Saturday, August 09, 2014

Spitting Angry

I believe that the family member trying to keep an eye on her business has both our interests at heart and I'm sorry that she's caught in a mangle of unrealistic expectations on the one hand, and my orthodoxy regarding the original agreement on the other.

But I just came back from walking Daisy after spending five and a half hours tracking down every glimmer of interest in one of my social media client's book and making a list, nearly comprehensive, of the websites I use as sources for my work for her.  Last night I spent 90 minutes explaining what and I why I do what I do.  I don't know how many times I've run through that litany but I do know that, in the nearly three months I've been charging her for the four and a half months I've been working for her, this is the fourth time she has wanted to renegotiate the fee I put in the work to earn.

And I know very well that she expects the same work for half the money.

I'm leaving for Montana on Wednesday.  I need to do laundry.  I have no food in the house and I have prescriptions to pick up.  I have other media clients and my own sorely neglected social media and writing to attend to.  There is some cleaning I want done in the Bat Cave.  I'd like to pay a credit card and figure out my trip to the Festival of the Book in Missoula in October but I can't because I don't know how much money I'll make this month, or won't until tonight or tomorrow.  I'm pissed as hell and I ache.  I'm hungry and don't want to go to the market.  I want to hide but I want a friend.  I want to spit and hiss.

I ache from sitting still in front of emails, Hoot Suite, book marks for so long.  I know I have done a good job and I know I can't make a best seller on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook.  If I could, I would have done it for myself.  I have been honest about that since we met in March.  I have told her that my job is to get the word out and fashion a persona.  I have offered to do more but have not had cooperation.  When she has asked me to do more and I've double-checked my information, I've been met with sarcasm.

But I need this money.

And this client wants to write like me.

That's a very poisonous basis for any relationship.

I haven't worked for The Man since I was a literary agent.  I don't count adjunct teaching as working for The Man because aside from some simple rules, I was free to do what I wanted.  I've now been doing social media for 19 months and until this, it's been amiable and smooth sailing.  I'm learning how to speak up for myself when I'm asked too much or blamed without information, but this has been with someone rational.  I feel like I'm back in the literary trenches again, working against someone determined at once to like me and demonize my professional performance.

With each re-negotiation except for one, I've kept a cool head, not giving into tears or sarcasm or anger.  I've stuck to my original thesis: let's make this book earn out so you can capitalize on it.  I send daily updates of my work.  I forward important possible opportunities.  I'm stolid and steady.

But I gotta tell you, peeps: I'm fucking miserable here!  Everything I do for this client is fraught with whether it's good enough, whether she'll like me that day or ignore me or deride me.  I would KILL for the income to get out of this goddammed situation.  I would love to tell her I was quitting -- and in language that would make Freud blush.

One of the things I hate most in life is justifying myself.  It sounds shrill and pathetic in my ears.  It makes me question myself, immediately handing over power to my inquisitor.  I end up being the whipping girl and I feel like I'm walking on March ice.

When I picked up Daisy, the other dog waiting for us began to screech.  I call him Kreacher because he's like Sirius Black's house elf who was so foul to people.  He's actually a fabulous dog, part Chihuahua and suffering from Little Man complex.  Some guy across the street yelled down from his window to make the dog shut up.

HE is the one I'd like to go after, since I have to swallow my fear and singled-out-ness on the other front.  If I could have gotten a look at him -- if he'd leaned out his window and made himself known -- I'd have yelled back, "Dogs bark.  I don't like it either but I can't stop it.  Do you scream at babies crying or kids throwing tantrums?  I'll bet not.  So take it.  It's life, you jerk.  Live with it."

But the ass didn't make himself visible.  He made himself another voice in my head saying, "You don't do it good enough."

And I'm sick of that voice.  I'm sick of the fact that I've done what I can do to explain myself AGAIN to people who really only want a miracle of book sales and not one word else.  I'm sick of absorbing it all as being a fault of character or intelligence.  I'm sick of people deciding I've represented myself as a king maker when to know me is to know that's about the last thing I would claim.

And I can't teach anyone to write like me.  Who'd want to?  I don't make much money.  The people I went to graduate school with will probably be in English classes in 2114.  Anyone who doesn't like me, REALLY hates me because I expose too much.  I am doomed to misunderstanding.

What I have going for me is a talent for similes, humor, being unafraid to hang it on the line.  I get fired for writing blogs like this but sometimes the bullshit reaches critical mass and I don't have anyone to turn to today and be consoled (let alone fed mild amounts of alcohol) by.  I can't teach that.  To be in proximity of someone who thinks they can get it from me feels like one of those vampires who doesn't go in for the final kill.

As if a fifth round of financial recompense didn't already feel like that.

I think I'll go query the doorman across the street to find out who the dog sniper is.

I hope my client doesn't find this post.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Weird Saturday

It's gray outside.  It's cool but not cool enough to turn off my rattling air conditioner that keeps Daisy from hiding in the bathroom on the cool tile.  Everything feels off today.  Was it because I woke up a couple of hours later than usual, after a dinner party in some friends' garden?  Because I didn't take anything to sleep, making me vaguely anxious on a day when I have few obligations to the world?  Long dreams?

I don't know.  It's after 1 and it could be ten in the morning or six at night.  I did my first, essential rounds of social media for the day and I don't think it should have taken three hours -- but I wasn't hacking around.  If felt very slow motion.  Lots of looking and not finding, but the looking is essential.

Or is it that I waited forever for Deborah Harkness to finish the All Souls Trinity and it was mind candy I haven't had in a long time?  The problem with the last two books, Shadow of Night and The Book of Life, seems to me a fear of getting going that makes the first two-thirds of each book a lot of scene changing but little tension, and then a hurry-up through what should be drawn out. 

I feel a little guilty about saying this because I'm lousy at my own plots and if I only had skill in that discipline I wouldn't have to write about me-me-me all the time.  But I think she could learn something from reading The Return of the King.  And it feels like fear rather than lack of talent.  And there she is, making a gazillion dollars despite these problems because somehow the story is really compelling.

I'm pissed off that my mind candy is done.  I read The Book of Life on Kindle and flipped to some research after finishing, only to gag at the cloyingness of some forward to a book about 20th century popes and their relationships to the Virgin Mary.  Should I read BOF again?  Would I like it more?


I also want to work, which is why I'm at least writing my blog, and I want to hear from Dar, who is or isn't dead on the streets, and I want him to go away and leave me to get over him some more.  And I want to go to Copenhagen and get a juicer and I think there's room for a pony in the Bat Cave if it wears a diaper.

Ha!  The co-op board, in its un-wisdom about dogs, put a size restriction on future canines.  Daisy is grandfathered in.  But there's nothing in the bylaws about ponies and I could save a lot of subway fare...

God.  It's not quite 1.30 in the afternoon and something is stirring in me at the same time that time feels like t-i-m-e.  I am restless to be absorbed.  It's very hard to become absorbed when one is restless unless it's to escape self.  I'd like to avoid that today -- such a lovely empty day -- but I don't know if I have the strength.

But I just made breakfast.  Maybe that will help.  Maybe someone will find something to relate to in here and compliment me, which I seem also to be hungry for.  Oi!  I should go buy flowers or really cook something for dinner or go to Pinterest with a vengeance.

Or work on the rosary proposal.  After I eat.  After I do dishes.  After I.......

Thursday, June 19, 2014

P'sst. Is it safe to come out now?

It's been 16 days since the publication of Love Sick.  I don't troll Amazon often but at last look its ranking was OK and the reviews mixed.  The Book Mark Shoppe in Brooklyn was kind enough to have me in to read, mingle and drink wine and I've done a little of this and a little that for promotion.  In some ways it seems behind me now, especially because my agent has given me an August 1 deadline to turn in the proposal for the rosary book, which I think I'm calling Oh Me of Little Faith.

The weeks around launching a book are always fraught.  Passing for Thin was months of whirling and Love Sick has been much quieter except that I didn't realize how much of myself I was exposing or how much of my past I was reopening -- old wounds and all that.

That's what I want to try to talk about today and it's complicated and I woke up in a state of high anxiety so I'm doing this under the influence of Klonopin, which was the right decision because otherwise I would have spent the morning in the bathroom.

Someone on Amazon knocked a star off her review because I made such poor choices of men in the book, starting with Dar who is 10+ years younger than I.

