Sunday, October 05, 2008

We Shall Not Regret the Past...

nor wish to shut the door on it.

To any 12-step program member, this sentence is burned on our brains. My response to it is, "Oh, really???" Just as my response to the Promises of recovery is, when read aloud, "Do we think these are extravagant promises?" and everyone answers "We think not!" I either keep my mouth shut or say out loud, "Hell, yes!"

My past has caught up with me in recent months. It has been heartening to know that some bridges didn't burn down completely, that others were never erected but always had the potential to build, but they ALL send me whizzing through time to 1972 - 1984. I've been through one of the worst depressions I've had in a very long time.

I can tell how bad it was because it's slowly -- s-l-o-w-l-y -- lifting. I've actually told four people about it and three of them offered understanding &and faith. My mother, who last week was on my ass about insurance and retirement, said, "You're a strong person, Francie. You've weathered a lot when a lot of people would have given up." That felt validating. Admitting it is a first step. Realizing yesterday that Daisy is my anchor to having to get through it was a second step to crawling up. Having a fierce crying jag that has been building for weeks was good.

It's all been made worse, of course, by losing my abstinence & then getting off sugar again. Yesterday was Day Three & I was jittery and hyper-emotional.

Which was a good time to have something like a six-hour conversation with a friend I haven't spoken to in, um, like 20 years.

One afternoon when I was an undergraduate at the University of Montana, she stopped and asked if I was Francie Kuffel. I am sure I said coldly, "Yes." Undeterred, she introduced herself. I knew her brother from high school. That's all either of us can remember but it began a sporadic friendship for about ten years that was both acutely painful for what and who she was and what and who I wasn't.

One of the things she did that made me break down crying as we talked was fall in love with my hair. Age has done things to my hair. It's more red than black now. It's straight after being naturally curly. But I have glorious hair and she would sit me down in a chair in the back yard and trim it and brush it and gush over it.

It was the first time in my life I felt feminine. It would, in retrospect, be another 20 years, until I lost weight, that I felt feminine again.

All through the early chapters of PFT when I lament about the life obesity prohibited me from having is imbued with C. She was an adventuress. In fact, she googled me when she and her cousin got to reminiscing about showing up at my door at 5 a.m. to haul me off to Mount Lolo to watch an eclipse of the sun. I didn't go but I packed them off with chocolate cake for their adventure.

How fucking perfect. What a microcosmic look at my entire life. No I won't go but I'll send you off with cake. I'll provide but not participate.

I don't happen to remember this episode but it burns with all the toxin of my M.O. in life, all the things I didn't do.

It turned out, however, in the course of the conversation, that I said some perspicacious things about her that she found to be among the nicest things anyone has ever said about her. At that same time, I listened to her success and the aspects of her thick fruitcake of a life & felt I'd never lived or achieved anything at all.

There have been two other old friends who've touched my email lately. One I have yet to seriously deal with, the other I exchange witticisms with on Facebook, but by the skin of my teeth. She was brilliant in high school and is still an elfin character. I was thinking of her when I told my mom today that I'm SO tired of battling depression & food -- so, so, so, so weary of it. Had anyone noticed, which no one did in Missoula, Montana, in 1973, that this 14-year-old kid was drowning, I could have been so much more. Instead, the consensus, of course, was that I needed to lose weight.

I need fucking drugs, man, and the second I graduated from high school I asked for a shrink, which was pretty self-preserving as I entered my Suicide Years. But regrets have been flowing through me like another set of white cells. The men I couldn't have. The travel I didn't do. The sexiness I did not feel. Reed College, my dream school, far above my pathetic grades. C still visits her favorite teacher and asked if I was fond of her. I laughed. I had what I now know was a nervous breakdown my senior year and was out of school for three weeks. "It's just as well," said-teacher said when she asked if anyone knew what happened to me, "she doesn't belong in school."

She was an English teacher.

So, no, I'm not fond of that teacher.

Depression is like this, OK? I've been feeling on the verge of tears for weeks. It built. I self-medicated and was excessively tired. I played computer games and brooded and hated myself for not doing something constructive. The crisis, like scarlet fever, came yesterday: the fever broke enough for me to feel my feelings, to cry for not going to Reed College or playing the Poetry Game in graduate school, to look at Daisy and realize I was alive because I have to BE with this animal. To realize I had not been admitting for a while that I didn't want to be alive: the battles against myself are so so exhausting. To tell my first, beloved shrink that I'm in a Bad Place, and my friend D., and my friend J., who completely got it and didn't act as though I was insane when I asked in a small voice if she thinks Daisy loves me. To actually tell my mother what I've been going through and have her respond sympathetically.

Depression is like this: I published a book that cracked open an experience many women share that led to a cyberspace community of sharing. Maybe I saved -- or salved -- some lives. Now I'm getting ready to edit a book about the shame of regaining weight in an effort to tell these woman it's OK. It's OK to gain weight, it's what we're unfortunately wired for. And whatever battle we chose with regards to our weight -- diets, exercise, acceptance, surgery, depression -- they're all OK to. Because it's a war between self and self, society and self, and we Americans haven't won any wars lately. It's OK to love our success and to deeply revere and respect our failure and to celebrate every day that we stick to whatever option we have decided to fight for and with in this battle. Hell, let's celebrate every hour.

