Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Yesterday was a bad day.  So far, today is better.  My stomach doesn't have a knot in it, I haven't had to cut up a klonopin, I've proceeded in a logical path through both personal things and work things.  It feels as though there is time to do enough.

My reminder to myself, at least twice an hour, is that if I don't go off my food plan and no dog or human is injured directly by my actions, failure is impossible.  Disappointments, yes.  Crises, judging by yesterday, unfortunately certain.  But I have only two things I can fail at.

This reminding has been singularly helpful.

I came home yesterday afternoon clutching myself with the need to get to the bathroom twelve minutes earlier.  My stomach was in an uproar.  It can take a while to adjust to my food plan, with all its salads and fiber, and it's not always my timing.  I had plans to meet a friend to see Twila Tharp's Come Fly with Me and had about an hour to get ready.  I showered.  As I was trying to decide on something to wear, my phone rang.  It was my agent.

She had news I was expecting: my publisher is offering eight-five percent less for my next book than it did for Angry Fat Girls.  If it wasn't for being a really good writer, they would not be offering me a contract at all.  I already knew this.

But I had a melt-down.  It wasn't the money, it was my agent's badgering about what I should do next, in terms of Sex and the Pity, my novel, making a living, moving away from New York.  I was gasping for breath and for words as she rushed on with ideas -- movetoMontana, proctorbookclubs, writethreesamplechaptersandanoutlineofSPandsubmititelsewhere.  These are not tenable ideas and having to reject them, one by one, made me feel I was being horribly negative and sullen.  I felt trapped.  I felt...

...exactly how I felt in my last job, when Alix would call me into her office with an itemized list of everything I was doing wrong or not at all and would then demand to know what I was going to do to fix it.  I never had words for her in those moments.  I needed time to figure out what to do or felt a "yes" was a sufficient answer when what she enjoyed was watching me twist at the end of my employment string.

My agent wasn't doing that.  She was probably trying to give me options and probably trying to assuage her own disappointment by giving me a sense of future.  But it felt just like sitting in that floor-to-ceiling windowed office, twenty-nine floors above Central Park, being nipped and badgered by the gnats of failure.

This used to be my business.  I understand my agent's position and I understand my publisher's position. When I was an agent, I used to tell writers not to think they could work in their pajamas.  I've gotten a seven-year free ride in my jammies.  It's coming to an end.  I didn't need my agent to point that out.

But the sense of being ambushed was horrible.  I canceled the theater because I knew there was a good chance I'd cry through the musical comedy.  I though desperate things.  Then I took off my fancy duds, put on my shorts and laid down with Daisy and the telephone.  I called my best friend and she was outraged for me when I had no energy to be outraged for myself.  I tried to call my editor to clarify a couple of things but she was gone.  Mostly thought, I laid there with Daisy's paws on my shoulder, holding me, and let my mind go blank. When I got up, forty-five minutes later, I thought about having spent many years as an adjunct writing professor, the couple of articles I want to submit, the fact that, unlike most dog walkers, I'm available at night and on Sundays.  I can squeak through this year if need be.  I can take actions.  I can trust that I'll be OK, just as I've hit this financial impasse before and lived through it.

My therapist, Dr. Sometimes-It's-Not-Just-a-Cigar, calls it post delayed stress.  I'm embarrassed by it.  Soldiers can have PDS.  Abuse victims.  Not someone who cowered in fear and muteness through two years of a bad boss.

And yet, there I was, Alix-ized. 

Somehow the quiet time both calmed me and presented an opportunity to me.  I will accept their offer but I will also tell my agent how I felt in the conversation.  I will not discuss what I'm doing to make a living with her.  I'm not sure I can even discuss this book with her because she has not found any humor in what I've done, a fact I brought up as a significant factor in staying with my publisher.

The biggest opportunity that fifteen minutes and forty-five minutes of recovery offered, however, was to see that it's really true that I if I don't eat and dogs and people are uninjured under my watch, I can't fail.  Sometimes I miss the lesson in being abstinent but yesterday I was able to get to a point at which I saw that exchange as information.  Given certain circumstances and a certain mode of address, I flash back.  When I feel my life is pulled out from under my decision-making, I flash back.  Flashbacks definitely make me want to run to sugar but they do so because A) that's my default setting, and B) flashbacks are uncomfortable. 

