I Have Hopes

I hope the Butcher is spending the last day of his vacation doing some cleaning or I’m going to end up spending the first day of my vacation doing all the cleaning. That will not make me happy.

But, in related news, I’m about to have a week off.

In unrelated news, I ate too much for lunch and now I am full and happy.

I don’t quite like how my short story has shaped up, but at least it has a shape. It’s funny. This writing stuff never gets easier. Like, you never just spit out a story that is wholly perfect. Each one, at least in the first draft, fails in some new and spectacular way.

My writing lately even has me wondering if now might be the time when I go make my peace with Hemingway. My sentences have become so ungodly, just full of commas and parenthetical asides and dashes and, well, anyway, I could use some practice writing simple, straightforward sentences that pack a punch.

Every Damn Year

I feel so low right about now and every damn year I’m surprised by it. I can’t believe it’s only Thursday. This week has been so long. I’m having lunch with a friend of my mom’s tomorrow. I don’t know why. I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me. She knew my mom in grade school.

But I guess she’s in town for some medical tests and who wants to come to a strange city alone for medial tests and have no one to have lunch with? I sure as fuck wouldn’t.

So, that’s why I said yes.

I just feel like this time of year is the time of year when the things we want from each other and the things we’re capable of actually doing for each other stand in stark contrast, bleak contrast, to each other and it makes me sad.

Either This is a Migraine, the Eyes, or I’m Dying

I have been slightly light-headed and dizzy all week. At first, I thought it was stress, since I didn’t feel that way over the weekend. Then I became convinced that it might have to do with the weirdness with my eye, like maybe my depth perception is off and it’s making me a little vertiginous (I think that’s the right word–feeling like I have vertigo). Then yesterday, I became convinced that I was having either a stroke or a heart attack.

But last night, I had this weird kind of crawly sensation around my head and I thought “Could this be a weird migraine?” Because I’ve had some weird migraines in the past. So, I took some migraine medicine and I slept like a baby.

I’m still feeling a little out of it this morning. But I don’t think I’m having a stroke. At least I hope not, because I have a lot to do.

I’m Going to Tell You a Secret

I’m having more and more trouble seeing to drive at night. If it’s raining, I can’t drive. For at least a year, I’ve been avoiding socializing with people on rainy evenings because I don’t feel safe driving home.

It’s finally bad enough–meaning I’m starting not to feel safe after dark period–that I’m seeing the doctor. Here in a minute.

I wonder if I can put a chauffeur on my insurance. I wonder if I could get Diggle… Hmm… A driver who can do the salmon ladder.

How Pleasant It is to Touch a Boob

This is a search term that brought someone to Tiny Cat Pants this morning. I can’t decide if this is a question–a person who has never touched a boob wondering about its general pleasantness or perhaps a poet, wondering if anyone else has ever started a poem “How pleasant it is to touch a boob.”

I am curious about how such a poem might go.

How pleasant it is to touch a boob.

I would know, of course.

I’m not a n00b.

A long time ago I liked a guy who liked me back but nothing ever really came of it except that he gave me a poem about awesome boobs, written, of course, by Lord Byron. Writing it down like that makes it sound tacky, but I found it charming and funny.

He has a wife now, and some adorable kids. Sometimes, I see their photos and I wonder if I should have tried harder to… I don’t even know, really… I’ve become someone since then that wouldn’t be a good fit for him. It’s hard to imagine the person I am now making the person he is now happy. But he made me happy once-upon-a-time and I hope the feeling is mutual.

A Moment

I’m sorry to be vague about this, but I don’t like to blog about work. Still, yesterday, I was standing over someone sitting at a table trying to figure out what a regular person puts in a note to President Obama. It was my job to advise said person on the creation of that note. As if I have any experience writing personal notes to the President.

And there was this moment when we both kind of looked at each other in wide-eyed confusion and then burst out laughing.

It makes me laugh to think about it.

Anyway, dear Reader, life is weird.

