yours, virginia

by Gil Harush (2020)

One evening, while I was writing this text, he came and sat next to me and the sound of typing mixed with his voice: “Is it your suicide letter I am reading”? I smiled. He stopped my hands from typing and said - “If you hurt yourself, I will kill you”. I looked at him and realized that there, exactly there, is where I find my happiness. This sentence he said was perfect. It created a complete moment that was sad, dramatic, funny, loving, scary, and infuriating all at the same time, and that's why I see it as perfect, that's why I felt happy. Since I discovered Virginia Woolf, I have been trying to inhale everything that has to do with her. Books, essays, quotes, pictures, movies and plays that were made about her. Anythingthat have passed under my eyes, made me look for one thing - where is her happiness? Refusing to believe that depression, sadness, melancholy, are the only feelings and associations that she represents. In this life, she won't answer my question, but I will keep on finding her character in so many strong, extraordinary women that are living around me, the ones that are making me ask myself --- Where is my happiness? There are times, that I commit suicide ten times a day. And you know what? So do you. I know you do. So I wonder, were we so different? We all loved once, we all hoped once. We all watched our reflection through river water even if just once, with eyebrows turned in, lips gently squeezed, staring, wondering, waking up and then… putting it away.

 In America, the author and rabbi from Ohio, Joshua Loth Liebman (1907-1948) , wrote in his book “Hope For Man”, his ideas of one of the most common sentences in literature: “And they lived happily ever after”, which he found no less than tragic, and it is. It is tragic because this sentence tells falsehood about life and has led countless generations of people to expect something from human existence, something which is not possible on this fragile, imperfect earth. He saw the “happy ending” as an obsession and as an illusion that people have unconsciously absorbed in their childhood, and have thereafter been disappointed when life failed to live up to their expectations. 

Back to Europe, the Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Schlomo Freud (1856 -1939) was working on his groundbreaking research, establishing his ideas of therapy, questioning gender, sexuality, family relationships and the way they design our personality; Subjects that were tied to Virginia’s existence. Freud asked his patients to associatively say everything that comes to their mind, without censoring anything. In this way, he learned to take a look at the patient's unconscious world and interpret it. Another way of accessing the unconscious was through interpretation of dreams. In this way, Freud tried to raise one's unconscious to consciousness, to promote the patient’s self-understanding, insight, and a path for creating personal change.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) , up in England, worked during the exact same years as Liebman and Freud. Reading their work made me feel like Virginia was not alone. Yet she felt that way. I wonder, how would things turn out, had Virginia been a patient of Freud’s? She could have been, but they had a professional relationship based on appreciation. How would things unfold, had she published a book with Leibman? Her texts, to me, are free of illusions, her ideas were connected to reality in a way that the world was not ready for, in many ways like Leibman. She could, but he was far away in America, a religious jewish man
that maybe couldn't even look at her, because it is not allowed. Seventy years have passed since she drowned herself in the river near her house, close to her garden of flowers, endlessly loved by one man. Seventy years, and there are still world wars, women are still considered inferior to men, discourse on sex and sexuality is still a taboo and gender is an intimidating issue. The word "feminism" - perceived as a curse in those days, provokes antagonism nowadays, and there is no separation and distinction which is clear enough, between religion, society and government. Like then, today.

 

Warplanes flew so low that they hit the gate and trees next to her house. She didn’t get pregnant because doctors said that it will make her depressed. She describes in her diary how the past comes back only when the present is flowing calmly, and used the metaphor of a river: “When the water is quiet you can see into the depths of the river, but for that, inner peace is required”. Maybe she didn't lose hope, maybe she was just realistic. Maybe she simply knew that nothing is going to change.

The underlying words that are shining in front of my eyes, are actually questions that
Virginia had asked so long ago, questions that were not meant to be answered. The same
questions patients ask me in the clinic, which I ask in my work, and my work asks you, not
to answer them but to remind you, that in England lived a woman who had already put on
paper all the questions that we are still afraid to ask.
I wish I could live in Virginia’s times, just to assure her husband that she didn't commit
suiscide because of him and tell him that he did his best, always. And she could tell me
more about how it is to live as a woman in our world and why it must get better. And until I
meet her one day, I will remember that I am a man myself, and I can't pretend to be a
feminist, and I will never feel myself inside a woman’s body. But I can support feminism
and believe in it. I can write this letter to you all, and I can imagine. I can have an idea. And I
can ask questions... that I will never, never, never have to answer.
The underlying words that are shining in front of my eyes, are actually questions that Virginia had asked so long ago, questions that were not meant to be answered. The same questions patients ask me in the clinic, which I ask in my work, and my work asks you, not to answer them but to remind you, that in England lived a woman who had already put on paper all the questions that we are still afraid to ask.

 

I wish I could live in Virginia’s times, just to assure her husband that she didn't commit suicide because of him and tell him that he did his best, always. And she could tell me more about how it is to live as a woman in our world and why it must get better. And until I meet her one day, I will remember that I am a man myself, and I can't pretend to be a feminist, and I will never feel myself inside a woman’s body. But I can support feminism and believe in it. I can write this letter to you all, and I can imagine. I can have an idea. And I can ask questions... that I will never, never, never have to answer.

“Lock up your libraries if you like,

but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt

that you can set upon the

freedom of my mind” (V. Woolf)