Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sundown on Yom Kipuur

So of course I'm not Jewish -- I've made way too many Catholic jokes for many readers to be misled by the title of this here post -- but I was aware this weekend that it was Yom Kippur and I was happy for the cool weather we had on the heels of the most excruciatingly hot, humid days of last week.  It meant that an ex-boss who observes the holy day had a much easier time of it.  I was happy to be happy because I didn't always like that boss very much.  She was one of those people who looked for the weakest impala in the pack and went after them.  (Past tense.  Maybe she has changed.)  Naturally insecure and frightened, I was very often easy prey.  She is one of the people that, when I binge, I dream about after.  That I nodded to the chilly evening last night and the cool shadows today and sent up thanks for her comfort was something of a victory for me.

Coincidentally, in my ongoing attempt to get rid of Stuff, I'm reading a book by Someone I Used to Know.  It was given to me ages ago by his editor,  It's a novel, gay fiction.  My parting with SIUTK was violent, a long time ago, very painful.  I've seen him once since then and I was with two friends at a reading he gave, very drunk, not, I think, a reassuring presence in the back of that small bookstore that once was.

I don't want to pack and move this book across country with my Trollope and Thirkell and Tudors, so, I decided, if I read it, I can donate it or put it out some find weekend day along with all the other books that make their way on to the balustrades and stoops of Brooklyn Heights, a veritable free book fair.  I sort of dreaded it.  I read his first book and found myself cruelly lampooned in it.  I figured it would be a quick read.  I was wrong.

About an hour ago, when Daisy needed her walk and I needed to go walk another dog, I dropped the book on my face at page 188 and said about the writer of the book (versus the author, or SIUTK), without thinking, "I don't like this person very much."  I had just read a scene in which a professor at a community college mangles a conversation about Adrienne Rich with a male student.  It was the third such scene between the professor and a student and I realized something I didn't know about SIUTK and about myself.

The Writer of This Book is a terrible elitist, the very worst kind.  The conversations about Virginia Woolf and Adrienne Rich are the cliches a professor would speak in at a conference with other professors, not the sort one would have with people breaking the molds of their class and racial backgrounds by taking an English feminist theory course.  In the conversation about A Room of One's Own, a middle-aged, African American woman (who, of course, wears broken-at-the-heel slippers: sheesh!) complains that Woolf writes in such a snooty way that she is, in the 1990s, is annoyed and repelled.  Blah, blah, blah, the professor parrots all the reasons why she should put the essay in context or compare Woolf's late Victorian/Edwardian upbringing to slavery or vegetarianism.  The student is unimpressed.

Maybe that was the point -- to have an adult student be so obdurate that she cannot wrap her brain around the concept that a woman needs time and space to become her true self.  If one of my students -- who were often versions of this professor's community college students (sans the crappy shoes) -- had been put off by the formality of Woolf's writing, I would have responded that if what you dream of is to write or paint, the way Woolf's sister did, and you were expected to keep house, tend children, take care of your husband and have no time and no place to be free, could you do it?  How, in fact, are you managing, with a kid or two, a job, a husband, to go to college?  What has happened in the time since Woolf was a young woman and couldn't go to University and you, enrolled in a business school?  There are things to be angry about in the comparison.  Woolf had private means.  Her father was at the flashpoint of late Victorian literature -- she knew Henry James when she was a child.  She was hardly without intellectual mentoring.  She had lived with her sister until she married and had a husband who did the taking-care-of, including hiring the maid and cook and the nervous breakdowns.  My students didn't have that luxury.

But they would understand the need for women like themselves to have time and space to grow.

Is This Writer that out-of-touch with working class students?  Is he that elitist?  Why does his novel need these adult students' inability to make connections when the same novel has high school students discussing with brilliance a novel not that much harder than that particular piece by Woolf?

There's no answer here except that I don't like the way This Writer regards first generation, third-rate institution, college students.  It's the most classist thing I've read since the 1930s or 40s.

When I went to SIUTK's reading so many years ago, I laughed hard at what one of my friends said, flipping through one his novels on the store shelves, "Oh, he's one of those he-flopped-his-penis-on-the-trailer-table writers," but I didn't really get it.  I do now.  I have a lot of gay friends and maybe they don't talk about penises around me but I have to say, I just don't get why SIUTK worships penises so much.  Do men in general worship sexual organs?  I guess heterosexual men go on and on about women's bits, but even I think some of those bits are kind of dazzlingly beautiful.  Maybe there's something in how gay men can whisk their wanger out on a moment's notice and do it.  Like women's breasts, a wand is not a very hidden thing.  But if a woman flashed her boobs the way these men flop out their tools, the writer would have to be damn good to make her into anything more than a despicable dumb self-sabotaging slut.

To dress all this worship and degradation up, we have long discourses on Wagner, Schuman, Bruckner, Brahms.  Thomas Mann wafts in and out.  This Writer wants his readers to be impressed.

Damn.  I want my readers to be impressed, too.  And all this Deutchophilia is his territory, as I know all too well.  Am I hoist on my own petard here?  I was the one who wrote a long bit about Stravinsky's Elephant Ballet in my last book.  At least I think it was the Elephant Ballet.  Definitely it was Stravinsky.  And I'm wincing that I can't use either the accent aigu or the umlaut in writing this piece.  Am I seeing too many of my own tricks in his?


I'm thinking a lot about forgiving people from my past, forgiving myself, getting over anger as I work on a proposal about the rosary.  I am tired of grudge-holding.  So he made a mockery of me in his first novel?  This novel is better than that even if it's not, really, very good.  And I was relieved that one character gets as annoyed about the promiscuous use of the word "tragedy" as I do -- I kind of felt like laughing and sending up a smoke signal to SIUTK to say, "I SO get that!  Thanks, buddy."

I find this book to be a kind of reckoning with someone I've carried enormous anger over.  He has courage that I don't -- you see no novels under my name on Amazon.  He's brilliant in many things.

But SIUTK has faults.  He doesn't understand working class students.  He worships the Winkie god in a way I don't think is interesting or important -- in a way that pushes the novel to genre rather than general readership.  There's an eight-year gap between his last two novels and he seems not to have been kept by his previous publisher.  He's a Wikipedia Writer.

