Saturday, April 09, 2011


I remarked to Daisy and Hero as we walked down Willow Street on Thursday that I feel good.  "Not happy," I added.  "I'm still scared about money and I'm really lonely and I don't know how to have fun and my body is too big.  But I feel...good."

This is my all-time favorite place to be except for being in that place and being abstinent as well.  It's a delicate balance, that place.  I can't think too much about any of those things I'm not and I have to look very hard at what it is that makes me feel "good" despite the negatives.

Late this fall I think I was on the verge of a depressive psychotic break.  I remember walking along and thinking, "I need coffee, yogurt, soup and I wish I wasn't any more."  I'd stop and think, "Hunh??"  I wasn't, in the beginning, consciously suicidal, I'd simply move from one thought to "If it weren't for my debt and Daddy and Daisy..."

After that happened a couple of times, of course, I became aware of what was happening which made it a lot worse.

So when I say I feel "good," the baseline is that I don't feel like that.

I've been working on Sex and the Pity every day and have come up with a dumb device that I like a lot: at the head of each chapter I give a pertinent sexual fact from the animal kingdom.  It's good because it sets the episodes off on a lighthearted note.  It's also good because I got to spend a couple of hours one day searching for these factoids.  We're familiar with the black widow who eats her mate: it's that kind of thing.  They make me laugh.

I have an editing project in-hand and that's always something I like.  It's there when I'm sick of the computer and it makes my brain go on working in writing mode, only it's objective.

Then there are days when I have to study what I need to do to remain feeling "good".  Yesterday I woke up and was really tired.  I'd had a busy couple of weeks with dogs which would end that early evening and I'd been such a Good Girl about writing and editing and getting things on my list done.  When I reckoned I had to write three pages a day to turn this manuscript in on time, I didn't give myself any days off.  That was insane of me.  Yesterday I required of myself that I write one page.  I almost accomplished that.  It will all probably turn out fine in the end.  I'll get a couple of five-page days but I'd better start including some slump days.

I've just realized that walking in the fresh air helps a lot.  Duh!  I know.  I'm an idiot.  It's partly how I get to the Novembers of my life.  In my defense, we're just coming into pleasant walking again after some months of acutely dangerous to miserable walking conditions.

I'm moving through the world with a conscious rule to forgive myself.  I slept in too long this morning, so long that I was kind of hung over from it.  I don't like getting up in the morning because I'm so scared of my precarious bank account and of writing and of time; today I pushed it too long.  "If you don't write early, you'll work tonight," I had to tell myself.

I'm scared of what will happen if I don't take it everything except Sex at a slow pace (yeah, I see the pun), and even that I have to offer up to the blue sky with the attitude that I'm in it for the long haul now and that the mounting page count proves I'm doing what I should be doing.

I don't even feel out of the woods of depression yet.  There are signs around the house that tell me I have a ways to go.  For instance, Wendy, I'm sorry I haven't opened your Christmas package yet.  When I do, I will...have to acknowledge it and you, which will force me to join the human race by another increment.  It will probably mean I have to acknowledge that you like[d] me, ibid. on the human race.  It will probably introduce something nice into my life when I'm still living in this bubble of make-do.

These are not the feelings of a terribly healthy person.

I have several such packages around the house.

There are a couple of spots in the Bat Cave that could use some cleaning...except that would mean I could ask someone to come in.  I'm afraid of letting any one in.

And yet, I feel good.  I feel like I will swat out some words on Sex today.  I washed my hair today.  It's after 3 p.m. so this day doesn't have all that far to go: the fear might not have a chance to take over if I take a constructive step here and there.

I might open one of those packages today.  I might --  I've sat here with my chin in my hand for about four minutes trying to finish the sentence with no real triumphs.  But you know?  I don't care.  I feel good.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Chapter One

I hoped to finish Chapter One of Sex and the Pity yesterday but after four or five hours I was three pages short and had no more words left.  At 3 in the morning I grogged awake muttering, "Oh shit," because I realized in my sleep that I had given away the ending in the unfinished chapter.

