“Areas of Concern”

Whew, I already hate that fucking phrase and I just heard it once, five minutes ago. So, yesterday, the technician told me that they were most likely going to call me back in because it’s my first mammogram and they don’t have anything to compare how my boobs look now except to each other. It’s very easy to be nonchalant about that until they call and are all “You have some ‘areas of concern’ we’d like to get a closer look at.”

It just lands with a thud. And then you schedule the appointment, text your brother, and wonder if you should text your mom. And then you realize you started this post fifteen minutes ago, but somewhere between this paragraph and the last you went somewhere else. When you got back, your face was wet.

Good Ideas

I am excited about stuff I can’t yet discuss. But it’s fun to talk to someone and hear good ideas and just feel like “Yep, things are happening.”

Today is my boob squish. I’m nervous but curious. They told me not to use any lotion on my boobs and I was just like “Who lotions their boobs? To what end?!” and then I remembered that, as far as most of this stuff goes, I have no idea how normal people treat their bodies. I don’t feel like touching me is like touching an elephant, either. But who knows? Maybe I am secretly dry and cracked and just haven’t bothered to notice.

Unconstipating

I sent out everything I needed to send out. I processed my feelings on the Nashville book–paralyzing fear that I have no business doing this and I’m going to miss out on people who should be in the book because I don’t know enough coupled with it being really hard to write about people who are really sick fucks, but not acknowledged as such. Not that it’s easy to write about sick fucks in general, but there’s something easier about a sick fuck everyone agrees is a sick fuck.

I had a beer Saturday night (Tennessee Brew Works–hit them up for deliciousness), so I spent most of yesterday feeling like shit, which sucked because I had a lot to do. I just need to accept that my drinking days are over, but it’s so stupid. One beer and I’m hung-over? WTF?

And I feel pretty sure I don’t have enough white yarn to finish the afghan, which is a little frustrating, since I got so much! Anyway, I’m trying to decide if I want to do some kind of rainbow-ish effect–to give the afghan diagonal stripes–or if I just want to go with a random pattern to the colors. I’m still probably a couple of weeks away from needing to decide, though.

The More Things Stay The Same

I have a lot of things swirling in my brain that I wish I could nail down enough to talk about. I start to think that I’m an easy person not to know. Don’t get me wrong. I think I’m also an easy person to know and I’m very lucky to have dear friends.

But what I mean is that I have this defense mechanism that’s like, “Just don’t participate in this and it will be over as soon as possible and then you can get on with your day.” Whatever thing “it” is. Like, if I just emotionally stand very still, the disturbing things won’t be able to see me and they’ll pass me by. There’s “fight” and
“flight,” but I have “freeze.”

“Freeze” does not work out for me so well in many ways. But the main way it lets me down is, I think, that, since I’m attempting to not provoke people, I’m not giving off the same visual and audio clues they get from most people.

I don’t know. I just sometimes feel like I have no idea what’s going on in my own life because the people who are attempting to interact with me seem to have constructed some version of me that I can’t recognize.

My co-worker said to me the other day that she thinks people mistake my niceness for someone easy to roll over.

But the thing is that, in a way, I do feel easy to roll over. (Not in the instance we were talking about but not into the instances that are on my mind.) Like I’ve somehow made myself deliberately easy to roll over so that things I don’t want to deal with just roll on down the road away from me.

But, of course, people who roll over you, once they find out they can do it, keep coming back.

Woke Up This Morning

Today was the first day since the day of my birthday party that I didn’t wake up feeling like utter shit. I’m still a little stuffy, but I actually felt okay when I woke up. I don’t know what the hell that thing was, but it’s enough to make me revise my “but I’m feeling better today so I don’t need to go to the doctor” rule, since every day, I did feel better, but the hill I was climbing into feeling good was unbearably tall.

I also went to the gynecologist yesterday and we were talking about PCOS (as you do) and she was just like “Yeah, I spend a lot of time reading the literature on metabolic issues and endocrine disorders and, basically, the surest sign of a quack is someone who says ‘We know…’ anything about this stuff. We have a lot of plausible theories that seem to hold true for most of our patients, but there are enough exceptions in any situation to call any theory about how our bodies do this stuff into question. It’s still a lot of mystery that we’re trying to pass off as certainty. And that’s not fair to patients.”

We also watched “Escape from Tomorrow,” which is interesting in that it was filmed at the Disney themeparks without Disney’s permission, but is otherwise a terrible, confusing mess. It’s a crude guide, but there comes a point in any horror movie when you can tell it’s gone off the rails because just as you think “What the hell is going on here?” you see boobs. It’s the director’s way of signaling that he also doesn’t know what the hell is going on here, but he hopes you won’t notice, because, hey, look at how nice these tits are. “Escape from Tomorrow” resorts to the tits trick twice. That’s pretty much all I can say about it. If you understood that movie, please explain it to me.

