Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Not to Decide Is to Decide

I'm in my jammies tonight wondering where the day went & how badly I cheated it. A woulda-coulda-shoulda day that I misspent.

My intentions were to get Daisy & Hero to the Hill for some exercise. Boomer was with us for the day, however, & it all got too complicated, so we had a few prinks on the Promenade & headed home.

Poor Daisy. Hero can take it. Her idea of a fun time at the park is to walk around squeaking a ball at other dogs. Daisy, on the other hand, is there to work. Consequently, she was owly today as well, lashing out at people & other dogs as much from boredom, I think, as from distrust.

I intended to go to a meeting tonight. I had 90 minutes to pull it together. There were three obstacles. 1) I didn't want to, 2) I hate all my clothes (or how my clothes look on me), & 3) a friend has been hung out to dry in a public way & my initial call on her jurors' shittiness needed to be broadened into a case-by-case point. We AFGs are really a pretty civilized bunch -- we should give ourselves some credit for that.

I'd also intended to roast some vegetables but that, too, went by the wayside. Along with getting a copy of my apartment key made (two tries elsewhere have failed), writing (throwing out & starting over) the first page of my new project, & maybe a load of laundry. How does time flitter apart like this? I was up at 5:30 this morning, you'd think I'd get something Real done in the ensuing 16 hours.

I guess I did, though. I'm abstinent. I had two huge epiphanies yesterday that have watered that abstinence. One is that I HAVE to put program first. (Did I make that meeting, 10 minutes from my house that lasts for an hour? Have I made a phone call? Noooooooo...)

The other was walking my 17-year-old Zeke. We were waiting for a light to change & a woman bellowed, "Move your dog!"

"I can't," I said.

"Yes, you can," she yelled back over her shoulder. "He's your dog."

My response? "He's 119 fucking years old!"

I have a friend who gets into these situations & reacts by singing back, "Love you!" As Zeke & I turned back toward his house, I realized the correct response to that woman was, "God loves you, too!"

The Red Beast has been upon me, you see, but not running my whole life. Still, I gotta get to the Friday night meeting.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cindy Nails It --

Oddly, I had been thinking about another aspect of my moods, one that is more active & more me than the other beasts. I had even been thinking it was Red. Then Cindy responded:

I also have the red demon, she makes me do stuff I regret. Gives the black beast something to talk about. She's pissed and bored of the grey beast and trying to fight back and get even. But she over-does it.

Yep, I thought. That's the one.

The Gray Beast is a condition that happens to me, while the Black Beast is a prosecutor, judge & jury all in one miserable mood. The Red Beast, however, takes a small emotion & builds a jungle out of it. It's not entirely my fault -- I may feel something really uncomfortable or the Black Beast may have really driven home one or another flaw -- but it's my job to keep from using a feeling to wake up my Red Beast & poke his ribs until he (or I) rampages.

This weekend was a case in point. Friday night I went to a wedding. I knew exactly 3.5 people there -- the mother of the groom, the father of the groom, the groom, and I've said hello to the bride. This is in descending order of my involve
ment with the family. I twisted on the end of a string for months about my R.S.V.P. But talk of the wedding filled our dogs walks & I helped search for Ann's dress & accessories & found myself getting wrapped up in it.

I bought a dress at Victorian Trading Company, which is a brilliant find for those of Us looking for beautiful formal dresses & funky otherwise.

I found the perfect shoes at another Big Ladies Sometimes Luck Out catalog, Brownstone Studio.

I found an Edwardian satin evening bag & had myself an ivory orgy happening.

The trouble was that I had 90 minutes to go from dog walker to Edwardian lady & I find this a most difficult turn-around the few times I've had to really transform myself like that. It's a mind game as well as a shampoo & eye liner game. & then again, the trouble was that I was doing this why? To sit alone in a church & thread through crowds at the reception & force up a conversation at dinner & be the only person there who didn't know anyone?

It was & wasn't that bad. My table mate at dinner knew as many (& the same) people as I did. But I certainly found myself feeling the outsider looking in. & when I'm like that, the Red Beast starts being nasty about the mother of the bride (I first thought she was a drag queen), the bridesmaids (three of them really shouldn't have been dressed in strapless gowns), the dancers (the blonde Connecticut wife barely moved on the dance floor: is she like that in bed??), the bride (this is all about her & her fantasies: it's not a ceremony, it's the ultimate Girls' Night Out).

