Kenny Rogers

Yesterday we had our holiday party and there was a “how well do you know the other people in your division?” game where some people had sent in little-known facts about themselves and you had to guess who it was.

One person’s secret was that she was a huge Kenny Rogers fan.

So, I went around from cluster to cluster singing “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em” until I reached the cluster where a woman threw up her hands and sang “know when to walk away, know when to run.”

I didn’t even bother to look for anyone else. I felt like–and still do feel like–such a genius.

I still remember when they did “The Gambler” on The Muppet Show. I cried at the end.

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The Blues

Y’all, I’m depressed. Not big D feel like dying depressed, but not answering my emails and not doing basic tasks and wanting to sleep and sleep and sleep depressed.

And I feel better just realizing it.

I need some things to wrap up and I need to get a handle on some other things.

But I’m not failing. This feeling of failure is just a brain thing.

Still, I wish my brain weren’t doing a thing when I have so much stuff I need to do.

The Southern Festival of Books Panel

You guys, it went so well. The room was packed. The Butcher’s family made it in time to hear me read. The panel was amazing. And the audience was really into it.

Sheree Renee Thomas brought a writer friend who had been mostly quiet and reserved before the event. But my god, he sat in the front row and smiled at everyone supportively and laughed when laughing was needed and shouted out when shouting was needed. It was really great. I was so grateful to him.

I think a lot about what makes or breaks a reading and I have long respected Chet’s (the guy from Third Man, who is always having literary events) ability to get the crowd to be open to stuff they might not be familiar with. But Thomas’s friend knew how to be an audience in a way that I now aspire to be for other writers. That kind of open responsiveness is just so great coming from another writer. It’s like if Penn & Teller tell you your trick is good. They know.

I read the first five pages of “Jesus Has Forgiven Me. Why Can’t You?” and it was perfect. I don’t know that I’d ever read it out loud except to myself as I was revising, so I had the fun experience of discovering that it was really great to read out loud as I was reading out loud. It was delightful.

Something is happening to me, or has happened and now I’m just noticing, but I felt completely at home reading that story in front of that crowd. Seeing nm laugh at places I hoped she’d laugh, in one case, wrote specifically based on a conversation she and I had had about what kind of forgiving Jesus would do. Having S. assure me I was dog-hair-less. The gushing text K. sent me later.

I felt beautiful. Like, not on a surface level. No, that’s not quite it. Not only on a surface level, though I looked in a mirror before the event and considered myself not just passable, but cute. But I felt so sure it was worth everyone’s time to pay attention to me. I felt like someone worth looking at.

I never feel that way. I usually feel like “oh, sorry you have to look at me,  but I’ll make it worth your time by being funny or charming or knowledgeable or quirky or whatever.” Or maybe I feel like you love me so you’re used to how I look and it’s not off-putting anymore, it’s just how this person you care about looks.

But yesterday, I felt beautiful. And sure of it. And I never want to forget how awesome that was.

The Travel God Who Couldn’t Sleep

So, I didn’t take my CPAP machine and, on the one hand, I felt like a god because I breezed through security and my bag stowed under the seat in front of me and, in general, I traveled lightly and quickly.

But I slept like shit. I slept like a person who took sixteen half hour naps over the course of a night. I never fell into a deep sleep. I kept checking the clock, thinking it must be time for the ordeal to be over and no time would have passed.

It was a huge and miserable mistake.

I wish they had some kind of travel sized CPAP, though, because that one-bag thing ruled. And I got home in time to make some purple squares, so all I have left is to make my pink squares, tuck some ends, and put this puppy together.

I Like Nothing I Used to Like

It’s September. I’m not sure I’ve read a whole book for fun all year. I haven’t read or written any short stories. I don’t turn on the TV. I was enjoying an audio book while crocheting and it got to a part where a character was being really stupid and I just lost interest in going back to it. I’ve given up on a bunch of podcasts I, in general, have enjoyed.

“Given up” is too strong a word for it. I just didn’t go back to them. I drifted away and lost interest.

