Jung At Heart blog

Knitting myself together


I am a knitter. Knitters come in two basic types. The project knitter buys yarn and pattern for a specific project and knits that and only that until it is finished. Process knitters knit to knit. We love to look at, touch and acquire yarn and usually have several projects going at the same time. The finished project is nice but it is the process, the knitting itself that is engaging. Sometimes the project is never completed or it is unraveled and the yarn used again for something else. I love the feel of the yarn as it slides through my fingers as I knit. I stop frequently and pull the fabric into shape and touch it and look at it and enjoy the color and shape. Knitting a sock, knit from top to toe with a single thread that is never broken, I marvel at the genius of the first person who figured out how to "turn the heel" and change the sock from a simple tube into something that hugs the form and shape of the human foot. These days I knit a lot of lace, knit with fine thread on small needles with intentional holes, for lace without holes is not lace at all.

My life with telogen effluvium*

Every morning when I get up, after I brush my teeth, I brush my hair. For months from last summer through this winter, every morning I would find more hair in my brush. Because I was losing hair. Which filled me with grief and embarrassment and, for some reason, shame. I have a very nearly bald spot on the crown of my head, not visible to anyone who does not tower over me. But I know it is there and I cringe inwardly about it every day when I see or remember it.

.I have always loved my hair. Never wished it were some other color. My hair and my eyes let me feel almost pretty, to make up somehow for being fat. My beautiful abundant hair used to be very dark brown with hints of red. My first boyfriend once called my hair “raven red” — I loved that. It was thick and shiny and had just enough curl. 

My hair started to go gray when I had my children in my early 30’s. I covered the gray with hair color until the gray was the dominant color. When I was 55, I stopped covering the gray and gradually my hair became a silvery white which I have loved as much as I did when it was that raven red. The texture changed — the hair became quite fine — and it became curlier. I loved having masses of curls. 

May I ask a personal question?

Personal disclosure is an issue that comes up now and again for therapists and patients — patients wonder if it is intrusive to ask the therapist personal questions, therapists wonder how much to disclose. I have never found this to be an especially difficult issue. Taking a page from an early supervisor, I tell patients early in our work that they should feel free to ask any questions that they like of me. I tell them I will answer any that I feel comfortable with *and* that I think it also important that we consider what the question is about for them. Very rarely has anyone asked anything that felt intrusive or that I felt I couldn't or shouldn't answer. 

But this issue touches into boundaries and frame. And needs to be handled thoughtfully rather than automatically.

Years ago, when I was trying to sort out just what was the nature of my relationship with my analyst and wishing that I could know that we would or could be friends when our work was over, he told me that he considered the analytic relationship to be very personal, as personal as any. That puzzled me because I knew the boundaries -- we wouldn't have dinner together or any of the kinds of things that friends do. Yet the relationship was very close. Therapeutic relationships occupy their own niche -- neither friendship nor distantly professional, but a space which is both intimate and follows its own etiquette. 



You do know it’s Sunday, right?

Wanting to be wanted

When I was nine, we lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My mother, not an easy woman, thought I would never become a desirable catch, as I was more preoccupied with books than learning womanly wiles. Her poking, prodding, and criticism did not work, so she enrolled me in a ballroom dance/etiquette course. As it happened, that same year, the University of New Mexico was mounting a production of Euripides’ "Medea". They needed two nine-year-olds to play the sons, but it was thought that nine-year-old year old boys were too rowdy to take the discipline to be in a play like that, so they came to the dance class to pick two girls. I was one of them.

 I remember being fitted for the costume, being taught to walk like a boy and to scream like a boy. I did not know what the story was, but it was fun learning those things.

I finally saw the play all the way through the day of the dress rehearsal. I remember standing in the wings watching. The meaning of the play rolled down the aisle like a dark cloud and swallowed me as I realized she kills her sons. In a moment, I understood what role I was playing. I can remember the hair standing up on the back of my neck and the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  

For today, a poem

Walking at Night

by Louise Gluck

Now that she is old,
the young men don't approach her
so the nights are free,
the streets at dusk that were so dangerous
have become as safe as the meadow.

