Thursday, August 28, 2008

Consumed with Details


Day 45 of abstinence
Starting weight: 262
Today's weight: 240
Total loss: 22 pounds
Dogs walked today, besides my own: 3
Attitude: frustrated & sad, in that order...

I have more than half of this week off, at least in terms of the first half of the day. Henry & Hero are away which means two - three dogs in the afternoon & I'm done.

I was gonna:

  • Exchange my Montana driver's license for a New York State license
  • Get a massage in Chinatown
  • Finish Chapter Two of my novel
  • Got to the NYC Aquarium
  • Take the 7 p.m. harbor cruise around the waterfalls
  • Visit an old friend in a rest home
  • Deal with the enormous stack of NYers dating back to September, 2002
  • Get batteries in watches
  • Assemble the Daisy calendar for my mother's birthday
  • Buy a sleeve for my air conditioner & make arrangements for it to be installed and the dry walling repaired

I've managed to:

  • Wrap a couple of packages & mail them...but not all because I had to order more printer cartridges as well as a shipping label from Zappo's
  • Write my Lab Lady post for the brooklynheightsblog
  • Write two sentences of chapter 2
  • Get down to 7 New Yorkers, throw out the plastic thingie they were in, recycle a lot of boxes and paper bags, donate school supplies to Housing Works
  • Talk to the neighbor who said he would call today (and hasn't) about the air conditioner and dry walling
  • Get my hair cut
  • Take a lot of pictures for a friend who's painting flowers and doodle them around in Adobe Photoshop, then make prints for another painter-friend who doesn't have a computer

Keep these lists in mind, as well as the fact that I'm meeting a friend for dinner in 90 minutes, need to go to meetings tomorrow night and Saturday morning, and am going out to dinner at friends' house on Saturday night. Four of those items mean leaving Brooklyn Heights for a considerable length of time -- visiting my friend won't be a quick heist either.

My dreams have been violent -- dragging a black witch (as opposed to a witch of white magic) around by the ears, teaching tough seventh graders.

Now add the ingredients of five dogs dying this summer, three of them "friends" of mine, and the news that my walking time bomb, Roger, is moving to Long Island in a week.

Roger. Roger, Roger, Roger.

There is a particular kind of love one has for a dog that hates (i.e., is scared of) everyone. There are four people in the world who can pick this little man up and I'm one of them. Only three of us are asked for belly rubs and two of us get humped and I'm the only person he kisses.

And he's leaving.

I've been on the verge of tears or crying ever since I heard. Before I took him out yesterday, we had a long talk. I asked him to remember me. I told him how much I love him. I told him how smart and beautiful he is. I asked him to remember our cookie game, our scary game, how I cam over and crawled into bed with him when he was so sick. I told him I will always remember reaching over to turn his ears right side in, and his gray beard and how he runs in great exuberant arcs. His owner called me today and asked what I did to him yesterday -- he spent the evening asking for cuddles rather than staking out the bathroom as his private territory.

I think Roger understood me, at least emotionally.

And I think I'm weepy not only about Roger but about the loss of Godiva, Barley and Zeke. The privilege of being trusted by a dog to turn up, love it, walk it, make it comfortable, make it feel loved, make sure it has some fun and pleasure has made me public in a way that nothing I've ever done before has. "Are you the Lab Lady?" bare acquaintances are beginning ask now, having read the bhblog. It's gone another step beyond being the Mayoress of Hicks Street's tender.

But it comes down to the dog. I won Roger over the same way I won Godiva over. I sat down on the floor and was. I sat and was Frances, whatever that is. They decided it by looking me in the eye, smelling me, eating some cookies, tasting my skin, walking on me. I feel as though I'm losing a percentage of my love and validation in the loss of Roger.

Old issues. I can see them however, and I can feel my sads and know they'll pass.

I just wish I could have wiped that list out...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Wonderful News

If you've been wondering why I hadn't mentioned my publisher's reaction to the Angry Fat Girl's manuscript, it's because the original buyer changed its publishing focus and released the contract into my and my agent's hands to be resold.

This morning I got an email from a friend in the "industry" to congratulate me on the piece she read in Publishersmarketplace, a daily news source, so I think it's safe to announce it generally: "Good" is code for the general amount but to my delight I no longer remember the numbers or vocabulary of the code. Let's just say it's...wonderful.


