Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Curiosity Seasoned the Cat

Not to worry, Zesty: I answered that response because I think the idea of dissolving anger in "diet and exercise" is one of the great unexamined cliches in the Diet Lexicon.

But I'm moving on, and quickly if I can help it for once. My body aches from walking dogs and I'm longing for bed. This will be a first installment on a topic I'll come back to.

Today I have 11 days of an abstinence I want more than I've wanted in as long as I can remember. My abstinence takes a lot of work. One of them is having the right food in the house.

We're going through one of what I hope are our last remaining cold spells so Sunday I decided to get the 3,000 vegetables used in making a warming, sustaining vegetable chili that I got from Allrecipes. It's not for the faint of heart -- but then again, I'm learning, perhaps it is especially for the faint of heart.

Here's the recipe:

Slow Cooker Vegetable Chili

1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes with juice
1 (15-oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/3 cup chili powder
1 (4-oz. can) chopped green peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt

Throw it all in the crockpot and cook on low 6 - 8 hours or on high for 3 - 4 hours.

I happen to love spicy food and I happen to love cumin, which I increased. I tried to make a double batch but my crock isn't big enough. The next time I have it for dinner, I'll heat up another can of tomatoes and garbanzo beans with more seasoning and add it to the plentiful vegetables.

It's as perfect a dish as I can imagine for my food plan. I simply add 4 ounces of protein and then do the research for this blog.

I don't count calories. I weigh and measure foods that exclude sugar and flour. It all comes out to somewhere around 1200 calories a day -- I think. Sometimes I don't have a carbohydrate at night and sometimes, if I've told my sponsor, I have a protein/fruit snack. At 52, I find that I'm as hungry as ever but not as often and not for as much.

This is startling insight into my body. My body is Mumbai, a tragic place w-a-y over t-h-e-r-e.

This weekend Daisy and I spent a night with Molly, whose owners left a Bon Appetite out. It contained a short article extolling the virtues of spices and herbs. I decided to do some research.

The oregano (flowering to the left) in my chili is exploding with antioxidents, a word I had to look up and then keep looking up the vocabulary of the definition. What it comes down to is rust. Oxidation is the loss of oxygen that results in rust. It's good to keep our oxygen atoms in our body in order not to end up singing "If I Only Had a Heart" (toot-toot).

OK. What else about oregano? It has very few calories. It is high in calcium and iron. It supports the immune system against certain diseases and is a fungus fighter. It has antimicrobial activity against pathogens in food -- it's a cancer fighter. Most surprisingly, a tablespoon of the stuff has the same thermogenic power as two cups of broccoli, which means it's so nutrient-dense that it boosts metabolism and has recently been found to affect the satiety center so that we feel fuller faster.

Garlic helps lower blood fats and cholesterol. It also has antiviral and antibacterial powers that boost our ability to fight flus and colds. It's good for your heart and it helps ward off strokes.

Cumin (ah, cumin!) fights dementia. Chili powder (along with red pepper flakes, cayenne and paprika) contains vitamin A. It enhances digestion and circulation and there is increasing evidence that it, too, enhances metabolism and fat-burning and increases satiety. A Dutch study found that half a teaspoon of red pepper flakes as part of an appetizer reduced calorie intake by 10 - 16%.

The seven Wonder Spices, according to SHEKNOWS, are oregano, ginger, dried red peppers, rosemary, thyme and turmeric. The seventh is cinnamon, which just oozes good stuff. It contains calcium, iron and vitamin C and is anti-microbial and anti-clotting. A Swedish trial with Type-2 diabetes patients found that two teaspoons of cinnamon a day for six weeks significantly reduced blood-glucose. It also reduces cholesterol and triglycerides.

All of these herbs and spices fight inflammation, which is often the first step toward heart disease, Alzheimer's and allergies.

So when I walked in the door with Daisy this evening, I tossed some cinnamon in my coffee grounds for tomorrow's wake-up.

