A commencement speech former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave at my old alma mater, the University of Michigan...
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Tap on the Shoulder
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.
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.