Work Things

I spent much of the weekend still feeling puny and reading our upcoming Perry Wallace biography for work. I’m really proud to be working on this book, but man, it’s a hard read. It goes pretty much exactly how you expect it to go, except with Wallace pointing out every step of the way what’s going wrong and why and Vanderbilt turning a blind eye.

I’m wondering if there’s a way to pitch it to Civil Rights classes, if only because it’s really interesting to see a guy on the ground in the late ’60s who’s heard first-hand King and Carmichael trying to take what he finds useful from both approaches and crafting some way that works for him. At least in the history classes I took, it was more set up like an either-or choice. You went Martin or Malcolm. But, of course, living through it, you must have gone both at one point or another. It’s just the human response.

But I came away feeling like I wasn’t sure how Vanderbilt could ever reckon with this history. What would a resolution to “we fucked up” really look like? I admit, I was both glad to see that Vanderbilt has been making amends and feeling like those amends just don’t cut it. And I think that’s the truth of the matter, and I’m not sure there’s any way to reconcile that truth.

Go ahead and try

I don’t know why, but I was just reminded of this terrible joke from when I was in 4th or 5th grade. It’s really terrible, so just fair warning. It goes like this (though you can substitute in your friend’s names, if you want to):

One day, Jimmy’s dad gives him five dollars and tells him to go to the grocery store and buy some bologna. “Bring me back my bologna or I’ll beat your ass.” But, on the way to the store, Jimmy gets distracted and he ducks into the toy store and spends his money on matchbox cars instead. Shit, now he’s got no money and no bologna and, if he goes home without any bologna, his dad is going to beat his ass. So, out of desperation, Jimmy slices off some of his butt and takes it home to his father. Yum! His dad loves it. It’s the most delicious bologna ever. The next week, he gives Jimmy another warning about ass beatings and five more dollars and again, Jimmy blows it on fun stuff that is, most definitely, not bologna. And again, he faces the prospect of returning home without bologna and getting his ass beat. So, out comes the knife and off comes more of Jimmy’s butt. On and on this goes, week after week, until Jimmy blows through his weekly $5, looks in his pants, and realizes that he’s got no more butt left to hack off. He returns home empty-handed. “Boy,” Jimmy’s father says, “I told you to bring me back some bologna or I’d beat your ass. Now I’m going to beat your ass.”

“Go ahead and try.”

Happy

One good thing about social media is that, when you see all the cool people you admire wishing you a happy birthday, it really sinks in that I know them. It just completely blows my mind. I never could have imagined this life for myself. I’m very lucky.

I’d like also to have a published novel.

But I’m lucky.

The Big Four-Oh

I admit, it’s weird. I went for a walk and looked at some flowers and didn’t really feel any different than I did yesterday. But I have to say, I do feel like I’m at a mid-point. I can understand why people buy sports cars or start dating twenty-year-olds. I just don’t want it to be halfway yet, not when I’m just finally figuring shit out.

But I’ve had the Old Man on my mind quite a bit lately. Just how long He’s been hanging around. And I’m glad for that level of weirdness to go on that length of time. This morning, I was thinking about how that kind of is an unintended drawback to Christianity. Jesus dies when he’s younger than the Butcher. What model do you have for how to be holy at forty? Whereas the Old Man is old.

I also was thinking about Walt Whitman and how maybe I’ll reread “Song of Myself” this summer and see what it has to tell me this time.

Anyway, happy birthday to me.

A Culture of Gratitude

Whew, yesterday. That was weird. But anyway, over at Facebook, if you scroll down in the comments, you can see a couple of photos from the shoot.

I also got to run into Ranger Doug last night at the Marty Stuart thing and he even remembered me (which was funny, considering that my boss didn’t, for a second, recognize me, because I was wearing lipstick). And we had a really lovely reminiscence for a moment about working together on his book. I got to stand very close to Connie Smith, but I chickened out on saying anything to her. Marty was lovely and very grateful.

One thing I see pretty regularly in town is people trying to honor the connections that got them where they are. And I appreciate that tendency because I feel every day grateful to Charles Wolfe for helping my early career and for no reason, since he didn’t know me from Adam. And to Dr. J.’s parents for taking me in when I first moved to town. And to the Butcher for helping me be able to stay her. And even to Chris Wage who is, in his own way, the catalyst for this movie even happening, I think. I’m not sure how else the producer even knew who the fuck I am.

I am so very lucky.

Which reminds me, I was excited to recently learn that “shlemazel” is a real thing, not just some gibberish in the Laverne and Shirley opening, which seems stupid that I didn’t figure that out before, since obviously they’re not going to give valuable real estate in a theme song to nonsense. But I grew up a very sheltered asshole and I strive to be better. So, here we are. The point being that a shlemazel is a person without luck or who has luck, but only bad luck. And I am tickled and fascinated by the idea of there being this word for this phenomenon.