I wonder what I'll make this weekend?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

She said, she said

A response to my last blog has put me in a peevish mood and I think my day will go better if I get it off my chest.

I quite often nod to themes that I've written so often about that I'm surprised anyone reads this blog at all. Depression, relapse, bingeing, dogs -- you're free to tell me what's stale. My last post was about ceasing to-do lists because they make me crazy and depressed when I don't finish them. I prefaced this by talking about how to-do lists partly filled a long time of waiting for my life as the author of my upcoming book to begin.

I don't demand to be loved all the time, but I do wish readers would look at the whole of at least the sentence they take umbrage with. I am accused of being a) remiss in not directing my anger into diet and exercise and b) being infantile because I'm angry with a world that isn't fair.

The statement in my post is "anger in my manuscript". That's a very different thing than pouty and/or fatty anger, and it has the acrid smell of a reader who is perhaps bored or annoyed or expecting something else from me to the point of, well, getting angry. If a friend told me this story, I'd remind her that it's often the things we don't like in ourselves that we don't like in other people. I bring this up so no one else has to. I don't know the respondent from Eve and I genuinely give her the benefit of being a content and disciplined woman.

All this begs a bigger question, however, and that's anger itself. Am I angry at myself for being fat again? Hell, yes. Should I be, to quote, "redirecting all that wasted energy into diet and exericse" [sic]? That's another question all together and one that, if posed to any person can ONLY be answered by that person.

I, Frances, will answer it by saying that "diet and exercise" are one day at a time things, which I addressed in why I currently prefer to the word "priorities" to "lists". I don't diet. I have a food plan that is helped by not thinking of it as a diet. My hackles raise each time someone talks to me about my "diet". I think it's a dirty word, associated with promises, restrictions, feeling left out, feeling locked in. A food plan, to me, is a way of life, like converting to Buddhism or taking the citizenship oath in Denmark. There are philosophical, social, political, scientific and spiritual reasons for realigning my life. "Diets" are things that sell magazines and memberships.

OK, so if I'm such a fervent convert, why have I gained so much weight?

ONLY speaking for myself, there is a list of reasons that include being addicted to sugar, having a body that will, every day for the rest of my life, want to weigh more and more and more, and, yes, anger.

Can anger be cured by "diet and exercise"? Really: THINK ABOUT THAT. Charles Manson is, um, thin. So is Osama bin Laden. I didn't have a clue how angry I was until I began to lose weight. In my case, anger is actually quelled by food and being heavy.

I don't want to be heavy, I'm not currently taking any actions to remain heavy, and my blog has largely been an exploration of my reasons for being heavy, beginning with childhood. In actual fact, I'm currently doing everything in my power to be un-heavy.

Including walking six - eight miles a day with 75-pound dogs lurching this way and that.

And I was venting in the writing of Angry Fat Girls, which is why I know there's a God: he makes editors who show you where to soften up.

The next accusation is that I'm angry with the world.

I don't know many people who aren't angry with the world. I can't take a walk in my neighborhood for longer than 10 minutes without meeting one or another acquaintance who tells me the kids they teach are driving them crazy or the seller of a desired item won't give them exactly what they want or who spew venom at Wall Street that fuels their fears about their job. It's endemic to the human race. Actually, it's endemic to dogs as well. I don't know how other species feel about the way the world treats them.

In my defense, I will say that my anger, occasionally explosive, is with specific behaviors. I'm learning to be angry at my former boss who hit me in public and confused me in the office after years of blaming myself for not being angry with her. I was angry this morning with whoever dumped a large pile of turkey legs on the sidewalk.

But the answer to such anger is to track back with a garbage bag, pick up the garbage and throw it away. Exercise won't cure boss-anger: I've tried. Getting out of the equation does, meaning that when I stop being mad at myself I can see what boundaries were crossed in the situation and, hopefully and metaphorically, pick up the garbage and throw it away.