I'd like to say that if I was good at appropriate choices and behavior, I'd be thin, have many more books published, would not be on a see-saw of depression and anxiety, would have more money and I don't know what else.  My life has kind of been about a series of inappropriate decisions and actions.  Further, having missed out on the socialization of dating in my teens through my early forties, I don't know that much about men or dating.  Worse than that is the fact that I'm way immature for my age.  I don't, emotionally, feel 57.  I feel about 40.  Maybe.  It's hard to argue with an emotional maturity that I should be dating guys my own age with concerns and preoccupations I have no experience of -- children, grandchildren, careers, owning things like homes, boats, golf clubs.  I gravitate toward men who are still creating themselves because I'm still creating myself and haven't gotten very far.

Someone else felt the book is unfocused.  Maybe it is.  But it seems to me, after rereading for various reasons, that it centers pretty clearly on the search for good-enough, which is exhausting and which is as much about being one's own best date as being girlfriend material.  I was forced to look hard at the men in my life, how they brought me to the age of 53 when I started the book, and who I am in relation to people in general.

Those are the only points-off reviews I've read at this point and I'm not spinning in my chair to go read other reviews.

More important than how people read my book or expected me to be a grown-up, is the fall-out of the book.  So far, no one is mad at me -- or they haven't said so.  Will, who I met in first grade and whom I dedicated the book to, loved it.  So did Dar.

I could have lived without that last information.  It so happens, however, that Dar was in a depression that, he said, made him identify with every line and every up or down in the book.  He read beyond himself and into me. 

And that, my friends, is like a knife wound in the gut.

We had -- I hope/fear "had" is the right tense -- a two-week email back-and-forth in which both of us were depressed, tending to open up, waspish, complimentary in the right ways.  It was stupid of me to answer his email but, frankly, when I first did I was tipsy on champagne cocktails consumed in celebration of the publication.  Later curiosity led me into the chambers of the heart where I never belonged.  I flirted.  It felt like he was flirting.  He's wrestling the Black Dog and if he was leaking bits of that unholy state with me, I felt I had to be there for him.  I also know that we became friends when he needed me, that I've always made friends when people were in need.  It creeps me out about myself, not because I contribute to their darkness or try to prolong it for myself, but because...well, it's nice to make friends in equal daylight.

It's been about 48 hours since I've heard from him on a trivial matter that required a one-word response.
  I've been chanting to myself, "He's not in love with you, he's not in love with you" and actually praying that he'll feel better and forget about me again.  It will hurt -- it does hurt -- but being busy with work, school, family, friends in his own life will give me a brick wall to start retreating from.  And as painful as that is, at least I have 50 years of practice doing it.

The weird thing is, though, that Dar has a gift for friendship that no one else I know has.  Will and I text once or twice a week.  I rarely hear from Kevin any more.  I speak to one friend each weekday morning when I walk her dog.  Even Eric, a.k.a. the Boy from Connecticut, who, before the book came out, I decided to try to be friends with again and have pretty well succeeded (it still hurts but he's crazy in love with a woman I can only shake my head at and grant him to honor of finally having outdone himself in his own bad choices), is only as present as girlfriend and work allow.

So there's a new regret over Dar, this aspect of him that, with the black dog panting hotly on his chest, could get it together to ask how I was feeling.

And I don't know what to do.  I don't know anything.  And I loved him.  And it's as tempting as white cake.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Dear Mom:

Five years ago you were on the verge of falling into your last days.  What a horrible summer that became, more for us than for you, luckily.  The actual fall that accelerated your decline also dimmed your memory.  At lunch you couldn't remember breakfast.  I'm grateful for that.  By the end, maybe, when you approached your next painful sip of oxygen, you couldn't remember how much the breath you just took had hurt.

It's to my sort of Platonic ideal of you as Mom that I'm writing to, though. 
In that ideal, the pain in your last years and months must be an awareness but not an actuality.  You'd walked your own parents and your sister through the ends of their lives so you knew what was coming.  You were a good daughter and sister, and a good mother.

I know that if you were on earth in your Platonic ideal, you'd have worried a lot about me in the last five years.  I've had some tough times, one step back for every two step forward.  I'm about the same weight you saw me last, maybe a little smaller, and my antidepressant dosages keep going up.  But my debts have gone down.  Daisy has gotten louder and more critical of everything on the street, but she has the same old energy chasing a ball and she's a fantastic nurse when I'm sick or can't get out of bed.  You did good when you picked her out for me.

I still live in the Bat Cave but it has a lot less stuff in it -- in fact, it's a perfect day today to keep taking books out to leave on walls in the hopes that someone else wants to read Faulkner.  I certainly don't and I've given up on being the sort of smarty-pants who does.

I finished a novel yesterday that I would have passed on to you -- I Thought You Were Dead.  I didn't think the human relationships were all that great but the relationship between the protagonist and his old dog was amazing and I can't stop crying about it.  I'd have warned you before giving it to you but I know you would have liked it a lot.

Dad is fine.  He's the same old piss-and-vinegar codge who lives on his own planet.  He finally let me alphabetize his CDs this winter (and donate a LOT of them: you would have been shocked) and he spent about two months listening to Chopin from beginning to end.  It would have annoyed you.  He's kind of in love with someone -- well, you know her well and if in some ways you might have disliked his choice, I am glad because she goes back such a long way that it's like having a bit of you in our lives.  It's a long distance relationship now.  They'll never see each other again.  But it helped him get through whatever he didn't tell us about losing you.

I've written two more books since you died, the one you knew about and another one, which I'm glad you can't read.  It's rated R.  Dad asked for a bunch of copies to give away at the senior apartment complex where he's living and I'm blushing at the thought.  One is designated for Fr. Max, if you can believe it.

And now I'm waffling about getting going on a book about the rosary.  I know, I know: you were never much for the rosary and mostly thought Mary was a nice icon, an inroad on the patriarchy.  I'm finding it hard to round up the kind of Catholics who don't believe birth control is a sin but who say the rosary.  The semi-renegades.  I need to do more research.

Maybe on Craig's List.

Ha ha.  That was a joke, Mom.  Craig's List is

Oh, never mind.

But we have a new pope, Mom.  Rat-singer, the old Nazi, retired.  This one is a puzzle.  He's warm, simple, charismatic, anti-capitalist, forgiving.  He's also enlisting more exorcists and he hasn't put the Pietá up for sale.  But I have some new hope for the Church.

I have some new hope for me, too, Mom.  I fell into something.  It involves getting the word out about books and healthy living (excuse me while I go have a cigarette: yes, Mom.  I know, Mom.)  It pays well and I'm getting more work.  I think I'm succeeding because of my writing talent and because I'm pretty nice as an online presence.

Sorry.  "Online" means

Never mind.  It's good and has to do with computers.

Anyway, I have a little hope for myself for the first time in ages.  I like doing it.  I do it at home.  It's creative.  I can take it anywhere.  Independence isn't so far away.

I've been estranged from hope for so long that the relief of thinking about things I want and want to do without having to tell myself to shut up is like champagne.  I'm working like a dog but I like it and I have a real desire to do well in it.  I haven't felt that way about my occupations, except around my writing, since I was in university and graduate school.  It feels like falling up.

I've backed off sugar and wheat again, although I'm not doing meetings and stuff.  Yeah, I know.  I'll try.  But I have reasons for wanting to lose weight for the first time in years and it's not about looking better.  I want to travel, Mom.  I want to go to Fatima.  Can you imagine the gift shops?

I know.  I don't believe in it either.  But maybe I can be the miracle who goes rather than leaves.

OK, I'm all cried out now.  I need a cigarette for real this time.  I think about you every day, Mom.  Miss you.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

It's Cry or Blog

Funny how one can turn things around and then suddenly deflate.  My last post worried people and it worried me.  It wasn't so long ago -- I had a very blue weekend last week.  Somewhere in that weekend, I realized I had nearly emptied a bookcase and that the time had come to finish the task and break down the bookcase that was falling apart.

I greatly enjoyed it.  I'm giving away any books I know I'll never get around to reading or whose transportation costs when I can finally leave this In-Life Purgatory known as New York City for a real destination are not worth my while.  I kept the Dickens because there are so many characters to keep track of that I always write down each new name and the page it first appears on the fly leaves -- hard to do on Kindle.  I kept my beloved Trollope.  I found I could not recycle Anna Karenina, which has so many notes in it from having read and written about it so many times that no one would want it.  I'm sorry, Kim, but Iris Murdoch is destined for another home.

