So, That Visit Went Well

My mom thinks the Butcher needs counseling. My dad accused him of being on drugs. He accused my dad of being a rape apologist. My mom complained that, since I’ve asked them not to read Tiny Cat Pants, she couldn’t read the October story. My dad scoffed that it was “probably just as bad as everything else she’s written.”

And now I have this twitch in my eye that is rather unpleasant.

But I am relieved to have said tick, because, frankly, I feel fine. All this nonsense and my internal happy-o-meter is set to content. No wire sticking out of my boob? How bad can it be? And I’m starting to feel like maybe it should bother me that things don’t bother me. I mean, that can’t be right or healthy to just be like “Whatever!” about everything.

But here it is! Evidence that some part of my brain, and hence my body, is actually quite stressed out about things. So, normalcy will return.

Wolf in White Van

I read it. I didn’t like it. I think it’s really well-written and well-executed, but I just didn’t like it.

I hate books like that–where you feel like you should be able to enjoy it, because look at how objectively good it is, but you just can’t ever settle into it as enjoyable.

Though, honestly, I don’t know. I feel a little numb myself still, in ways that continue to surprise me. The other night, the Butcher just opened the door and let the dog out without hooking him up, because it was raining and he was convinced the dog would come right back in. And when I went over to check on him, of course, he was gone.

And I turned to the Butcher and said, “that was a dick move.” And then I sat back down. That struck me as odd–that I could recognize that the dog was missing, but I couldn’t give a shit (and believe me, this whole discussion becomes funnier, in context, as the month goes on).

And there’s been lots of good news, too, that I just can’t give a shit about. I mean, I care, just, not that much.

I know I will come back to myself eventually, but it’s taking a while.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It’s raining and it’s the Southern Festival of Books. So, that stinks. Setting up the booth in the rain is going to be kind of unfun. I’m hoping it at least lets up a little.

I have a headache and about a thousand things to do. I had a thousand things to do yesterday, too, and ended up in bed at a quarter to nine. I slept well, though, so that’s fine with me.

Memphis Nerves

Tomorrow I’m driving over to Memphis for the Mid-South Book Festival. There’s a reception tomorrow night and I have two panels on Saturday. I’m excited, but nervous.

This morning, there was a dog in my backyard. I didn’t see him at first but when I got back by the fire he started barking at me from up by the house. I had mixed feelings about what to do, as it was obvious he was staking a claim to the lit area by the garage. So, I ignored him. I turned my back on him and kept walking. And I wondered if that was stupid. But I think dogs look to their opponents for cues, most of the time. I figured my chances were better at not provoking him if I went about my business like normal. I tried to stay gone until it got lighter, so that he might not be so possessive of the garage light when I got back. And then, I cut through the neighbors’ yards, which have many fewer trees than mine, so that, if he did decide to attack me, I’d see him coming a long way off.

I never did see where he went.

But I was sad for him, too. Dogs by themselves make me sad. Every dog should have someone–human or canine–to keep it company. Hiding in someone else’s porchlight is no way to live.

Calibration

So, yeah, this is the first Pith post I’ve written where strangers have written me to express concern that I might be shot. My friends and the Butcher do sometimes worry. The other day the Butcher wanted to go over where I keep the emails of the people the police should contact if anything should happen to me.

I don’t feel afraid, though. I can’t decide if that’s dumb or if I’m just numb to internet danger after years of trolls. Maybe I can’t recognize real threats anymore because the assholes have thrown off my calibration.

I fear dying.

I fear dying having done only this with my life and feeling like I really have nothing to show for my time here.

I fear being hurt by people who say they love me. Not hurt feelings hurt. I fear what happened before happening again.

I fear that I’ll never experience myself as a successful writer.

I fear disappointing my parents.

But this guy doesn’t really make me fearful. And again, that may be stupid on my part. It does make me wonder.

Fifteen Years

Today I got my official recognition that I’ve been working here for fifteen years. I have really mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m proud of the work I’ve done and am delighted to have this job. And I’m happy with my life and blah blah blah.

But sometimes things hit you weird. Remind you of the lives you don’t have. Fifteen years both is and isn’t that long. If I’d gotten married in 1999, I’d have a reasonably long marriage at this point. Not that there was anyone to marry in 1999. If I had a kid then, I’d be teaching him or her to drive.

I hate, so hate, how hung up I get on whether I’ve done the right thing. But I do wonder sometimes if I’ve done the right things. Should I have made other choices? Would I be happier or more miserable?