The Red Beast acts. I stuffed myself with hors d'oeuvres & champagne. I really wanted cake but it was 11.30 when the waitstaff cleared our dinner plates & the desserts looked anything but tempting. I was exhausted & cell phone to the rescued myself home.

The Red Beast was not done. Somehow I was invited to the two families' brunch the next day. I thought I was going to help set up but found myself sucked into the party where there was a buffet of French toast & other crimes. More small talk was called for, although it was easier with the people I happened to sit with, & by 1.30 I was exhausted with all socializing. & I still wanted cake.

So you know what the Red Beast did, of course.

I slept a lot on Saturday, then again yesterday. I'm sitting in front of roasted vegetables after a fairly energetic but paced day. I'm pacing myself after having gone through the Gray, the Red & the Black. Too much shoving & I provoke either of the latter two & given that it's a holiday weekend -- my neighbors are having a barbecue, the neighborhood has been quiet as a cemetery except for tourists dining outside -- I have too many opportunities to feel left out & pitiful & ripe for the Red Beast.

So I walked Daisy & Boomer around Cadman Plaza. I finished two New Yorkers. I went -- gasp! -- to the post office. I only need to survive the next hour or two in order to call it a useful day.

But I have no terms for Useful Days, or Content Days, or whatever else is on the other side of the Beasts. Isn't THAT significant?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fingers Crossed

Thank you from the bottom of my benighted little heart for your responses yesterday. That I could write about how I've been feeling was, in itself, a sign of my hope that this blip of depression would end soon. It has also been fascinating to me that I can see it, note the symptoms, chart my progress & wait it out rather than giving into it with a full black-out of the soul & communication.

Three things happened yesterday that made me actively resent the intrusion of the Gray Beast.*

I didn't take the dogs down to the Hill because of heavy rain. I had skipped it on Monday as well, telling myself that my fall had made me too shaky but really because I didn't have the energy. I was feeling guilty about their time cooped up in the Bat Cave but at least I was very present for them, cuddling & instigating. Daisy had claimed the prime spot on my flopped over futon, next to me, sprawled so no one could get near. Henry, however, wasn't having any & forced half of himself between us. I reached up & pulled him over so that he was lying sideways on my, his butt on my knees, his head lolling over my shoulder. He slept for twenty minutes that way.

All the dogs are affectionate, & Boomer & Daisy will sit in my lap, but none of them would relax and sleep stretched out on me like that. It was such an act of love & trust. I held very still & put my book down so as not to disturb him.

The rain ended around supper time & I took Daisy for a walk. We ended up at the big park where there is actual grass (the Hill is ground up bark) & a playing field of Astroturf. I took her leash off & she shot off in a million directions, sniffing, playing the puppy, then rolling ecstatically on the wet playing field, throwing herself down to writhe & wiggle over & over again. That, my friends, is what happiness looks like. I appreciated her happiness even if I didn't feel happy myself. It reminded me of what happiness can feel like.

The last thing is maybe a writer's thing. I spoke one good line & thought another yesterday.

I was walking Hero & met Gerry & Molly, who we joined for a block or two. Hero peed & I praised her, trilling when she looked at me expectantly, "Oh, what a pee! You are a cham-pee-n!"

Gerry said, "It was definitely a ten. She could teach us a thing or two."

"I'm a defecator from way back," I retorted.

As Daisy was prancing around the playing field, two people stopped & began doing serious stretching, knee to ear stuff. I sighed to myself that I really resent public acts of yoga.

& then I thought, Damn: what do I DO with such good lines???

The Black Beast woke me up this morning after a bad night's sleep. You've mistreated the dogs, it said. You've been eating way too much food. You're so fat -- you're always going to be fat & you're going to get fatter yet. When are you going to get a manicure for the wedding, h'mm? How are you going to pay your bills? Do you know how much your back is going to hurt by the end of the day? You should really pack up blankets until the new storage bags get here -- the house is a mess. Speaking of messes, when was the last time you showered? When are you going to get keys made & buy cards? Do you KNOW how much money you've spent on clothes lately?


I finally, in my second cup of coffee, said, "Enough!" I'd get the dogs out today. I'd try to keep my food by the book. I'd keep my to-do list minimal so that I wouldn't have so much failure at the end of the day.

More to the point, I told the BB, I'm staying in the minute. I'm going to do the next right thing, one after another. I know what they are but I forbid anybody in my brain to talk about it before the minute has arrived. AND, I told the BB, I'm going to thank God for every walk I have to do, for an aching back that means I did the walk. I'm going to thank the guy for everyfuckingthing that happens to me today because no matter what it is, I can react to it properly.

