Another Mouthful Reading Coming Up

There will be another mouthful reading on May 13, 7:30pm at 99 Bishop Allen Drive in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The featured readers will be the Cozy Street Writers: Mary Ashford, Margie Bleichman, Karin Downs, Margaret Kelner, Elsa Lichman, Elaine Schear and Aren Stone, who have been writing and reading together for 8 years.  Learn more about Cozy Street’s history and members by checking out their bios on Mouthful’s Features page.

I hope to be reading at the open mic at the Mouthful reading.  The reading opens its doors at 7pm.  I believe sign-up for the open mic is at 7:15.  There are five-minute and 10-minute slots for open mic readings.  A suggested donation is $3 to benefit the Sudan Reach Women’s Foundation.

I am not sure what I will read.  Maybe I will read from my Nano book, I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul.  This will be the first public exposure that the book gets.  Of course, I will be reading from an entirely unedited manuscript, but I don’t care!  Plenty of readers there read “hot off the press” stuff.

Last month, I read from the It Notebook,  my journal from this winter that I wrote during my relapse.  I was rather nervous while reading.  I don’t expect to be nearly as nervous this time.  It is tough reading from a journal.  I found this out quickly.

See you there.

Committed to R.E.C.O.V.E.R.Y.

Okay.  So far, so good.  I have only been out since Wednesday morning.  But I feel good.  Really good.  Positive about life.  I felt good about leaving the hospital.  I knew it was time to leave and I knew I was very much ready and prepared to face the outside world.

I definitely am committed to staying alive and living as joyfully as possible.

No, there wasn’t a turning point.

Yes, there was.  The turning point was when I recognized that I am just plain terrified to gain weight.  I realized that I had been so scared in my gut that I had been driven to make myself die rather than gain even one pound.

The surfacing of the fact that I would die for thinness shook me to the core.

Of course, hadn’t this been the case all along?  Didn’t I know that if I kept all this up, I would eventually collapse?  Such idiocy!

So, boom.  My therapist had slapped a contract on me February 17th.  I had flown into a panic.  Realizing that this was the reason for it all was a huge relief for me.  I wasn’t a bad person after all, just a person who reacted in an extreme manner to something that had to be done to preserve my health.  I had panicked.  I had stuffed my feelings inside.  I had not allowed myself to feel them.  They pushed their way out.  I had expressed them in a grossly inappropriate manner.  And I realized this a week ago last Thursday.  I have been on the upswing ever since.

Progress does not happen in a straight line.  Progress does not happen in a straight line.  Progress does not happen in a straight line.  Notebook, I make no promises.  I cannot promise the future.

Once I got out of the hospital, I felt excellent.  Getting Puzzle back was fabulous.  We zoomed home.  We’ve been zooming around on our walks and listening to loud music.

I’ve resumed work on I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul, the novel I wrote for National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo) in November.  It took me 17 days to write that first draft.  It’s damned good for a first draft.  I’ve been spending long hours at the library and long hours here at home.

Here are the details:  Calhoun, the villain, is the strongest character to whom I want to make the fewest changes.  May, my protagonist, however, is a weak character who doesn’t do as much as I’d like.  She’s too passive.  I’ve planned out things for her to do.  Exciting things.  She’s going to get bold and shock the reader.  She’s going to have guts.  She’s going to express herself in a more active way from now on, in every chapter.  Like when Susie, her sister, goes into Starbucks to get coffee and leaves May alone in the car, May is going to get into the driver’s seat (she has never learned to drive) and drive the car by pure gut instinct down the street.  I haven’t decided just how far she’s going to get or the consequences.  Each character’s role is going to change slightly.

And like my characters, my role in life is shifting, slightly, gradually.  I am committed to recovery, weird as it sounds.  I am actually eating more now.

Yeah, Notebook, you’ve heard it all before.  You’re probably damn skeptical.

