Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Last week I was in the Bad Place. I was finishing the chapter & experiencing a lot of the pain my friends went through. I was eating. I spoke to a man & he hazarded meeting in early June & I haven't heard from him since.

I was tired.

I was scared of my book.

I went through that familiar litany that men can induce so well: what did I say? Is the way I look? What didn't I say? Is he testing me? Should I call him & straighten whatever it is out?

Whatever. I woke up on Saturday morning after an ice cream adventure & thought to myself, "What did I do to deserve the way I treat myself???"

Sometimes the voices in our heads are Good. The What-Did-I-Say voice is Bad. That waking thought was Good.

I took a great intake of air & let it out slowly. What did I do? I've harmed relatively few people. I've been nice to a great many more. I've been nice to people I shouldn't be nice to.

OK, I have to back up a bit because there's another man I've been in touch with for a long time now. We speak on the phone & send emails back & forth. He admires my twist of phrase & imagination. I think he's pretty cool. I told him that I have some ambivalence about meeting but did he think we ought to. He reported that he's ambivalent as well but supposes that sometime...

My ambivalence has names for it. I don't like the way I look right now. I don't want to complicate trying to look better with a lot of guy baggage. I have a book that's overdue.

He probably doesn't have names for his. They're most likely along the lines of I like it like this; I don't really want/have time to get involved; what if I don't like her & the illusion is spoilt -- or -- what if I do like her & have to show up for that feeling?

Essentially, he doesn't want to meet me. Remember: I was in the Black Place. I guess I must not be worth meeting, I thought sadly. The more reasonable part of me said that's poppycock. Between the two of us, we decided to table the ruling but to leave the question open. Am I worth meeting?

Worth. Deserve. There's a theme devleping here.

AA calls it "stinkin' thinkin'," a phrase I really hate but this deserving thing is a classic example.

Friday night: I'm in bed. I get a call for an emergency dog walk. I hadn't had enough cash to go get something dangerous but now I do, & I'm out. Don't I deserve something for a hard day's dogs, the difficulty of writing, my general anxiety? Don't I deserve a treat?

Saturday: I get up angry with myself & blurt that question out. But it's reversed, in the same terms: What did I do to deserve to treat myself so badly? "Deserve" is no long a reward but a negative action; "treat" is no longer a noun but a verb -- "act, behave, regard, handle," among other meanings. Ice cream & cookies are how I act or how I regard myself.

& that's both nonsense & wrong. If I regard myself as ice cream where is my sense of humor or my obsession with deadheading petunias? If I act as ice cream, why do I care who the president of the US is or how some reader will react to this blog? Ice cream leads to more ice cream; it has no conscious but if it did, it would regard itself only as ice cream.

Whereas a human being can regard herself as "Divine Empress of the World," as I told Mellie this morning when she came running to meet me at the door with a Planet Dog ball of the earth in her mouth. A human being can regard herself as a writer.

A human being can regard herself as worth meeting. As deserving to be, at least, thanked for the email I sent containing information he'd asked for as a favor to a friend.

A human being deserves not be in pain when she has a simple headache or a complicated history with someone.

& so yesterday I wrote to the other half of that complicated history & said it's too painful to talk or communicate or even think about. The other half was as gracious as I -- we both expressed our faith in the other & our good wishes. & I'm lumpy-throated today but I know it will be better tomorrow if I don't do something stupid like delude myself into deserving a treat that will give me one more painful feeling to wake up with tomorrow.

I don't "deserve" that either.

I suppose my next email ought to be why I haven't responded to email gambits from an ambivalent man.

Who knows who or what comes next?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Heart of hearts

What a strange expression -- "in my heart of hearts". I'm doing a lot of if-only's & I'd-be-happy-if's these days, a branch of frustration that comes from the plodding my book has come to, the pain the book is about, & fear-fear-fear.

In my heart of hearts I wish I was working on my poor neglected novel.

Frustration is such an appetizer. Even civilian friends recount with some shame that when work is hardest their default setting is "a little something would be good right now".

This morning I sat in my kitchen in the chair that just fits between the cupboard & the oven (I have to move it to use the oven), drinking coffee & having a smoke while Daisy lolled in my pillows. I've been talking to instead of begging God lately. I may rename him Buddy as a consequence of this because I've sort of been making him into a best friend -- the buddy a heterosexual man can be 1% of the time or a gay man can be about 75% of the time.

I was thinking about the boyz who are or aren't distantly in my life right now. I could reel any one of them in closer. Buddy sighed. I sighed back. I don't need to think about that today. Their distance is their business & if I let the distances each has go there will be more room for a Better One if the time is right, or more room for one of them to make his own decision about me.