But it passed.  And I knew my boundaries had been crossed and I knew that to dither about accepting the offer and looking for the next financial chapter in my life would only make my feeling of being out-of-control worse.  No one promised me I could live in my jammies but what I choose to do when I get dressed has to be my decision.  And I cannot allow anyone, ever again, to have the power over me that Alix did. 

She had it because she had my job.  I've put in seven years of being my job.  Maybe it's time to simply get a job.  Not be it, not be under the yoke of it.  Just a job.  Because really?  I can't fail.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I'm Not in Kansas Right Now

Dear Ones --

I don't expect everyone to approve at what's going on at my other blog.  That's why I started a separate blog that is age-restricted.  The question has arisen concerning whether the actions of yesterday's post are self-empowering and I think it's certainly a question that deserves thought and discussion.

All journeys begin somewhere.

I'm fifty-three years-old and never-married.  I've had a few boyfriends and many heartbreaks.  My heart is still leaking, in fact, from something in my recent past that did not come to fruition, and it has had a thud after my encounters over the last week: in many important ways, the thuddee actually gets me.  That's a powerful turn-on.


Consider, now, that I have been fat for something like forty-six years.  I was the butt of a lot of teasing up until I went to university.  Then I became the Best Friend, the Fag Hag, the voyeur of what my thin, pretty/handsome friends were experiencing.  I listened and sympathized.  I listened and wished.  I listened and grew fatter.

I passed through the chapters of my thinnitude under the stress of either gaining a new body and new horizons, or saying goodbye thereto.  I spent much of the time in my romantic relationships wondering if I could really be loved, if my battle scars were at least forgivable, or if I could compensate for them in some way.  I spent so much time in my head that I couldn't feel my body except when I was out and about, mostly in the gym or on my own, walking the city in black cashmere trousers or a short black skirt.  Then I felt tall and in possession of a secret: you don't know what I really am...

I was Beauty and Beast when I was thin.  As I gained weight I felt more and more that I was the Beast alone.

In these last seven years, it has been a surprise to me that men found me either attractive or fuckable.  That perhaps one man fell in love with me for a bit and that a couple of other men fell in like is astonishing.

It shouldn't be.  I'm not ugly.  I'm funny, smart, giving.  They even found me sexy, although that has never been something I felt.

Until the last few weeks.

What has changed?  I'm really abstinent for the first time in more than six months.  I've been through a great deal of grief and estrangement.  I'm not working as hard as I should be in my twelve-step program but I have done some deep digging in my stepwork and in throwuppy.  My old feelings of being the butt of jokes and excuses, of needing to be invisible, are shriveling a little bit as I take them out of the closet and place them in the light of the room for two pairs of eyes.  I'm slow to pick up on having boundaries crossed or argued about, but at least I remember, now, when my therapist points instances out.  I'm becoming more sensitive to them and more protective.

I don't know if I've lost weight or not, although a friend noticed that I was looking "healthier" and my food plan is so predictable that it would be difficult not to lose weight.  Not knowing has thrown me back on my day count and my body.  Because I'm also pretty disenfranchised from my size, I can't tell much from the way my clothes fit.  This pretty much leaves me only how and what my body is feeling.  It has a knot of anxiety in its stomach.  Its neck is sore.  There is a twinge in its left shoulder.  And it's randy.

There is also a brain in this body -- a mind.  And a heart and a pleasure center.  I may not be ready for a boyfriend or a boyfriend may not be ready for me, but for a change I'm relying on those other bits to tell me when a situation, a man, a sexual liaison, is not right for me.  And I'm walking out, shrugging my shoulders, taking pleasure in a cold drink and the searing acridity of a cigarette, relishing my messy Cave and my dog.   She is always glad to see me and manipulate me in our seven-year dance of often opposing desires.

So yeah, it feels good to say, "You're not the right one."  And it feels good to seek a Right One, despite, right now,  the sexual emphasis on seeking.  I missed out on so much in the years when boyz wanted girlz to be fresh and skinny, and in the years when I didn't trust myself.