I have set up a strict schedule for myself.  Very strict.  Down to the minute.  It’s incredibly difficult to follow the schedule perfectly so far.  I did this before, though, my last  couple of semesters of graduate school, and it worked.  Right now is my It Notebook/blogging time.  I am approaching the end of my It Notebook session.  At 1pm I will arrive at the library to work on my novel.  The library closes at 5.  My finish time at the library is flexible.  Puzzle walk time is sunset-dependent and weather dependent.  “Telephone time” is 7:30.  I have set strict limits on when I can use the computer.  It must be shut off at other times.  Period.  Bedtime is 10:30.

Okay, It Notebook session over.  Tomorrow.

Nano: Finally daring to look back

National Novel Writing Month–November, 2010.  I was so happy then.  From November 1st until November 17th, I wrote an entire novel.  It’s hard to believe.  During this busy time, I still ran at the gym nearly every day, and maintained my usual social contacts.  I even had time to take care of myself and prepare meals and eat. I realized that I needed to keep my body in shape in order to write well, and eating was part of taking care of my body.   Writing a tragic book about a 50-year-old woman with anorexia was perhaps one of the most difficult writing projects I have ever undertaken, and to do the entire thing in 17 days made the experience extremely intense for me.  I remember all this with amazement.  I did it. There was Nano, and there was the 5k I ran, almost exactly a month later, both incredible accomplishments, and sandwiched between the two was saying goodbye to a therapist I’d worked with for two difficult years, and starting up with a new one.  Wow.  And running, running, running.  Maybe getting sick was a way to run away from it all.

Last night, I glanced back.  I went to Staples yesterday afternoon and bought a new ink cartridge, in case I needed it, and some printing paper.  I printed out the entire manuscript to I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul, my Nano book.  This is the very, very first time I’ve even looked at my Nano book since I finished writing the final words, “And another,” on November 17th.  Last night I read the book cover to cover, and loved what I saw.

I know this now: I wrote a book about a woman with anorexia with the understanding that only a sufferer knows.  I saw a character, a middle-aged woman who grieves the loss the life she once knew many years ago.  I watched a woman with anorexia lose a beloved pet.  I saw her grieve as her sisters abandoned her.  I saw her cling to a man to whom she is forced to turn when she believes he is the only ally she has left: the man who raped her.  I felt her intense sorrow over the suicide of her best friend, also anorexic, and the rage at the ones who ultimately drove her friend to choose that path.

Yeah, the book needs a lot, lot, lot of work.  But I am saying that because it needs work.  That is, it can be worked on, and will be worked on.  What I am saying is that I don’t need to chuck the book.  What I am saying is that it is a decent book that is worth salvaging.  It’s more than a decent book.  It has a lot of potential.  There was some really nice, poignant stuff in there.  Much of the book made me cry.  Maybe someday a lot of the book would make a lot of people cry.  See, I’m going to revise it, right here right now.

So right away I signed up for an online novel revising class recommended by a Goddard grad I know.  The course works well for Nano novels, it turns out.  It is a five-month, intensive course.  I know I can do this.  My “confidence level,” as my T puts it, is 100 percent.

This is the time, and this is the place.  I can write.  I can concentrate.  I can read.  I found these things out last night.  As for It, well, I can work around It.  I have motivation, I have will, I have desire, I have motivation, I have skill and talent.  And I have a damned good first draft.

All I have to do now is to stay out of the slammer.  That means eating.  Hear that?

And maybe, over the next few months, I’ll be glancing back more and more at those happy few months I spent eating and taking care of myself and doing things I loved, and asking myself what I did right, and what I could have done better, and why it all fell apart.  Maybe I need to carefully examine December and January, and see what I could have done differently, so that what happened–the falling apart, the months following, the heartbreak, the loneliness, the tragedy of it all–won’t repeat itself.   There are misunderstandings, sheer ignorance of what could and may happen to us–what could happen to anyone, in fact–and we do learn from our mistakes so that we don’t repeat them.  Or at least if we are good, patient learners who have truly lost ourselves and don’t want to lose again, we don’t repeat our mistakes.  I may be stupid, but when it comes to another, I am cautious and caring enough to know better.  And in the end, when all is healed, there will be no need to apologize, as no wrong has been committed, and love and forgiveness is a given.

