Bus story

I saw a man on the bus who I believed was in trouble.  He wasn’t your average passenger sleeping on the bus.  This guy was trying to stay awake and couldn’t.  He was more tired than I ever have been with my all-nighters.  He was trying to solve a crossword puzzle but couldn’t get beyond the first letter without falling asleep, his head in his lap, pencil falling to his feet.  He attempted to sip some Pepsi but fell asleep doing that, too, nearly spilling his drink onto his lap.  At one point he fell asleep leaning well into the aisle of the bus, and nearly fell.

He was a Harvard student, a kid, really.  He wore a Harvard hat, a Harvard sweatshirt, carried a Harvard Bookstore bag filled with books, pens, and stuff Harvard kids would carry.

I asked myself: Who is this man?  He obviously hadn’t showered or shaved for several days.  At what stop was he planning to get off?  Was someone picking him up?  If he had to walk to his destination, would he be safe in traffic?  Did he in fact have a destination?

Then I asked myself:  Should I ask this kid if he needs help?  Should I offer to call an ambulance, if he needs one?  Should I alert the bus driver?  First of all, I told myself, I am not a doctor, nurse, or social worker, and so I am not qualified to determine whether this kid needs an ambulance or not.  Secondly, my cell phone is broken.

I left the bus and came home.

Several hours later, I realized something.  Would I have cared so much about the kid if he hadn’t been a Harvard student?  Did the combination of his condition and his social status seem incongruous to me?  Did it seem so unlikely that I felt I had to act on it?

Life isn’t always rosy

I read a book for school that I didn’t like, John D’Agata’s Halls of Fame. I was tempted to skim the book or even skip chapters; the latter I didn’t do, but I admit to skimming a few pages here and there.  I was rewarded when I reached the final chapter; the last essay was a good read.  Then I wrote my paper about the book.  I found myself writing about what I didn’t like about the book, and when it came time to write about what I took away from the book, what I learned and could apply to my own writing, I came up with negatives, what I learned NOT to do.  I learned NOT to invite the reader to skim–ever.  I learned NOT to write commentary, notes, or excuses about my essays after the fact, and let’s see, what else….I learned to put enough of myself into my essays to let the “I” shine through instead of being a passive witness or receptacle for information.  Then I woke up this morning.

Then I woke up this morning and said to myself, “Gee, I actually liked that book.”  I had a whole new perspective on it.  I don’t know if I should rewrite the paper or let it stand–I think I’ll leave it be, because part of my liking the book has to do with writing the paper and without the paper I don’t think I’d like the book so much!

However, I’m slightly embarrassed because I LOVED all the other books I’ve read so far this semester.  D’Agata’s stands out like–sorry–a sore thumb.

I suppose more than occasionally, it rains.

Joshua, I hope you feel better soon.

Here’s proof

If there are any doubts as to whether I have lost weight, here’s proof:

My highest weight: 197

Here’s me at 164:

fat face crop

My current weight: 144.  Here I am:

me at 144

No camera tricks!  Yes, the lighting’s different.  That can’t be helped.  I took today’s photo myself.  What is most noticable is that I am wearing the same pair of glasses in both pictures.  Plus I look a helluva lot happier now than I did 20 pounds ago.

~~~~Waving hello to my sisters at WeightWatchers!!!  I couldn’t have done it without you!!!!~~~~~

Amazon.com loves me

Whoever invented 1-CLICK ORDERING must have great insight into the bipolar mind.

I don’t have bipolar disorder, but it seems I’ve been doing a lot of spending lately.  I’ve been spending money I don’t have.  I mean, I really, really, really don’t have this kind of money.  I get about $750 a month.  I have no money for “extras.”

As many of you recall, I went on a wild spending spree trying to cope with QB’s death.  It was horrible.  I went into credit card debt like I’ve never seen before.  I was just about caught up, into three digits of debt instead of four finally; I was so proud of myself, and now this. 

Looking over my records, it all started on the 14th of this month.  That’s less than two weeks ago.  It’s the freaking 25th.  I was pulling an all-nighter then, too.

Gimme a sec, I’ll look over the e-mail receipts and tell y’all what I bought………

I have made Amazon.com sooooooooooooooooo rich……

Expensive photo paper, 8-1/2 by 11, two boxes of it
A new photo printer $85 great value for the price
Photo paper 4×6
Headphones I don’t need
Ink and yet more paper
A new digital camera.  I’m moving up in the world and I don’t need to and can’t afford to.
Kenny’s book (this I’m entitled to.  He’s my advisor, after all)
A case for my new digital camera (now I need polish for the case, right?

Something’s not right with me.  If you have any ideas, let me know.

Shoes, Darwin, and Kenny Fries

Hi everyone–Yes, I’m pulling another all-nighter!  I want to share with you some information about a book I just purchased.  It is called The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin’s Theory by Kenny Fries.  I happen to know some inside information about this book!  I know that the original title didn’t include Darwin’s theory.  So the title went through an evolution of its own.  I heard Kenny read from his book long before it was published.  The excerpt was about rock climbing and (please forgive me here) it was indeed a cliff-hanger as the piece described Kenny and his friend attempt a very difficult section of rock–and their circumstances are unusual–you’ll just have to read the book….

I was honored to have Kenny as my advisor for two semesters when I was at Goddard originally.  It was 2004 and it seems like eons ago.  I will never forget those Advising Group meetings with Kenny; I even remember the room where the meetings were held; supposedly the laundry room was in the same building.  There was a woman named Jane in the group.  He called her Juana, which she hated (this she confided to me before lunch one day).  I could never figure out why she was writing a thesis about the Son of Gilgamesh, but “whatever floats one’s boat,” as they say….There were three people with last names that began with Z in the group.  Then there was me.  He called me Gail by accident, and from then on, he referred to me as “Not Gail.”  I’ve never liked the name Gail.  We got off to a great start.

But really, advising group was great.  We looked at both poetry and prose, and we also workshopped people’s pieces.  I know, I know, “workshopped” isn’t a word–that is, it isn’t a word unless you’re in an MFA program.  It means you sit around in sort of a circle and discuss someone’s work, while that person remains silent.  Hopefully you all say nice things about it at first, constructive stuff, ways to improve it, problem areas, all tactfully of course, never criticizing the person, always talking about the work itself.  So that’s what we did.  We also talked about published works.  We all got very passionate about writing; the whole week was like that, a bunch of nutty people in the freezing Vermont countryside getting revved and ready to sustain that enthusiasm, writing like a bunch of enthusiastic scholarly nuts for five months, only to return to Vermont, this time in the blazing heat, to get recharged and obsessed yet another time.  We’re all bonkers.  And Kenny, along with the other faculty, was wonderful enough to be responsible for allowing all this to happen.

Yes, I know exactly what Kenny is going to tell his advising group when he meets with them this summer: “Don’t base your character on your mother.  Just don’t.”  Because that’s what I did with my former thesis.  Readers, you know my relationship with my mother is strained enough.  Basing my character, Irma, on my mother, Erna, turned out to be–well, you guessed it.  Not a good thing.  Don’t base your character on your mother.  Just don’t.

I think the reason for this problem is because a character is a being (being with a lower case b)–that is, a person you can attach a personality to, and an appearance, etc.  But the main characteristic of my mother, to me, is not her presence, but her absence.  It isn’t so much what she did for me or to me that hurt me.  It’s what she didn’t do.  She didn’t pick me up from Hebrew School on time.  She didn’t love me.  She wasn’t close to me.  She didn’t listen–she never, never listened.  So in writing about a character, I was writing in the wrong direction.  I needed to write about a void.  Irma had a dead husband.  Maybe it was Irma who should have been the one who was dead.

At any rate, here are excerpts from the reviews of The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin’s Theory, by Kenny Fries.  And here’s the link to the book on Amazon:

“An amazing book–beautiful and unique.  Kenny Fries makes dazzling connections between the most intimate details and the most sweeping panoramas, and left me changed by his insights.”  — Joan Silber, author, Ideas of Heaven

In The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin’s Theory Kenny Fries tells two stories: the development of the theory of “survival of the fittest,” as articulated by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace; and the history of his ever-changing, made-to-order, orthopedic shoes. The famously important first story, as told by Kenny Fries, is a condensed and colorful account of the race between Darwin and Wallace to formulate their groundbreaking theories. At the same time, Fries tells a deeply personal story of the evolving consciousness of his own “adaptations,” represented by his shoes.

Although only the “fittest” may survive, Fries learns that adaptation and variation are critical to survival. What is deemed normal, or even perfect, are passing phases of the ever-changing embodiment of nature in our world. In the end, Darwin and Wallace’s discoveries resonate with Fries’ own story, inextricably leading us into a new world where variety and difference are not only “normal,” but the ingenious origins of survival itself.

“In this quietly revolutionary book, Fries gives us his own story, side-by-side with that of Darwin’s. The juxtaposition is startling, revelatory, and ultimately redemptive. Big-hearted, generous, deeply human, this is the next wave in identity politics, and you’re going to love it.”– Alison Smith, author,