I’ve even been having a hard time blogging. Right now I keep staring over at this blanket and thinking I could get a little bit in on that before I have to get in the shower. It would mean abandoning this. I’m okay with that.

I don’t even have anything fun planned for October here.

This should be depressing, but I feel free. Happy.

Nothing brings me pleasure. Not in the sense that I am unhappy. But that doing nothing, wanting nothing, being alone with my thoughts or music or both, this state of “nothingness” makes me happy.

I’m really feeling the weight of the rat race–that we all must be striving and trying and wanting and buying. That everything is commodified. That everything I love will be taken from me and turned around and sold back to me and so my only power, limited as it is, is in choosing how to spend my money.

It’s empty for me.

I just want to like things and dislike things and feel the stakes are low. I don’t want to feel so fucking compelled to participate–like I “have” to read this book or watch this show or have this many stories in the pipeline.

There are enough real “have to”s in the world. I’m so fucking tired of my entertainment (both that I consume and that I make) being turned into one. No, I don’t have to find out what happens next. I don’t have to keep hearing no until it’s a yes. I don’t have to keep up with the things everyone else is keeping up with, even if it’s “so good.”

Pleasure can’t be coerced. Not for me, anyway.

So, I’m enjoying neglecting to be compelled.

Things

Sorry I haven’t been around. I’ve been super busy at work and, you know, it’s been really nice. Things had been so bad for so long and so stressful that just having a bunch to do and getting the support we need to do it is a joy.

In my typical midwestern fashion, I’m loathe to say that, because it means the universe will know about my happiness and try to squash it like a bug, but I’m going to tempt fate anyway.

Vacation Brain

I’m going on vacation next week, mainly to libraries, but, hey, for me, that sounds like Heaven. But it’s meant that I’ve spent this week being scattered and busy, trying to make sure that everything is okay for me to leave.

And I’ve been fixing some yarn. And by fixing, I mean untangling in a nightmare scenario.

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And I got some yarn so tangled up in my ball winder that I just had to cut it and have two balls.

Which, ha ha.

Dreams

One drawback to finally having someone in power at work to come over and say “Yes, you can do this,” “Why are you doing this in this stupid hard way?” “Okay, let’s make some decisions,” is that, since this is not how things have been working, my brain is trying to process how to deal with it all.

And all week I’ve been having these really vivid dreams about work. Like vivid enough that sometimes, in my waking life, I’m like “Oh, shit, I completely forgot I needed to write a children’s book for dogs by this afternoon,” and then I’m like “wait, that makes no sense.” And I realize that was dream work stress. Not real work stress.

Anyway, this week has been interesting and fun and also very stressful. Obviously.

Lavender

I use Tom’s, which is supposed to be a “natural” deodorant, whatever that means. Usually I use the unscented, because I tend to be allergic to scents in things. But the last time I was at the store, they were out of unscented, so I grabbed the lavender scented stuff. Friday, I used it for the first–and only–time.

I had an allergy attack the likes of which I might have mistaken for a summer cold except for, other than being stuffed up and sneezy, I feel fine. Plus, I felt noticeably better after showering and scrubbing my pits.

So, hot damn, I poisoned myself. That was dumb.

And I’ve finished all my sunflowers. I don’t know if I should put them together and then start on the poppies or do the poppies and put everything together at once.

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Who Am I?

I’ve just kind of been in a weird daze since Monday. I don’t regret quitting. But I do feel so sad about it. Partially because I wonder how many people will find me interesting without it.

Which also pisses me off at myself.

But it’s just been a part of my identity for so long that it’s hard to imagine what my life looks like without it.

And I know it’s early yet, but I want to acknowledge that it’s hard, and that I am not sure what my value to others is, if I don’t yell and make people hear me.

Unspoken

Things are just very, very stressful at work right now. And I can’t really talk about it. But I want to, because ugh. But also, I don’t want to think about it any more than I have to, because ugh.