What I sent to the Nano people

The folks at nanowrimo.org wanted some feedback on our experiences with National Novel Writing Month.   Here is what I sent them:

I am 52 years old.  Last year, I was a Nano rebel.  I wrote a memoir about my hitch-hiking trip across the country in 1979 with my dog Hoofy.  While I was writing this book, I starved myself.  You see, I have anorexia nervosa.  The January following last year’s Nano I was finally hospitalized for my anorexia, and again in March.  It did no good.  By August, I was starving myself to death and no longer wanted to live.  Then, I met Frank.  Frank also has anorexia, and he turned my life around.  I told him about how I really wanted to do Nano again, but that I felt hopeless that I’d ever be able to do it.  Frank and I began eating together.  Bite by bite, I found that I no longer wanted to die.  Whereas in August I was staggering around the house, barely able to stand up, by October I was walking my dog, Puzzle, longer and longer distances, sometimes for miles.  So I planned out my Nano book, and wrote it.  I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul is about a woman with anorexia nervosa.  It is the saddest book I have ever written or even read.  Writing this book brought back memories of last year’s Nano book, of sitting in the library, writing about hitch-hiking with Hoofy, writing while weak and starving, word after word, and then feeling so weak that I could barely walk home.  It is memories like these that fueled the writing of I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul.  But there are bits of humor in the book, too, and joy as well.  Some days–not many–I just cried.  I finished the book, just over 50,000 words, on November 17th.  Meanwhile, Puzzle’s long walks had inspired me to try running, and with Frank’s encouragement and wisdom, I began running daily, increasing my mileage.  See what my strong body can do!  I am proud to say that yesterday I ran my first 5k race–ever.  I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul is about a woman who loses everything.  I wrote the book because I have gained everything.

My Therapist is Leaving

This we foresaw but didn’t know was definite.  Now, it is almost a certainty.  My T is not going to be able to continue working with me after the end of the month because the clinic is closing, and she’s been unable to find another clinic position.

This is turning out to be a sad month.

My Nano book is sad.  I am sad that Nano is over.  I am sad that Frank isn’t right here right now, that I have to rely on the computer all the time instead of being able to touch him for real.  I am sad that winter is coming.

I am sad because throughout Nano, I was reminded of last year’s Nano, when I starved myself, and went deeper and deeper into Anorexia Hell.  This is what Summer in November is about.

Summer in November is also about the body. I am sad because still, after all these years, I feel such hatred toward my body.  I feel sad because of the way I have been treated by men in the past, bad, bad men.  I feel sad that my feelings of hatred toward the men that have hurt me in the past sometimes poke at the deep love I have for Frank.

I am sad because without my starvation, a big part of me is gone.  I am sad because I have to say goodbye to being ridiculously thin.  I am sad to give up one helluva lot of “stuff” to do with all that.

I am sad that at one point I was about to turn my back on Puzzle and everyone who knew me.

I am sad because not long ago I believed deep in my heart that there was nothing before me, just darkness, and now there is light and life–everything!–and I have to deal with all this time before me–what do I do with this new life I suddenly have?

What DO I do with it?  When I turned 40 and the Evil Being called The Thing left me, I immediately wrote a dumb novel (at least I wrote it) and then went back to school and finished my degree.

Well, what have I done?  I wrote the novel.  Probably one that isn’t as dumb as the one I wrote when I was 40.  Now….well, I have written a number of books now.  My first novel isn’t even listed in the sidebar.  It was called, Tilting The Thing. Yeah, I wrote about The Thing.  Couldn’t resist.  It took me eight months to write.  I wrote for about seven hours a day.  For godsakes, what was I doing those seven hours?  I wasn’t working nearly that much on I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul. I guess the combination of eating and having an MFA pays off.  And the “deadline” factor of National Novel Writing Month.  But what next?  What goals can I set for myself?