It is empowering to trust my instincts.  It's bloody empowering to have instincts after the cloister of grief.  It's empowering to read or hear that a man I could like thinks I have a lovely body.

And it's most empowering of all to write, to write the journey.  It's only a journey; the destination is a place everyone recognizes.  Love.  Home.  Friendship.  Maybe health insurance.

But it's my journey, for better or worse.  I'm being careful.  And I'm shrugging my shoulders when that's what I feel like doing.  And I'm glad I know these things.  Somebody in my future will appreciate the self-acceptance I'm being tutored in, the joy, the frontiers of my self that I'm defining and learning to defend.

All journeys end somewhere, and the somewhere is always [re]new.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Frances Is Trending...

Click on the title to read new post at Assholes in the Headlights

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Plague Year

The anniversary of the morning my mother fell and injured her hip is in twelve days.  From that day on, she was never the same and in a sense, it marks the death of her as part of my home family.  I want the day to go by and to put the last twelve months behind me.  There have been wonderful things in this year -- going to Prague, going to the Pacific Northwest, meeting a lot of people on Facebook -- but there has also been a lack of energy to write, sadness, bad depression, family schism, and a bit of a broken heart.  Add to all that, weight gain and increasing social anxiety.  It hasn't been pretty.

In making some choices to speak up and claim parts of myself, I've lost a couple of friends. Just recently, another seems to have rebuffed me, although I haven't tried to find out why.  For the most part, I've probably been a distant friend this year, absorbed in family events and trauma, sunk in a wordless place when I was confined to quarters for two months, traveling, watching Angry Fat Girls tank, and getting abstinent, which always makes me go underground with civilians.  If my illusiveness has caused more rupture in my friendships, I'm sorry.  But it was, on the whole, a year in which I had to put the oxygen mask on myself first.

For the last five weeks I've struggled against my anxiety to get anything done.  While I was in relapse, I had occasional hard work days because if I didn't do something, I'd feel so miserable that I'd want to die.  Without sugar, I've been feeling what's going on.  Not much is happening in my life to blog about because that's what I've been doing: feeling.  Therapy has been like boot camp and I joked on Facebook one day that I think I need a therapist to talk to about therapy.  There and in my step work, I'm facing some demons.  There are days when I just go to bed after crying through an assignment or therapy session.

All of this is by way of saying I'm sorry to anyone and everyone who reads this and who has felt slighted by me.  I've been curled up in a very tight ball.  My life is about to blasted open if we come to an agreement with Berkley about the next book.  I'm going to have to go on about a hundred first dates and write about them.  Am I ready?  I don't know.  You can find out by going to my new blog, "Assholes in the Headlights," which I should have started yesterday.

My blogs: sheesh.  I blog about food/addiction/depression at Psychology Today, snarky dating experienced at Headlights, about publishing on my website, and about my other stuff here.  I feel fragmented but somehow, also, that any other blog needed to wait until I could write this.

So I'll see you around the Web, and I'll see you in Starbucks.  I'll be the large woman having a stilted conversation about what the guy opposite me does for a living.

And I'll try to come up with events to report here on as regular a basis as possible.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Life: A Novel

Chapter One

Of all the flowers of all the seasons, I am obsessed with photographing tulips. We have a complicated relationship, the tulips and I. I love how they catch and hold the sun -- or the rain -- like votives or canthoros, the fonts of holy water that are just inside the door of Catholic Churches and hearken back to the need to be clean before God.

I believe tulips are clean before God.

They are also notorious Jezebels, however, showing off their sex to the world without any of the rose's folderol of petticoats and skirts or the profusion of pubic pollen that a peony hides behind. The tulip is proud and available.

Except at night, when she closes up against the cold. Perhaps she has harbored the sunlight and she clenches it for warmth. She is, in any case, smarter than those dumbbell daffodils and narcissi that glow hopelessly and virginally twenty-four hours a day.

And finally, there is her history, reaching back to the Middle Ages and the mountains of China where she was a weedy thing until she was brought to Constantinople, where she became the empress of flowers and sought after by the Czechs and the Dutch for any price. The tulip broke the guild system in Holland because there was no guild for flower-cultivators. Anyone with access to a little property could cultivate the tulip. And the stripes of the tulip that became so prized? They are cause by a virus.

