Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Last week I was in the Bad Place. I was finishing the chapter & experiencing a lot of the pain my friends went through. I was eating. I spoke to a man & he hazarded meeting in early June & I haven't heard from him since.

I was tired.

I was scared of my book.

I went through that familiar litany that men can induce so well: what did I say? Is the way I look? What didn't I say? Is he testing me? Should I call him & straighten whatever it is out?

Whatever. I woke up on Saturday morning after an ice cream adventure & thought to myself, "What did I do to deserve the way I treat myself???"

Sometimes the voices in our heads are Good. The What-Did-I-Say voice is Bad. That waking thought was Good.

I took a great intake of air & let it out slowly. What did I do? I've harmed relatively few people. I've been nice to a great many more. I've been nice to people I shouldn't be nice to.

OK, I have to back up a bit because there's another man I've been in touch with for a long time now. We speak on the phone & send emails back & forth. He admires my twist of phrase & imagination. I think he's pretty cool. I told him that I have some ambivalence about meeting but did he think we ought to. He reported that he's ambivalent as well but supposes that sometime...

My ambivalence has names for it. I don't like the way I look right now. I don't want to complicate trying to look better with a lot of guy baggage. I have a book that's overdue.

He probably doesn't have names for his. They're most likely along the lines of I like it like this; I don't really want/have time to get involved; what if I don't like her & the illusion is spoilt -- or -- what if I do like her & have to show up for that feeling?

Essentially, he doesn't want to meet me. Remember: I was in the Black Place. I guess I must not be worth meeting, I thought sadly. The more reasonable part of me said that's poppycock. Between the two of us, we decided to table the ruling but to leave the question open. Am I worth meeting?

Worth. Deserve. There's a theme devleping here.

AA calls it "stinkin' thinkin'," a phrase I really hate but this deserving thing is a classic example.

Friday night: I'm in bed. I get a call for an emergency dog walk. I hadn't had enough cash to go get something dangerous but now I do, & I'm out. Don't I deserve something for a hard day's dogs, the difficulty of writing, my general anxiety? Don't I deserve a treat?

Saturday: I get up angry with myself & blurt that question out. But it's reversed, in the same terms: What did I do to deserve to treat myself so badly? "Deserve" is no long a reward but a negative action; "treat" is no longer a noun but a verb -- "act, behave, regard, handle," among other meanings. Ice cream & cookies are how I act or how I regard myself.

& that's both nonsense & wrong. If I regard myself as ice cream where is my sense of humor or my obsession with deadheading petunias? If I act as ice cream, why do I care who the president of the US is or how some reader will react to this blog? Ice cream leads to more ice cream; it has no conscious but if it did, it would regard itself only as ice cream.

Whereas a human being can regard herself as "Divine Empress of the World," as I told Mellie this morning when she came running to meet me at the door with a Planet Dog ball of the earth in her mouth. A human being can regard herself as a writer.

A human being can regard herself as worth meeting. As deserving to be, at least, thanked for the email I sent containing information he'd asked for as a favor to a friend.

A human being deserves not be in pain when she has a simple headache or a complicated history with someone.

& so yesterday I wrote to the other half of that complicated history & said it's too painful to talk or communicate or even think about. The other half was as gracious as I -- we both expressed our faith in the other & our good wishes. & I'm lumpy-throated today but I know it will be better tomorrow if I don't do something stupid like delude myself into deserving a treat that will give me one more painful feeling to wake up with tomorrow.

I don't "deserve" that either.

I suppose my next email ought to be why I haven't responded to email gambits from an ambivalent man.

Who knows who or what comes next?


Unknown said...

You aren't defined by what you eat or what some internet guy thinks. I think that the hardest thing to do is to develop that inner sense of "this is me and this is what I deserve" -- and that's the very hard and important work you seem to be doing as you write your latest book.

Gallis said...