I went into the bathroom to get dressed & realized as I was pulling my socks on that I had been spraying my wounded knee with antibacterial stuff but hadn't actually cleaned the thing.

That is what depression is, I noted. It's not disliking oneself, it's ignoring a seriously skinned knee.

I got out the hydrogen peroxide. It stung; the wound needed debriding that badly.

So is it any wonder that when, twice today, I got dog shit on my hands, I minced my dogs along until I could get to the nearest soap & water & wash up? That's what reacting properly is.

The dogs were smiling & filthy when we walked out of the dog run.

*The Gray Beast is without affect -- with no voice. It's a tactile Beast, preying on me with a heavy gray net that blocks out life & light. The Black Beast, by contrast, is auditory. It has a snarling voice of accusations, reminders, things to do, recriminations & dour predictions.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I have dysthymic depression -- a low-grade fever of not-rightness that has its peaks & valleys. I suppose that, in the world of depression, a valley is a good thing, whereas a peak is one or more levels more not-rightness. I'm in a peak right now, with just enough objectivity to observe it, describe it, & really resent it.

I can't say what's brought it on. The after affects of much tension, perhaps, or the last withdrawal pains from sugar -- who knows? Today is Day Ten sans Nabisco & the day is early. Perhaps I'll pull a happy rabbit out my hat by the end of the day. I could also be too many dogs & the sense I have that my house & my days are not my own.

I went ass over tea kettle walking Boomer & Henry yesterday & skinned my left knee pretty nicely. It had two effects: a sensation of something breaking loose in my heart-brain, something of sadness I couldn't name, & an excuse to forgo taking the dogs out to the park & stay home & read. I manged to get a spot on the couch & the next thing I knew, Daisy was sitting in my lap gnawing on Henry's face while Hero & Boomer hovered for attention. That's what I mean by feeling that my Cave is not my own.

& when I'm bound by seven days of early & late walks, it makes me wonder when I could do this life I should be having.

Everything feels on hold.

It's been going on a while. I just IM'd a friend that nothing will cure it -- suggestions of "do this, do that" are of no help & only make me angry & frustrated & ashamed -- but myself & time.

There are symptoms with this -- I wake up too early, I'm incredibly forgetful & absent-minded; talking on the phone or in email is almost physically painful. I keep putting the wrong keys in doors & walking out without this or that necessary thing. I'm not keen on bathing or cleaning my glasses or doing the dishes. I'm clumsy (see above, to whit), which includes dropping things & bumping into things. I've lost interest in my camera.

I have very little energy & find myself leaning against walls or slack-jawed in front of a dumb computer game. I could sleep all day long if the dogs let me. It's hard to get interested in anything. I feel overwhelmed by needing to go to the dry cleaner's today.

It's also diurnal. Early mornings are better than the rest of the day. I find myself vacuuming at 8:30 or running errands. I have moments of energy later but they don't last long & are arbitrary, except for the evening, which is almost as lively as morning, when I'm rudely interrupted by a nine p.m. dog walk.

But I'm not eating over it, which is good. I'm trying not let things start a bad day -- the clothes I ordered & didn't fit, or the clothes I ordered & are too big & I just thought, fuck it: I'll keep `em. My thighs itch from the crotches on those sweat pants...

I got to a 12 Step meeting on Saturday, which is also good, & I have a wedding to go to on Friday so I had my hair & eyebrows done -- I was very very gray at the temples. I have no idea how I'm going to survive the wedding party. I know four people at the huge reception & am going because I was asked, because it's "good" for me & because my friend is the groom's mother & will appreciate having someone to dish with later. I have a lovely new dress that I hope I don't look pregnant in. Sugar or no sugar, I'll drink champagne.

Yesterday I made some phone calls -- reordered meds (I'm not out, so don't blame it on that), checked on a bill, etc. I roasted beats & Vidalia onions, which took some prep work. I repacked the clothes I'm returning. I try to do what I can even though it feels sisyphusian & more piles of stuff to deal with appear each day. I know I'll pull out of it if I just wait, don't go cake-mad, start bashing myself for it.

But right now it sucks.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

No Sense

The Black Beast has been upon me today & I don't know why. I have been very nearly "perfect" lately & yet I feel as though I am bad -- undeserving, on the brink of disaster, failing at everything. When I look at this mood intellectually, I see it as both undeserving & well-earned. The net result is that I feel worse yet.