Frances Kuffel's ANGRY FAT GIRLS: Five Women, Five Hundred Pounds, and a Year of Losing It. Again, a no-holds barred, painful, humorous, and deeply personal look at the "yoyo" syndrome of weight loss and gain that affects millions of Americans each year, to Denise Silvestro of Berkley, in a good* deal, by Fredrica Friedman at Fredrica S. Friedman and Company.

* "Good" is code for the general amount but to my delight I no longer remember the numbers or vocabulary of the code. Let's just say it's...wonderful.

Thanks to everyone for your support, words, stories and wisdom.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Weight Loss


69 degrees with a high of 85; 75% humidity; fair skies
Day 33, with a serious slip
246 pounds, holding; down from 262

I've learned a couple of things this week & thought about a couple of things, & I'm going through a phase of the fuck-its.

One of the things I've learned is that I can't eat at someone else's house yet. There are further conditions to this. I especially can't eat at someone else's house when I'm not at ease with the circumstances and people, and it's very dangerous for me to drink 2 glasses of celebratory champagne.

This is to say that I like to be able to take Daisy with me whenever I can and having to keep her on leash in her best friend's house because the tottering gentleman of the house is afraid she'll jump, and who criticizes her for it while Daisy's best friend leaps and smudges my glasses, puts me so on edge that I want to eat to buff that edge right off.

And a little alcohol, when I take antidepressants and haven't had sugar in a long time or filled my stomach with lots of dense food to absorb it, diminishes my judgment.

I decided, after discussing the matter with two close friends, NOT to go back to Day One. Quelle horreur! my 12-step readers will say but I say, gently, not. There is such a thing, after all, of imperfect abstinence -- and that's a last resort.

The two most important things for me, right now, are not to get yet more demoralized by this awful process, and to LEARN from my mistakes without being further punished by them. It's taken three days so far to arrive at some peace with myself over my night of sin (which was not a binge). I don't need any more of the set backs, like loss of day count, to deepen the fuck-its that currently have me by the short hairs.

I will not, however, consider Friday as part of my abstinence. I did not go pick up a 30-day coin the next morning. I did not reward myself for Day 30. I will not be going to dinner at anyone's home for a long time unless Daisy can run free, be loved, and I can bring my own prodigious amounts of vegetables. Being able to smoke would also be a plus.

So I've lost no pounds in the last five days, or at least I don't think so. I have an old-fashioned scale that is marked in two-pound increments. My eyesight for those lines is rather blurry. Maybe I weigh 145, a weight I intend to honor by dropping a couple of bucks in my savings account, lately emptied by the Air Conditioner Crisis -- but does it matter? Does that one pound make my shorts looser or my face more defined? Does it make the mile-and-a-half walk to Henry's easier?


Only cumulative weight loss does that.

Which is more important -- what one has lost, or what one weighs?

We aren't even going to have the conversations about a) how much one needs still to lose, or b) how much one will either lose or weigh in a month.

I'm pleased to have lost 16 pounds. I'm not pleased to weigh 246 pounds. As far as states of minds go, the answer is simple. But which is more honest?

The fuck-its are part of the territory but they require drastic action. I know that in ten pounds I'll be able to wear other clothes. I'm chomping at the bit for that. I also want to give this weight loss to readers -- in my author photo for Angry Fat Girls, as a simple presence in the world. I do not intend to be an example. That backfired terribly. The only example I'd like to be is how MUCH I want to live -- and live right-sized, emotionally improved, with new and funner challenges than this ridiculous Ferris Wheel of weight and food.

The fuck-its of a plateau or a blah weight mean I need to get out of my head and into the world or a productive mania. They also mean that I have to be grateful for every other good thing in my life -- this computer, the breakfast nectarine I'm finishing as I write, the dogs I walk, the sunny cool morning, Daisy just to my right, the love in my life...

The fuck-its are another diet within a diet, or another abstinence within an abstinence. I have to change the blahs to other progress and other celebration.

That champagne was celebrating some wonderful news. Wonderful news makes me want t0 eat. So, of course, does bad news, no news and the News of the World.

Eating diminished the joy I should be taking in the wonderful news. I don't know how to feel wonderful very well. It's a little like being drunk, from the times I remember feeling that way. It was scary and jittery and completely enveloping, a physical experience. That's why champagne is so fabulous, I guess.