But then, I have to admit, sometimes I am too. I'm scrambling to hold on to my current publisher.  I'm afraid to write a novel and just finished my first short story in 15+ years and only because it was commissioned.  Maybe I admired him so terribly much and to be dropped was to drop from such a height.  Twenty floors is hard to forgive.  But maybe one or two floors is not a big deal.  Maybe, after all these years, this particular SIUTK is just a guy doing his best and betraying his flaws and isn't such a big deal at all.

He's not Jewish either but I hope this cool spell was kind to him.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

At the Risk of the Sin of Pride...

It's cocktail hour chez Bat Cave, a moment that occurs every other day when I untwist a capsule of Prozac and dump half of it into some iced tea.  The other days I simply take the crewed-back-together pill with the other Prozac capsule and meds.  For someone who rarely drinks, it's kind of fun to sip sweet nastiness.

How do I frame this blog, which is partly a dialogue with a post I wrote for Psychology Today, "The Perfect Dress," and partly the continuation of a conversation with a friend as well as an answer to another who emailed me, "Any words of comfort to someone finding it difficult to hold on to hope?"  There seems to be a spell of the blues going around these days and if there's anything I can't resist, it's poking my nose into people's troubles and trying not to offer advice.

I told friend A. that my mother always said each of us has a ministry.  My most successful ministry seems to have been to speak up about Fat Stuff.  I haven't been able to do that, however, without talking about Depressed Stuff, which makes me think I am a voice for a certain segment of people, mostly women, who feel disenfranchised or marginalized, unable to locate themselves because of a wall standing in their way.

I would like to reframe that in the first person.  I have felt marginalized and unable to find my self because of walls.  Those walls include fat, thin, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, overspending/debt, ennui, resentment and anger.  If I come up with any other walls, I'll keep you posted.

Friend A. was feeling just as I felt earlier this year that her death would only burden people with her more.  I felt constrained from dying by the Three Ds -- Dad, dog and debt -- and also by how much stuff I own that would have to be dealt with.  I was convinced enough by the Three Ds that my psychiatrist actually suggested I pay down my debts more slowly.

It's a funny thing about pain -- I really do forget its intensity.  I don't quite remember what a menstrual cramp was like or the crippled feeling of a break-up.  The freshest pain in my memory is of how sweaty, unsorted, overfull I felt while swimming in sugar in Montana ten days ago.  Here is Friend A. feeling as I did in the early spring and I wanted to Fix It.  At the time, I blogged against people wanting to Fix It rather than simply listening.

So I parried listening with caveats of knowing better than to give advice while I offered suggestions.  But I think it was retelling some of what I wrote about in "The Perfect Dress" that helped the most, as well as recalling the small bucket list I began to amass in my last bout with the Black Dog.

In "The Perfect Dress," I wrote about the notions of deserving and earning and how hung up we are on them.  I heard those words from Friend A. today about really letting people's concern and desire to truly help settle into her bones.  "I don't deserve help," she said and then iterated her personal string of fuck-ups that exempt her from being taken care of and truly helped.

I'd applied the word "deserve" to a dress I loved that is a size too small.  I deserve a dress that fits, I wrote.  I deserve to lose weight, to live more healthfully.

Today I expanded that notion.  I have earned the right and deserve to feel peace, contentment, solvency, community, creativity, adventure and hope.  I don't need to be abstinent to deserve abstinence and I don't need to feel at peace, or un-depressed, in order to deserve peace or un-depression.


And so have you.

Some people get front-loaded in life with that stuff, I told Friend A.  There were people in my childhood and adolescence who had it all (enter Barbra Streisand seeing Robert Redford in her creative writing class).  They were smart.  They were thin.  They were rewarded for being smart and thin.  They were confident.  They filled up yearbooks.

I had a 2.8 grade average, weighed 240 pounds, had terrible acne, hated authority, didn't know how to drive and couldn't act comedy.  For high school graduation I asked for a car and a shrink.  I couldn't imagine what I would do with myself when I grew up any further because I felt absolutely unsuited to any work.  The first time I got a A in college, I went to the professor and told him he'd made a mistake.  Someone must have gotten my C.

Et cetera and so forth.

This concept of myself has been so persistent that I have a hard time matching years to events.  I know that I went to graduate school and started working in publishing in the 80s, became a literary agent in the 90s, but if you ask me when someone visited me in New York or Montana, or when I published a story, I'd draw a blank.  I have a few years that stick out -- 2004, 2003, 2001, 1975 -- and anything I can remember I have to do on my fingers.

I paid my dues of depression, dissatisfaction, underpayment, being frightened, writer's block, being fat, being resentful in those years that swim in front of my eyes.  I'm working on a proposal about living the rosary right now and the center of it is how much I can't let go of anger, hatred, resentment.  It's been ten years since I was fired from publishing: enough, I decided this summer, is enough.  I will go to extraordinary lengths to Get Over It, starting with getting over my inability to forgive myself.

So to Friend B, who asks if I have some words of comfort for the hopeless, and to reiterate what I got around to saying to Friend A, I have this answer.

You do not deserve hopelessness.  No one does, but especially not if you're part of my tribe of the tending-to-feeling-excluded or suffering from depression.  Not if you're under my watch.  The frontloaded stars of my high school year book?  They can start paying their dues now if they haven't already.  For those of us with crummy brain chemistry, we get a free pass.  And if that's easier said than accepted,

get mad.  If you don't believe in God, rail at the universe or at the people who stifled us.  You can't forgive or move on until you get the sources of resentment out there in the harsh light of names and deeds.  The 12 Steps would ask you to find your part in bad treatment and that's good advice, but you can start by being justifiably angry.  If it's that kind of hopelessness that is the Black Dog of No Particular Poison, shake your fist at the sky, tell God he's a big liar.  Then

admit the beauty of sadness, hopelessness, heartbreak.  Van Gogh didn't paint because he was happy and Beethoven didn't compose out of peace of heart. 
What you are feeling is beautiful and profound.  Honey Boo Boo and the Housewives of Beverly Hills will never possess the beauty you are experiencing.

One of the things that made the Black Dog shift this spring was remembering I hadn't read all of John Cheever.  Then I remembered I hadn't read all of Angela Thirkell.  Soon enough I began to crave a trip to Holland and Belgium during tulip season.  I began putting cash in a tin box.  More recently I've decided I want to take Tai Chi.  I'm beginning to work up a head of steam about the proposal I'm writing.