I do what’s safe, what makes me feel safe, because I feel pretty sure there’s nothing to catch me if I fall. I’m not sure that’s the right strategy. But it’s what I’ve adopted.

The Laundry Never Ends

I tell you, that I didn’t have my parents do some laundry–at least towels–while they were here is a sign of my idiocy so sure I almost can’t believe I have the gall to sit around and complain about how stupid the dog is. Pot, meet kettle.

All I have been doing all day is laundry and writing about Isaac Franklin. I don’t know if it’s very good, but I found it plenty disturbing to write. I’m not trying to write a scholarly book. I want to write a kind of popular history that is well-backed by scholarship. I don’t know how that’s going. But my hope is that it will be fairly short. Because I want people to read it. Ha ha ha.

But I think one thing that I’m kind of displeased about when it comes to the scholarship surrounding Franklin is that, since Franklin and his cronies left such a detailed accounting of their rape-fest approach to life, I feel like their voices become the definitive voices of rapists of slaves. I mean, Edward Baptist writes so fucking brilliantly about how slavery is both a sexual fetish and the fetishization of commodities, but it’s all about raped women and powerless men.

And the thing is that, I think, there’s two things going on here, in part. One, it’s just fucking soul-crushing to look too long at this. I could not not imagine what it must have been like to be those women, raped and stolen from your family and, if you got sick and died, left in a swamp in rural Mississippi, with no grave to even mark your passing. So, of course, with the soul-crushing-ness of it, your brain grasps, just as a defense mechanism, at any kind of shield, makes for itself places you will not go. And the other thing is that other proclivities were probably not going to be so forthrightly discussed.

But of course children and men were raped. There’s very little discussion of it, but of course it happened. It’s what makes Hannah’s story of being purchased as a young girl along with her mother by Jackson and her recalling how Jackson doted on her and let her ride on his horse and on his shoulders. Why would a grown white racist man in a slaveocracy dote on a child he owned?

Now, I’m not saying that Jackson molested Hannah. I’m saying that, when you read about this ubiquitous social evil long enough, all recollections of kindness start to seem suspicious. Like grooming.

It’s hard enough to think of the planter class passing around women like party-favors. To think of them in charge of children separated from their families? With no moral or social boundaries they were willing to abide by?

I mean, at one point, Baptist talks about how Franklin has ended up with a pen full of “small fry,” children unpurchased and separated from their mothers. What happened to them? Who buys a child not yet big enough to do an adult’s work? And what for?

I don’t know. It’s sad and it makes me sick to my stomach, but I feel like pretending like all the rape victims were women lets us avoid thinking of the children and men who must also have suffered that way.

My Dog is Dumb

This morning, as I was walking the dog, I was thinking to myself, “Wow, he’s being incredibly well-behaved and pleasant to walk with. Who would have believed that even six months ago?” And then many more cars than usual started passing us. So, the dog kept trying to put himself between me and the vehicles. Sometimes lunging at the vehicles to keep them back.

So, I had to put him on a very short leash and hip-check him to keep him between me and the curb.

This week has just been unsettled. I had to take the Butcher in to work at a bunch of odd times and… Okay, let’s discuss this bullshit.

I went to Walgreens to pick up my usual prescriptions. They didn’t have them. Because the website decided that the last Walgreens I went to–even though I didn’t order anything from that Walgreens via website; my mom just ran in and filled my prescription after my surgery–must now be the Walgreens I want to do business at. So, now I have to somehow get over to Belle Meade today. Thanks for nothing, Walgreens.

But at least that’s still in town. What if I’d had to fill a prescription on vacation (not that I take vacations lately, but humor me)? Would they just automatically start sending shit to Sarasota?

I HATE when companies, in their efforts to make things easy, try to be helpful in stupid ways.

It’s my second least favorite thing about the digital age. It’s like fucking Clippy writ large.

My first least favorite thing is how I’m asked to write a report after every fucking thing I do. “Please tell us how you liked getting your oil changed.” “Please tell us how your meal was.” “Please tell us how you liked the smell of farts lingering in the back hall of our club.” Just god damn. Let me give you my money, get my service or item, and get on with my day. My feedback is that I don’t want to have the kind of experience where I feel compelled to give feedback.

Poor Dog

Both the Butcher and I slept in, so the dog didn’t get his walk. I’ve been sleeping like shit for a long time, but I’m finally sleeping better, so I guess I’m trying to catch up on it.

