Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tap on the Shoulder

I don't want to think about how long it's been since I've posted here.  I've had so little to say, you see.

And what an incredibly selfish statement that is.

I'm stalled out in the middle of chapter five of Sex and the Pity, frozen in place by fear of more failure.  More, you say?  The advance on acceptance is a spit in the wind.  Angry Fat Girls, now called Eating Ice Cream with My Dog, sold about three copies.  It's probably not my fault but I'm beginning my second quarter of not getting a teaching assignment and I've done nothing to change that situation other than to walk dogs and try to pick up writing coaching gigs.  (Hint!) 

And I've been frozen in fear itself.  What if I can't write this book?  What if it's horrible?  If I move from my bed I'll have to think about my bank balances and the fact that dog walking thins out in the summer.  I'll have to think about my weight.  I'll have to stay awake, which is hard to do when I can't sleep at night but nap all afternoon under the influence of really bad nutrition.  I'll be awake to the fact that I have no health insurance, few local friends, few friends I'm really in touch with.  I'd have to notice how much I need to sweep and clean and bathe.  And as of about Thursday, I'd have to admit that the molar I broke half of a few years ago is now very painful and that the pain is moving into my upper jaw.

Wait.  Is there such a thing as an upper jaw?

I'd have to admit I should know things like that.

So I've been hiding in bed, obsessing my way through a psychoanalytic biography of Hitler (which makes him scarier than he already was), onto the siege of Stalingrad, on to biographies of Churchill, Roosevelt and, now, Stalin.  I sleep.  I don't walk Daisy enough.  I get up and plug at Facebook games, which I've come to loathe but still involve myself in.  I promise each night I'll stay awake the next day and write two pages, get proper  groceries, and/or update my website with the new book cover and an announcement about editing.

With no results.

It's called a situational depression, one that circumstances such as a death or break-up or job loss can induce.  At times I pull it together and am wonderful.  Then I hide in bed for 23 hours of Stalin purging Belarus.

But I got my comeuppance yesterday and I'd like to think the universe tapped me subtly on the shoulder and that today I'm doing my best to respond.

Last night at dusk, I was skanked out from a day in bed and walking Sandy, an elderly golden retriever, on the Promenade.  We visited with a puppyish Bernise mountain dog and then moved on.  I had sort of unconsciously noticed -- sort of/unconsciously should prove how vague I was -- a woman behind us and when she caught up to Sandy and me I assumed she wanted some of Sandy's prodigious golden retriever adoration.  (I call goldens "barnacles" because they latch on to your side and won't let go.)

"Are you Frances Kuffel?" she asked.  "I love your blog."

I was ashamed.  Primarily I was ashamed of having neglected it for so long.  All the other shame -- unbrushed teeth, unbathed body, gained weight, the gray world of my existence -- crept up behind that, but slowly enough for me to thank her, tell her I've done a couple of pieces over at Psychology Today and that I should come back to Car on the Hill.

She didn't really care, I think.  She was forgiving of my absence and mostly wanted to say hello and that I speak to her in my writing.


I have a really hard time with that Frances hanging in my closet who speaks to people through her writing.  It's incredibly difficult for this Frances, in shorts dirty from the dog run, to respond to...well, they are fan letters, I suppose.  The real Frances is grotty and sweaty and scared and sleepy and neglectful of her dog and her father.  The one hanging in my closet is wrinkled from being smashed in with everything else and unused for so long.

But, um, I guess it's these ten fingers on the keyboard that wrote those books and the blogs and somehow they are connected to something that people want to read.

I resolved to write a Car on the Hill blog.  I began to think very very very very superficially about the possibility that Sex and the Pity could -- might -- have meaning for the spinsters among us who are afraid of men -- or the men who are afraid of us spinsters.

That was sort of a double-tap on the shoulder.  I'd gotten an email from a man I was interested in dating who effused about my work and my answer was so diffident that it insulted him away. 

Sorry, Mystery Date.  I need to dry clean the other Frances and sit her down in front of email when contemplating serious communication.  This Frances is mostly on her way to sleep these days.

I finished my walks around 10 and made my bed.  I turned to pick something up and stepped on my Kindle.  There was a crack.  It didn't look damaged but it's dead.  Right in the middle of Stalin's post-war cultural purges.

The universe had tapped again, just to prove it means it.

Kindle + sugar = all of the above.

I had an Amazon gift certificate so, yes, I'm getting a new Kindle. 

But not until Tuesday.

In the meantime, I found a credit card site that offers a fair deal on medical/dental procedures.  The scariest dogs in the Heights (Ooper will let about ten people touch him and I'm one) need a walker.  Sandy is here this weekend for $120 I didn't expect.  And I hope that what I've had to say here, as whiney-complainy as it is (which is one reason I've avoided coming here, but really only a small reason because I'd have to fucking wake up in order to do this), strikes a chord for anyone who has a wrinkled doppelganger in her closet.