Friend A. has a Sustaining Relationship in her life.  I have expectations of setting up housekeeping with a friend in the Seattle area.  This expectation did not keep the Black Dog away.  I don't know when this will happen.  I don't hear from him enough to walk through each day with the certainty it will.  I'm quite sure I weary him, that I am Too Much.  It was a depressing thought that was cured in June when I was finishing revising my next book.  In that mystical way that writing is, I found myself putting this advice in another friend's mouth in regards to my hurt and uncertainty at my future roommate's silence: Sometimes you have to walk away without leaving.

You might have just read the last and best line of my next book and so have saved yourself fifteen bucks.

It's specific to that situation but also to depression.  Walk away from the hopelessness.  Think about the things you want to do for your self, what you are hungry for.  They say depression is anger turned inward, but I think it's more than that.  It's also hunger turned inward.  It's defeat turned inward.  It's crappy brain chemistry.

Make a bucket list.  Appreciate the gorgeousness of suffering and shout that you have paid your dues as far as suffering goes.  Know that there are a lot of wonderful smart funny women out here who go through long periods with the Black Dog suffocating them.

If you want, be in touch with me: we'll form a blog of what Friend A. calls Pissed Off Women. 

And to Friend B. I say: crying is comfort.  Stating your feelings is comfort -- as well as paying it forward because Friends A. and B. were there for me when I was smothered under the Black Dog and now I have a little peace of mind with which to say it's OK to feel awful and it's even more OK to be angry, to want things, to feel alienated.  When you're alienated enough and can say so, you might just find out how much company you have.

I'm part of that company.  My world would be bleaker without you.  I love you for having held me up and I love you for your capacity to hurt and I love the beauty of your reasons for hurting and I love you for having paid your dues.

And now I feel very noble.  The veritable Queen of Hubris.  And you have every right to call me on it because in the end, even though you won't want to think so, it will be your rage and your hunger than saves you, not my bleating on in cyberspace.

Friday, August 09, 2013

A [Very Minor] Member of the Wedding

There are harder things I have to write about in regards to my 11-day visit to Missoula for my youngest niece's wedding, but I thought I'd start with the good stuff and the objectively awful.  I want to do some research on my social anxiety before discussing the shame of the trip and may do that for my blog on Psychology Today.  I'm not looking forward to that little excursion so I'll keep you updated when I get around to it.

First the objectively awful.

My plane was scheduled to leave New York at 4.30 p.m.  A different flight left at 11.30 p.m.  When we arrived in Minneapolis, long after my connecting flight to Missoula had left, Delta airlines offered us an inadequate number of pillows, blankets and ditty bags.  I looked at the floor, considered my newly paid-off and empty Visa card and called a hotel in the hopes of a few hours' decent sleep before catching my 11.30 a.m. flight into Missoula, for which I had a ticket marked "seat assignment at the gate".

"Seat assignment at the gate," I learned only after showing up well in advance of the flight, is code for stand-by.  So I sat tensely and waited as, first, the agents offered a $300 voucher for volunteers to take the night flight.

No takers.

Then it was a $400 voucher plus meal vouchers.

No takers.

Then it was $500 plus meals plus a trip to the Mall of America.

I got on the plane.

As the plane was descending into Missoula, I felt a trickle down my arm.  I knew what had happened because I'd been nursing a lump in my arm that I've had for years but which had turned an angry purple in the last few weeks.  Sure enough, it had ruptured and was oozing something like hand cream as fast as I could wipe it up.

It did not, however, smell as lovely as hand cream.

My brother looked at it and described it to my father and the next thing I knew I was on my way to a walk-in clinic where the sebaceous cyst was lanced, drained, curated, packed.  I was given antibiotics and told to come back the next day, where the same thing happened again.  And the next day except by then they suspected the staph infection was on the move.  Injected antibiotics were administered.  And so on.

It left me feverish and sluggish.  I'd planned to swim in my brother's master class at the Y and float the river but that was nixed.  I couldn't even take a full shower.

So the arrival was awful.

There are bright moments however.

The expense of tending my wound was about a third of what it would be in Brooklyn.  There was hardly any wait after the first visit.  I'd been told to keep that arm as quiet as possible and I didn't have to walk dogs.

Here are the fabulous things I remember.

As Kimberly and Jeff read the vows they had written themselves, sniveling began in the first row of parents and bride's maids.  Suddenly, two heads turned to the left, as perfect as synchronized swimmers, my niece and niece-in-law desperately crying.  Auntie pockets to the rescue as I handed up two clean tissues.  I could not listen to the vows since I had to get up immediately, totter across the church on my too-loose high heels and read a Victorian sonnet.  I hear they were good vows, though.

Laughing so hard I was crying with my nephew Rob and nephew-in-law Kory.  My grand-niece, Sophie, yelling, "Hi, Francie!" at the top of her lungs at a left-overs party and wanting a nickname of her own.  (We are a family of a thousand nicknames and this winter her mother, my niece-in-law, asked for a "cool" nickname.  Since I sign myself as Wicked Auntie to that family, we had settled on Little Wicked for my niece-in-law.)  Of course, Sophie, who is seven, felt "little" should apply to her.  We tried out Sophtastic and Sophielicious but if she wants to carry on the family tradition, I think we should consider either Demgel (Demon Angel) or Angon (Angel Demonl).  I'm waiting to hear back about that.

Or maybe Anvil -- Angel Devil.  That at least means something.

I've met Sophie twice.  The first time she was a clinging two-year-old and the second time she was the almost-birthday girl for her sister's first birthday.  It was wonderful to be claimed on a third meeting.

I stayed with my father in the complex of seniors he lives in.  The food is awful.  I just had Brussels sprouts for dinner and remembered eating Brussels sprouts mash in his dining room.  Dad wanted to make kimchee for some unfathomable reason.  I ordered Korean hot sauce ahead of time but, of course, we found both the hot sauce and kimchee in the grocery store.  No matter.  We bought a mixing bowl and went to work.  With a sauce pan and one mixing bowl for his cooking gear, I managed also to make deviled eggs and a custard pie for him.  It was wonderful to see him so thoroughly enjoy those small treats.

It was also wonderful to occasionally catch his curiosity.  Once it was on the neuroscience of food addiction.  I practiced the reading I was doing for the wedding, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How do I love thee" sonnet, for him and he hugely enjoyed directing me to slow down, then asked me to read some Robert Frost from my Android, a thing he gets an enormous kick out of.  The last moment I caught his true interest was while I was reading a sycophantic biography of Francis I.

Seeing a nearly 96-year-old man's intellectual curiosity stimulated is a tremendous reward.