The tulip doesn't smell like the bearded iris and lilacs I love so much, or have as long a season as roses. But it is a flower of a thousand shapes, colors, lights, viruses and miles.

Chapter Two

The WASPs are upon us. There should be a joke about how various faiths advertise activities at their churches and temples -- Lutherans using colored paper taped to light poles, Unitarians satisfied to advertise on their big information board, Catholics with that great smelling blue mimeo ink...

Grace Church has had a number of events lately and their congregants are involved in even more. They are the Pillars of Brooklyn Heights, some old money or old families, many families because of their pre-school. And so the signs around the `hood right now -- for organ concerts and the annual Brooklyn Height House Tour (a.k.a. You Are Poorer Than You Know) -- are laminated and tied to the iron fences with wide pastel satin ribbons. Worse yet, they are tied to the fences of the congregation. If God decided to smite everyone but the Episcopalians, He'd know right where the smiting should take place.

It makes me feel sorry for the Grace members who live in apartment buildings that don't have fences. Perhaps they tape the literature to their door.

Just in case.

Chapter Three
High Anxiety

This is what it's like to live with an anxiety disorder that borders on agoraphobia: the knot in my stomach begins around 9 a.m. I argue with it, reassuring it that Nothing Will Happen Out There, that No One Is Going to Find Out. The knot takes on more mass until, at 9:20, I am shaking and sweating and rooted to the chair at my computer. I turn to one of a half dozen games, hoping my anxiety will forget to fold over on itself in order to take on more anxiety buds. By 9:30 I realize I am not going to conquer it with Monopoly. A half Klonopin is needed. If only I could get out of my chair. Get. Up.

Five minutes of this and I go into the kitchen and shakily cut a pill. I brush my teeth. I dither at this and that, waiting for the twenty-minute softening of my muscles. I take a deep breath, arm myself with cigarettes and go out to do what I need to do. Then I come home and have diarrhea before worrying about my next task or errand, bargaining toilet paper for Kleenex and instant coffee for Maxwell House on late Sunday afternoon when the store is mobbed with working people laying in the week's supplies, whether my rent check will take another day to clear and relieve me of going to the bank, if I really have to take the trash to the basement.

It's exhausting. And by the time I manage to do the outside thing, I've spent all my energy on propelling myself out that chances are slim I'm going to do anything but go back to Monopoly.

Chapter Four
Dr. Sometimes-It's-Just-a-Cigar

I quite like my new therapist of the last six months or so. He's kind of a cherub and he's good at pointing out when I've been scammed by someone, which is one of the things I'm in there to learn. I sit on a couch overlooking downtown Brooklyn (which is not a great view) and tell him about, oh, my anxiety.

We've had some spots of absurdity, however, that I've never encountered with another shrink.

For instance, I sent out about 250 Christmas cards. They were identical, a picture of Christmas lights tangled in razor wire with a mournful verse from Shakespeare's Sonnets inside. I've seen the card in various homes because the recipients like it. I got compliments on it. Dr. Cigar, however, announced in our first session in the new year that We Needed to Talk About It.

What, he wanted to know, was I trying to tell him with that picture and verse? Well, gee, Dr. C., it was the Christmas after my mom and my favorite aunt died, after a ruckus in my family. I wasn't feeling very cheerful. Also? It's one of the best pictures I've ever taken. And I sent it to two hundred and fifty people.

That was our last session until March when my ankle and the weather decided I'd been held hostage long enough. Of my ankle, he opined, "It's possible you wanted it to happen."

Umm, h'mm. Well. No. I'm quite capable of staying in the house 24/7 without the aid of a cast and a blizzard. Although if I'd known about the Vicodin, I might have stubbed my toe.

Each time I think I've gotten my story across, Dr. C. comes up with or returns to another of these Freudian fault lines. This last Saturday, I was telling him about how I tried to tell someone an important thing. He found my way of saying it rather... sideways. Just like the Christmas card.

Thank heavens he doesn't see my typos.