I'm finishing another Day Three of abstinence & perhaps withdrawal is to blame. Certainly the cost of night eating is a source of regret in what could be a meager month. Those Somethings cost a lot of money when it's all totaled up. One of my priorities for the year is to pay down credit cards & save some money for an actual, real live vacation. I've frittered away precious funds.

& of course, I am Fat. A friend took a picture of me in my raincoat yesterday & I shuddered mightily. In general, I'm fairly philosophical about photos. In that one, I was teasing Daisy & Hero with a toy & both dogs were caught in mid-leap. It's a picture of the dogs being teased by me, not of me. I get that. But I didn't like it.

The tiredness I've written about is evaporating steadily but slowly. Saturday was a day of sloth until about three in the afternoon. I'd had extra dogs in a hard bitter rain the day before & I was not getting it together. On Sunday, however, I was in overdrive, fussing with the first big wave of winter-to-summer clothes, vacuuming dust puppies & going through a large pile of New Yorkers to decide what I could toss, what I only wanted to read one thing in & those I'd need more time with. My house is in piles as a result but the piles are the sort I can do something about when I have the next burst of energy. My choice this evening, with the last of my energy, was going to the grocery store & returning some clothes or a laundry pile. I opted for the former & by the time I was done, I'd been walking for three-and-a-half hours straight.

Tiredness feels like the paw of the Black Beast.

I haven't had to wake up to regrets about what I've eaten the last couple of days. I've been praying very hard for the strength to keep my food clean & force myself back into the Rooms. I had dinner with friends the other night, got pleasantly tipsy & ended the evening with fireworks over New Jersey while our dogs scampered around. My hosts have been telling each other ever since what a great dinner party that was, a high compliment to my one-quarter part in it.

I've done some exceptionally good deeds -- taken Hero to her vet when there was blood in her stool, taking her stool to the vet, listening hard to a friend in distress. People tell me I am "good" for these things, that I make the extra effort. A friend complimented the dress I wore to do my clean dog walks this afternoon & told me it's too big -- I'd thought it rather small. I walk the streets mentally kicking myself when I've been giving honest work, good deeds, not as Fat as I want to accuse myself of.

The Black Beast tells me I waste time, playing too much mah jongg when I ought to be writing or reading. I've bought clothes that I hope to have reasons to wear, as a way of not eating, & I'm holding it against myself. I put a buck in my savings account for a clean day, 10% of cash I receive, extraordinary feats such as finishing the book or getting three or ten days together. I've earned my little savings but I don't feel like I deserve them. I have friends I need to call or write but I don't feel up to the effort or that I deserve the treat of conversation.

I don't know where this Black Beast came from, but I wish he'd go back there so I can enjoy the bearded iris & diminishing piles in peace.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Finding My Center

I've been both complaining about being tired & not knowing what to write next and contemplating a conversation I had about a friend who is in a constant frenzy about situations he continues to re-enact that result in huge drama and his lack of much else to talk about.

Writing Angry Fat Girls was not a pleasant bike ride in the park. From the time I returned from Arizona in January until April 16, I had not left Brooklyn Heights, had rarely strayed from my beaten dog/grocery paths. I was boarding a lot, doing early/late walks, squeezing in taxes, blah blah blah. I came away stressed out & scared. I felt like I'd disappeared at the same time my body was getting bigger & bigger. Someone kindly commented that maybe I should cut myself some slack, rest, enjoy not having a book to pound myself with. But I couldn't.

Then I had that conversation and realized that my friend's problem is that word we've used a lot on the AFG blog a lot lately -- center. He has no center, or none that he's willing to open up and act from & for.

The human center is the invisible bit of anatomy that functions like a metal detector. It searches for the life impulse -- and sometimes for the death impulse. What makes me feel alive and what mimics feeling alive, what is authentic and what is fake?

I know that when I get too busy looking for clothes, ebay fragments, new books, etc. that I'm mimicking my life impulse. I love all that stuff but it's imaginary. Those capris will be perfect for iced coffee with so-&-so; If I watch Lost Weekend, I'll get some really witty lines for that iced coffee. A piece of Noritake in my grandmother's pattern will connect me to my past & inspire the day when I have a real home...

This is what our friend does too much of as well & in these days of my decompression & floundering, I have quite a list of deliveries I'm expecting. But the pressure I put myself under to find a new book project was, despite the bitch of a mood it put me in, a healthy one. I'm a searcher. I want to understand concepts, facts, people at a molecular level. I want understand myself that way as well, which risks repetition & appearing inordinately self-occupied & boring on a blog or, alas, in a book.