Which was kind of cool because I couldn't wait to get back to it this morning.  And then five pages fell quickly and magically & funnily into place.

At which point the afternoon y-a-w-n-e-d at me.  I didn't really have the words or ambition to work on a magazine proposal or my novel.  I transferred $600 to checking, which scared the hell out of me.  I set up a new email account for the chronicles.*  I played too much Bejewelled on Facebook.

Days on which I finish a chapter are as hard in their way as the days I have to write and have nothing to say.

Remind me of that the next time I say "this" is the hardest kind of writing day.

So I laid down for an hour and fell barely asleep.  This afternoon's unconscious obsession was my desire for rotisserie chicken and French cut string beans.  So I fed Daisy and we went out to admire the forsythia with the western light behind it, and I was off to procure a sane meal.

After which I explored some Pay Pal options for the f chronicles and feel marginally as though I've pulled the last half of the day out of lassitude.

Chapter One, my worried friends and relatives, is about the men I've had the misfortune to fall in love with and the utter necessity of friends.  Clean as a plate after Daisy's licked it.

I even laughed writing it, as well as cried.

I wish I were one of those people who can finish a chapter at 1 p.m. and be onto another piece of writing by 3.  I have an overwhelming list of things I "ought" to do:

  1. Write chapter Four of novel.
  2. Outline novel.
  3. Outline Sex and the Pity.
  4. Redo my website.
  5. Get in touch with my sponsor.
  6. Write magazine proposal about adoption.  Find editors to send it to.
  7. Go "live" on the f chronicles.
  8. Get out the word that I'm available for coaching.
  9. Return 8,000 Twitters and emails.
  10. Read a bunch of articles on sex, dating, relationships.
  11. Start my series on the new Seven Deadly Sins for my Psychology Today blog post.**
  12. Clean my desk.
  13. Make reading list for my next nonfiction proposal.
But what I have done since my last post here was finish totaling up thousands of receipts for taxes and write about 20 pages.  

And done some preliminary footwork on the f chronicles.

Which isn't that bad.

And the forsythia, which is not my favorite harbinger of spring, is gorgeous at 6:30 p.m.

* Write me at >< to be added to the list.  Payment options to follow.

** All the old seven deadly sins are now -- well, I can't say virtues because those are taken, but maybe assets.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

[Partial] Answers

My editor, Laura, was as worried by the tone of "Headlights" as you are.  You may have noticed I haven't posted anything there in a hundred years.  That's because I a) haven't posted anywhere, and b) need to stand back and think about the book I will be turning in.  I should take "Headlights" down.  What material I'll use from it will be fleeting and watered down.

I'm working on Chapter One now.  It is rueful and funny.  At this point the cruel things I have to say are, I think, universal.  One cannot write about a thing like looking for love without looking back, and that's what I'm working on now.  So here is a sample that, I hope, will help to allay some of your worry:

Here is another truism: You can only find neutral ground with someone you were in love with when you have the upper hand.

Tim and I have emailed over the last couple of months but each of us reacts like bumper cars when we hit a sensitive spot.  I need a boyfriend named Jean-Claude who teaches philosophy at the Sorbonne, to fit into my flippiest trousers from Lillith, to have a Pulitzer gathering dust to actually show myself to him.  

Jean-Claudeless, there are no ex-loves I am anxious to meet again.

Trust me, I could wax really snarky there if I wanted to.

Professionally, I must turn Sex and the Pity in on time.  And by the way -- Berkeley isn't fond of that title but I think it's brilliant.

Also by the way?  Thank you for worrying because in copying that sample, I made it better.

I'm not quite dithery enough to go out and post ads for babysitting, tutoring, dog-walking, editing and grout-cleaning all at once.
But thanks for worrying about overkill.


I wouldn't mind getting rid of tchotchkes if you paid the postage.  It could be kind of fun to put them all in a bag and blindly grab one.  It could the hoarder's version of seeking an answer by randomly opening the Bible and sticking one's finger on a verse.