I was hoping my medical bills would all come in at once, but you’d be amazed at how they can drag out. I mean, I have a deductible. Certainly, at this point, I’ve met it. Can’t I just pay someone that whole lump sum and get on with my life?

I had a long email exchange with the Professor yesterday, because I miss the fuck out of her and rely on her to explain my life back to me.

But I admitted to her that I’m not doing fine. I’m not not doing fine. I don’t need sympathy or understanding (yet, though who knows?). I just am not doing fine. I feel fine, but it’s a fine with no foundation. I don’t feel like I’m standing on solid ground. And yet, I feel like not being fine is inconvenient. Like how can I not be fine? Everything turned out fine. I should be grateful or relieved. And I will be, but I’m just not there yet.

I’m also deeply suspicious that some people think that, if they give me lots of tasks and things to do, that they’re helping because they’re giving me a purpose or a reason to live or something. I don’t know. I know they mean well. I experience it as overwhelming and patronizing. And since I haven’t worked through how I feel about all this, it makes me feel like I’m being lead away from important, if unpleasant, work I need to do in order to make sense of all of this and assigned tasks that make their lives easier. “For my own good.”

I keep looking at the incision and waffling back and forth between whether it’s large or not. Sometimes, I look at it and I’m like “Oh, good, it’s not that big.” and then sometimes I put my finger next to it to measure it and I think, isn’t a slit along the side of your boob that stretches over half the length of your boob large?

I don’t yet know how I feel about things. I want time to just be alone with myself and figure it out.

I mean, at the least, I used to have a curve that fit into the natural resting shape my hand makes and now I have a long, flat stretch.

My landscape has shifted. I need to get used to the new view.

Things Drag Out

I had thought I’d learned the kind of patience you need to be a writer–waiting, always waiting, to hear “no.” But there’s another kind of waiting, where people have said “yes,” but you’re waiting for the printer or the internationally famous superstar who doesn’t even know you exist, but who is, for convoluted reasons, holding things up or for the returned phone calls.

I’m having to learn a new kind of patience.

And lately I have been longing to have a church dinner, to walk into a cement basement painted light gray or white, with long folding tables covered in strangely fancy table cloths with a dish in my hands and we’ll all eat together.

It turns out that’s what I miss about not going to church. Eating with a large room full of people who care about me and who I care about.

All is Well

I went back to the surgeon just now and it turns out that the reason the phyllodes tumor didn’t look quite how they expected during the biopsy is that it was just an ambitious fibroadenoma. And I have almost no scar. It’s just like a straight line _______. Well, longer, but that’s it. No stitches, no puffing. Just a long straight line _________________. I guess about like that. I don’t know. I’m not putting my boob to the screen to compare.

But the best news is that I don’t have to wear a bra to bed anymore! Because that is unpleasant in the summer.

The Year Life Had Other Plans

Each year kind of has a theme. Last year was “No, Not California!” and this year, I’ve decided is “But Life Had Other Plans.”

Not all in bad ways, either, just that a year ago, I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d be right here in many ways, though I rightly would have predicted I was sitting on the couch.

The First Day Back, a Halftime Report

I have a little pain. I think in part just because I’m moving my right arm around a lot more than I have been. I also may have just a little PTSD about the wire in my boob experience, because my co-worker asked me how it went and I just both couldn’t talk about that part and couldn’t think of anything else to talk about.

I feel overwhelmed by how behind I am.

But oh well. I guess. Something about the whole thing makes me feel like I could use a real vacation, one where I go someplace other than my house and do something other than nothing.

Maybe I Will Nap Today

I don’t feel like I’m in any pain, but man, I’m grouchy. Not just on my own behalf, but, if you need someone to write you a good “How fucking dare you?!” letter, I’m your writer.

I did set up my follow-up appointment, though, so I’m feeling semi-accomplished. I just can’t find anything in the paperwork about whether I’m supposed to leave this bandage on until then or encourage it to come off as it starts to curl. I turn to advice from you, Internet, because I am too grouchy to call my doctor.

No matter what time I go to bed, I keep waking up at 1:15 and then again at 5:30. Every night. I keep listening to hear if there’s a sound or something at that time, but it appears to be rather quiet.

I also resent the fuck out of having this much time off and just not being up for writing.

Oh, it just occurred to me that I’m waking up at 5:30 because the Butcher is taking the dog to the park.

Well, at least that much makes sense.

Day One of Being Alone

I read a book–Sara Harvey’s Music City, which made me cry. And I watched the dog sleep. And I decided that I’m just not up for doing an index on Project X. I still feel woozy and tired, but I’m trying really hard not to nap, because I’m tired of waking up in the middle of the night.