I guess what I will say is that there’s a story in the Bible where some dude is an asshole king and he does something to piss of God and a hand appears and writes some words on the wall in front of him and everyone can see the writing, but no one can decipher it.

And finally, the king’s wife is like “Go get Daniel and he’ll read it.” And Daniel comes in and is all “you have been weighed and found wanting.” And dude’s kingdom falls.

I vaguely remember there’s some kind of pun or wordplay involved…

Ah, yes, cool. Wikipedia explains how Daniel reads the words first as nouns and then as verbs.

Anyway, let’s imagine another feast where a hand appears and writes on the wall in plain words “Your days are numbered. Your kingdom will fall.”

And then let’s imagine that panic sets in because everyone can read the words clearly and they’re afraid.

But then, let’s imagine, that the king and his top advisors set out in search for someone who can tell them what the writing really means, who insist that this also is some wordplay or trick and that they just need to find someone like Daniel who can properly interpret it as good news.

Now imagine sitting in that room, seeing the bad news clear on the wall, hearing the Medes and the Persians marching closer, and still sitting through day after day of “this is just a bureaucratic exercise. Let’s carry on as normal.”

It’s hard.

I don’t need advice. I’ve got some stuff I absolutely can’t talk about going on.

But it’s like the rest of the country. Watching people who need to massively shift their understanding of what’s happening in order to react in any meaningful way failing to is hard and terrifying.

Tired

A thing I find most stressful about the current situation is that it requires thoughtful responses almost all the time and yet, I’m so stressed and scared that I’m worried I’m not thinking of something.

I guess how I would describe things is some folks think we’re in The Tempest, and I knew we weren’t, but I thought we were in King Lear, but really, all this time, it’s been Macbeth.

Thought I also kind of feel like I’ve been through the stages of being a woman in each of those plays? Anyway, if I get through this in one sane piece, I might get myself a cauldron, just as a joke.

Being the Person You Wish You Had

When I was younger, I always wanted to know someone who read tarot cards. Eventually, I taught myself, because no one came along.

Right now, I’m having to be the honest, compassionate, strong, certain but not too certain, leader I wish I had. It’s very stressful. And I am afraid all the time that I’m fucking up and that it’s going to cost the people who are putting their trust in me.

But there isn’t anyone else to do it.

Racist

I got called a racist this weekend and, you know, as much as it stings, I think the guy is right. And also an asshole, but right.

Writing for Pith requires–at least from me–a certain amount of bravado. Sometimes I come down on the wrong side of the asshole line.

I don’t think there’s anything for me to do except acknowledge it and move on. But I have been struck by the people who want me to fight him, to comb through his social media and ruin his life, to make him sorry.

Like, first of all, I am a person and he is a person and we’re not going to fight for your entertainment. But secondly, you know what feels really racist to me? Going nuclear on a guy who was right because he dared piss me off.

Like, I’m trying to be a good person out here. I fail and fuck up sometimes. Why are folks hell-bent on tempting me into being worse? It’s really insidious.

Anyway, I also spent some time getting far enough on the afghan that I could do some doodad samples to see if I like the look.

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I love the doodads! Also, I love how the green works in this afghan, just a tiny hint under the raspberry. Anyway, in real life, I’m just starting the green round on the motifs, but I had to work ahead to see if I was going to be happy with it.

I especially love how the raspberry and the yellow go together, though I’m not sure why. There must be some color theory to explain it, but I don’t know it.

Unwise

It’s weird, but I spent yesterday feeling really compelled to spend a lot of money. I must buy a car! I must buy some fine art! I must get a whole new dining room and living room! I must get another dog!

I don’t need to do any of those things. So, I’m assuming it’s just anxiety, trying to find some new way of expressing itself.

But it’s a really, really strong urge.

I also feel like I’m boring lately. I can’t decide if that concerns me or not, though.

Girlfriend

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I was stalked when I was younger. I tried to get help, but “he said I was his girlfriend.” Apparently, back then, you could do whatever the fuck you wanted to someone if you declared her your girlfriend.

