The Body Tourist in 34 Lines

photo-6In case you haven’t heard, my memoir, The Body Tourist, is coming out in November, 2014  from Little Feather Books, a small, independent publishing house in NYC . Last Saturday night my good friends Frank and Carol White had a congratulations party for me, complete with a feather centerpiece (get it? Little Feather Books? Feather centerpiece?), basil-infused gin and tonics,  and a chocolate cake with an image–printed in sugar–of  me holding the signed contract on the left half of the cake and the book cover on the right half. It was truly one of the most creative and amazing and thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me. Thirty-five of my closest friends were there, and while they all know I’ve been working on the book for many years, and know basically what it’s about (the 6 years following my so-called recovery from anorexia), I wanted to give them a bit more about the book without giving a formal reading, and I wanted it to be quick so as not to disrupt the party’s energy. So before the party I went through the manuscript and  picked one line from each of the 34 chapters of the book. Saturday night, just before we dove into the cake, I read the lines aloud in quick succession. If you weren’t there and you’d like a flavor of The Body Tourist without the time commitment, here it is:

The Body Tourist In 34 Lines

Chapter 1

“We’ve been robbed,” my mother says.

 Chapter 2

I sit down and hand him my resume which suggests, by omission, that I attended not three colleges but only the one that conferred my degree, and which lovingly details a six-month internship at the state hospital but says nothing about my collection of lost jobs.

Chapter 3

Rage in all its forms–impotent, seething, weepy, diabolical–was her only recourse.

 Chapter 4

To the observer I look like any new employee taking in the information about her duties—but behind the scenes, my heart is acting out a tragic drama in articulate palpitations.

 Chapter 5

Linda’s bifurcated world of puking and fucking is already beginning to wear on me, and I’ve known her for less than an hour.

Chapter 6

“It smells like a train station in here.”

 Chapter 7

He winks.

 Chapter 8

My peers’ outward accoutrements of sophistication paled in the face of my American boy and our king-size box of condoms.

 Chapter 9

It’s a proven fact that everything that happens to an addict is someone else’s fault.

 Chapter 10

I was in love—not with freckled, butterfly-loving, ten year-old Richie, but with the troubled boy-man with the mysterious, brooding core, the Richie undone by his own father, the bewildered, betrayed Richie who, in the moment before he died, might have looked up from the hole in his chest with a mix of apology and incomprehension.

 Chapter 11

“Do not fuck him.

 Chapter 12

I am vaguely aware of being angry now at my own anger, and doubly angry with my father for making me have to be mad at myself.

 Chapter 13

At the heart of my predicament is the relationship I have developed with my illness: the love affair I have with feeling in exquisite control of my appetite, the reprieve I feel, in focusing on food instead of real issues—my loneliness for example, my many fears, and now my father’s illness.

 Chapter 14

A lifetime of sickness and management, an incalculable madness that began as a benign thrumming in his chest and translated to the malignant rattle of pills in his pocket, ceases, with a profusion of tumors in his bladder, to exist.

 Chapter 15

We groped.

 Chapter 16

‘Up and coming’ is a euphemism for ‘down and out,’ my mother says.

 Chapter 17

Something in me is fumbling toward a larger realization that has to do with my mother and my mother’s mother, with the kinds of loss that pull us up and away, out of the warm lake of childhood and into the dry, cool lap of a world we won’t fully understand until we are older.

 Chapter 18

Patti holds the baby out to me and I do not reach for it.

Chapter 19

“You might not make friends easily, but I do.”

Chapter 20

“It’s a long story,” I say, although it really isn’t any longer than sex.

 Chapter 21

The fact is, unless I am a social worker or a probation officer, I have no business being in this North Augusta neighborhood, and so I move in.

 Chapter 22

The area that presently concerns me is the narrow strip of terrain between my navel and my crotch, the gentle female swell whose existence I have always believed I must nullify in order to be found praiseworthy and desirable.

Chapter 23

“I don’t want to be happier!” I yell.

 Chapter 24

I have only to do this simple thing—decline Austin’s hand in marriage—to set myself free.

 Chapter 25

Wouldn’t it be funny if I fell from a balcony onto a freeway?