On Tuesday I took a hammer to that sloping bookcase and carted the pieces out to the curb.  The dust behind it was frightening.  Mostly I sweep up dog hair but this was imploded grit.  I was filthy and sweating and happy by the time I got the carnage onto the street and stacked up the remaining books I wasn't sure where I should place them.  I was able to move a little "furniture" (almost nothing in my apartment qualifies as Furniture) and there is a sense of lightness I haven't felt since I was fired from my last full time job. 

It took another two days to figure out what else I wanted where -- any collector of books knows how organization is both essential and idiosyncratic -- and I now have almost all my books in shelves except for a pile of medieval history I have to make major decisions about.  This is not to say that I've organized myself completely, only that what I've figured out is done.

I actually have gaps in my shelves.  I could actually shelve the medieval history pile and decide its fate later.

So I was feeling pretty good about that, although my bank balance was worrying me.

Today the sense of mission with the books has worn off.  My shoulders ache in addition to all the other aches.  Today I've desultorily looked up some factoids regarding the rosary and have not goofed off but that sense of mission is gone.

At least, I hoped this morning as I went over my gratitudes, I'll have money to put in the bank.

And I will, but not from the dogs who pulled me down and busted my face.  I had to go back to walking them because I need the money.  I am scared of the jackal of the two, who bit me when I put his leash on and is aggressive to all dogs and some people.  I'm still scared when I hook his leash to his choke collar.  I pull it around to the top of his neck and get the hell away from his mouth as soon as possible.  I walk the pair looking all ways to make sure we can steer clear of other dogs or so that I can hook them to a fence if a meeting is inevitable.  I'm usually shaking when I leave their building twice a day.

My inner lip will never heal from the fall they caused.

They are two weeks overdue in paying me.  That check, due today, would allow me to pay my rent without dipping into savings.  I'm going to have to dip into savings. 

And somehow, when I saw the empty invoice envelope when I leashed them up this morning, I nearly broke down.

Maybe I'm tired -- it's been a physically demanding week and all of yesterday's walks were performed in a stinging winter rain.  I think, though, it has more to do with financial fear and, by extension, fear of the rest of my life.

Combined with a profound disappointment that my clients haven't paid me that makes me think of the disappointment I feel about certain declared intentions not having been performed and, worst of all, the silence from someone I considered my best friend and partner in crime.  I -- we -- had planned a future but this continuing silence makes me feel it will not happen.  If I have a Plan B, it consists of begging my other best and longest friend for a job that we treat as a joke.

Either of those men are like family to me, the brothers in sensibility I didn't have.  I love my actual brother[s] -- I hugely enjoy my living brother and his children and wife are actually among my best friends -- so this is not an insult.  But these friends are the men who like to shop, who understand a collection of dinner china, who, each in their own way, gets the who of the who of me.

I have a constant fear of being Too Much for people.  Too needy.  Too depressed.  Too loud.  Too dependent.  Too fat.

I have a competing constant fear of being Not Enough.  Not smart enough.  Not sympathetic enough.  Not successful enough.   Not pretty enough.  Not important enough.  Not disciplined enough.  Not enough of the enough that other people seem to carry with them.

And I'm sure sometimes (like now) I am exactly accurate in my fears.  I can't gauge this.  I do know, however, that I also make myself as small as possible when the Enoughs loom as the reason for not hearing from someone.  I stop asking to be heard, to talk, to be in touch.  I figure that, at best, they need space.

It's hard to wrap my mind around the idea that, maybe, I could be of actual use to friends in difficult times or that my friends -- my bestest friends -- maybe sort of owe me a hello or a goodbye.

I don't know what I'm owed or what I deserve.  I don't know how to figure it out.  I think I've written before that obesity is a harsh mistress.  It taught me to always expect me to be last.  When I lost weight, thinness taught me to fake not assuming last place.  When my fraud was exposed, I gained weight again.

So a missing $300 has brought me to a place where I am both blogging and crying because one future has dropped me (me: my sense of humor, my taste, my hard work, my generosity, my utter faith in and admiration of them, my prayers, my intelligence, my best clothes, my sense that anything I have is theirs, including my family) and the other future is a joke.

I know I deserve to be paid.  I know some other professional promises will be upheld later rather than sooner but will come to pass.  But I am disappointed in my friends and scared of borrowing from myself and scared of not having a future. 

Hunh.  Borrowing from myself.

Isn't that what silent friends, family, lovers, co-workers and all the other close relations in our lives, force us to do?

Saturday, April 26, 2014


OK, Facebook friends, I won't stop blogging.

I failed to fulfill my Lenten promise of a blog a day by a long shot but I fell down dead in Holy Week.

It felt like an Unholy Week to me.

It started, really, on Palm Sunday, when I didn't go to Mass, but it became foul the next day when my church held a day of reconciliation in the afternoon and evening.

I didn't go.  I got "busy" or I couldn't ignore the brick in my chest or the fear of telling my darkest shames in my stomach.  I decided there would be confession another day that week.

Of course there was not.

And my soul felt -- feels -- grimy.  There are things I have done I have to admit I hate myself for.  But the worst sin, the one that makes amends impossible, is my hopelessness.  If I did everything right -- pay off my debts, save money, get another book contract, lose weight -- so what?  I do not anticipate anything.  I don't often feel I have present tense friends.  I don't believe in heaven and I've mostly lived in hell.  Sometimes this is despair but mostly it's an absence of desire or faith in the future. 

Given that, why do I care about the few reparations I owe? 

That was with me as Holy Week progressed without me.  I couldn't take Communion in that state and if I can't take Communion, I'm not in step with the Church, not part of it, not even betraying it.

It's a week later and I am simply tired.  My nutrition has been miserable and I think I tried so hard to jolly myself along in the last couple of months that I exhausted myself.  Right now it seems I am better off in My Other Life, where we are on a numbers quest that I am the only one who can do the footwork to achieve.

Is this true?  Yes and no.

I forget that I've been having some fun tracking down my childhood in starting a Pinterest site for myself.  That I was able to listen to a friend who has a worry and have tried, at least, to distract her with tour books for Venice and Florence and a possible joint trip.  And someone called me today simply to witness me saying out loud that I don't know what is wrong with me right now.  Simply saying it out loud to that particular person lifted the cloud enough to brush my teeth and walk Daisy to the bank.  We even dropped a handful of Henry James novel on a stoop (I can download James on my Kindle: serious space made in my bookcases) and was amused to see that someone had spread them all out and was photographing them as we returned from our little outing.  Was it the irony of The Golden Bowl, What Masie Knew, The Americans, The Bostonians in this neighborhood that looks like pure Henry James?  What made them photo-worthy?

So there are two parts of me, one of tiredness and need (I need to be writing; I need to be getting healthier) and OKness, presence and upliftable-ness. 

I'm sure this is everyone's quandary, to some extent or with other polarities, so I'm putting it out there as part of the general human condition. 

But I desperately need some time in the confessional and on my knees.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hello. Allow Me to Introduce Myself

I've been out of pocket, failing at my Lenten promise for days because I got involved in starting my own social media factory for Love Sick.  It meant combining two sitting duck Twitter accounts which were linked to email addresses I no longer had passwords for, then re-following followers who are still active and tracking down new people to follow.  It has wholly absorbed me from Saturday afternoon to yesterday, leaving me sore and wondering if I was going to throw a clot from sitting in the same position for twelve hours at a stretch.

So I'm sorry, guys, and I'm sorry, Jesus, if you're there.

I'll Tweet this post so I think it's time to introduce myself in more than 160 characters.

I was born, raised and earned BAs in English and religious studies in Missoula, Montana.  I went to Catholic school -- St. Anthony's -- so I have a thing about nuns, shame and plaid.  Lately I've had a lot of spring hymns running through my mind.

I went to graduate school in creative writing at Cornell.  Several famous writers were in my cohort.  We were best friends.  We are not friends any more.

I've had a long life of obesity.  In a 12-step program I lost 188 pounds and wrote a book that did well: Passing for Thin.

Then I gained a bunch back and wrote a book that was calledAngry Fat Girls in hardcover, promptly remainedered, and Eating Ice Cream with My Dog in paperback.  Please buy it because I have $95,000 of the advance yet to earn out.