I’m bummed that my parents are gone. Which, yes, I know, is weird. But it was nice to be spoiled and nice to feel like just remaining alive was good enough for them. I just feel like we’re all so fragile.

You’d think that having a week off would be awesome, but the truth is that, since I don’t feel up for anything, it’s just kind of blah. I finished this book and now I kind of want to go to bed.

Yep, That Sucked

I have been unwell. So, I’m cold-turkey-ing the pain killers, in hopes that I will then be able to poop or throw up or both.

So far, there hasn’t been a lot of pain, more like just an intense feeling of “yep, your boob is right there.”

But I think I’m going to try to take a shower again today. Maybe wash my hair.

Unwise

I took a very brief shower yesterday. It was a mistake. So, I am never taking off this bra again. Seriously, I’m just going to live in it. I should have showered in it. Or had someone stand in the shower with me and just hold that boob all Janet Jackson style.

I feel like I’m off the pain scale in some way. Like I’m not in much actual pain, but the discomfort and the swelling are breaking my heart. I just want to feel like myself. Though definitely, showering with that boob having to even briefly support its own weight was like a 4 or 5 on the pain scale, which was alarming considering I’d been having almost no pain since the surgery.

So, in general, the painkillers keep the pain at a 0 or a 1, but on the just feeling weird and uncomfortable and not like myself scale, I’m sitting at a 5 all day.

But my house is crammed full of food. The Professor sent us a big box of ridiculousness that even included chocolate cakes and a note that made both me and my mom cry. And then C. showed up with a lasagna his wife made that was so huge that he wouldn’t let me lift it because he was fairly certain that the dish was over my weight limit. We ate it for dinner and it was ridiculously awesome.

I just feel bad for my parents because I need a lot of minor help–I have trouble getting up from places and the pain killers make me wobbly when I’m up and I can’t really hold coherent conversations and they’ve already mowed and mopped and trimmed trees. I’m sure it’s got to be boring as fuck for them.

But I’m glad they’re here.

It Was Fine (Gross Medical Things to Follow)

The worst part was the part at the Breast Center. They put a guide wire in my boob and, apparently, I still had a huge, deep bruise from the biopsy, because they all walked over to make … Let me back up. They put the wire in you boob by having you sit in a chair while they put you in the mammogram machine, so you can’t move or see anything happening. And they took my glasses off, so I really couldn’t see anything. So, they have me in the machine and they all go over to check and see if they like the placement of the wire and I’m like “Um, something is dripping on me.”

They’re all, “Yep. It should stop in a second.” The nurse starts walking back over to me. “It’s still dripping,” I say. And it was blood! From where they had to go through that bruise. They made me look at the ceiling while they put pressure on it.

It didn’t hurt or anything but it was weird, because the drips felt cool. I would have thought anything that came right out of me would have been warm, but I guess not.

Then they put me in a wheelchair and rolled me to the surgical prep. I will say that the brief time that wire was in my boob was the most horrible time of the whole day. They want you to take good deep breaths.  But every time I breathed out deeply, I could feel that fucker. And sometimes, like once every couple of minutes, it just hurt like hell. You aren’t aware of just how much you move, just a little, in any given moment until you’re trying to hold really, really still.  It felt kind of like the pain of maybe scraping a metal file against your teeth? it wasn’t the worst pain I’ve ever been in, but it was definitely among the most uncomfortable pains. And I think part of it was that it was not predictable.

The people in surgical prep were as awesome as the breast people. They had trouble finding a vein to put an IV in so I tried to get them excited about the prospect of having a journal article about a woman who lives to 40 with no veins. They laughed. The anesthesia staff was really good, too. They took a long time with me talking about my medicines and my previous history. They said I was a prime candidate for feeling nauseous after surgery because I’m a young woman in good health who doesn’t smoke. I offered to take up smoking real quick if they wanted to hold off on the surgery for an hour or so. They declined as then they’d have to fill out the paperwork about how they talked to me about the importance of quitting.

Then I went to sleep and I dreamed that I was still in surgical prep but that someone was going to bring me some Mexican rice in a minute and then I woke up and it was done. And it felt so good to have that wire out of my body that it took me a moment to realize that I did feel a little nauseous and a little in pain–which they promptly cleared up.