This is my purpose, this search. My tools are mostly words. If I'm not writing, I'm not living from my center. What is difficult for me to understand is that sometimes the search itself must be sought. So all the agonizing of these last weeks was really, all along, part of the stretch to act out of my best self.

I finally wrote down all my novel ideas, devoting a few sentences to each. I emailed a friend who is a psychic about the dilemma, and I emailed the list itself to my agent. They had completely different responses. I felt a little pissed off about being told what I shouldn't do. At the end of the day I sat down & looked at the list again. I hated all of them. A couple required a lot of research & I don't want to take the time after having done a book with a lot of research in it. Another promised to keep me in the same foul psychic place I've been for too long now. I hated the plot of another & didn't know what to do about it.

Which of these ideas that I was lukewarm about was most commercial? This question has also caused readers to respond with warnings against thinking that way, but I was desperate & had to think every which way to settle on something before I had too many more days of being in a really awful mood.

I've had an idea for a screenplay for years that I've done nothing about. What's more commercial than a screenplay? Why is the idea for a screenplay rather than a novel?

And there, yesterday at about 1:30 in the afternoon, as it was time to get ready for dogs, was my answer. The story told itself to me. By the time I left the house, I had names for the characters. I had subplots. I'm certain I can create three crisis points upon which to string the rest along. I am in love with the ease of it. I love it because I love having the next right thing in front of me to do. I'm in love with it because I intend to hand it to my agent the day after Labor Day & if it's awful, I'll have learned something about novel writing, not churned in futility for four months, & can move on.

Or maybe it will be good & be turned into a screenplay.

It has one fat character, but she isn't a main character. There are marriages & romances that work normally. There are children. There are no literary agents, no unhappily single people, no diets, no dogs (maybe). It's just a novel.

& at 2:20 yesterday afternoon, when I left the house to pick up Boomer, I started breathing again. Now I can get back to searching for aspects of truth & lucky phrases.

& today I don't mind that it's raining.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


I guess the word "flounder" relates to the fish thrashing at the end of the hook or caught in the net, gasping, its wide flat body flailing against reality. But honestly, look at that fish: its face seems upside down...

Which is how I'm feeling.

Lots of sugar.

23 hours abstinent.

Hung-over not only from sugar but weeks of stress & not having the emotional reserve to, say, reply to some emails that spoke to my heart. Flipping through ideas for the Next Project like flimsy rollodex cards. Still doing my Sunday in the Park with George obsession because now I have the soundtrack.

I was weeping through it yesterday as I huddled in bed & was struck by the bit near the end in which the grandson of Seurat realizes & is pushed to realize by the ghost of his grandmother to "move on". Just move. Go. Take a step, any step except backwards. Somehow that retrieved an idea from past ideas that I did nothing with at the time. I don't know what to do with it yet but I will say it involves Jane Austen & that I know I'll have to make jokes about that.

I have little to say as you can see from the transparency of this entry but I feel like reaching, albeit blindly, out. Here are four weird things that annoy me in an amusing way:

1. The technogeek who set up my internet home page as "". Type in any collective noun -- "love" or "understanding" -- and here are three of the first four results:

"Shop and compare great deals on Understanding and millions of other products."
"Find the Best Deals. Shop for Understanding now."
"We've sorted through the top Understanding sites for you. Quick look ups made easy."

Oh, Lord.

2. Gmail. I'm using it because my normal internet email is wonked but I'm coming to really loathe it. It snoops in the contents of messages & throws a column of supposedly related ads at me. A recent email concerned a couple of writers' retreats & the ads are:

"Chicago Loft Apartments"
"The Lofts at Perkins Row"
"Sky View Parc"
"Luxury USC Living"

They should change the name to

3. Open the lid of an Enenmann's apple strudel box & this is part of what you can read:

"Whether the occasion is dessert, snacking or a breakfast treat, you will find there is an Entenmann's product just right for anytime. Try one today and choose your favorite!"

Ummm... Why put this INSIDE??? Isn't it redundant? "Dessert, snacking or breakfast" are NOT the same as "anytime". I myself have had Entenmann's as my starter and entree, and always as medication.

4. Three cars parked in a row outside the bank this morning. A Hybrid first, then a Jeep, then a car service Town Car idling as the driver waited for his passenger. It was Henry Ford's descent into hell.