And I don’t mean “mental health” goals, either.   I mean real life goals like running this 5k race (it’s the “Winter Classic 5k” in Cambridge, MA on December 19th).  I mean like revising manuscripts, getting more stuff published, getting This Hunger Is Secret out there (once it comes out in paperback), maybe getting back into stand-up a bit, too.

Let’s keep the mental health goals in therapy and let them stay in therapy.  I am a real-life person, and life isn’t therapy.  I do not center my life around my therapy or what happens in my T’s office.  I try not to depend too much on my T.  But to tell you the truth, it is going to be really, really tough to say goodbye to her.

This month is like a chapter ended for me, saying goodbye to so many things.  It is fitting that the month should end with Thanksgiving.  My mother invited me over for the holiday.  I refused.  I’d rather spend it skyping with Frank.  I don’t know what we’ll eat, but I’m sure it’ll be halfway decent, and I’ll be thankful enough.

 

I am a National Novel Writing Month 2010 winner!

I have just completed my novel–50,119 words according to my Word program, 50,040 words according to Nano’s word counter.  So I am a winner again this year.

The name of my novel is I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul.

I am finished at last, after 17 days, as of 6:07 this morning, Eastern Standard Time.

I didn’t really stress myself out this year.  I took care of myself throughout the 17 days that I was writing this novel.  I fed myself wholesome meals.  Exercised.  Took care of Puzzle.  Kept my body clean.  Even did the dishes.  Now, I must catch up on the laundry.

The experience was emotional and exhilarating.  I cried a lot.  Laughed a lot.  For much of the time, I was reminded of last year’s Nano, when I wrote Summer in November, a book about my body, locked myself in the library, and starved myself while writing it, the whole time.  I think of last year’s Nano and how different this year is, and I weep, not necessarily with joy.

I hate my body.  I love my body.  I hate my body and love my body both.   During this year’s Nano I went through times that I wanted to starve myself, then just let it go, and once again fed myself.

I have gotten stronger and can run faster and farther.  I kept up with my running throughout Nano, running, running nearly every day.  I ran for the joy of it.  I ran with tears in my eyes.  I ran with sweat on my body.  I ran, and then came home and wrote more words.  And more.

My book ended just shy of 50,000.  I wrote the ending and found I was short 300 words.  It wasn’t hard to add the extra 300.  I found that the bare-bones dialogue needed some extra bit of detail that was easy to fill in.  The last detail I added was a Red Sox shirt on a man who had an overweight beagle dog in a vet’s office.

The book ends with May staggering on Main Street after a spring rain.

The book is dedicated to Frank, and takes place in Boston.  I don’t think Frank has ever been to Boston, but he has been to Worcester, Massachusetts, which isn’t too far from here.

There is a subway stop in Boston on the Red Line called Porter Square that nobody ever forgets.  The stairs are especially steep, and extra escalators have been added.  You don’t want the escalators to fail at Porter Square, and you especially don’t want the elevators to break down.  The height drop is staggering.  If you are afraid of heights at all, or even if you are not afraid of heights, you are afraid at Porter Square.

I hope to climb the stairs at Porter Square soon.  Not take the escalator.  The stairs.

I remember not long ago I couldn’t do a single flight of stairs.  I could barely walk a block, I was so weak from not eating.  I shouldn’t have even been walking the dog.  It was simply not safe.  Now, I can run 5K.  That’s 3.1 miles.  This little fact totally overwhelms me.

A lot of little facts are overwhelming me right now.  I need to rest and get my bearings.  Nano is over.  More later.

 

Julie’s NaNoWriMo Progress on Day 5

Good Evening!