And then depression is like this: telling myself all that doesn't make me believe it. I'm still the young fat woman standing at the front door with chocolate cake wrapped in tinfoil, sending my friends off to have fun, have an adventure, drive 9,000 feet up closer to the sun while I went back to bed.

I hope to God I said no because I was writing a paper on Troilus and Cressida that day or had an Italian test coming up. I hope I was reading Proust at 3 pages an hour. And I'm grateful C and I found each other and that maybe I can make up for lost time in some small way.

Say a prayer for me, friends. I'm working hard to climb back up to the daylight. One day I'd like to be close to a tricky sun.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know you helped me more then you can ever know. I keep your book PFT like a bible....i thank you for putting it into words...then actually putting in onto paper
A fellow Brooklynite

jen said...

This post makes it clear you're doing some real heavy lifting. I am really impressed with the poetry of this, even as you're struggling with things and slogging through the mud. We will all be pulling for you.

Anonymous said...

I need to let you know that I feel the same way as the last 2 comments. I check everyday, sometimes more, looking for your beautiful writing and you have helped me more than you can ever know. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Caffeinated said...

I wish I could write something incredibly poetic and insightful here. I can't, but I do want you to know that YOUR writing this was a strong, courageous thing - and that I have a pretty good idea that you're a strong, courageous woman. That doesn't mean we win every time. It means we somehow find a way to go on fighting.

As for the Daisy thing? I know exactly what you mean. Mine is Emmitt.

LG said...

You're such an inspiring person and you write so beautifully. I know this wasn't easy for you and life isn't easy for you but your mother is right.

I think about the times I've sat back and let others do things. I'd like to think I didn't do it because of this or that but I probably didn't do it because I was afraid of how I would look, how I would act or what others would think of me. But I'm trying harder. I think you've been an incredible help to a lot of people; you just don't know all the details. You'll just have to trust that it's true.

Helen said...

Fran, Frances, Francie...I know you and love you even though I've never hugged you...YET. Your words resonate like the huge bell at Notre Dame (did you see the Hunchback?). ;-) Soooomuchtosay. Someday, in person, we will celebrate all these words. In the meantime, I send you all my hugs and love and yay for insight!!! You have people in your corner that you don't even know...isn't that cool? :-) XOXO, H

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate being able to read your blog. Makes me feel understood, you know? --Jessica

Anne M. said...

Oh my dear friend. Living this stuff is one thing; having the clarity to see it is entirely another. You write so beautifully about very hard stuff. ((( big hugs )))

Patti J said...

I'm sorry you are struggling, but I have to tell you: It helped me so much to read all this. Especially the part about sending your friends off with a cake. I'm sure I'd have done the same thing years ago. All of life is a struggle, but I identify very strongly with what you write. I loved your first book and I understand completely why you regained the weight. I am not surprised at all. I've done it all over and over, though I never wrote a book. You are a brave, smart, funny person.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you are struggling, but I have to tell you: It helped me so much to read all this. Especially the part about sending your friends off with a cake. I'm sure I'd have done the same thing years ago. All of life is a struggle, but I identify very strongly with what you write. I loved your first book and I understand completely why you regained the weight. I am not surprised at all. I've done it all over and over, though I never wrote a book. You are a brave, smart, funny person.

Patti J said...

I'm sorry you are struggling, but I have to tell you: It helped me so much to read all this. Especially the part about sending your friends off with a cake. I'm sure I'd have done the same thing years ago. All of life is a struggle, but I identify very strongly with what you write. I loved your first book and I understand completely why you regained the weight. I am not surprised at all. I've done it all over and over, though I never wrote a book. You are a brave, smart, funny person.

laura said...

I'm sorry you are in a deep dive, but you will break the surface soon...these realizations and connections you are making are so important. I'll say a prayer for you, but you'll be fine.

You can see how many of us see our own lives mirrored in your post...your are still helping us even when you are in despair.

Laura N said...

You matter, Frances, very much, to very many of us. I'm sending up a prayer for you and thankful, indeed, that you brought about this community. You do matter. You've made a difference. You will pull through this, and you will continue to make a difference. HUGS.

Anonymous said...

Frances you're amazing. While I can't say I knew of the pain you are struggling through, I can say that your willingness to share the struggle will all of us nameless, faceless people is admirable, courageous and I am hoping self-healing. Hang in there... you're in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

WE LOVE YOU FRANCES !! KEEP GOING GIRLFRIEND - YOU ARE STRONG BEAUTIFUL AND CAPABLE OF ALL THE BEST!!!! LOVE LAURA

dietbook said...

Just checking in to see how you're doing...hopefully things are just getting better and better.

Also...you know...I think the measure of a human soul is in the degree to which it touches others' lives. You have a beautiful soul. You do make a difference.

I know that hearing that might not help much when the darkness is heaviest - but I just wanted to say it anyway.

Many hugs.

V.

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