Most anger at the world is either addressable or passes. If it doesn't, one tends to become paranoid. If I was paranoid, I'd make this a closed blog and delete comments that annoy me for their misreading of what I've written.

And in this instance, I wrote about anger in a manuscript no one but a few editors and my agent have read, which makes the assumptions about the nature of my anger even more wildly askew.

If I go back through my blogs my guess is that I won't find much about expecting the "world" to give me anything. I have a long list of things I want -- to finish and sell my novel, to lose weight in an abstinence I want to want to have forever, to get out of debt and learn to manage my life, to move to Seattle, to travel, to have health insurance, to get my computer fixed (the CD/DVD drive is whacked), to have a home with a standard-sized refrigerator, a bedroom and electricity that permits me to use a blow-dryer, to have a circle of friends.

I don't think I'll find much evidence that these desires have been "denied" me or "taken away" from me, or that I'm owed them. If I made a corresponding list of the people whom I most angry at, in fact, it would be clear that if those relationships were still amiable, most of the things on that list would be a LOT harder to accomplish. (I.e., it would be difficult to move to Seattle if I were still working for Alix.) They're all simply things I have to work for. If there is peevishness attached, it's how hard it is to get out of my own way and do them.

But nobody is standing in my way and in so many instances I am the luckiest person I know.

Monday, February 16, 2009


For ten months, my life has been on-hold as I've waited out the next step in the Angry Fat Girls saga. I sent the manuscript to my original publisher in mid-April. Months later, my publisher declined to publish it because they were pursuing a new editorial direction. We re-auctioned it. Berkely won the auction. We waited through pregnancies for contracts and revision directions. The date for the revisions kept changing. By contract, the revised manuscript was actually due yesterday. I will be getting the revisions this week and then, after reviewing them, we'll amend the contract for a new due date, keeping in mind that we all want and intend to publish in January, 2010.

Before that, of course, my life was on hold as I wrote the manuscript, which was a struggle for me. One of the things I have to do is reign in my anger in the manuscript. It's a dark book on a dark but essential topic that no one wants to admit to: weight loss is always temporary, even if you maintain that weight loss for the rest of your life. Ninety percent of us don't.

We're all too familiar with the depressions I've been through in the last year but I'm going to discuss one aspect of a subset, which is how I flay myself with to-do lists in my ongoing effort to sustain my self-revulsion.

Each week I usually start a new to-do list, with carry overs from the week before. There is a master list, and then daily lists. I usually do a separate list for the weekend because I have more time and because some daily things can't be done on weekends (i.e., I still need to get a New York State driver's license). Despite how much I enjoy crossing things off, too often I don't do what's on the list so that a task carries over from day-to-day, and then week-to-week. Anal compulsive that I am, I keep the old lists until their contents have been reasonably addressed. Right now there are three lists on my computer, with a really long list in a file called "The Big To Do". They torture me. They lay down precepts that make it harder to perform. "Jewelry," an entry might say, meaning, put the jewelry away. Because it's on a list, I become stubborn about doing it.

K-sh, k-sh, the whip lashes.

The lists on my computer are dated January because I've stopped making them. They were hurting me. I've exchanged a daily fare of tasks for the mental chatter of priorities. Each morning I mentally go over what is most important to do. Abstinence is first. Dogs, meetings, writing, bathing, contact with my 12-step pals and sponsor fill out the rest.

And then there's the question of when to shower, who to call, and what else needs to be done.

With a manuscript to revise in the immediate future there are a number of big things I need to do to be as easy in my skin as I can be as I juggle dogs, editing, eating, sleeping and a program, and all those voices are vying to be first.

I'm writing this as much to understand what my priorities today need to be as to talk about the harmful effects of a to-do list. I need to do a very big grocery shopping -- and I simply don't wanna. It's dumb but I've been avoiding the grocery store. My television, I discovered during the elections, has nice clear sound and nice snow flurries in the picture. My DVD never worked & my VCR is trusty but antique. I could not get myself to P.C. Richards this weekend to replace them but finally realized I could order them online with some help from customer service about the two pieces of equipment's compatibility.