You could have this problem (or a similar problem, respecting the vast cultural differences) in the Viking era. Since luck or fortune was either a component of the great law that rules the universe or closely tied to it, you both could cultivate a certain amount of good fortune for yourself and just have it–either inherited through a lucky family or just because fate smiled upon you. But that also meant people could just be unlucky, too, through no fault of their own. Just that they and the great flow of the orlog (or ur-law or overarching rule of luck, however you want to understand it) were out of sync.

It’s easy to see it with fresh eyes in a word like “shlemazel” when you know to say “mazel tov” when you want to wish someone well, to wish them good luck. There’s “mazel” in both spots.

But this similar concept of luck is still wrapped intimately into our language in “hap” which, does, indeed, mean luck or fortune. When you’re happy, you are literally in a state of good luck. When something happens, it is because fate is playing out. Happenstance is luck or fortune playing out in ways we don’t know or can’t anticipate. A hapless guy is one without luck.

We’re all the time using words that used to hold profound and meaningful theological ideas about how the world works, that still, I’d say, contain those implications, we just don’t realize it.

But especially speaking of lucky, I ran into Nina Cardona and she offered to take me through Downtown Presbyterian when we can find the time. I cannot wait.

Irritable

I had too much caffeine yesterday and I slept like shit. I woke up today in a foul mood which seems to only be getting fouler. I am pissed that the lawn’s not mowed, that I found a flea on the dog, that the cats won’t make a decision about coming in the house in a timely manner, that I don’t know how the Butcher’s getting home from work, and that the dishes aren’t done.

Which is ridiculous because most of these things are just a result of it being springtime in Tennessee.

But I did not have my morning Diet Dr. Pepper in an effort to sweeten up by the time to go to work.

Okay then

Today I had my first sales call. I think it went well. It’s really nice to get out and talk about books. And I’m very fortunate to work on books I really like and feel positively about. I was wondering how people at bigger presses do sales calls–talking about books they may know nothing about.

My mom called me last night to tell me about this great new author she really likes who has a website “just like you”–Ariana Huffington. I kept waiting to see if she was joking, but she was not. She’d somehow not heard of Ariana Huffington or Huffington Post until yesterday.

Sometimes I envy my mom.

Forty is Coming

I can vividly remember my friends’ parents having their 40th birthday parties with “Lordy, Lordy, Look Who’s 40″ on the cakes or decorations. And I remember thinking “Wow, 40. That’s practically dead. How sad, because I really like X.”

And here we are, twenty days out from me turning 40.

I have accomplished nothing! I feel like a kid who hasn’t done his homework and then discovers that the school has burned down. I have accomplished nothing! Victory is mine!

Which is not to say that I haven’t accomplished some things. But I do think that I have very successfully make a way in the world that I can thrive and be weird and still be okay. That means a lot to me.

What a Day!

My underling started today. I spent the morning bombarding her with information and things to do. And now I’m staring at my afternoon wondering how I’m going to get the things I need done done.

More Proof My Jaw Thing is Actually an Ear Thing

It hurts much, much less today than yesterday. Almost like some pressure change happened when the storm came through.

As it was storming, I had a heavy pressure on my face, that ran from the hing of my jaw, to my ear and then curled around to my eye.

When I press right along that curve now, on that side of my face, it feels really, really good.

My ear is clogged the fuck up.

Lazy Day

We had a really nice lazy day yesterday where, after I got back from coffee, we just sat around and watched movies, which, weirdly, all shared a theme of people seeing people who weren’t there.

I have fucked up my jaw somehow. But since it’s my jaw, my ear, and my eye, I’m hoping that it’s just sinus crap.

Tonight I’m making paella. Unless we’re blown away by tornadoes. Ugh.

There’s something about how it works these days where you can watch storms roll across the nation, see the destruction and suffering hours before that same storm gets to you.

I wonder if the Red Cross, in cases like this, sees donations follow the route. I mean, what happened in Arkansas is so terrible, but I wonder if people who are about to get hit by the storm wait to donate until after the storm has passed them by?

Oops

The Butcher says I’m being bossy at home this week.

Which, I concede, I may be being.

But it’s really fun to boss people around and get things done. My power is corrupting me!

I’m Not Saying I Needed a Jacket But

My walk usually takes me between 20 and 25 minutes. I did it today in 15. Because it was really, really cold for not having a jacket.

But the other part I find baffling is that, while I feel like I must be in the worst shape of my life, I’m taking longer walks than I did with Sadie and they still take the same amount of time.

I am, objectively, speeding up.

I’m really enjoying my new job. I know it can’t last forever, but right now it’s still really interesting and exciting to me.

