Friday, September 28, 2007

Seeing John Malkovich

I'm putting together a couple of weeks of shaky abstinence here. The sugar cravings are passing, I've lost some pounds, I've shown up for a good portion of my life which, these days, consists of many balls in the air.

Today, however, I've been peepee-whipped by a fits of the Sads. As I negotiated my way across the street to go pick up my first dog of the day, I started making a list of all the reasons I loathe myself. It was starting to get pretty long before I got distracted by the wind or a kid bawling or looking both ways before I crossed the street.

Two hours later, I have a big wad of gray and now-flavorless gum in my chest, as well as acid in my throat. I've thrown many balls and been cheerful for my dogs, run the gauntlet of the film people clogging my side of the block, and I have a chance to think a bit. I'm thinking and writing instead of taking off my filthy dog clothes and taking a shower because, well, I'm kind of in the mood to stay in my yucked-out shorts and t-shirt and 24 hours' sweat. Every time I walk out of my apartment building I'm on display and under suspicion for a moment, and today being gucky suits that situation just fine.

The Coen Brothers have taken over Brooklyn Heights and John Malkovich has nearly literally moved into the house next door. This is to say that the lovely blue wooden 1824 Federal townhouse is his house in the movie. If you look at the little round awning by the massive white truck that is pumping air conditioning into the house, you're looking at my moment of feeling as if Mr. DeMille is waiting.

It's getting just a little bit stale, all this ruckus and milling around of technicians and gawkers camped out across the street, but the people are quite nice and lovely about the dogs. Sometimes walking a dog -- and you Lab-owners know this with a particular poignance -- is a public service. A friendly dog is so willing to love people who love them first. We've quieted babies, given the infirm and the elderly some tactile affection and made friends with people I'd never meet if it weren't for the dogs and their particular favorite humans.

This, of course, is when the dogs aren't being a public threat. It's been a good week. They've been mannerly.

I digress.

Sort of.

Yesterday afternoon was sultry in anticipation of a rain that didn't happen. I showered after the morning in the dog run and, at 3, put on a dress for the clean last five walks of the day. I walked out of my building and found myself surprised into locked eye contact with John Malkovich. He was in his jammies and robe (I believe this is called "costume" in cinema parlance) & talking on his cell phone. I turned a sharp left, kind of jittery. He's my favorite actor, or one of them (Jeremy Irons? Robert Downey, Jr.? Alan Rickman?), and I've seen him close-up and in person once before. But still.

He was hanging around on MY sidewalk for much of the next 90 minutes -- 90 minutes when I had to come back with Boomer and then leave again with Daisy, Hero, Boomer and Henry. He'd LOOKED at me. My insides were jelly at the thought of the parade I was putting on.

And then, today, the Sads.

You know, I'm glad to say it's the Sads. What prompted me to make that list this morning was the question of why I'm sad. My default is, "because I hate myself. I hate myself because____."

But the reasons, while hugely emotionally charged (I'm fat; I have no close friends at hand and I'm lonely; I don't like the dinner I ate last night; I'm poor; I'm lazy -- etc.), really aren't true, or not true as reasons to hate myself. Yeah, I'm fat. Fatter than many, thinner than many, squaring off with the issue as best I can. Yeah, I don't have a best friend over on Sydney Place, but I have friends and --

you get the gist.

The Sads are not reasons to hate myself. They're symptoms of weak points in my life that I ignore when I'm in and out of sugar. I haven't been in and out for a couple of weeks. The thin spots of the trampoline I live on are showing.

Then again, why the Sads?

Let's begin by respecting the fact that it's Friday. I went into the week without a day off from dogs and had extra dog walks until today. I have other work pressures besides dogs and am virtually in charge of the big 90th birthday party my mother is giving my father. All of that is simply tiring. And Daisy woke me up at 4 this morning in duress, in the middle of the first night I didn't take a sleeping pill. Scoop on a little more tiredness.

The Male Who Shall Not Be Named was in touch this week with a technical question. One of the reasons on my list of how I loathe myself was my obsessing, my in ability to get over love and failure. His techincal question, that could have been researched pretty easily, and subsequent couple of emails, were defensive but probing for friendship on his part, confused on my part. I decided not to answer back after Round Three. Still, the Balrog was awakened. Love and -- what is the word for the feeling when someone you haven't, quite, gotten over has found an enduring love that is much more successful than the one you tried together, once upon a time, in the First Age???