He told me some stories of the years he spent doing anesthesia.  Once, a doctor had operated on a woman's thyroid and had sewed the incision up so that the stitches were swelling against her trachea.  She passed out and turned blue in front of a bunch of hospital staff.  Dad didn't have time to do any prep so he knelt down and with his bare finger pulled the stitches out of her throat, reached in and hooked the clot, then called for a tracheal tube, which someone found and he inserted.  "She pinked up real nice after that," he said, "but the student nurses were horrified that I hadn't gloved up.  Hell, there are antibiotics for an infection and she had three minutes to live.  What did they think I should do?"

Staying with him at the Village was a trial, though.  In order to get cool air in the bedroom, I had to leave the window unimpeded by blinds -- he sets his air conditioner to 80 degrees.  The morning sun poured in at 5 a.m.  When I went to bed, Dad, very deaf, would be listening to a book on tape or music or watching television at mega-decibels.  I have never been so grateful for the air conditioned quiet dim of the Bat Cave.  The packing has been removed from my wound, which was big enough under the incision where they removed the infected material to smuggle a small fire arm on the plane but at least I can shower and wash my hair now.  Daisy was thrilled to see me and the friend who took me to La Guardia at 2.30 p.m. on a Sunday insisted on picking me up at 11 p.m. on a Tuesday.  My friends Gerry and Ann Marie has me over for salmon and grilled vegetables and corn-on-the-cob last night.  I feel very rich in friends and in being taken care of.

Although it's so humid that the store windows are fogged up.

That salmon last night, and the chicken and Brussels sprouts with tika sauce on them tonight tasted divine -- and divinely abstinent.

Still, after being sick and having to shepherd my blind, deaf father around to family events for over a week, I need a vacation.

But at least I'm thoroughly unpacked, I have enough money saved to pay my bills , and I came home with white polish on my toes and fingers.

And read two Angela Thirkell novels.  I have a meager bucket list of things I want to do besides getting past my aging father and dog and my debt.  Reading Thirkell in order, reading all of John Cheever, are part of it.  And now I have to write a proposal for a new book about living the rosary.

Oh, yeah: I made my confession to an old family friend who was a priest at St. Anthony's when I was a kid.  We had a wonderful moment when I said, "I had to do my my confession with a Montana priest."  I could see the light come on in his eyes and he said, "You know, you're right.  You couldn't do this with an Eastern priest."

Vatican II is the glory of my old diocese.  We think differently than most dioceses.

When I expressed my great sin of holding grudges, he asked, "Do you believe God loves you?"  It was the most important question he could ask.  I had to stop and think for several moments before saying, slowly, "Yes.  I actually do."

"I eat dinner with your father every night.  Every night he tells me what you're up to in New York.  He shines when he talks about you.  Take that and imagine it magnified a million times.  That's how much God loves you."

So there was progress on the God front and it made me feel glad.  I hope I can hang on to that for a long time.  I can already feel winter approaching in the dehydrated leaves falling from the trees and the desperate gasp of August as it asserts its summertime status on us.

Yesterday I found a dollar.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Now Trending in Francieland

Have to dress up for a wedding.  It was maddening.  I hope it's maddeningly funny:

And while I'm naming names, I want to say I adore the clothes  Mod Cloth.  Everything Joe Browns and AX Paris on Simply Be. When Torrid plays retro rather than idiotically juvenile, it can't be beat.  Someone asked if I'd ever looked at Lee Lee's Valise, but when I did, I found the clothes too much alike and kind of trying too hard.

The summer dresses in my closet, some of which I'll wear this summer and some of which I won't come from Torrid, Coldwater Creek, eShakti, Joe Browns from Simply Be and Monroe and Main.

My fun purchases of the summer were Joe Browns from Simply Be.

Friday, July 05, 2013

A Whiter Shade of Pale

So it's been, like, five months of keeping quiet here.  I don't know why, in a way: I like blogging.  On the other hand, I went through a rough patch that I nodded toward and then, as I began to come out of it, I watched with fascination what my moods do when they have free play.

I should add that my psychiatrist, when I was finally able to crawl to the phone and call her, increased my meds.  I also got kind of abstinent.  These things together have put some distance between me and my inner life that I am more a spectator of than participant.  In general however, the black dog has rolled off my chest and curled up in a corner and the white dog with its own dangers has taken its place as my close emotional companion.

There came a day when I decided to fast for 24 hours from the binge the night before.  That led to a second abstinent day.  The relief of waking up in the morning without hating myself for what I'd eaten the day before gave me space to think about what I should do that day & what I might actually, in fact, get done.  It gave me space to think about what else I hated myself for.

As the increased medication kicked in, I was able to measure my obsessiveness as it dwindled.  The one really productive thing I did this winter was to get rid of all clothes that don't fit or aren't within a size of fitting.  I donated, I packed off the smallest and best to my nieces and sister-in-law, I sold some on eBay.  Because my VCR doesn't work, I donated all of my VHS movies and started to replace them with DVDs...until I realized I had tapped out a credit card.

Tapping out a credit card brought me up so short that I began obsessing about paying off debt, which I did a lot of until recently, when my dogs went away for the summer, moved away or died.  In ten days, I'm taking over a colleague's roster of dogs and will get back to it.  Currently I'm determined to get rid of one bookcase & am in the process of donating books or putting them out on the street on fair weather weekends.  It's a good way to develop an interest in life because every time I leave the house on weekends, I'm curious to see what's been taken and refresh my drop-off points if they've been cleared out.

In that sentence are two leading features of my interior life that a more elevated mood and sort-of abstinence force me to deal with: my near-agoraphobia and my generalized ennui.

Which leaves me with three things to explain, because who knows what "sort-of" abstinence is?

Here is what I'm doing about abstinence.

The Stepfords of the 12-step program I wish I went to more often count days of back-to-back adherence to whatever food plan they are on.  The last ten years or so have proven to me that if I try to live that way, when I do fall off and lose the Almighty Day Count, I will simply be off and running with the food.  So on days when I screw up, I am detracting a day from my day count and moving on.  I've been doing that since late April and have seriously messed up with sugar twice.  I've messed up with other things -- flour and chips -- another dozen or so times.  In nearly 70 days, then, I've averaged nearly 90% adherence to sort of planless plan.

Planless?  Oi.  Blame menopause, that ennui I mentioned, Prozac for having no plan.  I eat when I'm hungry, usually twice a day or twice a day with a yogurt/fruit at night.

