any better for us until literally after I went into labor with Issac. It seemed as though the demons were after us until Issac saved the day by entering the world.

    I can tell you that once the little one is here, you're going to fall madly in love. Granted sometimes it is really hard (especially if you already have a kid and he's only almost 5 years old), but the overall experience is really amazing. Just do want you need to do to make the life amazing for the little one and everything will fall into place once he is there. But do yourself a favor for an easier experience, get a midwive. They calm your stress, give you confidence and help you deliver through your own way of birthing without ripping your vagina walls to shreds.