That, however, meant I should be ready for delivery, so I pulled my entertainment thingy out and swept up a basketball of dog hair and grit, undid cords and hauled my TV to the basement. Things got disrupted in doing that and I should put some of the disruption in better storage than it had been. I'm going to have to face the piper on the new TV sooner or later, so why have all that junk there when it comes?

I would have liked to have cleaned the bathroom. I would like to do a last load of laundry. I finished the third chapter of my novel yesterday and really had hopes of writing the fourth, or being so far into the fourth that I could dabble at it while I'm in Revision Land. But the chatter of groceries & cleaning are sapping my mental energies for chapter four, which is really stupid.

All I have to do is grab my rolly cart and go.

The thing about replacing a written to-do list with a mental list of priorities, however, is that priorities are more service-oriented and repetitive. I can cross "be abstinent" off a list but it feels very much more like a task than a way of life. "Do well by my dogs" is a consciousness of what they need and like. Priorities are services to my self and to others.

I had difficult week of dogs last week, following a month of boarding for a month of weekends, and came out of it nearly numb with a tiredness that wasn't so much about sleep as depletion. I'm still recovering. I really do need to get to Key Food but more than that, I need to stick to my other new promise to myself: first, do no harm.

That means, don't eat. Don't buy another Barbie doll on eBay. Don't get into a tangle about old grudges. Don't start a substitute project that will make another mess that will either drain me to finish or remain unfinished.

So instead of clattering off to Montague Street this morning I sat down and read. I napped very lightly. I got up and felt the ennui of not having accomplished anything. So I've written this blog to remind myself that the groceries are a priority, not a task. They are a service to myself because come tomorrow, I'll be back on the streets with long hikes between dogs and it will be good to know that the right food is in the house.

In that light, maybe the best thing I did yesterday was not finishing the chapter or ordering a new TV. It was chopping up celery so I didn't have to do it to make the salad I'm eating right now...

P.S. I washed my dishes after writing this and took my cart (the New York station wagon), debit card and long list to the store. It took 45 minutes and about $90 to get protein, fresh fruit and vegetables, dog treats, coffee, olive oil, vinegar, canned staples, oatmeal and rice, milk and soap into the house.

I feel like I could take on the world.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Will I Be My Valentine?

Just where, I wonder, does Valentine's Day rate in per-holiday chocolate consumption? Lower, maybe than Halloween or Easter, given that adult valentines are often dinner out or Victoria's Secret. Still, those glossy red boxes call out to me. I always got one from my father...but then I always got this or that for other holidays as well. The Fourth of July, Labor Day, Presidents' Day, Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, St. Patrick's Day -- these are my saf[er] holidays.

I know I've bought those boxes for myself, with a tight-lipped justification that everyone else is getting chocolate, everyone else is somebody's valentine. I've walked by the delis where flowers are sold and into the local uber-florist's shop to torture myself/admire/laugh at the last minute dash for roses that happens on Valentine's Day. My favorite experience of Valentine voyeurism was the big bouquet of roses being sent C.O.D.

Of course, this year it falls on a Saturday. Oh joy. This means the restaurants will be wildly busy with patrons nose-to-nose, guys will be carrying home flowers by the bushel. The world will be full of the black plastic bags with gold crisscrossing from the liquor stores. There will be a run on seafood. The Promenade will be a place to avoid unless I'm in a prankish mood and Daisy is in an obstreperous one.

Then again, Valentine's Day falls on a Saturday. I don't have the excuse of not having time to be my own valentine. I can take a shower, buy flowers for myself, and blog about some of the things I like about being single.

1. I used my Christmas check from my parents to get flannel Dick and Jane sheets. This seems to me a very Single Woman thing to do.

2. I have a cadre of Facebook pals who are into sending each other Barbies. I happen to love Barbie if she's the Barbie of my childhood. I've been holding my money market close to my chest, paying off credit cards, but I did cave and buy a "Busy Gal" Barbie for myself.