When you have that much unearned advance you are lucky to get another book deal, even at a serious reduction in advance.  That book, Love Sick, publishes this June 6.  It's a funny, harrowing story of trying to get over Mr. Friends with Benefits.  I have and haven't succeeded in doing that.

In between Cornell and Passing for Thin I was a literary agent.  I wasn't very good because I was cautious about advances that wouldn't earn out.  I didn't listen to my own lesson.  Also, my bosses and I were at loggerheads all of the time.

You'll learn a lot about me if you read those three books.  Right now, I'm beginning work on a proposal about saying the rosary for a year.   I'm not a good Catholic but it's the only thing that sticks.   Why would I do such a project?  Because I live in despair, which is a sin, and because I have few trustworthy relationships.  I'd like to build one with, um, God.

So here's what you really need to know about me:

  1. I walk some dogs and do social media for some people.
  2. I suffer from dysthemic depression, anxiety and borderline agoraphobia.
  3. I don't believe in heaven but I do believe in hell.
  4. I am left of left politically.  I have insurance because of Barack Obama.  Thank you, Barack.
  5. I grew up with Labradors.  Now I am owned by one, Daisy.  She has Tourette's Syndrome and Joan Rivers-envy and can be a real asshole.  She's my best friend and has saved my life.
  6. I live in the crappy studio apartment with no natural light.  I call it the Bat Cave.
  7. I'm a Daddy's Girl.  My father is 96, in his right mind mostly, still interested in physics, blind, blunt and hilarious.
  8. I'm really fat.  I hate it.  I think I need to make peace with it because it is the metaphor, as it were, for hating my self.  And I don't deserve to hate my self.
  9. My self is slothful, envious, angry, without much hope.  My self is funny, smart, sees things and has a big vocabulary.  It is generous.
  10. I like Bach best.
  11. I like Victorian novels, World War II, anything about the Renaissance, 18th and 19th century Europe.
  12. I'm a terrible housekeeper and I am owned by too many things.
  13. Lately I'm obsessed by House, M.D.
  14. I'm lonely.
  15. I don't bathe as much as I should.
  16. I'm trying to pay off what started out as about $28,000 in debt.  I've cut that by about half.
  17. I hold grudges.  I don't get over men I've loved.  Menopause and Prozac prevent me from being very interested in intimacy however.
  18. I spent summers, until nine years ago, on Flathead Lake in Montana.  I'm afraid to go back there because it was the best place.
  19. If I had lots of money I would travel.  By myself.  I don't like museums.
  20. I'm also afraid of my hometown.  All the bodies are buried there.
  21. I miss my mom, my Uncles Norbie and Connie and my Aunt Claire.  A lot.
  22. I'm adopted.  This is a complex and icky way to start life.
  23. I'm nostalgic for large parts of my childhood.
  24. I have never read Finnegan's Wake.  I've never finished Moby Dick, Ulysses.  I like Tolstoy better than Dostoevsky.  I get frustrated reading Yeats, Shelley, Pound.  I don't understand a word of it.
  25. I used to feel that way about Emily Dickinson, but I grew into her.  That doesn't mean I read her though.
  26. I don't watch TV except for occasional reality TV binges when I'm really sick or really depressed.
  27. I don't know what Mad Men, Game of Thrones or any other cool TV is.
  28. I make annual donations to Planned Parenthood, Macular Degeneration, University of Montana, Spirit Animal, Democratic party, public radio and television.
  29. I miss the friends I've alienated.  Every day and achingly.
  30. I'm probably as close to my cousins as I am to my sibling.
  31. I'm tired of New York.
  32. I'm scared of when Daisy will die.
  33. I've been living on peanut butter and macaroni and cheese because it's cheap and because I need to get my kitchen sink fixed.
  34. I'm in trouble for not having cleaned out the washer and dryer well enough and leaving dog hair behind.
  35. I'm 57.  I smoke.
  36. I think I will not smoke from tonight until Sunday morning, in observance of the arrest - resurrection of the Christ I don't like very much.
  37. Blogging gets me in trouble at least once a year.  It happened recently.  And yes, I know it was you who left the nasty anonymous comment.  And I know you are at the heart of the snarl.
  38. There are Rules of Etiquette for walking dogs.  They involve crossing the street when one person has one dog and the other two or more, letting dogs decide who they want to meet and not bothering dog walkers.  I wish these rules were observed, as well as cleaning up dog shit.
  39. I intensely dislike 98% of the privileged spoiled princes and princesses and their mothers and nannies in this neighborhood.  Sometimes I hope they would get hit by cars.
  40. I am passive aggressive in the streets.
  41. I am nice to doormen, clerks, cab drivers, maintenance people.
  42. If I have money and you need money, I will give it to you.
  43. All I really ever want to do is go back to bed and hide.
  44. I speak really bad Italian and German, and worse French.  I'm better when I'm drunk but I don't drink much any more.
  45. You'd probably like me if we met.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Poopy Barbie and Special Intentions

I did a radical thing today: I fulfilled my self-promise to go to Mass and the rosary at 8 a.m. this morning.  By myself.  Too early for drugs.  Sober.

It was nice, especially because Saturday morning is so sparsely attended that Fr. King asked if there were additional special intentions.  Without thinking, I asked for prayers for the painless peaceful deaths of those awaiting death.  Right now I am several degrees removed from three hospice situations, one of which is someone I know.  I hate the idea of the pain these men are suffering, and of the suffering their loved ones feel because of it. 

And saying the rosary out loud -- !  I don't think I've said the rosary with people since grade school.  It's a somewhat more elaborate rosary than the script I use, with prayers for vocations, to St. Michael, St. Gertrude and the long litany it would be dumb to say alone.  The voices together felt strong.  On the other hand, my script breaks each mystery down and I read and meditate on it in a way that is intellectually more satisfying than the group's nominal attention to the mysteries.  But there is something comforting and distinctly NON-intellectual about saying it as a group that is also good.

I had a credit for books from Amazon and ordered a couple of research items.  They arrived in good time but, not needing the books immediately, I didn't open them.  I was astonished when I did because one was a gift from someone I really don't know well, Poopy Barbie. 
OK, the real name is Barbie Potty Training but I like Poopy Barbie better.

I've been fighting the blues -- am fighting them -- taking one step back for every two steps forward (after church I collapsed into House, natürlich, and rose from my non-life only to walk Daisy, which ended up being a social event because everyone is out on the lovely day.  Poopy Barbie dropped into my life like a feather from an angel wing -- or, more aptly, a feather from Divine's boa.

So thank you Divine/Angel.  Barbie is not going to be unboxed but she stands guard at the foot of my bed.  And I feel like somehow I belong to something, although I'm not sure what.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Goodbye, Slate

I couldn't stand the obsessing any more. I borrowed $150 from my dream stash and paid off my Slate card today. I'd showered in the morning but felt like I'd run five miles by the time I got back from the bank.

I also discovered I paid my New York State taxes twice. It will take sixty - ninety days to refund the second check.

All the elevators were wonky today. It took forever to pick up and drop off dogs.

I made dinner tonight and it was bloody awful.

One of my clients had a realtor's brochure on the kitchen counter.

Another of my clients is in hospice out of state. One of my very favorite people in Brooklyn with the most marvelous stories. I pray he is not in pain and I mourn not being able to say goodbye, although I sort of did in a short visit when he was here last month.

I have a bad feeling about everything but I'm going to try to go to Mass in the morning. It's followed by a rosary. "Reconciliation" is going on all afternoon -- the sacrament I still call confession. I should go but I don't where to begin. I wish we'd have a big thunder storm.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Yellow Dog vs. Black Dog

I binged last night.  I took Daisy out well after sleeping meds had kicked in and the baked goods at Gristides all had my name on them.

I got up with heartburn and a limp will.  I had luckily already done a lot of my social media work for today so I asked a friend to take out my first dog and went back to bed.  I woke at 11.30, ashamed and defeated for the day.  Peeing felt like an impossible task.  I had no idea how I would get through the day I was obligated to let alone had made promises to.