The Temptation of the Trolls

Since instituting my “I don’t read the comments on my own Pith posts and I don’t want to hear about them from people who do,” I’ve noticed something unpleasant. I kind of miss it. Not in a good way. But I had a story rejected, again, today. It’s been rejected so many times that I now just assume it’s going to be rejected. I kind of assume everything I do is going to be rejected, over and over again. Not quite good enough. So, just hurry up and send it back to me so that I can send it out again.

You get kind of numb to it. At first, it sucks so much to be rejected and then, genuinely, you stop feeling like your guts are going to come out. You really do start to believe that it just wasn’t the right fit. Not for them.

But the thing is that, even though the terrible feeling of rejection is terrible and does suck, it’s a real, intense feeling. It’s a feeling you have to get over, I think, in order to keep sending stories out. Otherwise how would you survive? But there’s a certain satisfaction in having really intense feelings, even if they’re negative.

And I’ve had some really awesome stuff happen to my writing. Obviously. Just look at this weekend. But I’m  not really hardwired to be able to feel happiness intensely for long periods of time. I’m trying to practice being different than that–to actually be happy and to take pleasure in it. And to find ways of sustaining it internally.

But man, the thing about the Pith commenters is that it’s like being nit picked to death. I feel every single bad comment like it’s some indictment of my soul. I burn with fiery passion while I try to think up comebacks so devastating they will reduce the person they’re directed to to ash. I carry those mean comments with me like battle scars. Like I’m proud–to myself–of having the barrage inflicted on me and of surviving.

My feelings are intense. And the callous seems never to completely form.

So, I really want to read my comments and I really want to feel angry and mean back at my commenters.

I don’t, because it costs me too much, but I want to.

I’m having a problem that I don’t really want to talk about. I’m not handling it well, though, because it reminds me too much, in some ways, of a very bad thing that happened to me when I was younger. I feel the ghost of that bad thing with me whenever I try to figure out the current stupid situation.

And I want to be kind and generous and open-hearted, even though it’s not my nature. But the temptation to deal with this stupid situation, where the stakes are so low–just a matter of my own mild discomfort–as if it were that old bad thing, and to say all the things I wished I’d said, to be as mean as I maybe should have been back then… I don’t know. It’s really tempting.

But I want to be a better person. Not for others’ sakes. But for my own. And giving in to your worst impulses can’t make you a better person.

But man, sometimes I envy the people who act like it does.

Complaints

I was so busy this weekend. It was good, though. Fun busy. Not bad busy. But on Saturday, one of my friends went all “You never complain about work. That’s weird.” I don’t know. I feel like I complain all the time. Or that I have enough complaints to fill up a lot of time.

But mostly I feel really lucky. I like my job a lot. I genuinely don’t have that many things to complain about.

But the point is really this–I perceive myself as a pretty constant complainer and it annoys me about myself. I’m all for venting and then doing something about it. Or venting in order to work up the guts to do something about it. But complaints that go nowhere? I get annoyed at those. Annoyed at my own tendency to complain, just to pick at the scab and see if there’s anything under it that still bleeds.

So, I found it pretty funny that there’s anyone who thinks I’m not a big complainer. That’s not how I perceive myself.

The Trouble With Your Own Fingertips

The trouble with your own fingertips is that they are so sensitive and, as long as you are getting sensation from them, your brain will make up for the fact that you’re not getting sensation from whatever skin you’re touching. And, frankly, maybe I’ve been nervous about paying too close attention.

But I stood in the kitchen early this morning, before the Butcher woke up, and took a fork to my boob. Gently, of course. And the feeling is gone in that area. So, imagine my thumb. The scar on my boob is about as long as from the tip of my thumb to that joint right where the thumb meets webbing. And from the midpoint of that scar, though more above it than below, is a circle about twice that area, of nothing. No feeling. Poke, poke, poke, No way to tell.

I wonder if it will ever come back, the feeling. Or if I’m just going to have a scar and a dead spot.

It’s weird. The scar doesn’t bug me. It’ll fade. The little divot is weird, but it both seems like it might fill out and, if not, well, boobs sag and get strange looking.

But this feels like something missing. Like I have been irrevocably through something, like I can’t go back to the way things used to be.

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.