Tonight marks the end of Day 5 of National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, or Nano for short.  For those of you familiar with Nano and obsessed with “word count” and “stats,” here is that page:

My Nano Stats

For those of you who don’t care about word count and stats, God bless you.  Let’s talk about other things.  The novel is coming along.  I am way ahead of schedule.  Of course, if you know me, and those of you who have been reading here for a while do know me now, you know that I am very much an overachiever, so I do more than the “bare minimum,” certainly, each day.  Part of this is fear that I will fall behind, so I get ahead.  I fear that I will catch the flu (they told me the flu shot won’t take effect until around the 13th) or that some ill fate will come upon me and I’ll have to take a number of days off.  So I am about six days ahead of schedule.  The other part is simply my desire to push my limits.

Being a perfectionist is a bad setup for Nano.  It means that the internal editor is at work while I write.  So I go back and “fix” as I go along.  This cannot be helped.  So I figure it into my writing time.  The quality of my writing is a little better for it, and rewriting won’t be the nightmare that it would be if I chose to ignore my internal editor.

Last year’s Nano was totally different from this year’s.  Last year’s book was an easier book to write by nature of the type of book it was.  But my word count was lower and I was burning, burning myself out–fast.  I was starving myself and declining rapidly.  This year, I am nourishing my body and taking care of myself.  What I can do while eating properly and not starving myself far surpasses anything I could possibly have expected.

Needless to say, this book is decidedly a difficult book.  First person is really, really tough.  I am having trouble with the “voice” of the character (ask an MFA EXACTLY what this means and you’ll get quite an explanation).  I am playing with it as I go along, and I must say, I’m not pleased with it yet.  Maybe by mid-book I’ll have it down, but more likely, I won’t.  Maybe if I’m lucky, by the end of the book I’ll have a mere inkling of where I want to go with it.

I discussed this with my T today, believe it or not.  Let me back up.  Yeah, it’s kinda weird discussing this kind of thing with one’s T.  She, after all, doesn’t see my writing, and we don’t discuss writing much.  But let me back up.  By the time I got into her office today, I had already gotten a head start on the tears parade; that is, I had been crying in the hall!  Of course, no one had seen me.  I have done worse.  I have started my tears on the bus on the way over to my T’s office.  I have done a lot of crying on buses, actually.  I’m relaxed enough on the bus and my mind wanders so it’s easy and understandable that I might go into a dark space in my mind.  Buses are anonymous and no one notices because everyone’s busy texting.  No one’s actually on the lookout for a skinny girl with tears falling down her cheeks.  I’ve cried on airplanes, too.  I suppose people do a lot of that.  I’ve actually seen it, and fantasized that the person had just said goodbye to a sweetheart.  Maybe she had.

At any rate, I had a tearful session with my T.  I told her it completely overwhelmed me that only a couple of months ago, I had completely given up, and was convinced that I would not live much longer.  It is a major shift, when you assume that you will die, to suddenly be given life, to have all this time put into your lap.  And I can’t quite handle it right now, today, at this moment.  It is too much to bear.  It is like a light that is too bright.  You have to shut your eyes for a while.

I am overwhelmed by everything non-Nano that I have to get done.  These things would be a challenge anyway with or without Nano.  And it doesn’t help that I have been sleep-deprived since Sunday night or so.  I am swept up in the excitement.

My T, though, helped me find the real cause.

As I have told you before, I cannot speak aloud or even write the title of my Nano novel without becoming noticeably tearful: I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul. So I didn’t dare tell my therapist (besides, it was at the end of the session and I didn’t want to start up crying–again).  Remind me not to think about the title while on a bus or airplane unless I remember Kleenex.  Please.

My T asked me if I felt emotion while I was writing the book.  I told her I felt nothing. I feel detached.  Distant.  No feelings, just guilty for putting May (I changed her name) through anorexic tortures.  Then I talked about the book.  I told my T about everything I was doing to May.  I told her about some of the things happening to May that had happened to me, too numerous to list (plus I don’t want to give too much away too soon).

Is it really a good idea to be writing this book?  Is it really the healthiest thing?  Is it cathartic, or is it going to make you sick again?

My response: I must write this book.

That is not answering the question.

True.