3. My apartment is rife with Girl Things like that. A winter Madeline doll. Very tall Princess Di and Jackie O. dolls. A "That Girl" Barbie. Many artifacts from or like my childhood.

4. I can be abstinent and not have to watch a civilian eat a couple of normie meals a day.

5. My bad habits disgust only me.

6. Thinking of being my own valentine as a year-round, lifetime proposition that could mean I will give myself the decadent gifts of what I REALLY want.

It's not chocolate I want, or to be a cozy half in a restaurant (I'd have to change my sheets), or even flowers, really. I might want a piece of salmon and I prefer pink-tinged white roses to red, and hydrangea to roses. Those are very local desires and very meetable. I need to pay attention to them.

But I also WANT to get Angry Fat Girls into production and I want it to do well enough to be another step UP in my career. I want to finish my novel. I want to learn to deal with life without sugar -- I want to GROW UP. I want to go somewhere by myself where I will load up on new information (I was looking at Orbitz deals for Amsterdam and Prague last night). I want out of debt. I want to move. I want to be secure enough to put together a life that includes a bedroom, electrical capacity for a blow-dryer, health insurance and a refrigerator taller than my thigh.

I've said all these things before but I'm attaching them to being my own valentine. And looking back at that paragraph, I have to say growing up is the locus of everything else. Maybe I have to do two things at once in all this. Maybe I have to enjoy my Dick and Jane sheets and Barbies to honor the parts of childhood I fuzzed out on and in celebration of the parts I lived and loved. And maybe I have to decide what being a grown-up is and aim for it.

Right now the only things I know about being a grown-up on Valentine's Day are that I will not hover on the edges in self-torture, I will not eat chocolate, and I will get to a meeting, which is a class in growing up I desperately need. Aside from that, let the Barbie game begin.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

In Answer to a Question

"Tell me how you work," a rediscovered friend wrote me recently. It's an interesting question that I've been pondering how to respond to ever since.

I've gone back to my novel after months of hiatus so I think I should start with why I don't work.

I was, as I've said too often, depressed. I was also obsessing about Christmas, and getting Christmas as packed up as possible because I thought I would be getting revision instructions from my editors in the first week of December, then in the first week of January. In between scouring the recycling for shipping boxes, I could have been working on my novel but what was the point? I would have to drop it in God knew what state in order to turn my attention to rewriting Angry Fat Girls.

That didn't happen. I'm expecting revisions in the middle of this month.

As I've also said too often of late, I feel I don't deserve to write -- even that I can't write -- can't think straight, don't have the energy -- when I'm into the food.

& I was into the food.

If you've been reading my blog, you may note a trend in my life to get over myself, to put aside the shit that blocks me like ideas about food, weight, worthiness, competition, envy -- even deadlines like Christmas or revising AFG. I'm trying not to exclude myself from the world because of these things. So the energy & desire to write has been mounting with my readiness to take part in life.

But then there was the chapter itself that I had to start, one in which schizophrenia plays a major part. I felt, despite much research, humbled by this incredibly horrible disease. How could I bring it to life? I went back & reread one of the bibles on the disease & yet another memoir. There were hints of it in the first chapter & I may have tinkered with them early after I got back from Arizona, seizing them as opportunities to show the early symptoms. I reread the chapters from the Jane Austen novel I'm stealing from. I divided my chapter notes into two separate documents, one about Jane Austen and one about schizophrenia. I tried to reduce each to one page or to at least reduce the redundancies and unnecessary stuff.

One day last week I was either sitting on my bed or in bed & I heard something. I couldn't place the fleeting sound but it my brain conjured the ends of a paper clip being rubbed together, a teeny metallic voice.

That was the moment I knew I could start working on the chapter that had dangled for so many months.

I haven't used that sound/image. It was just a moment in which my gut told me I "got" the illness enough to write about it.