There is a lot I don't know. I wrote in my inventory last night that,

"I had an interesting walk w/ God this morning on my way to the office supply store & Hero's. You know how [12-step people] say that you should pray for everything you want for yourself be given to the person you hold a grudge against? I've been doing this for Alix, but this morning after my usual list of things I prayed she would receive, I compared what I wished for her vs. what I wish for myself. They aren't at all the same. Do I pray for contentment, diligence, showing up, doing my job, working on progress for her, or the stuff I'm pretty sure she wants -- lots of money, fame, flirtation, health, great shoes, fabulous vacation, her husband's health???"

Someone recently said in my hearing that when you wish an enemy evil, you hang on to your enemy. When you wish them well, you separate yourself from your enemy, your lives diverge. That was the most powerful inducement to this form of prayer I've every heard.

So there you have it. Other than the battle scars of food, eating, prayer, and hatred, I've gone through almost all my papers and filed them, discovered I need a different kind of file box, washed my down winter clothes, replaced my clumsy rolodex, gotten a raise, thrown out all the pens that no longer have ink or are missing caps, and am making, I think, a new friend.

Actually, all in all, it's been a fruitful, not uninteresting five days...even at 246 pounds and holding.

Friday, August 01, 2008

72 Degrees

Vital stats:

Day 22 of abstinence.
Thirteen pounds lost, from 262 to 249.
Room temperature: 72 degrees.
Outside temperature: 87 degrees, 40% humidity.

I have survived 80% of the air conditioner crisis and the new unit is holding steady . I have rarely felt as profoundly grateful as I have in the last week.

A total stranger overheard me wondering if it was a bum machine or the Edison-era electricity to blame and he came over with industrial strength extension cords & got it working on a different socket with the advice that I needed a real electrician to work on the fuse box. The Real Electrician finally came yesterday & in 10 minutes the A/C was plugged into its dedicated socket & having my computer & lights on was no longer a risk. I still have to have it re-installed with a sleeve & some major carpentry work to fix the wall, but I have had a refuge from the heat that was sorely missing.

I can't remember the last time I had three weeks of abstinence. I see it less a steel-willed thing than a grace bestowed without deserving it.

OK, maybe I deserve it. I do the abstinent shopping & food preparation, I stay in touch with my sponsor, I do meetings. But the willingness to do this is not mine.

Going through four days of a heat wave without the A/C definitely underlined what my weight is & also made it impossible for me to eat sugar, which gives me the sweats -- the last thing I need. And the difficulty of staying abstinent has underlined the need for simplicity in my life.

Like everyone, I tend to make huge lists of things I have to do each day. These lists become my task master as much as my food plan or sugar or the scale or the heat dominates me. No air conditioning, & then fragile air conditioning, meant I had to slow down. There was no way I was going to fold hot laundry or saute greens. I couldn't even see my computer well enough for serious writing in long stretches. I started taking things off my list that didn't have anything to do with basics: my 12-step commitments, finances, food. I was tired not only from the heat but from moving furniture every day and from the stress. It's taken me a week to begin to get interested in writing, cleaning, being social.

I like the lessons, however. My reaction to the heat bolstered my commitment to lose weight; the Crisis smacked me back to basics; crawling out of the Crisis has allowed me to choose what to put back on my list. I learned that I can't be overwhelmed or get what I want when I want it. It took 10 days to go from a 90-degree dark apartment to a cool, amply-lit apartment & I really tried to make it go faster & I'm not yet done. It took the time it took.

My first sponsor said when I began abstinence, "Put on the bedroom slippers." I didn't quite know what that meant but it's been in front of me a lot in the last 10 days. It's akin to those other expressions that raise the hair on my neck -- "be gentle with yourself," "be good to yourself," etc. This has been a time I had no other choice but to take it easy, keep things basic, be grateful -- very grateful. Cool air, lights, enough money to pay bills, going to Map Quest & figuring out that the no-frills distance of my dogs is now 5.5 miles a day. If I'd known that ahead of time, I would have flipped. I'm glad I did that investigation after I got used to walking to Henry's new apartment one neighborhood over.

I'd like to think that the Crisis Lessons won't fade. I'd like to think back on this time as one in which I had to be patient & in the moment & by being those things, I had to forgive my tasks of omission. If I can forgive myself for not working on my novel, maybe I can forgive myself some of the other gunk that's been plugging up my chi -- & my mouth.

Happy weekend, everyone!