Glad we cleared that up. Did Buddy think I could be abstinent today? Uh-huh -- as long as I don't snatch that commitment back. What about the book? I have a problem with the chapter I'm working on, or maybe a couple of problems. The content is solid but how does it pertain to relapse per se & what is the plotline of it in regards to the book as a whole? What am I writing today?

Buddy & I came up with two thoughts as regards all of that. OK, I said. Good job. Glad we had this little talk. Time to take the dog for a walk.
& I promptly forgot those two essential thoughts.
Now if Buddy is my best friend as well as having who's-been-naughty/who's-been-nice memory, don't you think he'd remind me of what we were talking about?
Because it's put a damper on my day, those missing insights or ideas. One of those boyz called. & I'm starving.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Flabby Prose

In response to both Beulah & Cindy, yes, writing is work. I hit the wall again as soon as I bragged here about it -- Wednesday I was so tired I couldn't think straight & while yesterday was better, I couldn't decide if the next thing I was saying belonged in the middle of the chapter or up front.

I consoled myself by saying at least I wrote, or began to, the salient bit in question, which is really the thesis of the chapter.

Most of us can't, for a variety of reasons, write seven days a week. Especially when we're physically tired & challenged to obligations set in stone. I've been spending five or six hours a day with dogs this week: why wouldn't I be brain-dead by the middle of it? So another rule to add is be fair to yourself & your energy reserves. Decide what days you can show up & really give it your best shot.

I'm guessing my schedule ought to be Saturday - Tuesday, with catch-as-catch-can the other three days.

`Cause if I have the energy to blog, I have the energy to write.

On the other hand, if you're not dependent on making a living from your writing, it can be fun. You can do all kinds of wacky exercises to get the creative blood flowing until you're ready for the bigger projects.

Which leads me to the topic of "flabby" prose.

I suppose streamlined prose is elegant, spare & precise. Hemingway's stories, say. But when I say flabby prose I mean careless or untaught. Grammar matters. So does spelling & so does accuracy. Each time one makes a reader wince at "there's so many things I want to do," the less likely the reader is going to look forward to continuing to read.

I learned most of my grammar from taking Italian, & later from teaching composition. I always said of my students that if I could get them all to know the difference between "it's" & "its," I'd be happy.

What you don't see in this post is the stuff I took out after it helped me write it. There was an "actually" I deleted, & a "just," among others. There are words that MUST be saved for the last minute: actually, just, simply, then, well...

So here are two more grammar tips from this post:

"There are so many things I want to do."

It's = it is. No exceptions. If you're tired & making the mistake, substitute "it is". If it makes sense, use the apostrophe. [I suppose Cousin It is the one exception, but let's not split hairs.]
But I'm not blogging to condescend -- the blogs I read are either not flabby or too true & funny & gutsy to care. But Cindy asked & Beulah mentioned the labor, so I thought I'd respond.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

When it's good...

it's very, very good.

Today, my sweet friends, is good.

The writing had come easily. Tomorrow I will have to begin to interpret & pontificate in this chapter but I am done for today.

It's warm here, perhaps the warmest day yet -- but there's a strong breeze, an ocean breeze from the south. My allergies are having a fine old time because the pollen is a inch deep in places, but the trees are in full leaf and last night, as Daisy, Henry & I walked up from Fulton Landing in the transparent dusk, I looked down Cranberry Street into the tunnel of oaks & it was full dark. The wysteria is in bloom; the too-few bearded iris are fattening up. The next wave will be roses and fireflies but for now the scent of something -- petunias, maybe? -- lingers in the chalky end-of-day.

I have time to say these things because I wrote five pages -- count `em: OK, four-and-a-quarter -- today. Walking Daisy home from our last dog drop-off's of the day, I thought to myself, "I'm always going on about food, eating, weight loss, weight gain, binging, struggling, yadda yadda yadda but I do, in fact, know a lot about something else: writing.

So I'm going to share some tips. If they're useful, good. If you only want profundity, go visit:

among others.

OK. Here are some secrets.

1. Nothing is as important as writing. Not laundry, not dusting, not taking out summer clothes. The only thing more important than writing, for Us, is having the right food at Our beck & call.

2. Never leave your work finished. That is, break it off at the point that you could push it through to its next phase. It makes going to work the next day much easier.

3. Get yourself a library of reference books or materials. Among the reference books above my desk are The Oxford Companion to English Literature, French, German & Italian dictionaries & grammar books, The Language of Flowers, The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, Edith Hamilton's Mythology, A Dictionary of Superstitions, Stories from the Opera, An Exaltation 0f Larks. Beneath my desk are two dictionaries, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, and Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes.

There are others books as well.