Name All the Animals

“Kenny Fries explores both ‘able-bodiedness’ and the legacies of Darwin’s theory while literally traveling the world. There is no book quite like this and no one who reads these pages will ever forget them. This is a history of our bodies and a travelogue through landscapes and cultural signs that everyone should read  in our post-colonial millennium” –Stephen Kuusisto, author, Planet of the Blind

Kenny Fries
is the author of Body, RememberA Memoir and editor of Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out.  He has been a Creative Arts Fellow of the Japan-US Friendship Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a Fulbright Scholar to Japan.  He teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Goddard College.  Visit him online at www.kennyfries.com

The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin’s Theory
By Kenny Fries
Carroll & Graf | May 2007 | Trade Paper
0-7867-2007-7 | 224 pages | $14.95

My baby is growing up!

Here are the latest photos of Puzzle:

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Weirdness yesterday

I want to describe what happened yesterday:

Dr. P said I’ve been having too many mood swings lately.  She’s raised both my Topamax and my Lamictal, which are both used as mood stabilizers.

Over the past couple of days I’ve felt “high”–an elated feeling, a feeling as though everything in the universe was falling into place, and that I had a special place in the universe, and that life couldn’t be happier.  One night I put my hair in a crazy hairdo and wore it that way in public (which isn’t my habit).  I’ve been spending more money.  I’ve been studying like crazy–like crazy.

But yesterday it went over the top, and yet I’m not certain that what I experienced was mania.  I felt as though I had special powers, and that Puzzle, too, had special powers, and that there was some sort of Presence in my head, not a Being but something like The Thing that could control me, and this was very scary, and my thoughts were scrambled so I couldn’t put a sentence together and couldn’t accomplish any task whatsoever–I just sat there–and things didn’t seem wonderful anymore but deformed and awful. 

I couldn’t do a thing so I just sat still, and didn’t answer the phone when it rang, because I knew I couldn’t speak with anyone and make any sense at all–how could I?  My thoughts were so mixed up that I had no idea what I was thinking from one moment to the next.  I paged Dr. P, but I struggled for a long time to recall her name.  Everything was the wrong color.  My apartment had several doors out into the hallway; in fact there is only one.  I began to get messages from the Presence, but these were very faint; meanwhile I had taken not only a PRN (meaning extra medication allowed by my doctor) of 100mgs Thorazine, but 10 extra mgs of Abilify and another Thorazine, and I felt sleepy. 

Goldie (my therapist) called, and by that time, all the medicine had started to do its job, so I was reasonably sane again, though rather shook up.  We talked for a while.  It was rather late.  I overslept this morning and today feel a bit drugged.

Thoughts on moodswings and other things

Good afternoon, readers!  I’m in the middle of a marathon study session, revising my Crossroads Day Treatment paper, the one I posted here–scroll down or go to http://blog.juliegreene.name/2007/04/14/day-treatment.aspx.  I also fixed and expanded the last few pages of “Hunger,” as I had planned.  It is much improved.  The Crossroads piece needs a lot of work, but my advisor specified exactly what she wanted.  What she had to say in her comments made lots of sense and I totally agreed with her suggestions.


I went to see Dr. P yesterday.  Dr. P, as you know, is my psychiatrist, the doctor who prescribes my medications.  A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D.) who has gone to medical school just like any other doctor, while a therapist could be a doctor but generally isn’t.  A therapist usually has a different type of degree.  At any rate, Dr. P told me that I’ve been having more mood swings lately than I have the whole time (six years) that she’s known me.  I believe I wrote about the intense depression I experienced a couple of weeks ago for about two and a half days.  When I walked into Dr. P’s office and she asked me how I was doing, I replied, “I’d better not tell you or you’ll give me one of those looks.”
Her reply: “So how are you doing?” (Raising an eyebrow, I imagine, but I wasn’t looking.)


“Yes, you’re right, I’m going to give you one of those looks.”

She asked me many questions.  I told her school was very exciting, that I was working very hard at it, that I loved working hard, that I am sort of an overachiever anyway, that Puzzle had made remarkable progress and was doing well, my mood was fabulous, I could concentrate, read, and write, and that life in general was terrific and very, very exciting.  I was talking kind of fast.

“So you can concentrate?  Really?”


I could hear her breathing a sigh of relief.  “Well, let me tell you what I think.”  And she told me exactly what she thought.

She said that my mood was  “too elevated,” and that it had frequently been too high lately, with interludes of intense depression.  Not good.  Two weeks ago she increased my Lamictal.  Now she’s increased my Topamax.  Both these meds are used as mood stabilizers.

This is what I think:  Whenever I have a period where I am too high, whether I am aware of it or not, it is inevitable that I am going to decelerate eventually, or crash.  When this happens, I am always aware of the lowered mood, especially if I have sunk into a deep depression.  My attitude is that I had a “high” and was excited for a while, and accomplished a lot of work (whether it amounted to anything useful or not) and now I was depressed, which I surely deserved after having it good for so long. 

It served me right for having fun.  I had some excitement in my life and that, according to some kind of “morality” in my head that believes I’m Evil, means I have sinned.  I indulged.  My cup ran over.  And now, with this depression, I was paying for it.

That is my goddamned attitude.  Why can’t I simply accept the fact that I’ve got an illness that involves mood swings and leave it at that?  Why do I have to bring Good and Evil into the picture?


At any rate, I’m having loads of fun doing school work.  Here in New England the weather is wonderful.  Have a nice day.


I feel that the last piece ended too quickly.  I shouldn’t have written “I developed an eating disorder” without any explanation.  Who’s going to understand that except a small fraction of people, the fraction of those who have developed eating disorders who actually understand how eating disorders are developed?  I’ll work on that one tonight and tomorrow.  Puzzle’s going to Pooch Palace www.thepoochpalace.com to have fun and so that I’ll have a day of complete quiet and privacy to work on all this stuff.  I’ve got a revision I want to do, too.  More…soon!