I try to leave that in the past, but things aren’t that different now and it comes back up.

I think of that poor dead girl in Texas, who got described as that asshole’s “ex-girlfriend” until her mom yelled loud enough that he was never her boyfriend.

It’s my birthday on Tuesday. I’ve been thinking a lot about my life, about myself.

We like to think that kids are resilient, that they can bounce back from whatever happens to them. But that really is such bullshit. That poor girl isn’t going to bounce back.

I don’t think I’ve bounced back. Not really. And it wasn’t so much the being stalked thing. It was the discovery that no one in a position of authority would help me. That they, in fact, blamed me.

No, that’s not quite true. That’s not what broke me. It was discovering that people who loved me blamed me and would not help me. And that they would continually put me in situations they had to know were dangerous, because it was easier than standing up to their peers.

Sometimes I just feel so broken.

And a thing that has helped me get through life is the belief that things are better, that this kind of shit doesn’t happen anymore, because at least now people know that girls aren’t responsible for boys’ actions.

But instead, we’re having sincere conversations as a society about whether we can appease these assholes by forcing women to love them. The “give me a woman to abuse or I’ll hurt or kill a bunch of people” gambit is paying off. We are considering sacrificing girls to these assholes.

You can dress it up as much as you want in the Beauty and the Beast myth. You can try to argue that women just have some inherent “something” that enables us, if we try hard enough, to change men. You can say that makes us special.

But no one willingly gives up something they value. We’re expendable. We’re trash.

And yet, even knowing that’s what society thinks of us, we have to go out and be people in it. Frankly, I’m not very good at that.

Magical Thinking

I feel like I have to be careful not to succumb to stupid ideas that make me feel more in control of things. Like, for instance, my belief that life likes equilibrium, so if you have an exceptionally good day or nice time, a bad day or horrible time is quickly to follow. So, try to keep your elation to a minimum, in order to reduce your suffering.

That’s stupid.

But as nice as last week was, yesterday was as awful. I don’t really want to talk about work stuff here–or I do, but I think it would be a bad idea–but at one point yesterday in a discussion with my boss, I started laughing, which turned to crying, which then was just a mixture of laughter and crying I couldn’t control, so I sat there just literally being  hysterical mess. I had a fantasy of just crawling under my desk every time someone tried to talk to me. Not right before, so that they’d think I was in the bathroom or something.

Just, at some point in the conversation, noping right out and hiding under my desk.

I already have a headache, but I’m going to try to get through today.

Defeated

Some things happened at work yesterday. Nothing truly terrible, but the kinds of things that make me sad and tired.

So, I’m taking today off as an emergency mental health day.

So far I got up an hour late and had some breakfast. I’m already feeling like more of a human being than I did all afternoon yesterday.

Ugly

I still hate pictures of myself. I hate that, when I see pictures of myself, I reflexively think “disgusting.” I hate that I don’t even think this about other fat women my size. Or fatter. I still sometimes blame the fat, but it can’t be the fat if I find other big round bodies attractive or neutral.

It’s me.

And I’m really grateful for the drugs that don’t let my mind jump to that and then stick there and worry at it until I hate my life.

And I’m grateful for the therapy that has taught me to demand my brain slow down and articulate how it’s feeling, really.

But I’m also really grateful for a little dude who genuinely delights in seeing me. To him, I just genuinely and value-neutrally look like myself, a person he likes.

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We were both covered in refried beans, because he likes them but can’t quite get them from his hand to his mouth without them ending up everywhere else.

Working on the Other

If you constraint is “this motif, these two colors,” how can you keep it not boring for yourself? Also, I love that solid yellow motif so much that I kind of want to marry it.

A lot is going on here. I’ve got a lot of work stuff–moving warehouses, planning a book launch, getting a catalog out, getting a bunch of promotional postcards done, etc. This weekend I have to get my emissions tested, do my taxes, write a blurb for one book and a forward for another and go grocery shopping. Plus I wanted to pick up the sticks in the yard, but we’ll see if I get to it.