Whatever.  I'm sick of food.  I can be starving & my indifference won't move me to do anything about it.  I don't want to write about the nuts & bolts so I'll leave it that.  The important thing is how much more space there is (or isn't) for everything else in my brain.

With a clearer head, I seem to cycle through spells of OCD, ennui, depression and massive anxiety.  I may have three days of one of these and then move on, or go through the cycle day-by-day.  I suspect they may be fewer actual states of mind.  Do I develop ennui and exhaustion instead of anxiety, for instance?  If I'm indifferent or too tired, then I can shelve ambitions of leaving the house and allay my anxiety.

I don't know which mood is more painful.  Probably the occasional days of the Black Dog because I really do feel helpless.  The other moods can be coped with, although anxiety is the physically most painful and emotionally most taxing -- it makes me impatient when I go out or something stupid, like dropping a bowl of salad on the floor, happens.

The anxiety takes a mild form of agoraphobia.  My particular species makes going downstairs to the trash or washing machines difficult.  Getting proper groceries in can be a week's berating of myself as I survive on take-out salads or wrap sandwiches that aren't hideous to purchase because it's only a little out of my way on dog walks.  The dog walks require a mantra, "Be here now," to survive because I want to get it done and be home again quickly.

I've got as much or more work to do on anxiety as I do on depression.  A lot of it is shame: shame of gaining weight, shame of having been fired all those years ago that settled into a sense of being unwantable.  It's weird, too, because when I go to Key Food, the bank, the pet stores, Housing Works to donate stuff, to buy cigarettes, to the doorman buildings where my dogs live or simply to walk Daisy, I am known and always marvel at the banter I share with all those people.  They don't hate me.  They don't think of me as being some unhireable slacker.  There is a tiny bit of social life I engage in when I get a carton of yogurt or bag of kibble, sometimes more than tiny.

When I can, I impress one of my few friends into escorting me beyond my comfort zone, which is pretty tight.  I think of those excursions as something I did when I was thin and I was frantic to get away from the Bat Cave.  I spent a lot of money in those days.  Now I spend it on having salads delivered.  Sigh.......

There's a lot from That Time -- the thin time -- I have yet to process.  I failed to learn how to have fun and then everything exploded and I saw how frail the life I'd created was.  I think I'm terrified I'll run into someone who knew me when I was thin.  Shame is such a powerful and pointless emotion, isn't it?  I mean, who cares?

The other day I saw one of the Stepfords who has left my 12-step program for a harsher one.  She is super thin.  She gave me The Look.  You know: pity based on disapproval.  I wanted to laugh -- really: shame did not kick in -- because she knows nothing.  She doesn't know I'm crafting my own abstinence, that I could not do that without what I learned in the Rooms.  She doesn't know anything beyond her own reality.  & in my hidden life, I am still speaking daily to people struggling with the hopeless form of obesity, handing out information, suggestions, gentleness, urging self-acceptance, small steps, clapping my hands at success.  Much of what strength I have comes from the Rooms I'm afraid to go to.

The last meeting I went to, I was greeted by the leader as though it were my first, as though I'd never attended a meeting in my life.  That's what a stranger I've become.  Later, someone told me how much they like my Psychology Today blogs and I thought, well, there goes anonymity.  So I'll continue to be lackadaisical about meetings.  Something in the Rooms broke for me, or I broke for the Rooms.

On the OCD days, I do 80 things at once or obsess at books.  On good ennui days, I read.  Yesterday & today are ennui days, it seems.  I haven't brushed my teeth since Wednesday although I did manage to get to the grocery store yesterday & to put some books out for the high pedestrian traffic of a long weekend.

I feel really bad for Daisy in all of this.  There are a couple of people even my much "better" mood hurts, but day-to-day it's Daisy.

Who is ten years old today.  Which makes me want to cry in fear of what THAT means.

So there you go.  Talk soon.  Or not.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Holy Week Is Over: Amen

Maybe my blues were partly brought on by the whole Catholic School Girl thing of Holy Week.

I'm checking in very briefly before putting on a sweater (pink!  With a pearl neckline!) and skirt (gray) and Not Dog Shoes (gray) and earrings (moonstones) and perfume (Ralph Lauren's Romance) and going to Grace's house for Easter dinner.  I have had to do as little as possible, except be the Woman Behind the Curtain looking for profound things to say about Easter that aren't hideously Christian, in order to face a dinner party, but by God, I'm going and it's only taken half a Klonopin to get myself through the dread of being outside today, along with a new pastry by Entemann's that I don't recommend -- Bavarian Cream.  Great idea but it belongs either in pie crust or pastry crust, not coffee cake dough.

I did not go to Mass today.  I did, however, take Daisy too church -- the dog run, where I threw-the-ball-threw-the-ball-threw-the-ball until she was filthy.  She smiled all the way home and is zonked now.  She is the second person, after me, who has been hurt by this episode.  She deserved her time of worship.  I hope I can move beyond Midaugh Street more often to get her there.

We all do what we can.  I absolutely know I'm not the most depressed person in the world, or the poorest.  I was pleased at what doing my taxes revealed about my income and now that I've pretty much become phobic about buying anything -- which is not a good phobia when taken to extremes and when do I not take everything to extremes? -- I can see no reason for not hacking away at one of the ties that bind, Visa and Discover.

Thank you for listening.  I'm still "this" far from tears of unknown origin but I'm showing up.

In pearls and moonstones and the curiosity of what really happened in that tomb.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The friend who can be silent

I need to do something for myself, under my own name.

In my other life, I am the woman behind the curtain.  I do a damn good job of it, pulling the big green bead's eyes & mouth to say wise things that help people Like Me.  But I get tired of being the mostly unacknowledged presence or, when I do add a comment to the Wizard's social media, being banged away at.  After all, people come to the Great and Powerful Wizard, not to the fat woman behind the curtain.

I'm sorry if I'm confusing you.  Let's just say I have a secret life with a confidentiality agreement sealing it from too much sharing.

Today the Wizard mouthed this command:

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing…not healing, not curing…that is a friend who cares. ~ Henri Nouwen

It speak to me more than to the supplicants, I'm afraid, but every once in a while the woman behind the curtain has to make the Green Head waggle its ears.  Maybe someone out there knows what it's like to be that person who needs a witness to their pain but adamantly does not need advice.

I hope so, because the woman behind the curtain, who is Frances Kuffel with her own writing life, needs such a witness.