But I did, somehow, at least as far as the obligations went.  I have a load of laundry going, so I will have fulfilled one part of a promise to myself.  I'm in a bleak mood.  I haven't said the rosary in days although I've managed to keep up the blog of my Lenten obligation.  I've jollied myself through weeks of financial fear and trying to write and trying to be upbeat here wherever I could fake it and I'm fucking exhausted with it.  The cool sunny spring day mocked me.  Wherever I went, my nemesis seemed to be a half a block away.  It's left me feeling angry, resentful, scared, ashamed, slothful, disgusting, unworthy, failed and afraid I'm heading for the dark place.

I could whine some more but I need to thank Daisy.  She slept soundly until I staggered from bed, had some coffee and brushed my teeth and got dressed.  It was closer to noon when I finally gave her her first walk.  She's an amazing nurse and seemed to know she had to suck it up this morning while I had my breakdown.

A friend recent got a CPAP machine for sleep apnea.  It made me wonder: does Daisy stand growling softly at me in the middle of the night because she's a pill, an attention-hog or because I've stopped breathing?  This behavior has been going on for a year or two -- she growls, I wake up and invite her into bed, and she settles down quickly.  It can happen three times a night.  I sleep on a futon on the floor.  There's no reason for her to do this unless she needs love or needs to know I'm alive.

When I had the flu in February, she slept so close to me I didn't have access to the blankets.  Who takes care of whom here?

In any case, I came in from my few dog walks, did a little work for the Other Side of My Life, and crawled back into bed until it was time to walk and feed her.  And yes, we crossed paths with someone I would rather not have seen.  I think there are three people in this neighborhood I feel that way about, so my sadness and uglier emotions are on high tonight.

I really want this other social media thing to come through.  I want to pay my debts.  I can't bargain with God for it, as I've written before, because my faith is too weak to survive the disappointment.  But I have promised that if it happens, I'll take a Tae Kwon Do class and go to the rosary at the church on Saturday morning.  I won't let a deeper submersion in working from home an excuse to retreat further from the world.

I'll even get Daisy to the dog run, where she can best be herself after being so good to me.

And for now, a load of laundry -- enough for clean pants and underwear -- is in the dryer and I have time to say the rosary.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Today was scary.  I had to walk to dogs who have moved down to the Brooklyn Waterfront, where I have managed never to go, who live in a new and complicated building.  Knowing I then had to go walk Donald, an 18-month-old Lab/Great White Pyrenees who is aggressively friendly, I took a Klonopin to deal with my fear of leaving my narrow safety zone, a new place and a dog who can drag one across three states in search of a butter-stained napkin or friendly teenager.  The pill didn't seem to kick in until after the walks however and the afternoon was lethargic as a result.

I love going new places, once I'm there.  The waterfront walk introduced me to a building, once a Jehovah's Witness warehouse, that is now uber-luxurious.  Gyms on every floor.  A concierge desk for laundry and dry cleaning.  The halls feel like hotels.  In the lobby, a mother was giving her toddler a bottle while her tablet played "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands".  Incessantly.  On my way in on my way out with the dogs, on our way in, on my way up to the hill.  Lots of kids in that building, I think: there are two brand new colorful crowded playgrounds for the very young just up the walkway from the building.

The view of Manhattan at East River level was amazing; the view up Brooklyn Heights up the hill was fascinating.  It was a long expedition to make $20, but I've got to take Daisy down there.

Tomorrow is domestic.  Laundry, clean the bathroom, fool around with the Liquid Plumber and, especially, the plastic snake that came with it.
I'd like to have a kitchen again.  I'm tired of living on peanut butter.

None of these things will help clean out the chaos but I'll at least know there are some clean places in my apartment.  I'm broke enough that I jokingly asked my father if he'd buy me a new PC.  He said yes and none too soon: I'm working on Windows XP here and I want to take some theology courses from Notre Dame which require a microphone.  This will mean clearing off my desk and cleaning under and around it, so I have another cleaning project to come up.

All of this is good.  I was able to look up a few questions inspired by the rosary: what exactly is the "rapture of divine love," for instance.  That means I did something toward the proposal and/or book.  I've hit the heavy slogging through my friend's book, which is invaluable information: I know where the problems are.

Such are the small events of my life.  Twelve days of looking for something to say left.  I feel like I'm stretching but Klonopin may not help that -- I'm calm today.  I wonder what I missed by not having my usual crisis...

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

All About Me

Big Five Word Test Results
Extroversion (44%) moderately low which suggests you are reclusive, quiet, unassertive, and private.
Accommodation (70%) high which suggests you are overly kind natured, trusting, and helpful at the expense too often of your own individual development (martyr complex).
Orderliness (50%) medium which suggests you are moderately organized, structured, and self controlled while still remaining flexible, varied, and fun.
Emotional Stability (38%) moderately low which suggests you are worrying, insecure, emotional, and anxious.
Inquisitiveness (76%) high which suggests you are very intellectual, curious, imaginative but possibly not very practical.
Take Free Big Five Word Personality Test
personality tests by

Monday, April 07, 2014

13 Days Until Easter

Yesterday was a day of rest.  No blog.  Not a lot of anything except digging into an editing project that will be quickly done, I think.

I'm not sure, but I think Sundays are not counted in the forty days of Lent, so I'll call it a draw.

Lassitude has set in, maybe sloth, probably acedia, which is the Latinate form of the Deadly Sin most commonly called sloth.  I read a few pages of Katherine Norris's memoir of the same same every once in a while but the book is so on the mark I have to put it down quickly.  Few other books have affected me that way.  The Noonday Demon, which I finally put out on the street yesterday for someone either stronger or equally hapless.  Naked Lunch made me dream in Naked Lunchese but with which I did not identify.  Now Acedia, which is very close to home.  On a good day I can make it to 7 pm before it sets in, on a bad day I can't make it past 10 a.m.  Acedia is sloth with despair mixed, or futurelessness.  A heavy dose of ennui.

A hairball of pointlessness.

Good thing I have this editing project.  A friend has interest from a literary agent and had very specific comments and questions.  I coached her through her response to the agency -- no, don't ask them questions about what they mean: if they wanted an open dialogue with you they would have signed you with the understanding that you'd revise, and yes, do tell them you'll turn it around in a month.  Having cut off her hopes that they'd coach her through, I then felt I had to read it so I could help.  It's a good book.  Very smart with some cliff-hangers.  But as always, I want to scream that the words just, very, all, so, then be banished from the written word.  If you've said your character is in Brussels two paragraphs ago, you don't need to name the city again for ages.

Free help to anyone who wants to at least know where to start cleaning up their prose.

So I'm doing that, and about to go walk a dog in the rain, oh joy.  What made me happiest yesterday was putting out a stack of books to give away and see them taken and reading my friend's novel.  Today I pulled more books to give away and read another 50 pages before going to House, my acedia stall.

I'm not worried at my mood but I'm disappointed in it.  I'd like to be on fire with writing and I'm not.  I also know that I'm not because I'm scared to death.  I wish I was the kind of person who could admit fear, admit to being frozen and go take a shower.

But I haven't even done that.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Shopping vs. Buying vs. Writing

Today, after two days of hiding from it, I began the formal proposal for the rosary book.  The six pages I thumped out in three hours may be the easiest if dullest part of the proposal: the nuts and bolts of the rosary in terms a non-Christian or non-Catholic would understand.  I had to explain things I take for granted -- the descent of the Holy Spirit and his gifts -- briefly and unemotionally.  This is not the place to be any more clever than clear, cadenced writing requires.

Still, it was writing something that will be part of Something, which is, I'm afraid, different than blogging, here or for Psychology Today.  Once embarked, I was no longer crossing something off my list.  I was gone, in the zone, that place where even though I had eight Google windows open, the most self-conscious I got was when I couldn't immediately come up with a synonym for "misfortune" and had to open another window.

It was wonderful.

When I go into hiding, I also lose a lot of awareness but it's different.  I'm know time is passing, I'm determined to burrow further into my escape -- into House or the New Yorker or a book -- I am passive in a way that writing is not.  Writing is stenography.  I write down what I am given.  Reading or watching TV or playing mah jongg is giving up my end of the conversation.  That determination to lose myself takes work.  Once I get into writing, it's not work.  It's an open channel.

Until I don't know what to do next or my motor runs down.  A kind of tiredness comes on: ideas are harder to come by, I find myself staring at the screen.  That's when it's time to quit.  Every task, every inspiration has its enough point.  Three hours is a respectable run for the money.