It was clear that I wasn’t going to abandon my project, no matter what her recommendation was.  But she did say this:  Let my feelings come.  Feel my feelings.  Don’t bottle them up.  Because they’re going to come out anyway, and it will be better writing if I let my feelings out into my words.

I think she’s right.

So I’m going to take a new approach from now on.  Starting tomorrow.  And I think I’ll be less overwhelmed, less tired, less frustrated, and maybe I’ll find May’s voice if I relax, let the feelings come, and acknowledge them, believe them, and embrace them as they come.  It’s only Day 5, after all.

Nano, continued

I am continuing to work on the outline for I am so Cold, and Hungry in My Soul. Most of what I’ve done over the past couple of days has been to further develop the plot.  By the next couple of weeks, I want to have a complete plan of exactly what I am going to write each day of the month of November, which is National Novel Writing Month.

As you can imagine, it hasn’t been that difficult for me to develop my main character, Megan, who is anorexic.  I know how people with anorexia think, seeing as I am afflicted with the illness myself.  A lot of the plot centers around what Megan would do if I put her in various situations.  Knowing the eating-disordered brain, I might easily guess how she might act, for instance, in a restaurant, supermarket, convenience store, or on a bus, because I know how I act in these situations.

But Megan is not me, and I am not Megan.  When people read novels, they sometimes think that the novelist is writing about him/herself, especially if the subject matter is close to home.  But this isn’t necessarily the case.  In my case, yeah, Megan is a lot like me. They say when you’re writing a Nano book, for the sake of time, you should write about a character who is first of all the same sex that you are, and also maybe the same age, in a setting with which you are familiar (the town where I live, in this case), and select a familiar topic as well, one that does not require a lot of research, because during Nano you only have 30 days to write and no time to run to the library, or even the Web, to look up a lot of stuff.

So Megan is a lot like me.  She thinks like me.  Actually, she thinks like a lot of people with eating disorders think.  She fears becoming fat.  She wants to lose weight even though she is already dangerously underweight.  She eats very little.  She is not scared by the health dangers of being extremely thin.

In the beginning of the book, and throughout the book, Megan continues to starve herself, and toward the end, she wants to completely starve herself to death.  She has no will to live.  She returns again and again to a man who abuses her.  She turns her back on those who love her, or allows them to leave her.  She closes every door to hope.  Almost.

My therapist once told me that an eating disorder is like a partner who abuses you that you return to over and over.  It is an addictive relationship.  My T asked me why my ED was so abusive to me, and I could not answer this question.  Although I do not believe I should personify my eating disorder, I can fairly say that I do have a relationship with my ED, and that it is abusive and that it is definitely seductive and therefore addictive as well.  So my T was right about that much.

The world of the deadly diet is indeed very seductive.  You go into your own diet universe with it, and it is a very private diet, your own secret.  You tell no one.  You stow away every pound you lose.  You step on the scale in secret.  What ultimately becomes starvation for you has a rhythm only you can feel, and you feel it all the time, even in your sleep.  And it’s damn hard to give it up.

I can fairly say I no longer want to die.  This has been a big step for me.  I am very lucky.  I feel like my life turned around just in time.  Like if I hadn’t found Frank, I would surely have continued down a very, very bad path.

I feel lucky that I am not in the hospital or dead.  I was surely headed in one of those directions, and wouldn’t have been able to do what I am doing today if my life hadn’t’ turned around the way it did.  When I think about Nano, I realize that if I hadn’t found Frank, I wouldn’t be even coming close to doing Nano this year, or next year, or the next.  Because you can’t write when you’re dead.  Period.

So as November approaches, and while I work on this outline, I ponder these things, and I ponder Megan’s fate.  I am lucky that her fate is not my own.  I can torture her, I can manipulate her, I can abuse her, I can kill her off.  I can do these things because that’s what writers do.  But I am not Megan.  And I am rather certain at this point that unlike Megan, I will eat, and I will keep on eating.  So there.

********************

My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available  from Chipmunkapublishing–click here to access.  To read more about it at my home site, click here.