So thank you in advance and let's talk about that.

I am tired of walking the same old dogs.  I am tired of staying behind the curtain.  I am tired of myself -- my addiction to sugar, my depression, my deepening social anxiety, my slothfulness that I indulge in to calm myself (along with the sugar), my guilt, my loneliness, my anger.  Tired.  Tired.  Tired as in book a cruise to nowhere and reread the Harry Potter books with a ginger ale to the sound of shuffleboard in the distance.

I am also tired of my financial debt, which I am trying very, very hard to pay off but which makes me impatient.  In this respect, thank God for the Great and Powerful Wizard.  When Daisy got sick I could write a check instead of hand over plastic.  Some of that plastic will be retired in the next couple of months.

I am also tired of being stuck in finding a novel to write.  Tired of being overwhelmed by household chores I put off.  Tired of not having anywhere but bed to read or watch TV.  Tired of reality television (I knew I'd watched too much, I posted on Facebook, when Pope Francis made his first appearance and my immediate reaction was, " that a yes to the dress?"), which I watch for its ability to numb that overweening anxiety.

I am tired of diarrhea, also a result of the anxiety.

I am so tired of it that the other night I reached for my evening cocktail of a Klonopin and two nighttime ibuporfins and watched my hand hover on the Klonopin.  For a moment, I thought I'd had one of those what-did-I-come-in-this-room-for moments.  Then I realized my hand was considering taking the 75 or so little green pills in the bottle.

It would be that easy, some voice whispered in my head.


I was not shocked.  I was reassured.  I felt a certain amount of peace mingling in my anxiety about whether I'd get to sleep that night.

I didn't do it.

The next day, I was doing my Transcendental Meditation like a good little girl behind the curtain and began crying.  Gushing, really.  I wanted someone to say, "I love you" without being asked.  The one smart thing I did was to go visit my friend Grace, a nine-month-old white Labrador who, I think, loves me to distraction.  She thinks she's my lap dog.  I can't wear my glasses when I sit down at her face, or wear black that I care about, or, tomorrow, make-up.  She is very thorough about washing my face and dusting me with love hair.

I had to go back again the next day for another scoop of Grace.

In the meantime, I had a conversation with the Great and Powerful who has gotten interested in binge eating.  I don't fully understand what her plans for this interest are but she wanted my feedback.  I could only cry.  There is someone who is going to writing about bingeing for her but it won't be me.

Pity.  I could make it real.

And as the G&P talked on, all I could think was, "You understand nothing" as I cried as quietly as possible.

I think that conversation was the one that sent me back to Grace.

Later, as I was switching back and forth between Supernanny and Say Yes to the Dress, I thought about the moment my hand hovered over the Klonopin.  I would have to find someone to take Daisy before.  If the Salvation Army came and took bags of my clothes away, would they come in and clear out my apartment if I could get it together to box everything up?  Would my sentimental niece be angry that I didn't separate out my jewelry and salt and pepper shakers and Barbie dolls for her?  What would happen to my debts -- would my family have to pay them?  I could imagine the long, vastly deep silence that would follow my brother telling my father what had happened.

I hauled my teary, angry self into the kitchen for a cigarette and whispered, "I want to go home.  I want to go home."

Home is a long, silent, flatline away.

I am owned by my books and CDs and nun doll collection.  I am bound by Discover and Visa.  I am beholden to not being the second child my father has to bury or burn.  I am claimed by a niece's gobbling, good-natured desire to possess the same small things that possess me.  I am buried under stuff.

I added another book to the bag I'm taking to the library when I have the wherewith all to cross the boundaries of my comfort zone.

Grace torments Daisy.  She can't go live there.  But she's nine.  Daddy is 95.  I got rid of 11 boxes and innumerable bags of clothes this winter.  I donated all my VHS movies.  I can keep at it.  Surely.

All the while knowing this will pass.

But to what?  What?  The same old dogs.  The same old Giant Green Head platitudes.

And inevitably the cycle up.

It is wildly unfair to be this weight and age, to smoke, to eat what I too often eat, and be this fucking healthy.

Although I couldn't afford being unhealthy, either.

Round and round.

I write this is hopes of catharsis.  I write this for anyone who lies a similarly mobius psychological life.  I write this for those who are mystified at where I go, where their own friends go.  I write this to say that there's not that much difference between dying and death.

And please, I beg of you, don't offer suggestions for fixing it.  I'm not stupid.

I'm tired.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tri- Quad - Oh Hell, Pentfecta

Once a year, and only once a year, I change my Facebook avatar from one of my book jackets to a picture of Cupid face down on the ground with an arrow in his back.

Coupled with Fat Tuesday, Chinese New Year and Presidents' Day Weekend, I'm swinging between bitchy and heartbroken.

You think all of this is self-inflated exclusion?  It is.  But I've run into Chinese lanterns, Mardi Gras beads, countless valentines and have a heavy schedule of dogs for the three-day weekend.  I ordered flowers for my father's sort-of girl friend yesterday, wishing he'd asked my brother to do it and order some for me at the same time.  How much fun to get flowers!  How it's NOT going to happen.  I'd go buy them myself but the Bat Cave is mid-disarray after getting rid of almost all the clothes I don't fit.  The project involved so many piles of various destinations that a lot of other things got out of control & I don't know where I'd put the flowers I won't buy myself.

God, I'm so tired of myself.

OK, so here is what I need to say: a catalogue of all my feelings the last few days:

Glad to be rid of all but two hefty armfuls of clothes I want to sell on eBay.
Glad some bad karma went out the door with those clothes.
A failure for having gained back most of the weight.  I kept one dress from my highest weight and when I found it, I tossed it into the Salvation Army bag with a shudder as to how it might fit me now.
Regretful about some of the associations of those clothes.
Angry and resentful about some of the associations of those clothes.

Sad and angry about men I loved who did not love me back.

Heartbroken that my black Lab client is moving to Manhattan on Friday.  Great week to break up a marriage, BTW.

Frustrated leading into anger at a freelance project I can't get answers on, including whether I will be paid for it.  This is the thorniest feeling.  I THINK frustration leads to anger, which leads to self-justification which leads to sarcasm which leads to all the reasons I should be paying my employer for doing a massive project in a very short time.  I THINK that's the order.  Doesn't matter.  It all ends in Ben & Jerry's Key Lime Ice Cream.

Stressed out over the project above, edits for my new book coming in, many dogs to walk, money (loss of Lab = $600 a month).