By midnight, the town's quiet.
Moonlight reflects off the stone walls;
on the pavement, you can hear the nervous sounds
of the men rushing home to their wives and mothers; this late,
the doors are locked, the windows darkened.

When they pass, they don't notice her.
She's like a dry blade of grass in a field of grasses.
So her eyes that used never to leave the ground
are free now to go where they like.

When she's tired of the streets, in good weather she walks
in the fields where the town ends.
Sometimes, in summer, she goes as far as the river.

The young people used to gather not far from here
but now the river's grown shallow from lack of rain, so
the bank's deserted—

There were picnics then.
The boys and girls eventually paired off;
after a while, they made their way into the woods
where it's always twilight—

The woods would be empty now—
the naked bodies have found other places to hide.

In the river, there's just enough water for the night sky
to make patterns against the gray stones. The moon's bright,
one stone among many others. And the wind rises;
it blows the small trees that grow at the river's edge.

When you look at a body you see a history.
Once that body isn't seen anymore,
the story it tried to tell gets lost—

On nights like this, she'll walk as far as the bridge
before she turns back.
Everything still smells of summer.
And her body begins to seem again the body she had as a young woman,
glistening under the light summer clothing. 

A treat for the eye

I am a fat woman. I was a fat teen and fat child. I have even written a book about what being fat is like and what it is about. It took me a long time and a lot of hard inner work to even begin to feel at home in my body, to claim my body, to love my body.

It is only in recent times, and even then pretty rarely do I get to see bodies like mine in ads, on television or in the movies. This week as part of their ad campaign for their women’s shaver,  Gillette image of plus-size model in bikini sparks outrage — the image of a fat woman in a bikini looking happy drew a slew of hate-filled comments about her and accusing Gillette of encouraging obesity. Read my book if you want to know more about the many ways this is just sheer bigotry and unsupported by research. 

Anyway, Gillette is to be applauded for standing by their choice and saying:  "Venus is committed to representing beautiful women of all shapes, sizes and skin types because ALL types of beautiful skin deserve to be shown. We love Anna because she lives out loud and loves her skin no matter how the 'rules' say she should display it."

This is Spring?


Welcome to spring in Maine where it has snowed the last 3 days.

The Struggle

In August I became very ill and spent 5 days in the hospital. In the process I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which was the underlying culprit in my whole medical misadventure. So for the last 6 months I have been struggling to come to terms with and learn to cope with now being a diabetic. Not my idea of a fun time.

Days of what sometimes felt like endless finger sticks to check my blood sugar leaving my poor fingers looking a bit like they had been through a war — which I suppose they had. Trying to figure out what I can eat and what drives my glucose levels too high. Feelings about myself rising and falling based on the verdict of my glucometer.

IMG 1126

That was a reasonably good day.

Then came the days when I just cried in frustration over no longer being able to eat what I want when I want it without worrying or even thinking about what price I might pay when the meter rendered its verdict. And the weight of knowing this is not a temporary thing, not something I will get over and go back to normal, whatever that is. Diabetes and checking my blood sugar and paying attention to my feet, because I have mild neuropathy, and monitoring myself as I never had to before is a part of my life for the rest of my life. Days like that come and go. Days when I feel rage at my body. Deep sadness. Depression. Writing in my journal trying, trying to get what this means for me, pouring out words for my feelings. 

A hole in the fabric of life


She walked into my life in April of 1991 because a mutual friend thought we might hit it off. We met that day for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. She was dressed in purple and I remember she wore a beautiful scarf. Lunch that day lasted over 4 hours as we talked and talked and talked. For each of us, it was the meeting of someone we felt we'd known forever. We talked our way through the next 21 years, though there were pauses that came when we had huge arguments and estrangements that lasted for up to 2 years. Still, even in those absences from each other, we remained connected and the door remained open for us to reconnect.

We talked through my divorce, through the beginning of her chronic illness. We talked through our joys and sorrows and disappointments. She celebrated my children's graduations and marriages. We laughed and we cried together. 

I moved away to Michigan to be with the man I married. After 4 years, I returned to Maine. Pauline and I had had one of our falling out periods while I was gone. Soon after I returned, she reached out to me. And the best and deepest period of our friendship began.

© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.