I tried to piddle around with social media obligations but I was tired from my shitty chair and of the screen looking at me, measuring me.  I decided to go down to Montague Street and run some errands.

It's a slightly chilly, sunny day, very early spring.  Some daffodils are up in sheltered places.  Crocuses are wide open in those same sheltered places.  People have been filling planters so there are tulips and hydrangea out that are artificially forced.  Many people were strolling along Montague, which is the High Street of Brooklyn Heights.  I'd brushed my teeth but hadn't bathed or put on clean clothes and I was grateful for the latter because I'm wearing my warmest sweat pants and needed them.  The first thing I needed to do was pay my Verizon bill, which takes me almost a block beyond my usual rounds and I realized that unlike me, hunkered down for errands, the people around me weren't consumers, they were shoppers. 
They were in a zone as well, deciding whether they wanted Spanish food or Vietnamese, what color show they liked best, what they wanted for dinner, what they wanted to pack for their kids' lunches next week. 

I think it's only when I travel alone that I become a shopper rather than a consumer.  Even in my pre-agoraphobe life, if I went shopping I went buying.  When I went to Key Food, I bought the four things I need to get through the day.  I chatted with the clerks and I didn't rush, but I didn't shop either.

I want to say that, financially challenged, this isn't going to change any time soon, but isn't that sort of stupid?  A shopper looks for the best apple, thinks about a red versus a yellow pepper, knows that there will be dirty pots and pans.  A shopper thinks about what someone else might like or what will look best on their own shopper-self.  A consumer grabs and goes.  The only shopping I did was to make sure I didn't get spaghetti sauce with mushrooms in it.

By the time I got home I was tired from my morning, shaky after scratching errands off my list, hungry.  For once I'm not second guessing what I wrote, probably because it was like writing the rules of a complicated card game.  I'm reading a friend's novel to help with revisions suggested by a literary agent.  I have to call my father back.  I have this promise of a blog a day to fulfill.  I have stuff to do.

But I feel like I've touched two completely different realities today, one that is active and participatory but silent, and the other also active and participatory but...turned outward, visual.  I wasn't imagining much as I wrote but I was fitting facts together in a melodic way.  The shoppers were more imaginative, fitting objects together in a music I don't understand.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Why I Do This

I've gotten a couple of lovely responses to this Lenten project of blogging that have made me consider why I blog at all.

I started blogging after Passing for Thin was published and Amazon invited authors to blog.  It was hugely successful and led to the next book.  At some point, however, I began to want to be able to manipulate things -- add links, advertise my other web stuff, post photos, so I left that blog space and started Car on the Hill.  If anyone wonders about the title, it's taken from the Joni Mitchell song of the same title.  It's a sad song about waiting for a man to show up, which is an apt description of my life.

I wonder, if I were a consistent blogger, if I'd be some web cult figure.  I don't regret not being one so this is purely speculative.

It's nice when people say they like my writing or offer consolation for my various nervousnesses, but once in a while someone says I've written about something in a way they have needed to explain it to people in their lives.  Sometimes someone says my muddling on gives them courage to muddle on through life with their own demons nipping at their ankles.

And those are the comments that make me feel OK about what I do here, that maybe I'm even doing a service. 

I worry that I am perfecting my anxiety, fear, obesity, introversion, writer's block, financial precariousness, House addiction, smoking, borderline agoraphobia, regrets and misanthropy for the sake of something to say.  I worry that I'm another person yammering on about the last least incident.  Readers have, in the past, told me to get over myself and shut up.

Oh, Lord, if only I could, I just sighed upon writing that sentence.

I splatter here what I hurl at myself.  It seems that sometimes it helps to know one is not alone in that silent dialogue, that everybody fucks up, that other people are weak and insecure.  Part of my insecurity, and I'm sure other people have it too, is that I'm a public fool.  So thank you to everyone who reads this morass, and thank you especially for letting me know that I'm not alone in the Horrors either.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Carpe Diem - Oh, My!

I thought I did the right thing yesterday.  I took care of enough of my social media life to create space today to do things for myself.  As a consequence, I woke in a sick-stomach anxiety that isn't wearing off. 

Me?  I don't do "me," contrary to what blogging suggests. Any readers who are new to this blog can go back and see how sparsely I actually post except for this Lenten promise.  What did I do in the months between blogs?  I did my social media gig, walked dogs, hid in books or reality television (bring on The Shahs of Sunset!).  Sometimes I was working on Love Sick.  But it beats the hell out of me what I was actually doing beyond hiding from myself and plotting paying down my debts.

I will say that blogging and my failing willingness to say the rosary have kind of woken me up.  I'm still deep in re-watching House but it's mostly because after a day of tweeting, pinning, posting, researching, Googling and trying to make rain, my back hurts from my shitty chair.

No, wait.  That's not quite true.  That's why I lie down.  Watching House is escaping things like reading the Gospel accounts of the Passion or any of the other reading research I should be doing for "me".

So here I am, 15 minutes away from the first dog walk of the day with pretty much the whole day wide open to -- what? 

I'm overwhelmed with the what and I don't do well when there's so much to do.  I panic.  I hide.

There are things for the rosary proposal I can do now, like explaining what it is to non-Catholics/Christians.

There is work I need to do in advance of Love Sick.  Start a Pinterest page.  Write some proposals to websites and other publicity venues.  Update my webpage.

I want to start a story about someone under the influence of a cult.  The cult is not the story, only background.  It would be the seed of a novel.

I have a half dozen emails from friends and family I need to attend to.

There is housework to be done.

A lot of what I'd like to propose to other `zines depends on blogging for Psychology Today.  I have two ideas to pursue for them.  I should get going.

I have a lot of books to read in research.

So I'm twisting on the end of a string here, going around and around, unable to prioritize.  I could take all these things and put them in a hat, pull one out and try really hard to ignore the siren call of the others that feel equally in need of tending.

Or I could walk Honey Bear and bury myself in bed with Greg House, telling myself I'll tend to something later.

And this?

Is how I make myself crazy.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Fading Fast After a Stubborn Streak

OK, I missed a day & barely wrote anything the day before.  I am feeling rebellious about my Lent resolutions &, yesterday, overwhelmed with obligations.

So here's what's been on my radar:

  • What addiction are most commonly accompanied by what cross addictions?
  • What is the nutrition status of alcoholics and heroin users during addictive abuse and upon entering recover?
  • Personality disorders.  Most of the ones I "need" don't survive into adulthood.
  • If I don't believe in heaven, what is the point of the rosary, Catholicism, the prayers for the forgiveness of sins?  What is my metaphorical interpretation of these things in light of non-belief?
  • Helped a friend sort out what he needs to tell a story at the Moth.
  • Money worries.
  • I want to write a novel based on four women in my family: me, two nieces, an ex-sister-in-law.  I'm thinking of writing a short story or two based on the characters and have had to look at personality disorders but found my solution by Googling "tin foil hat" & found a nice cult that fits perfectly,  the Aetherius Society.
  • I'm thinking of writing the stories on this or a sister blog and charging readers $2.00 to read the last two pages.
  • Begging God that the new gig for social media I wrote proposals for comes through.
  • Wanting: a decent desk chair, the Barbie that picks up her puppy's poop,
    some cute clothes for a change
  • Writing and sending proposal to xojane as either an advice columnist or reviewer of self-help books (I'm so fucked up that I think I'd give great advice).  Proposing a series of artist dress, writer dress, poet dress, dancer dress, singer dress and whatever to eShakti, who appreciated a mention I made of them in a Psychology Today blog.  The writer dress would come with a copy of Love Sick.
  • Stumbling with horror on to a pro-anorexia website.
  • Wishing someone needed a short story for an anthology with a deadline on it so I'd have to write fiction again.
That's it.  Now I'm going to bed.

Monday, March 31, 2014

An Entirely Pointless Day

Yeah, yeah, the dogs walked & pooped.  But I did nothing of my own besides getting up to be proud of.

Except for this overheard snippet of conversation.

Mother to child-of-unknown-age-and sex:: "No.  All your teachers are grown-ups."


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mothering Day

I think I need a day off from this blog or from any thought at all, and mostly that is the day I've had.  I'm not pleased about this -- I'd wanted to go to Mass today but I woke up in that anxiety that is like a maze.  At the time, I thought I had to be home at noon, so the 12.15 Mass was out.  It was 8 and I had two hours to walk and feed the dog, shower and get dressed and do some nominal business for the Other Part of My Life.  But when the Horrors are upon me I can't figure that kind of list out.  It feels incredibly stupid in retrospect but then I was so disappointed in myself that I put in more time on the Other Part and then went back to bed for season three of House.