 Chapter 26

Blind certainty believes, utterly and wholly, in itself.

 Chapter 27

Beside me in the passenger seat my paycheck lies open and smoothed flat, and every few seconds I look over at it admiringly like it is a new baby.

Chapter 28

It certainly does not occur to me to consider that Fisher, unable to dress properly or cook for himself, might, like the house itself, have good bones but cavernous deficiencies.

 Chapter 29

“I just know how sneaky Jesus can be,” I say.

 Chapter 30

On the test, I claimed that my father was a good man and that I had never stolen from my workplace.

 Chapter 31

And then I remember: my father had an alias.

Chapter 32

His face, while handsome, lacks the deeply etched crease I so loved in Fisher’s, evidence (I believed) of profound thought, which left its mark on especially reflective men.

 Chapter 33

Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha‑olam, bo’re p’ri ha‑gafen.

 Chapter 34

I have a recurring dream about a house.

 THE END

 

 

Who Deserves to Live Well?

me and wymaya in San MigYesterday I climbed the steps to my writing garret to face another many hours of working on my book proposal. I’m almost finished with it–well, with the draft that will go to the editor/coach before coming back to me for MORE many hours of work. At any rate, before I could even sit down at my desk, a little yellow Post-it note caught my eye. On it was scribbled, “Who deserves to live well?” Although it was in my handwriting, I didn’t (and still don’t) remember writing it. More importantly, I can’t imagine what inspired me to write it. It’s not even a real question, what with its snarky allusion to haves and have-nots, and the idea that some people have a worth that exceeds others’ and that this somehow makes them more meritorious of living well–whatever that even means. Was this why I wrote it? As a reminder that there can be no judgement when it comes to the question of deserving to live well, and that includes no judgements against the self? As my husband has pointed out to me time and again, I’m of the mind that I must earn what others unquestioningly take: vacations, a helping of pie, the right to watch a movie after dinner instead of returning to my book proposal. Maybe this was truly a “note to self,” a rhetorical question meant to wake me up, remind me what’s what, fend off the usual crushing self-judgment with which I often approach my work, and my play–my life. Who deserves to live well? Maybe the emphasis wasn’t meant to be on  deservingness, but on living well. Maybe the point of the note had nothing to do with passing or not passing judgement, but was instead about embracing the life that is neither earned nor presented, but just is. Here I offer a Mary Oliver poem:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert
repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

 

 

 

 

 

900 Feelings and Five Feelings

Dive1My husband called me while I was at the grocery store to tell me he had just listened to a podcast of an interview with Danielle Laporte. I was making my way through the Prilosec section, acutely aware of the figure I cast: I use a Bluetooth to talk on the phone because it leaves both hands free for driving, petting the dog, and, in this case, pushing a grocery cart, but I’m also aware that it makes me look slightly crazy, as if I am talking to myself–and answering myself–animatedly. But as I exited the antacids and entered the cereals, I forgot to be self conscious, ironically because my husband was talking about just that: self consciousness. But of another kind.

The Desire Map, LaPorte’s book upon which the interview he heard was based, is about arriving consciously at the doorstep of our lives. It’s about putting considerable thought and intention into how and what we want to feel in our lives. LaPorte talks about gratitude lists (something my life coach has been hammering into me), goal setting, and a letting go of the kind of ambition that blinds you to what you have actually already achieved. We feel 900 feelings in the course of a day, LaPorte says in her podcast (which I ran home and  listened to immediately), but she encourages us to come up with a list of no more than 5 feelings we WANT to feel, and that we are willing to commit to feeling,which we do by consciously showing up in our lives on a day to day, hour by hour basis. Got your list of 5 desired feelings? Now what can you do that will make you feel them? If one of your desired feelings is joy, what can you do today that will bring you joy? If one of your desired feelings is connection with others, what can you do today that will make you feel that? Hour by hour, day by day, we build our lives through conscious intention.

LaPorte is youthful-sounding and accessible and her insights tie directly into the concepts and cornerstones of my life coach training. I’ve downloaded her book on Kindle and I’m reinstating my gratitude lists and I’m going to make a list of “accomplishment” goals and “feeling” goals. Right after I put away the malted milk balls and the Prilosec.