That. "That" hovers, emerging as my body relaxes a bit as I tick off the last dogs of the week (until tomorrow afternoon).

And then there was locking eyes with John Malkovich. I've been sitting here for a couple of days hyper-aware of the commotion next door, that John Malkovich is, right now, twenty or forty feet away from me. It's made me think about what he sees when he is on the streets of Brooklyn Heights -- kind of a bland neighborhood, really, although it's liberal and pretty and well-educated. Lots of baby carriages and tons of priviledge, as I know too well from bowling through those carriage-pods with one or more dogs in argumentative tow. And now, in his eyes, I'm one of Them.

Not that he remembers.

Which is also part of the point. I feel conspicuous when I walk out, and small, unimportant. Henry would beg to disagree, being crated at home to give me some peace this afternoon when he'd rather be here chewing on my new Caligarius shoes, but his presence has made me aware of what a speck I am in the scheme of things.

I guess there's a direct parallel here, isn't there? John Malkovich looked me in the eye, made his unconconscious judgment and clumped me in with Them. Unnamed Male tapped me for whatever stuff he was after, but in doing so, made me aware again of the judgments he's made and where he's clumped me -- part of Them, not part of Us.

For some weeks, I've been angry with myself for how hard this books is to write, how I'm not Persons Also Unnamed whom I went to graduate school with who are known for their literary (as opposed to senstationalist memoirist) ability that they spin with some ease and definite acclaim -- how that's in me but I can't DO it (hence the lazy entry on my list). I've been angry that this struggle is what keeps me from being more than a speck -- only to walk out my front door and lock eyes with...

well, you get the point.

OK, negativity aside, I want to remember that feelings -- the Sads -- pass. If I'm lucky, the Sads will prompt me to do something about any one of those reasons I am not allowed to hate myself for. And the first thing these particular Sads must prompt is the recognition that feelings do not equate self-loathing.

Malkovich will be out of here soon enough and Henry will throw himself on the couch with a smile on his face in about 90 minutes and I can go looking for a bombshell of a first sentence for chapter seven.


Unknown said...

Sorry to hear you're feeling Sad, but aren't you glad you were at least showered and in nice clothes when J.M. saw you? He might have thought, "what a pretty dress" even.

Hope you find that killer sentence.

Grumpy Chair said...

I read this post last night and loved it.

My favorite part of your book was when Eric Clapton gave you the second glance. A second glance!!!! Now you have locked eyes with John Malkovich.

This morning, I was doing the self-hate thing and remembered your post and stopped. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

If you can put your head down and go THROUGH IT, doing the very best you can with each moment, when you come out the other side, you'll be all the better. Succumbing to it and acting on THAT makes you backslide, and then you have to start again when it's over. And that's hard.

Cindy said...

I have been in and out of the Sads lately. Stupid Guy Thing haunts me from time to time still. Then I get pissed that I am still sadding over that. I like what you said - feelings do not equate self-loathing. How exciting to have a movie set out your front door. Amazing!

Laura N said...

It was nice to see your post today. I'm sorry about the Sads, and hope they have passed by now.

Good writing is never easy--and I can't wait for your book. Here's some good vibes for chapter 7.

God, I love John Malkovich too.

Anonymous said...

It was a miracle that I found 'Passing for Thin'...last Thursday(jan2408). What a fabulous book that is bringing me back to abstinence. I have been in and out of OA since 1983 so Frances wrote this book for me, all about me and my struggles. Since I started reading 'PFT' I have been so aware of spiritual experiences that have been around me all along. I live in Texas, was at an outlet/seconds store yesterday...I found a black and tan Old Navy t-shirt 'Plow Service-Big Bob's Fully Licensed and Bonded (picture of tractor snow plow) Missoula - Montana, almost a burning bush!!! Frances, if you are reading this, I'd love to mail t-shirt to you, if you'd like... -e- (Eva, short e pronunciation - gwoman30@yahoo)

Anonymous said...

Good for people to know.