On Saturday, January 31st, I opened the document, re-read the three paragraphs I'd written, twiddled a bit and dove in.

I usually overwrite & always encouraged my clients not to worry about overwriting. It's easier to cut than it is to add, unless you have a very patient and savvy editor. (A blessing on your head, Becky Cole.) I also always coached the "show, don't tell" adage of writing, one that was driven home in revising Passing for Thin. I'm better at it now & I rely on dialogue to a good extent. This is a first person, present tense novel -- the beginner's cheap way out -- so I don't need to worry a lot about what other characters are thinking or even doing. Cheesy but easy.

So how do I actually work?

First there is the matter of the desk, which I like to have reasonably organized & reasonably dedicated to the task at hand. In the photo above, which I can't drag down today, you'll see a notebook in front of my computer screen. It had schizophrenia notes in it & now has more notes about dates. I don't work from many hand-written notes but taking a notebook to bed while I read a reference book is easier than typing them & there is always a need for reference points.

You'll also see that just behind the monitor is a piece of paper on a magnetic bulletin board. It's a run out of all my characters' names, ages, occupations & is no longer completely accurate. Just above the monitor is a small piece of paper with essential names & relationships from the second chapter. I haven't taken it down because it's a nice piece of torture.

On the left hand side of my desk is a a pen holder and a bunch of papers. This is actually a recent innovation that was also an instigation to write. I cleared the top of my small filing cabinet last week & did some organizing. The Bat Cave abhors a vacuum, so I naturally put two filing thingies that I didn't know what to do with there until I could figure them out. One was empty. Saturday brain wave #1: Clean it & chuck all the junk from the other side of the desk into some sort of order in it. That leaves the other side dedicated to essentials.

So that's my desk & it morphed last Saturday morning before I heard the paper clip.

I used to think I had to start writing upon getting up in the morning, but with a dog to walk & a life to organize in advance of other dogs, I learned in AFG to write when I can. I don't smoke outside of my kitchen, and I don't drink much at my computer because I'm too busy, one way or another, to remember to sip.

This is good not only because the main room of my apartment is relatively clean-aired but because when I write a section that is hard or needs a bridge, I have to get up & go out to the kitchen to take a break. One cigarette or putting a book away or, if I'm really cooking & can trust myself, folding laundry, gives me a bit of time to come down or figure out the next simple problem.

I couldn't write without the Internet. I'm constantly looking things up. Yesterday I took ten minutes to find my character's dining room table. I haven't described it yet & probably won't, but it was something I needed a picture of in my head. I made a new bookmark file called "Cranberry Street house" & stuck it there. That led to a new piece of information just for my head. I chose a Mission dining room set, quite simple & light. Ergo, my main character will have baroque china & silver & ceiling moldings. This is only important to me but I know more about her because of it.

I usually pause, I realize in writing this, after I finish a paragraph. Not a break, a pause.

I keep another document going called "Outtakes". I paste longish cuts in it. Sometimes I use them later.

I've been keeping track of my word counts this week because it's easer than pages. But I hated query letters that described a manuscript as being 200,000 words in length. As I move into a chapter, I begin thinking more about pages because I aim for each chapter to be 21 pages.

Sometimes, especially at the beginning of a chapter, I'll write a precis for myself. It's an internal dialogue: "OK, so this chapter is about how mean Cinderella's stepmother is & how impossible she makes it for her to go to the ball. There will be a fairy godmother in it. A dress the color of winter butter."

That's what's hanging above my monitor, or a parallel thereof.

I try not to leave the computer when I don't know what's coming next. It's only when I'm secure in what is coming that I can quit. It makes opening the document less scary.

On days, such as Monday & Tuesday of this week, when I had extra walks rattling around in my head, it's best if I can make my peace with not writing at all. On weekdays, I need to be mindful about not getting number-obsessed. It's the weekends when I might turn out four or six pages a day. I've written one page today & need to figure out the next third of the chapter. I know what it entails & I know what the Austen parallel is, but I need to strike at the heart of it, not the set-up. I don't think I'll do any more work on it today, but who knows?

