In the beginning of the second section, Proust describes his Aunt Leonie. I am loath / terrified / amused / worried to admit this, but there is much about the characterization of Aunt Leonie that feels all too familiar (and “familiar” and “family” must come from the same root, no?). For Aunt Leonie is what I know I could become if I don’t reign in the crazy.
Here, for your edification are a few choice descriptors of Crazy Aunt Leonie:
She was “always lying in an uncertain state of grief, physical debility, illness, obsession and piety.”
“She always talked rather softly because she thought there was something broken and floating in her head that she would have displaced by speaking too loudly, but she never remained for long, even alone, without saying something. . .”
“she attributed to the least of her sensations an extraordinary importance”
“I often heard her saying to herself: ‘I must be sure to remember that I did not sleep’ (for never sleeping was her great claim. . . )”
Proust, as I’ve noted before, certainly understands emotional disturbance and even disorder. Some might go so far as to call these behaviors “neuroses” on the part of Proust and Aunt Leonie. Unfortunately, I too understand these things.
I’ll say it: I fear becoming someone’s Crazy Aunt D. Or maybe it’s too late. Certainly, I recognize parts of myself in Proust’s Aunt Leonie. This makes her both frightening and compelling all at once. We recognize her; we fear her. Yet, I think that if we can learn to embrace her, thereby learning to embrace those shadow parts of ourselves, then we may find the only real path to dealing with our own crazy once and for all.