Wishing I wanted something.  Or maybe I do.  I wish I had hope.  I wish I could be thin, write a novel and be solvent.

Funny: I am where I started in Passing for Thin.  Fat.  Hopeless.  Wanting to write.  Only this time, I'd trade freedom from credit cards for the love of my life.  Been there, didn't do that.

Thanks for letting me vent.  I THINK I got it all out............

Friday, February 08, 2013

VERITAS w/ Mel Fabregas: 'Food Addict' Label May Worsen Fat Stigma

VERITAS w/ Mel Fabregas: 'Food Addict' Label May Worsen Fat Stigma

My response:

We can only hope that the more information about food addiction that becomes available, the more compassion people will have for the obese.  How much were these people told about the addiction?  If you read Pam Peeke The Hunger Fix or any of the other half dozen laymen's science on the subject, you'll know food can literally scar the brain.  Obesity is not a choice, it's an unavoidable consequence of the dopamine system gone awry. You have to be pretty odd to wake up one day and decide, "I think I'll gain 200 pounds, have a hard time moving, difficulty sleeping, have to ask for a seat belt extender and endure disapproval every time I encounter another human being."

Perhaps the people in the study feel fat women are like Bowery drunks.  Perhaps compassion is a disappearing quality.  Perhaps they will one day wake up on the wrong side of the number on the scale and will have to re-think their prejudices.  The latter is the most likely scenario of all.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Bad Week...Or Not...

I need to review this very strange week and the only way I'll do it is if I show off while I'm at it.  Ergo: I blog.

Let's begin with the glass half empty of pond scum, my default position in life.

  1. My computer screen is fading in and out.
  2. I lost internet (and phone and cable) for an entire business day on Tuesday.  I have a freelance gig that is entirely dependent on the internet.  My freelance gig boss was not happy.
  3. I lost $55 in cash on a very windy day.
  4. Daisy got very sick.
  5. Daisy got very sick all over the sheets and blankets.
  6. Daisy cost $660 to get her take a solid poop.
  7. Daisy's vet visits cost me at least $115 in lost business this week.
  8. My house looks like I need a hoarding counselor's intervention as I continue to sort clothes into piles: (1) Salvation Army (picking up 2/13, my deadline); (2) niece in Washington; (3) niece and sister-in-law in Montana; (4) Housing Works donations; (5) boxes to ship West; (6) trash; (7) eBay; (8) waiting for a decision from various nieces; (9) clothes I need to hang up or store because they are either too sentimental or they actually fit.  My friend Ann gave me a baseline I'm grateful for: if it fits or almost fits, keep it.  My closets, now mostly empty of Thin Clothes, are bulging, as are my drawers.
  9. The shoes I ordered my father do not fit.  I have to run out and send the paperwork so that my brother, in full I-told-you-so mode, can return them.  I wanted them to fit because it would have made my dad feel...younger, having more choices than Fred Flintstone.  I was really upset about that.
  10. I ate over Daisy.  Piles of sugar.  Twice
That's a nice full list of reasons to be exhausted.  Because after surviving the list, I go into the weekend with 15 and 10 walks per day, which is not relaxing and especially not relaxing when I decide to pull down four big boxes of clothes that need to be photographed, described & emailed to probably parties before dividing into 8 of 9 piles above.

Ah.  Burp.  I just had a deserved Greek salad with grilled chicken from the diner.  I believe in restaurants & weight loss, if don't order the milk shake, fries and pie.  I mean, it's gone.  There isn't anything else to pick at.  All the experts say don't go out.  I say, go out, order healthy, and have a cigarette.

Or order in, which is what an agoraphobe with dirty hair and clothes does.

Anyway.  You can see I'm pushing toward the better side of it all if I can appreciate a good salad.

Half full of good Champagne would be:

1.  My internet, phone and cable service have been restored.
2.  Daisy is much better and got to run loose on the Promenade in the scant snow this morning with her pal, Sandy.
3.  This is big: I PAID THE VET BILLS BY CHECK.  For once in my life, I am both paying my bills down, have a teeny but growing nest egg and am liquid enough to pay a big sudden bill like that without having to make minimum payments.  It helps that Discover gave me $106 back for some random reason.  A minimum payment there will LOOK like a bigger payment, at least.
4.  I got rid of enough clothes yesterday to walk through the apartment without terrible, terrible danger.  I'd like to attack my cellar cubby today but everything seems to be taking longer than I'd like.  Tomorrow I'll be able to ship off two big boxes.  That will feel good.  Still, I'm anxious because I don't know what's downstairs in storage and when I get done with this, I will have to do it all over again with the CTFOAF.

I did some blogging.  I put in the hours I demand of myself on this freelance project.  I took a huge bag of clothes to Housing Works last night and seem, from what the women at the donation desk said, to have been the only genuinely nice person to have graced their Saturday.  I even got the vomit washed out of the bedding.  Five days out of seven without sugar is better than four or two or none.

Still, it was a tiring week.  I would really really like to have a whole day off.  Maybe two.  Only Daisy and an appointment for a massage and the energy of declothing myself to put into making some decent food instead of ordering it out.  It's not going be this week.  Dogs and dogs, at least five containers of clothes to mess my head up with.  If I'm lucky, I'll get to spend some exhausting hours photographing and measuring clothes for eBay.  If I'm even more lucky, someone will buy something.

OK.  Gotta go walk a golden retriever.  I'll be the one who smells like raw red onions and feta cheese.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Scary - Sweet

It started with what felt like a normal walk.  She didn't indicate any urgency but when it was time to take a dump it was pure liquid.

There's a reason they call Labradors "Lardadores".  They'll eat anything and they can get really fat.

In case you don't know, I have issues with fat, so Daisy is not fat.  She will, however, eat anything.  This desperation on the part of Labs to get potential food in their mouths is so bad that our friend Boomer once almost pulled his owner over to get to a patch of light shining on a sidewalk darkened by scaffolding.  Add to that their innate bomb-sniffing skills and at night it can be impossible to keep God knows what from going down their throats.

So Tuesday morning she had diarrhea.  I decided to fast her and get some ID -- or WW40 as a lot us call the sick dog food -- that night.  She had another bout that afternoon but I fed her and she had no BM that night.  She did, however, arf at about 4 in the morning so I decided to fast her again except for a couple of cookie bits and her usual custom of licking my yogurt bowl.  That afternoon we had an urgent call to go out and then later in the afternoon she began throwing up at rough half-hour intervals. 