Interesting. It takes a long time to reckon with this issue. I'm now at the point where I can distinguish when I genuinely "feel" like a chocolate bar, and when I'm using it as a distraction, crutch, whatever.

All I know is that as the song says, the only way out is through. You eat the ice cream, plonk down the credit card, pour a gin and tonic or five, work 70 hours a week - all the b.s. you were trying to bury is still there.

Nothing happens till you start shoveling.

I really loved your Passing for Thin book. I was actually reading passages from it to people on the phone, usually introduced with "Listen to this! The craft is incredible. This is unbelievably good writing!"

I suppose the thought has occurred to you that you feel uncomfortable with being so gifted. [OK. After I post this comment, I'm gonna pour myself a big glass of shut the f*ck up, I swear.}

But seriously, you're incredibly hard on yourself at times.

Helen said...

Sounds like you need a break from on-line men for a little bit! ;-) Give yourself that space and when you come back to it, I'll bet you find one that is worthy of YOU. Why don't we ever think "well, he wasn't worthy of me because he didn't treat me right"? Why do we always blame ourselves?

Personally, when I was on-line dating, I wouldn't do the back-and-forth e-mail or phone thing more than once or twice before meeting...I had to make the point that I was interested in dating, not goofing around. That also avoided the possibility of getting attached to the idea/dream of the other person and having that hope dashed when who they were in reality (or who I was in reality) did not live up to the idea/dream. Does that make sense? Hope so.

Having said that, I also tried to do the on-line thing in small doses -- maybe a month on and 6 months off. That avoided some of the fatigue of meeting so many people who were never the right one.

Of course, maybe you are not feeling good enough about you right now to even deal with that case, I think you should wait until you feel good about you (not necessarily the physical you -- God knows, if I waited for that, it could be FOREVER -- but the real YOU you). Feeling bad about physical you is a symptom of feeling bad about YOU you, I think...

P.S. I met my DB through after speaking on the phone only once. Nothing to be disappointed about that way...and he turned out to be more than I ever allowed myself to dream. :-)

Maureen said...

I too read your book Passing for Thin. Your blog reads like my journal.

Anonymous said...

My real self is quite certain that what others think, feel and do is a result of the complex set of experiences and emotions they have had, and not only are mostly none of my business, but usually have nothing to do with me whatsoever

It's not just a war for a fit body, but for permission to experience the full range of human emotion without fear or subsequent judgment. The Fat Self is going down

I don't remember what blog I copied this from, but when I read it, it helped me some with the thoughts that you are going through. It's not all about us--the other people have their own set of issued, and it's not that we are worthy or not worthy, but just often not meaningful to that person, not consequential to their existence, and we should not judge ourselves based on their reactions. This is the most difficult lesson to learn for me.

Anonymous said...

Ambivalent men really are the curse of the dating world. Don't let the bastards get you down, Frances.

Maureen said...

I also read something from a man called David Rock.
He talks about behaviour in a very interesting way. He talks about inspiration as being the only way to create permanent change in behaviour.
Our behaviour is as unique to each of us as a fingerprint.
Our behaviour is ruled by the maps we have created in our minds and these maps are created by our own set of unique experiences througout our life.
The only way to change the behaviour is to change the map.
He copied this idea from a Dr Jeffrey Schwartz. He has done work, at UCLA, with OCD patients. He is so successful getting permanent change in behaviour with these people that they are able to stop taking meds.
I say all this stuff because the way both you and I eat is a behaviour as unique to you as it is to me. So it is next to impossible for anyone to tell you or show you how to deal with your food behaviour.
It also means that to talk about the behaviour I want to change, in a negative way, only reinforces the map we have created in our heads. It deeply imbeds the behaviour and it will never change for me unless I create a new map.
Sorry for any grammar mistakes but when I write I don't usually worry about it much. If I want to create a final draft I do and this is just conversation.

Nan said...

Thanks for this post. It helped fortify me in battle with some monsters of my own this week.