I’m not allowed to drive for a week or to lift anything over 15 pounds. My boob is pretty swollen and I have to wear a bra all the time. But I will say this–I wish I’d worn a bra all the time after the initial biopsy, because it was easier to sleep. I thought for sure I’d wake up at some point because the boob would shift and there’d be pain, but no.

Anyway, the pain meds are kicking in and I’m not sure I can remain coherent. Chatty, yes. Coherent, no.

Sunny

It’s a beautiful day out. Not at all as unbearable as they made it sound like it was going to be. I had lunch with nm, who has the ability to listen to you flounder on about something and then say “So, it’s x?” and you’re like “Yes, god, that’s exactly it. X is indeed what’s going on.”

My parents arrive tomorrow. I suppose I should clean the bathroom. The evil, evil bathroom.

No, no, no, no, no, nope, no, not that either, that’s a thing? No, no, no, no

I spent my morning getting registered at the hospital. I’m apparently in pretty good shape for a woman my age, which is a weird fact to consider. But I was all “no, no, no, no” to all the questions. Have I had this? Have I had that?

They took blood and piss and gave me special soap. And the paperwork for a living will.

I’m now drinking a throwback Mountain Dew and it is delicious.

I Feel Okay, But Not Okay

I can’t concentrate to read or write, really. Which is bumming me out. I have two thoughts–I don’t want to start anything before I see if I die on Thursday and Holy shit, what if I die on Thursday and my Nashville book isn’t done?

Both thoughts then send me on this spiral of “I could die on Thursday. Better go ahead and listen to so Old Crow Medicine Show until I’m really fucking Kurt-Vonnegut-level depressed at the state of the world.”

So, instead, I’ve just been crocheting like a motherfucker, which just lets my mind dwell on counting a lot and not thinking about death.

So, I have two observations about that–it sure is easier to learn to do the broomstick lace stitch on Red Heart Yarn (I think because the strands stay so distinct from each other?) and with three loops per stitch, not five.

Ha, you know, I kind of feel like I’m in some kind of perpetual waiting room. Not doing anything, so I’m not busy when I need to go do something.

Anyway, that’s my life lately. But Thursday is the day. So, there it is.

Noisy Bra

Okay, I admit, since the biopsy, I have been wearing my most comfortable bra like some kind of durable shield against trauma and breast-related ow-ies. But, finally, it was just disgusting. A bra is not made to be worn for twelve days straight. Some of which involved bleeding.

So, I’ve been going through my regular rotation of regular bras again and, today, I am wearing one that makes noises. I don’t remember it ever making noises before, though, so… I don’t know. But it creaks and groans when I stand up or sit down, like a bridge bearing enormous weight might scream as iron strains against iron.

I’m kind of curious/embarrassed to know if anyone else has noticed. But, seriously, how could they not? And what is making the noises? Is it the boning rubbing against the cloth? Is it about to give way? is it going to hurt when it gives way?

I once, when I first started working here, was standing in the production manager’s office in front of the big glass window and there was a mighty pop and then I felt a pain right under my boob. I looked down, and then put my hand where the pain was, and I was bleeding. I thought, “My god, I’ve been shot by a sniper, at work. How weird is that? Do those fools not know Planned Parenthood isn’t in this building anymore?”

But then I didn’t see a bullet hole in the window.

And I realized that the underwire on my bra had snapped and I hadn’t been shot so much as stabbed.

I guess I’m just a little fearful about whether we’re about to replicate that with this noisy thing.

Won’t You Stay and Keep Anna Lee Company?

It’s weird to think about how we’re all just a shaky collection of agreed-upon stories. I was reading the other day about a study where researchers convinced college students that they’d been molested (licked in an unfriendly manner and not let go) by Pluto while at one of the Disney themeparks, even though it hadn’t actually happened. They were able to convince a sizable minority of the people participating in the study to remember it happening.

They made it real for them.

I sometimes wonder how much of my own life is fake, misremembered or misconstrued events that take on meaning to me, or things that seemed trivial at the time that become oversized in importance later. How often do I think something was a turning point in retrospect but, at the time, if there was a curve, it was so gradual as to be unnoticeable.

I’ve been staring at “The Oath of the Thirty-Three Orientals” for three days now. Nothing I’ve read of the landing of the thirty-three easterners would indicate that they should have landed at a place with a building and yet, if you look at the painting, you see that many of them are standing in the shadow of some rectangle with, maybe, a steeple of some sort? perhaps a church? Something casts a shadow.

That’s how I feel about the past–that I’m trying to determine what’s there based on where and when I’m in the dark.