Remember that the internet is your friend. Use your Favorites folder to create other references. Here are some extraordinarily useful basics:

Why am I filling up this posting with lists? Beyond the fact that I probably don't have bunches to say, I'm giving you my favorite resources because writing that lacks specificity & accuracy of details is Bad Writing. So is flabby grammar.

Enough references can also be a reassuring way to dawdle your way into writing. That is, when you sit down without an idea for a story or a poem, the right weird website or book can be a great starting off point. Ergo:

4. Be specific & be accurate. Learn the difference betweeen effect and affect, its & it's.

5. You're only allowed to reread what you've written so far for 5 minutes unless you're hideously blocked.

6. Have enough junk around to make sure being blocked is neurotic or fear-based rather than Having Nothing to Say.

7. Most thoughts or phrases or observations worth remembering will stay with you. You don't have to have a pad of paper or, God help us, a tape recorder with you all the time.

8. Turn off your email & IM when you're writing. Screen phone calls down to not answering them.

9. Remember to pee & drink water. (This is on a really good day.)

10. When you finish, get up & get the hell away from the computer or typewriter or notebook. Get out of the room. Do something mindless & physical -- walk, wash dishes, take a shower. You'll need to re-enter the world before you talk to or see anyone, go to the gym or operate heavy machinery.

11. When you finish a project -- a story, poem, chapter -- put it away until you absolutely have to pull it out or, if possible, for three months. Don't show it to anyone during that time.

12. If you're not acting out scenes with your hands, you're not writing Life.

13. Set a time limit rather than a page quota for yourself. I promise that 15 minutes will soon expand to a couple of hours.

14. When involved in a project that is ongoing, advise your friends & extended family that you're going to be out of touch for a while.

15. Truly, if you follow these rules it will be really hard to fail.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Thank you, one & all, for your clap-if-you-believe-in-fairies responses. Tinkerbell is much brighter today.
But it's time to turn our thoughts away from name-calling & psychoanalyzing, which is what I want to avoid.
The weather has been too perfect here to stew. Let's celebrate wysteria & iris & each other instead.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Response to "Paz"

I opened my email this morning to find that someone had posted a response to last week's blog about my difficulties with weekend nights. It reads:

Get over yourself, Frances.Get over your rampant narcissism.Get over self-pity. Get over self-centeredness. Get over the load of anger and resentment you are carrying (and) feeding. Get over diets, expectations and secret grandiosity display, get over whining, get over your wounds and your boss, get over your pounds, get over the fatty in you that you mercilessly mock in others. GET OVER ALL OF IT and GET A LIFE, for Heaven's sake.You are SO boring.

Posted by Paz at 5:33 AM

My first reactions to this post continue to include hurt & mystification: why would someone write something so hurtful? Certainly there are blogs I haven't read a second time because I'm annoyed by them. Why not simply stop reading mine?
Then I remembered that I had received emails from a "Paz," which, although the name cannot be an unusual one in all of Blogland, might reveal something about the post-er who has set him/herself up Emotional Judge of me. I found messages that are interesting in light of the above, suggestions of a number of websites for various therapies & personality types.

I believe "Paz" has my good in mind, that s/he believes I would be better off if I stopped studying myself. That's the evidence I conclude by tying the two writers into one.

On the other hand...

I've spent my life cringing under the labels ascribed to me &, yes, half a century of obesity has crushed a great part of spirit & confidence. I ascribed some pretty awful labels to myself because of my obesity. Lazy. Out-of-control. Ugly. Unloveable. Taking up too much space...

Do I hate fat people? No. I fear them. I reserve hate for myself.

Am I over my ex-boss? No. She ascribed some of those same labels to me &, as ingrained as they already were, I find I have to battle them for too many minutes out of my waking & nonwaking days.

& now I have labels of narcissism, self-pity, & -- oh, too many to retype here when I need to get on with my life.

So let's leave it at I'm fucking sick & tired of having labels stuck on me with pins, OK?

In the spirit of being sick & tired of this, & of my propensity to believe them, I'm going to stand up for myself. I don't do this very often, so bear with me & please know that I don't walk around my world in a state of superiority for what I'm about to say. In point of fact, I try as hard as I can to disown what I'm about to say.

I wrote a book. Many copies have been sold. Three years after publication, I continue to get emails thanking me for writing it, for "outing" the experiences I detailed in a way that made many people feel less like freaks. There are people who have ventured further into weight loss & recovery because of my book.

I began a blog & confessed in it that I've gained weight, how I gained it, what I'm doing or trying to do about it, what my failures are, what my triggers are. A lot of people have responded & formed a community online in which they detail their experiences of fat, thin, food, eating, weight loss, weight gain, relapse & their hearts to each other. Some of those people have found consolation in the fact that I fucked up. Some have even found courage because I fucked up & am willing to try again & talk openly about it.