It’s nice to be thinking about my job on my walk and have it be because I’m curious about how I’m going to tackle this challenge or some other.

Easter

This is the first Easter I haven’t gone to church. In my whole life. But the house is empty–the Butcher and the dog are camping, the cats are sleeping, the rest of the family is in Georgia. And so it still feels like a holiday–one in which I’ve been left to make sure that everything runs smoothly while the rest of the folks actually do the things.

I’ve got a draft of my story done. I’m going to write my Pith post and then go for a walk.

My dad brought me down a box of Grandma’s stuff. I guess I could open that, too.

I’m tired in a part of my soul I don’t know how to rest. I keep trying to rest the things I know how to cut back on, but it doesn’t seem to hit at the weariness I feel.

I feel like my life is a pile of events and things I did (or didn’t do) while I was waiting to figure out what I wanted to do. Or while I’m figuring out if I can do the thing I want to do.

Forty years I’ve been on this planet and I just don’t know if I’ve… I don’t know how to finish that sentence. We’re bumping up right against that untouchable weariness. I want … something unnameable, something I don’t know how to articulate … and I don’t know if I’ll recognize it when I’ve done it.

When we were young, I taught the Butcher how to drive. And I can remember how we would cruise around the flat, straight backroads of Illinois and, every once in a while, you’d unexpectedly curve down into a river bottom or around an old stand of trees, and I’d just have this feeling like we were so close to someplace else, that it sat right next to this world and sometimes leaked over into it, and we were, sometimes, on the verge of breaking over into that world ourselves. We might turn a corner and find ourselves along a backroads in that world, one that they’d left forgotten, so the roadblocks between here and there had been neglected and lost.

And now that I’m middle aged, I wonder if I made it to that place and didn’t realize it–came and left again without ever seeing that I was where I wanted to be all along.

Dancing around the living room

My story. Eh, it goes. How will it end? Who knows? But it continues to feature a mysterious song sung and danced in 5/4 prominently in it. And so I needed a dance in 5/4 to do to the song. So, I moved everything out of the way and the dog got all excited thinking something was happening. I determined that a line of people (or a circle of people who needed to sing to you) could do a simple grapevine–step right, left in front of right, step right, left behind right, bring feet together. Repeat as needed in your giant circle or line while you sing said mysterious song.

But could you do a couple’s dance?

That took me most of the evening to figure out. I wanted to go grapevine, grapevine, turn, because I’m a Midwesterner and, to me, the most important part of a dance is whether I get to wear a twirly skirt and, if I get to twirl in said skirt. But, if I go grapevine, grapevine, turn, I couldn’t figure out how my partner was supposed to turn me around him. If we’re mirror images of each other–in other words, I’m leading with my right foot and my left goes behind, but he leads with his left foot and his right goes behind, when we turn, it’s going to be away from each other. Plus, if our feet are apart, how are we ready to lead with our lead feet?

So, what I worked out is that the turn has to come on the fourth count–right, behind, right, in front and pivot, step together–and he’s got to be doing the compliment–left, in front, left, behind and pivot, step together.

I’m still not entirely sure it will work, because my partner was the dog and, frankly, he was not cooperating.

Oh, you guys, he was being so naughty yesterday, since it’s been raining and he hadn’t had his morning walk either Monday or yesterday. He got out the back door on the Butcher, ran around my car while I was trying to park, got into the car and refused to get out and then ran, full speed, head back, tongue hanging out, around the yard. If he were a kid, he would have just been going “oOOOOOoooo” the whole way.

And then, he leaped into the house, just cleared all the stairs in the garage and sat and was like “Let’s have a treat!” and we were like “Okay,” because we’re terrible dog owners.

And this morning, he ate half a frozen pizza out of the garbage. And the Butcher told me, since I didn’t stop him, I have to clean it up if he’s sick when we get home. But it did seem like a big waste and it was a meat pizza. Plus, how he ate it was hilarious. He put the half down on the floor in front of him, put his paw on it, and then stripped the layers of things off of it. And when he was finished, I was like “Damn, that was awesome.”

The Butcher got mad at me because the dog is not supposed to be eating out of the trash and we’re supposed to be working on breaking him of it. But, much like his running around the yard like a wildman, it was so audacious and joyful I couldn’t be angry. And by the time the Butcher realized what was going on, it was too late.

For the sake of the dog, I need to get my shit together. But I’ve been in such a funk for so long (I hear you all saying “No shit”) that I’m having a problem stopping him from doing things that make him happy and make me laugh.

I don’t know. The next time I’m confronted with pizza, I may stand on it, just to see what the big deal is.

Anyway, the dog. Terrible dance partner. Wouldn’t even try to learn the moves. Hilarious eater. But kind of disgusting.