My Nano book is making me cry

I have now written out the basic plot to I am so Cold, and Hungry in My Soul. The main character’s name is Megan.  She has anorexia.  I haven’t given her an age yet.  The evil male character is named Calhoun.  He lives not too far away from Megan.  They live in a town not too different from my own, with streets like the ones in my town.   She keeps going back to him, sadly.  Her three sisters leave her early on, saying they cannot deal with her eating disorder anymore.  Her best friend, Nina, is on her way to recovery from anorexia, and they can no longer be friends.  Megan chooses to end her relationships with her therapist and nutritionist after a brief hospitalization.  Her mother was never there for her and never will be.  Even Megan’s pet rat dies.  Megan resolves to starve herself to death, and in the end, only the abusive Calhoun remains.

That is basically it in a nutshell.  I have it in more detail written out–events, etc.  As I flip through the scenes, I weep.  I get teary-eyed reading about how the sisters leave Megan.  I cry because I hate Calhoun and the person I’m modeling him after.  I cry about the breakup between Nina and Megan, and I cry thinking about how “Rain,” believe it or not, is going to be a character in my book, because the imagery is going to be so strong (hopefully).  I am devoting an entire chapter to a description of the rain.

It did not rain today.  We have had enough rain.  Last night, it was raining so hard that the water soaked through my rain jacket and onto my shirt.  Puzzle soaked up two hand-knit sweaters.  I wore my boots and my feet didn’t get wet, but the rest of me did.

I bought that rain jacket in 2005.  It didn’t fit.  I couldn’t zip it up.  It was an XL, or maybe XXL, the largest size I could order from the online store I got it from (don’t recall which one).  Now, it looks silly on me, but I wear it because I have nothing else.  You could fit two of me in it.  (Maybe my double vision is useful after all.)

How do I feel about this?  Changing sizes…like trading one body for another…shrinking…like going through some sort of Grand Transformation.  It is a bigger change than dyeing your hair or cutting it.  It is a bigger change than gaining or losing 15 pounds–I lost 110.  It is not as big a change as being transgendered.  Given what I’ve been through, I am in awe of anyone who has the courage to go through a sex change.

So when I put on my rain jacket yesterday, and every time I put on my rain jacket, I think of this, how I used to be so large that I could not zip it up, and how much I’ve changed.  I don’t know if I should be sad or happy about this.

Yesterday, I showed my therapist two photos.  One was of me at my lowest weight.  The other photo was of me ten pounds heavier, right after my hair was cut in April.  The difference is astounding.  Now, how is it that they didn’t notice?  Incidentally, the day before the April photo was taken, I got weighed at the nutritionist’s with my pockets loaded, wearing two jackets that she never asked me to remove, and never mind what other tricks I pulled, and the scale read ten pounds more than I actually weighed.  Imagine that.  They believed her scale over my face.

So I looked at my face in the mirror today, just to see what it looked like.  I don’t look too good.  I look ugly.  I don’t know how to describe it.  Maybe it’s just low self-esteem that’s saying I’m ugly.  More likely, I wasn’t smiling when I looked at myself.  I don’t look at myself often.

But what shocked me, yet another time, was that my lips were blue.  Again, the thermometer at my desk read 79 degrees.  I knew I was cold, but blue?  I felt my hands and they felt icy, same with my nose.  I turned and sat on the toilet and it was like sitting on ice.  My body is in revolt.

I am so Cold, and Hungry in My Soul is a tragic book.  I can feel it already.  There is going to be so much loss in the book, so much sadness, so much heaviness.  I feel like Brahms’ First Symphony, First Movement should be the background music throughout, with the ever-present bass drum, and strings pulling torturously apart from each other.

But the sound of rain is music enough.  Rain does so much more than “pitter-patter.”  It does so much more than “come down in sheets.”  It plays.  It wanders.  It screams.  And it doesn’t let up.

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My wonderful new book, This Hunger Is Secret: My Journeys Through Mental Illness and Wellness is now available  from Chipmunkapublishing–click here to access.  To read more about it at my home site, click here.