I pretty much intended to post on Facebook that I'd gone fishing until I was looking at the calendar that hangs in my kitchen.  It has both American and form UK dominions marked out and I saw that this is, in England and Ireland, Mothering Sunday.

Mothering Sunday -- how much more I appreciate that than Mother's Day, which, since my mother died and I am childless, makes me feel excluded and less-than.  Lots of people are mothering even if they aren't my mother.  Hell, when I had the flu I could barely grab any covers because Daisy was sleeping snug up against me so tight that I couldn't fit an envelope between us.  She didn't retreat to the couch or to the foot of the bed, frequent spots for her, because she had to take care of me.  Mother me.

Earlier, before I'd looked at the calendar, while lying in bed with House digging out someone's right brain, I thought to myself, I wish I was a little girl today, I wish I knew there would be dinner on the table and that the bills would be paid and that someone would tell me I should get up and do something.  It's ironic, then, to see the holiday.

Over Christmas, I learned -- not from my father, whom I didn't have the nerve to speak to about it -- that there is some misinformation on my birth certificate.  Not only is it my second birth certificate, my adoption certificate, but it lists the delivering doctor incorrectly.  My father, according to one version he told someone else in the family, actually delivered me.

Which means that the first person to hold me was my dad.

I was so blown away by this that I couldn't ask him about it.  Another family member said that when they checked the story with Dad, he had no memory of the things he'd said.  He's 96.  He may have kept that story to himself for 57 years -- is this senility in terms of invention or in terms of repression?  He said some other things about my birth mother as well which fit the little information he's imparted over the years, including an outburst in which he said I was exactly what my birth mother would have -- wanted? expected?  I can't remember now.

(I should add here that how I imagined my adoption to have gone down was always plausible.  The delivering doctor on the birth certificate was one of my father's partners when he was in general practice.)

In a weird way, then, my first post-natal mothering came from my father, who practiced his medicine the way he always did and had and probably counted my toes and made sure I was breathing and then made a decision to call my mother and tell her that a baby girl was available.

Mothering.  It's such a potent word.  Many women go out to brunch because it's Mother's Day but who weren't terribly mothering.  My mom wasn't a convicted motherer for that matter.  I think she was largely done with child raising by the time I was in fourth grade or so. 
But I've had mothering in my life from other people and animals, not all of them female, and I like how the word honors that.

My father is in hale good health so I suppose the next time I visit him I will have to have this Conversation.  When he told the story to another family member he remarked that he didn't want to tell me because I've always been so weird about adoption.  I'm going to have to suck it up and be stoic, which I'm not known for.  And in this case, the crying and emoting I've done have been out of wonder and gladness at the gift that being pulled from my birth mother's body and lifted into the air for the first time, that the first words I heard were probably the announcement that it's a girl and she looks healthy were my dad's.

I hope the people who have mothered me know who they are so that my thanks for doing it resonates.  If you wonder if you're on the list, you probably are.

Thank you.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Playing [or Not Playing] the Oh, Well Game

I'm surprised I'm writing this.

As of Friday morning, it looked like dog gigs could mount up to a nice piece of change, for a change, over the weekend.  A toddler came down with a fever, someone else's plans changed and my chickens aren't hatching.

Oh, well. 

It's simpler not to have to deal with so many dogs, I told myself.  There is a cold stinging rain outside, even better reason not to have an encumbered walking schedule.

That one of those gigs involved my favorite dog -- a dog I may love as much as Daisy -- didn't help, but, oh well.

That not having so many dogs meant I'd have more time was good to myself, even as I felt the overweening disappointment feed my fear and the enervation of a couple of weeks of the Horrors set in to pull my center of gravity right down to irresistible sleepiness.

Oh, well.

See, this is why I'm resisting that book of novenas.  If I dedicate my prayers to getting that gig in the Other Part of My Life and I don't get it, and I know sitting here there is little reason I should, my attempt to find faith will get a hard knock.  I'd been smug for a minute or two about life stepping in to take care of me and that's doubt enough. 

And the reason I slept grandly this afternoon?  Rain.  Not wanting to feel my fear.  Not wanting to avoid my fear with food or cigarettes.  Not seeing any good reason for consciousness. 

I took scant care of the Other Side of My Life and crawled into bed with the third season of House, again.  I can't go back to bed until Daisy dries off and I walk one more dog.  I'm starting, now, to avoid the rosary because, as mindless as the prayers are, they are a dialogue of need and admission of weakness and failure.

And I just want to say, oh, well.  At least I got to nap and rest my brain from the what-ifs.

Damn Lent.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Horrors

I can almost predict the kind of day I'll have by the time I stumble to my coffee in the morning.  Today the Horrors were back, starting with sighing and whining: what do I really want to do today?  Do I have to do what I have to do today?  It's the same thing every damn day.  When I get paid on Friday, how much of my bills will it pay? 

This high-pitched donkey's song goes on for a while as I try to get myself over to the gratitude side.  Thank you for money in the bank.  Thank you for work to do.  Thank you for -- when can I pay that credit card off?  How cold is it outside?  I wish I was writing a novel.  If I just got $12... -- shit.  OK.  Start over.  Thank you for soap and hot water.  Thank you for Daisy...

And so it goes.  My stomach feels like it's about to ripped open and fed to hungry eaglets and I can rate my anxiety by how quickly I switch to gratitude from complaining or calculating.
Usually it calms down when I actually get Daisy out on the street but it starts climbing when I finish my couple of hours for My Other Life and it's coming up on the afternoon walks and I haven't eaten and it's time to do My Life.

Yesterday was a rare day off from the Horrors, which have been mounting through illness and dog crises all winter but they were back in full sail today, including having to stop at my apartment in the middle of the afternoon dogs to have diarrhea.  My mouth was dry, I was shaking, I was tapping my teeth together in lieu of aggressively grinding them, I headed straight for the Klonopin.

I'm wondering if I can make a deal with God: I'll tithe 5% if you get me those two gigs from My Other Life.  But I don't like the idea, right now, of testing him, of being failed by him.  Too much is at stake, including my desire to believe.

So I spent the rest of the dog walks singing that song from A Chorus Line, "I Really Need this Job," and trying not to scheme or apportion money I don't have.  One good thing about being in a period of relative skintness is that scheming is pointless.  I have to give up imagining what bill I'll pay off when and be happy that I've lost the habit of using my credit cards so that even a minimum payment will be a reduction.  In a more sanguine state, I would say this is a blessing.  Today it was a shouted command: Stop thinking....!

Some of it was made worse by having to wash my hair, find some better duds and go to dinner and a lecture on Pope Francis.  My friends just lost their dog gig and no one can feel sorrier for them than I because it's happened so much. Plus I was supposed to watch over the dog they watch over next week so kiss my share goodbye.

The lecture was good but mostly confirmed facts and feelings I had about the Pontiff already.  I stopped afterwards to ask about Francis's Marionist leanings -- I thought he was Marionist in orientation but wanted to be sure before committing myself in writing.  Yes, he is and has her eight-pointed star on his coat-of-arms.
So my observations of his attitude toward Mary and the rosary aren't off base and that's a huge relief in a field of questions that seem impossible to answer. 

I have indigestion now and I'm tired and wired.  Tomorrow I have to do the same damn things I did today.

I hope I'm not held in the claws of anxiety as I do them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Storm That Wasn't

It was supposed to snow last night.  It didn't but it feels apocalyptic, even in the Bat Cave, with waves of high winds.  When I walked Daisy at 7.30 this morning, there was little traffic on the street and yet I could feel the thrum of Brooklyn coming up through the soles of shoes: traffic on the BQE four or five blocks south of us, the wind, some urban beat, maybe of coffee makers and showers and the thud of the tossing the New York Times on the breakfast table.  I don't know why it feels as if something is ending and I feel less of my usual dread and anxiety than usual.  Perhaps it's the last blast of winter, although the forecast doesn't expect a major shift into spring, either.

Still, I've seen some crocuses and one intrepid tiny daffodil that had closed itself up in sleep again by last night.  Something needs to break.  I hope it isn't me.