I am an open woman. I don't hide behind the anonymity of the internet. My email address is on my website, as are pictures of me as I am. When I know what I feel (which isn't consistent or even frequent), I will tell you. When I have money to loan or books to give away, I do. If I know you a little, or know someone who knows you, I have an extra futon. I'm a people-pleaser & that's both a good & a bad thing.

I'm smart. I have talent. I have the diseases of compulsive overeating & chronic depression. I have used my intelligence & talent to examine my diseases & dis-eases. Part of my talent is that a lot of people find me easy to talk to, a safe & understanding listener to women's issues around the body & food. They have found me encouraging not only of undertaking the journey, but of finding the story of it & telling it.

As open as I am in my writing, very few people know what my daily life is like -- I don't have time for it & it's not as important as saying that Saturday nights are hard for me. But in my daily life, I walk down the streets of my neighborhood & dogs jump at my right pocket, I chat casually with a half dozen people whose names I don't know, I photograph what's going on & some of those photos get used by others in public ways. I have an eye for the odd & the detail. I have affection for the dogs who have labeled me "easy mark" & "generous" & "playful". A number of humans like my jokes, like my laughter at their jokes, like that I love their dogs, like that I ask how they're doing or tell them their frock is pretty. Business owners & clerks like me because I thank them for good work.

I am, in short, aware.

So here are the labels I'm putting on myself today in stung reaction to those Paz has made me a donkey with.

Honest. Brave. Analytical. Smart. Willing to try, & try again. Funny. Open-handed & open-hearted. Talented. Observant. Pictorial. Affectionate. Generous. Curious. Supportive. Learning. Insightful. Appreciative.


& Paz --


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Saturday Night Fever

Do people get married, in part, so that they don't have to fret out the weekends quite so alone? Is that why they go on to have children?
I'm sure I've written about the challenges of weekend nights before but I have to take another swing at it, I'm afraid.
I am writing a book. It is a painful book. I have "finished" plumbing my story of the triggers of relapse & it sent me into relapse. It's time to start the new chapter, the focus of which will not be me.
For once.
The problem is, I don't wanna. I don't want to live any more in this pain of food, eating, weight, belly flab, self-esteem & lack thereof. I don't care if it's my pain or yours, I want out.
But I can't go out until I make more solid progress on the book. In fact, when offered ballet tickets for Friday evening, I had to turn them down because a) the three people I'd have liked to see it with were unavailable, & b) I couldn't think of anyone else I wanted to make conversation with during the intermission.
I went to my 12-step meeting yesterday after some weeks' absence, an absence I'm not proud of & which helped trip me up in reliving parts of my life. The only excuse I can offer for my snottiness at the meeting is that I had a lot to ponder from the reading & the guest speaker's story. Other than that, there is no excuse for why I sat in my chair during the break, brushing off the one or two people who approached me. I told myself I didn't want to be disturbed by people I frankly don't like very much. Some of the truth is that the people I like were talking to other people -- & I was afraid to approach them & too snotty to try. A couple of people are in that Room because of my book, & that gives me pause as well. Everybody knows me as much as I know myself, or more because they have the objectivity to interpret what I can only report &/or feel.
I left the meeting full of shame & was met by a glorious day. I took my camera, Daisy & her currycomb out & ran into acquaintances from the dog world on our way to the Promenade. They had just returned from buying cocoa mulch & plants for their garden & chatted about their low-key birthday plans of only two dinners. That tete-a-tete broke up & Daisy permitted me to feathers a bird's nest with her shedding coat a bit before we went home & had lunch.
At which time it was time to write.
Only I couldn't. I couldn't. I couldn'tcouldn'tcouldn't. So I crawled into bed & finished an ancient NYer & napped the afternoon away. At 6.30 I took Daisy out for some fetch & then it was time to think about winding up the day.
The day?
What day?
I had zip for shit to say of having accomplished anything, & my attitude had, unwittingly, turned to envy & snottiness & envy & then hiding in sleep & a magazine & the book I'm reading. Hiding = food. I ate too much of the wrong stuff for dinner & got to wake up yet more ashamed this morning.
I'm coming here this cool windy morning that reminds me of Montana simply to prove to myself that I can string some sentences together. I'm laying it out here that I've GOT to get a life & for whatever reason, I don't have the energy to do so right now. When I finish this post, in not very many minutes, I'm going to have some coffee & a cigarette, then put on The Doors for the sake of "Break on Through," which is what I must do today if I'm going to get to tomorrow morning with any self-respect.
On Saturday nights, I just don't like myself at all.