I use a thesaurus.

I seem to depend heavily on the following reference books that are above my desk: an old Bantam guide to movies; my German, French & English dictionaries; British English from A to Zed; a dictionary of the saints; Edith Hamilton Greek mythology; an old Blue Guide of New York & an old New York Zagat's.

I work hard to cut, among other words, "always," "when," "just," "even," "so," "however," "only". I KNOW they're evil. I don't have to wait to get rid of them.

I don't begin again by rereading the whole chapter. I tend to start with what I wrote the day before & edit that.

I don't walk around with with a pen & notebook. If something is really worth remembering, I will.

Sometimes I badly need to disconnect from a project for the balance of the day.

Sometimes that's when I write my blog.

Off to walk Boomer.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


It's the season of black and white -- and blue if we're lucky and the sun is out. I think Christmas should be commuted to the end of January so that we could all slog along through the slush and ice and wind with something to look forward to. As it is, each morning I wake up and thinks it's X number of days until April 1st, when there is a hope, maybe, that winter will be over.

Alas, two years ago there was snow on the dogwood on Easter.

I am much too irregular about blogging. Partly I know that there are other good blogs to read on the subjects I cover and partly it's everything else. Laziness. Unworthiness. Tiredness. Who-will-read-this-on-a-Sunday-ness. For the last week, however, I've actually had a good reason: I got a cold that makes the economy look healthy. I think I've canceled two dogs for two illness-related reasons but this week Henry stayed in DUMBO for three days and I stayed in bed as much as possible. It hit my chest first but my head felt like a helium balloon bobbing about three feet away from my nose and I was intensely tired. Daisy was a good nurse, surprisingly, and didn't resent the shorter walks and all the napping.

I think I know who shared this bug with me but it came right on the heels of seeing my psychiatrist, who I hadn't seen in many months. I sat down and promptly turned into a wreck. She thinks I'm depressed. I wanted to say, "You should have seen me in September," but I couldn't say much of anything. "Did you think of calling me?" she asked and I looked at her like she was the crazy one. "I couldn't," I said. When I'm in that place, I can barely pick up the phone let alone ask for help.

I have that problem with doctors as a whole because I grew up with patients calling at all hours to tell my dad about, what he called while he was in general practice, "moles, colds, sore holes, fits, farts and freckles". I've been astonished the few times I've called a doctor and they've called me back and been glad to listen and/or prescribe.

But it's also that thing about asking for help. I can accept help when it's offered...and then feel there is nothing I can do to thank my savior enough. Asking for it is another thing altogether.

There are several themes running through this little discourse I hadn't planned on writing. One of them is unworthiness. I guess I've been feeling that all over the place lately.

And writing that makes me sit back in my chair and assess. Fear is often confuted with unworthiness, it occurs to me. I'm not scared of going back into the Rooms as I feel unworthy of the time I will use up, the space I will take, the help I HAVE to ask for to make a 12-step program work. I'm scared of my novel not because I'm afraid I don't have the talent but because novels are what worthy people get to write. You know: people who are thin, people who are popular, people who are...worth something.


So here's the deal. I impose this upon myself. The door rang one morning early this week and there was a man from the local Food Museum with an enormous basket. Why do I have to be the one to sign for stuff? I grumbled but lo! it was from Henry's humans. I lived off that basket for days.

In light of my conversation with Dr. Pluto, that gift basket was a bolt of lightening (as well as various sugars and refined white carbohydrates). They knew I was at the farthest end of my energy tether and they empathized. It's the sweetest gesture I've received in years.

But only the sweetest and maybe just the biggest. There aren't very many people who think of me the way I do myself and there is, miraculously, hard evidence for it. I can live in my delusions or I can pay attention to what actual persons are telling me.

So I'm going to work on that. I deserve it.