I had, of course, every intention of blogging yesterday but there weren't enough hours.  The rosary is becoming a project and I was tracking down a couple of quotes and wanted to read the gospels' accounts of the Passion.  So long blogging!  Since I'm exploring the rosary, I'm using the St. Joseph New American Bible, the "Catholic" version.  I kind of have to.  I was fascinated by the plenteous footnotes and impressed by the admissions that Matthew, for instance, was probably written several generations after Jesus died, that not all of the Letters were written by whom they are ascribed to. 

When one's project has become the subject of sin, it's good to see reason and exegesis poke their heads through the snow of damnation and uncertainty that the topic layers on top of daily living.  The list of things I disagree with in Church teachings and in the Bible could go on for miles, so I'm especially relieved to see actual Catholic scholarship at work.  It gives me hope.

I agreed, almost at the last minute, to go out to dinner with friends whom I share dogs with, also cutting into Car on the Hill time.  I am, needless to say, really glad I did, although at the moment I hand only gotten to the arrest in Matthew after wading through all the end-of-times stuff and had things on my list left to do.  It was probably the most nutritious food -- Thai -- I'd had in a couple of weeks.  We have immediate things in common besides the dogs and I didn't really have enough time to freak out at the thought that I was going out socially.

Is this why I'm so relatively calm today?  One of the things we talked about was whether I should put up dog-wanted posters.  There is a chance that a really good opportunity will come my way in My Other Life, although I think it will be a month or so before I know and when I consider it, I'm not so confident that the employers would want me.  I've been having the Horrors about money.  I have some savings, but they're going to be severely clipped by taxes.  I'm still using Windows XP and memory is running out on my PC.  I desperately need a decent office chair.  I have a book to promote.  I have a kitchen sink I need to have fixed and Daisy needs a check-up.  All of this can hail down on me when I least expect it but last night I was able to talk frankly about my slacker life with people who understand, people I have given dog walking work to and so have helped out financially.

We decided I should wait.  If I take on more dogs and this Other Life gig comes through, I'll either be over-committed or have to drop the dogs I just started being responsible for.  The rosary is beginning to take up more time, which means I'm moving in the direction of writing a proposal.  There are good things to do while waiting out the slim chance of gainful employment elsewhere.  Maybe talking to people who understand these two halves of me -- one has advised me on how to better perform My Other Life -- over spinach and spices is as good as a Klonopin on a cold gusty day.

I also got to howl when another friend called to invite me to a lecture on Pope Francis.  I accepted -- note to world: while I wither in lack of hope, Pope Francis gives me some -- but there was the question of dinner.  Our parish is serving a "Lenten supper" before the lecture and I broke into that song from Funny Girl: "When a goil's incidentals/are no bigger than two lentils/then to me it doesn't spell success..."  We were snorting with the knowledge of exactly what a Lenten supper would me and his wife is opposed to it.  We'll go to the Egyptian place around the corner where we have several matters to discuss, including my friend's wish to go to Utica this summer with our dogs.  His wife is opposed.  I'd go anywhere but Utica, I have to say, is low on my list.  We talked about stalking a Mystery Niece in Paris and he got a Sidney Greenstreet get-up going as his disguise and Daisy and I ended up in fake noses and glasses. 
He knows Paris intimately while I dislike it generally so we began to plan one of those trips that won't happen to Normandy and Fontainbleu and Lourdes...............

So here I am feeling absolutely skint, trying not to freak out about money, with social plans every other day this week.  The Qu gong massage -- dinner last night -- what I know will be a funny dinner and then a hopeful lecture tomorrow -- and I'm, for this while, at least, serene.

Even though I had to dip into my money box to do it.

So I don't know.  I don't know anything today.  I'm not anxious: astonishing.  The Horrors wait somewhere later in the day or not all: a relief.  I have interesting work to do.  I have friends.  I'm sitting here just being and that's OK.

I'm sure the tide will turn with the wind, but that's OK too.


Monday, March 24, 2014

So. Just How MANY Sins Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?

I knew it and I dreaded it.  But it's turned out to be more of a nightmare than I could have predicted.

Being a perpetual screw-up, I've been saying the rosary according to the Mysteries allotted to each day of the week.

Very nice.

Except it's Lent.  I should have been saying the Sorrowful Mysteries every day except for Sunday.



The Sorrowful Mysteries, as you can guess, are about the Passion.  They are also all about the forgiveness of sin.  I don't have this stuff memorized.  I even have to read the Apostles' Creed, which is a little humiliating.  But I have a good guide that breaks the five mysteries of the day down into a sort of playlet.  Every single damn Sorrowful Mystery ends with a version of "have mercy on us and on the whole world," whether it's from the precept of Gethsemene or the crowning of thorns.  In the third mystery, we are told Jesus underwent the crown of thorns "to make reparation for our pride".

I underline my script as I go so I can make notes on what I don't understand or remember or disagree with or, occasionally, am touched by.  There's a lot about picking up our own crosses and stuff that I find genuinely moving but today it seemed to be all sin, all mercy, all the time.  

Kind of like the Military Channel and Hitler.

At the idea that Jesus was mocked, tortured and humiliated for "our pride," I had to pause.  I usually fill in that blanks as "sins," a generic collective noun for stolen gum, gossip, grumpiness and gluttony.  I hadn't thought of filling in the blank with the one specific sin, pride.

So I looked up all the New Testament references to pride and came up with lots of letters from the apostles that admonish us to be humble, not to compare ourselves to others, and to not be "lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy".

The sin of pride, according to Thomas Aquinas, St. Gregory and a few other guys, is the daddy of all the other capital or deadly sins: pride is the separation of man from God and is the wedge in the door for sloth and covetousness, et al.  Bishop Sheen defined it even further, thus humbling me because I didn't really know what "vainglory" means ("ostentatious pride especially in one's achievements;vain display or show: vanity).

If pride is so wedgey,  is it, I wondered, the Original Sin?

The Second Edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is not helpful.  It says, "Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command."

Is disobedience the first human sin?  Greed or curiosity for the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge?  Or the pride that Aquinas describes as that withdrawal of one's fealty from God to the self?

This is the problem with Catholicism: ask one simple question and you will get no definitive answers. 
Worse, the nondefinitive answers will produce a mild anxiety attack because, whether you believe all this or not (and there is so, so much I do not believe), the secular humanism that produced the world we know of democracies, constitutions, human rights, regimes and et cetera is, in fact, based on the Bible, Aquinas, Roman Catholic doctrine and tradition.  And in all that Roman Catholic seething mass is the notion of sin.

The rosary mentions it sin 64 times.

Case in point: my anxiety takes me away from my better self.  I takes me away from the world, from good acts, from God.  Every day is a quest for oblivion and oblivion is the opposite of self, selflessness, and, if you like, God.  I fight my anxiety every time I leave the house or sit down at my computer to do anything more than play a game.  And some of the stuff I do at my computer virtually begs readers to say they love me.

Is anxiety a form of pride, a form of sin?  It may not make me feel superior to others -- in fact, quite, quite the opposite -- but it does make me feel apart, special.

But what is meant by taking up one's own cross if not the faults that are, according to both parts of the rosary and the Catechism, the vestiges of Original Sin?  So am I good to go because I went to the bank today and started looking up stuff the rosary is bringing up?

Which is another problem with Catholicism: you can't trust anybody with information unless it's from the Pontiff's mouth.  I could ask a priest, ask on a discussion board, take a theology class, but the only real answer is in the Catechism and it doesn't give very good answers on this subject.  (If you want to know about in vitro fertilization, however, it's quite explicit: no.)

I'm back to blogging as part of my Lenten promises.  It cuts into my oblivion.  It's a communication from someone who hates answering the phone (I got cussed at for asking to be taken off the wounded veterans' call list today).  And I know the anxiety, Horrors, reclusiveness, depression and agoraphobia are extremely self, rather than other, oriented.  So there's some ecumenical connection here, if you've stayed with me this long and suffer from these maladies as well.   It's not a very far reach from loss of self to loss of God -- and an infinite reach, of course, when one is filled with doubts.  

But the question of what it means to truly desire to lose one's self is pertinent and important, even leaving God out of the question.  It's not, quite, voluntary.  But it can be fought.  And losing self is depriving the world of something valuable.

If you hide your light under a bushel, you'll only succeed in burning the bushel up.