I'm not going to be anonymous about this because I'll post a link to this blog on Facebook where a lot of friends know Tom, who is a vet in Illinois.  I texted Tom that Daisy was pathetic and could he call me.  He answered that he was in a meeting until 8 and would call then.

At six, she threw up pink bile -- blood -- and I completely lost it.

Thankfully, our vet is open until 8 and had a 7.30 appointment available.  My friend Ann Marie agreed to walk Sandy and -- oh, it was one of those days -- because the building had lost cable service for the day -- I had to walk over to Hodi's house and tell his owner I couldn't walk the dog until later that night.  He told me not to worry, that he'd do it.  I was all tears and snot by then and walked home to call Gerry, Ann Marie's husband, who had volunteered to go with us to the vet.

Most of me suspected it was some kind of gigantic upset stomach and after we ruled out rat poisoning and until we had all the blood work back, that's what the vet confirmed.  I have some pink liquid to squirt down her throat to coat her stomach an hour before eating and mostly she's just kind of lethargic and funky.

Here's where the story I want to tell really begins.

Tom called at 8, just as I was talking to the vet.  I asked him if he wanted to talk to her and at first he demurred, then said, what the hell, put her on.  Platelets, enzymes, blah blah, rectal, liver, blah blah, Cornell, Ohio State, you're-kidding?  I'm their protege, blah blah blah.  Call ends abruptly.  The vet handed it back to me and said, "Who was I talking to?"

I squirmed on the bench a little, not wanting to brag but wanting to make my point.  "He's my best friend from childhood and, I think, a rah-ther famous feline endocrinologist.  His name is Tom Graves."

She took a beat or two.  "Doctor Graves?  He wrote all the books!"

The phone rings.  Tom again.  "You wrote all the books," I informed him.

"Only some of them," he laughed and proceeded to assure me that 98% of these gastro disturbances are self-curing but that I had done the right thing.  Daisy is nine now.  Not fifteen but not two.  I needed to have her seen.  We said goodbye and I stood up.

"Wow," the vet said.  "I just talked to Doctor Graves."

"I'll bring him by when he's in town," I told her.

She kind of gasped.  "That would be...such an honor."

As I was writing a check for FOUR HUNDRED AND NINETY-FIVE DOLLARS, I thought, I bet I could get you a signed, first edition copy of 600 Kinds of Cat Hairballs if you'd give me a discount. 

I was giddy with relief and with Tom's fame on the walk home.  "Did you hear?  Did you hear?" I kept saying to poor Gerry who had seen and heard all of it.  He was kind enough to let me natter and I laughed that it was pay-back for Tom's attendance of our grade school reunion last summer when a couple of people wouldn't stop talking about Francie Kuffel the millionaire writer.  (And he hadn't corrected them, to my knowledge, about the numbers but he sure let me know how tired he was of me when talking to people we hadn't seen in 40 years.)

When we got home, I texted Tom about what went on out of his hearing.  I thought it was terrific -- I was humbled by it, awed (and I HATE that word) by it.  He said the vet had emailed him a sweet note after we left the office and I was even more impressed and honored.

Then the texting turned real.  Daisy is nine.  Realistically, she has, at most, six years left.  Three is more typical.  She's active, snotty and vivacious but the tip of her tail is white now.  "I need to get a puppy," I told Tom.  He answered that when he lost his chihuahua, he cried so much his friend bought him two more to replace her.  And Tom has something like a million other dogs around the house.

I remember how puppies invigorated the older dogs in our house and how, when the older dog went to the Great Duck Pond in the Sky, we were in love with another dog and it didn't hurt as much.  Given my reaction to what I pretty much knew was an upset stomach, I don't want to think about what it will do to me when Daisy leaves.

She's grandfathered into our apartment building, however.  Not long after I got her (and it caused me a nervous breakdown: I wish I could stick up for myself the way I do for Daisy), the co-op board made some rules.  No dog over 40 pounds, no excessive barking, only one dog per unit.  I was furious and being a renter, I had no voice in this.  It's the dogs under 40 pounds who bark all the time, you soulless fuckwits, I wanted to tell them.  And my apartment is so small, I should be restricted to half a dog.

If I'm not out of here when I'm alone again, maybe a fox terrier, I suggested.

Tom and I have strong opinions on breeds.  We don't always agree.  He nixed the fox terrier and sent me photos of the dogs he thought I should have.

What I should have is a move to the West, where I can get another Lab puppy, as well as the terrier Kenneth wants, his cats and frogs, the chickens, Long Island ducks and angora bunnies we both want.  And the goats Tom insists we must have.  A black Lab named Dahlia.  "You can't name a dog before you get it," Tom texted back.  But when I knew I wanted a yellow Lab, I knew also that I would name her either Lucy or Daisy and I gave my grandniece the choice.  So Dahlia it is: murder victim or flower of rare coloring.

At least he agrees that he loves black Labs.

At 8 this morning, Hodi's owner called to offer to walk the dog himself.  "We're just on our way out," I said.  "She needs to pee like a racehorse after being hydrated last night.  We'll be there in five minutes."

"I really don't mind," he said.  He's been suffering from a painful arthritic hip pressing on a nerve and his stalwart Jack Russell mix, who I adore, walks too briskly for him. 

"No, it's Okay," I assured him.  "They love each other and Daisy's Okay."  I told him what the vets had said and apologized for being such a mess the night before.

"Don't apologize," he said.  "You know what I did after you left?  I sat down on the couch and cried for all the dogs I've lost."

Which made me start crying again because I will walk Hodi without pay to keep them together.

No black Lab or fox terrier or -- Jesus, Tom: how could you suggest a shih tzu to me, of all people? -- any other dog will be Daisy.  And a lot of my breakdown about Daisy is really, of course, about my father.

Still, it's best to be a little prepared.  It's best to know you can love again, which of course I can or I would have stopped walking dogs when Melly moved or Henry moved or -- well, Hero nearly made me quit the business.  When I don't see Gerry and Ann Marie's Grace for a week, I ache.  I get cravings for Tiger and Tallulah.  I want to squeeze the white fur off of Hodi.

So I'll be Okay.  Even if I don't like it.  And Dahlia -- your mum probably hasn't been born yet, but your grandmother is a tide-swimming, salmon-rolling, bed-hogging maniac of a puppy.  And you will be, too.  And I will love you all my days.