Although I've never quite gotten that because who would "randomly" open the Bible at Genesis or Revelation?  It seems that as an advice mechanism, you're pretty much gonna be hearing from Samuel  through Luke.*

I'm thinking about serializing short stories in the f chronicles: doing so would force me to write some.  But that's not what the chronicles are mostly about, so don't worry.  I'm also thinking about a subtitle for the newsletter: a life without ideas.


Note to self:  The hardest part of the unemployed day is evening.

Note to self: When I'm depressed I read chick lit.  When I frightened I read Tudor history.  In the last four days I've whizzed through Elizabeth's Women Friends and The Lady Elizabeth.  Neither have quite the grit I crave.  Must switch to Derek Wilson. 

* So then, of course, I had to try the Bible Answer trick.  I don't know whether to laugh or bawl:

"And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity; and thou shalt come to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies."  Jeremiah 20:6

Friday, April 01, 2011


 Barb!  I'm sorry your response didn't get published!  I got all kinds of spam at one point & closed open comments: sometimes new comments slip by me!

So much good advice, for which I thank everyone.

It was never an option to break my book contract.  I know too well that my real professional future rests on the notion of publish or perish.  My brother means well & wants me to be secure & solvent.  I do, too -- just as soon as I turn this book in.

& I know we are all overwhelmed by blogs -- but I think I will take a chance on the newsletter, which I intend to call the f chronicles.

As well as posting ads for tutoring, editing, dog walking, baby-sitting.

& I'm terrified.

But there is humor in the situation.  What placard, I'm wondering this drizzly morning, would Daisy and I huddle behind begging for money?  "Help a writer finish her book"?  "Willing to work -- later"?

I've also been mulling over how to convince people to subscribe to the f chronicles.  I have a vision of a five-minute infomercial:

In this once-a-week, finely crafted two-to-three page letter you will be invited into process of the Promethean struggle of one woman to combat relapse and become abstinent, battle the dogs of depression and the dogs of Brooklyn Heights, write a book about dating and own up to her failures and possibilities.  For the price of $5 a month, you will have access to a closed blog where you can discuss the chronicles of f, offer her advice that will make her squirm, criticize her choices and ask why she has never trained her dog to heel.  

And if you send your $5 payment to Pay Pal in the next ten minutes, you will have the unprecedented opportunity to sign up for the f chronicles for only five dollars a month.  That's less than a grande latte and is guaranteed to make you ask for that latte with skim milk!

Listen to what readers of the f chronicles have to say:

"Frances Kuffel should shower more often and take yoga -- and I enjoy telling her this on a daily basis!  It's so much fun to boss someone smart around!" - Susan K., Glenwood, IA

"the f chronicles are better than Ambien!" - John M., Jasper, AL

"I hate her food plan but I'll be damned if I let her lose more weight than me!" - Sylvia T., Visalia, CA

Act now and Frances Kuffel will send you one of her very own tchotchkes!

OK.  Back to Friday, April Fool's Day & the sound of rain on a sheet of plastic outside my window that is beginning to feel very much like the first round of torture at Guantanamo Bay.

There is some truth here.  Upon reading feedback, I think once a week with time to respond is a good way to go.  I think readers should have the chance to subscribe for one, three, six or twelve months, & I think the prices need to reflect that commitment -- $5, 12, 25, 45?
I can promise there is going to be some tough going because I do not WANT to be abstinent and I do not WANT to go back to the Rooms.  But I have never said 12-step programs are the only prescription and I've never said they are by any means undeserving of criticism.

& I also promise I will cheer the fuck up.  I spent two or three months this winter with unbidden thoughts of suicide tapping me on the shoulder &, at its worst, it was because I'm so tired of myself -- tired of fighting, tired of being alone, tired of being afraid of everything.  I can't live like that any more.  I've have a three-day nervous breakdown, slept a lot, pondered much -- & this post is to announce that I am seeking courage, hope, adjectives &, ultimately, 1,000 subscribers.
We can work out a deal on referrals, too.

Look for announcements here, on Facebook & on for further action.

Aren't those the scariest of all words to commit to cyberspace: "further action"?
I think I'll start by brushing my teeth.