It's OK.  I didn't even iron mine.


Jessica said...

Thanks for posting. I just re-re-re-read both PFT and AFG and had just been wondering when we'd next hear from you. :) I hope you continue on a good path.

Anonymous said...

Oh Francis. It must be difficult to engage when you are triggered into that shame. From my perspective (a professional therapist myself and also food addiction/ plenty of ongoing issues) I am so appreciative of your voice. related deeply to both books (I must be one of the 3) and your blog. I'm sorry you are in such a fog right now.

Anonymous said...

Long-time fan of your blog here (from Canada!)

Forgive me if you've already explored this, but have you ever put your observations into a fictional format, and thought of writing short stories / novels?

Your writing is on par with my favourite authors: Mary Gaitskill, Evelyn Lau, Alice Moore!

Whatever happens, I am so cheering you on!

PS: Imagine what you want to happen, not what you fear will happen.


Nan said...

I love how the universe does this when we need it. This essay is delightful, and I love how you responded to the universe's gentle tap on the shoulder. Me, I usually need a major-league curveball to get my attention!

It's so good to read you again.

By the way, I can offer you a gently used color Nook reader. You'd need to replace the batteries, but if you'd like to have it, I'll cover the shipping. Email me at nanbarber at if you're interested.

Quilting Martha said...

Hey Frances-Glad to see you back!

Anonymous said...

You should know that some of your readers have very active imaginations and they worry endlessly when you don't blog---wait...maybe that's just me. Anyway, I am glad a house didn't fall on you, or other such tragedies. And I am glad that someone tapped you on the shoulder and that you felt it.

Thomas said...

Trust me I have a blog and I know where you are coming from about the writing. I actually just found your site so to me you haven't been gone at all (Lol).

I was thinking about getting the Kindle as well but then I knew I wouldn't get any writing done myself. I heard the Nook was nice as well.

Suellen said...

So glad to see you back - I too love your writing!! I read passing for thin 3 times - it speaks to me over and over. You need to get your voice out there - you have such power in what you say. I check your blog EVERY day for something, as do, I'm sure, many others. Write to us.

Caffeinated said...

I REALLY cannot wait to read Sex and the Pity. I have no doubt it will speak to me. As for the wrinkled doppelganger in the closet - I finally had to throw her the hell out; I needed more room for handbags. :-)

We love you, sister!


Marianne said...

Thank you for posting. I have missed your blog. You write what I am afraid to.

Elisa said...

Frances, your writing speaks to me whether it's witty and intelligent or whiny and complainy. Most of us have multiple sides/versions/doppelgangers and we understand and can relate.

Keep writing. It's what you do whether you know that or not. Also, if you want some feedback on chapter 5 I have eyes and half a brain and will tell you what I think.

You spend a lot of time with canines. It's time to give us humans a chance. :)

This will make you smile. My capcha is essbaga. I typed assbags.

Anonymous said...

Dear Frances,
I want to let you know that I have read and re-read and re-read Angry Fat Girls more times than I can write or count. I love it, it speaks to me, it saddens me, it makes me feel less alone. Your writing is wonderful. I have struggled with my weight since the age of ten and I am (wince) 45. I have been too thin, and I have been 75 pounds overweight. I am now 20 pounds overweight and for the life of me can't seem to change it. Anyway, please post as often as you can, because I love your posts, too. L

Hilary said...

Frances, I was just walking along and said to myself,"I haven't checked in with Frances lately and wonder of wonders there was your blog." If I blogged I doubt whether I'd want to write every day or even every week. I have a copy of Angry Fat Girls, read it once through, and am not giving it away so this usually means I will look at it again. I've read Passing for Thin a couple of times. If I'd ever written anything and been paid for it, I'd have an ego the size of Africa. Yes, continue to remember that you are a writer and people can relate to what you write and that's what it's all about.

Anonymous said...

So glad to see you had posted! You have many fans out in the world who appreciate your writing, and only wish wonderful things for you.

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to your new book! I can relate to feeling like two people but echo what others have said - I always really value your posts for their self-honesty and and don't read expecting or wanting one Frances or the other.... ---Jessica

Cindy said...

I, too, am very happy to see a post. I see you on Facebook but the blog is more in-depth. Sex and the Pity will be fabulous. The Universe has been tapping me, too. I am slow to respond. I have a few Cindies hanging in the closet. I don't iron, ever. Your blog inspires me to read more. Whenever I think of getting a Kindle, I fear I will eventually, accidently, sit on it, rendering it useless. Plus, I like lugging books around. I especially like the comfort of the messy piles they make by my bed. My mother told me once that in a therapy group someone said the depression is a like a warm blanket. At first I found it odd, but then I realized how much truth there was to it for me. Thanks for the post!