And April is full up. One weekend my cousin and her family are coming. Another weekend my parents are coming. I’m speaking to a women’s group about Fort Negley. I possibly have some other shit I’m just not looking at my calendar about right now.

I get this feeling that some stuff has happened this spring–the Fort Negley decision, the Post gig (even though it wasn’t the first time I’d done it), the Times interview–that makes my life slightly different than it was before, in ways that I don’t fully realize.

And it’s fun because I have a bunch of good friends with whom I can just be honestly “What the fuck?” and “This is so fucking surreal.” and they laugh and are delighted with me. And some of them are also doing delightful, surreal shit and I’m so happy to be able to help support them how I can.

But then I’ve also gotten some… I don’t know what to call them… connected people who have decided it would be fun to connect me with people who can help. And that’s nice and cool, though I have some anxiety about whether I have the right or enough social skills to handle that.

And then there are people who don’t know me or don’t know me very well, but they like what I’m doing and they sometimes tell me and that’s awesome.

Then there are the folks who come sniffing around. The “you’ve had some success I want to benefit from” folks. And it’s really hard, sometimes, to tell them from the folks I’m having positive, but new-to-me interactions with.

But other times, when now I’m worth your time, now I’m someone you’ll deign to talk to, it’s pretty damn obvious.

It continues to be amazing to me how often people demand that I have no history, no memories. That my job is to continue to be a blank slate upon which they can project their fantasies which I, then, in order to be perceived of as “nice,” must go along with.

 

The Times

A reporter for the New York Times interviewed me about Fort Negley last night. I don’t know if I’ll be quoted in his story or if he just wanted someone who could dump a lot of background information on him, but I dumped what I could.

And then I freaked the fuck out. I mean, I’m sorry, but what the fuck? How is this life?

They tell you “Act like you’ve been there,” but I haven’t. I don’t know people who have. I don’t have any idea what you do when the Times wants to talk to you.

For all I know, maybe George W. still looks at his wife in wide-eyed wonder every time someone from the Times wants to talk to him. Maybe freaking the fuck out is what people who’ve been there do.

The gulf is so big. The kind of person I am. The kind of life I’ve been able to lead.

I see why the myth of meritocracy is so important. The reality is nuts. The myth makes sense of a world that makes no sense. This shit just happens and you can kind of draw a line between “I did this” and “this happened” but I know a lot of people who are also doing “this” and “this happened” is not happening for them.

I am so very, very lucky.

And I can’t shake the feeling that I’m getting away with something. Not in this particular instance, but overall. That I was supposed to be a miserable, lonely outsider trying to be okay in some small Midwestern town. And somehow I escaped. And no one ever came to drag me back.

I was in college when I first read Adrienne Rich’s “Song” and I still think about it all the time. It still is deeply meaningful to me.

Sitting and Crocheting

I know it’s not the clinical diagnosis of “introverted,” but man, my life one-hundred percent improved when I read the internet meme definition of introverted as being someone who is drained by group events and recharges by being alone.

Because I had a wonderful time yesterday seeing friends and talking about music and just being a person in the world and I could have easily gone to bed at 7:30.

Anyway, this is the new afghan I’m working on.

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Vague

I remain somewhat frazzled with work. I wouldn’t call myself an emotional eater, but last night I had a salad and four Reeses’s Eggs for dinner. This morning I wondered if I would have been better off having a salad, one egg, and a Xanax.

It’s a weird thing to adjust to. I’m used to my anxiety being, on a scale of one to ten, at a baseline of five with easy spikes into the 15 range. Now being at a baseline of one or two, with spikes that only go to ten, it’s sometimes hard for me to recognize “Oh, this is a lot of stress and anxiety.” because it’s so much less than how I’ve lived up until now.

So I flounder around in this haze of “something’s not quite right, but I feel okay and functioning so I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’m still hungry? Maybe even if I’m not hungry, it would still be awesome to have candy for dinner?”

Which, don’t get me wrong, I am all for having candy for dinner if that’s what I’m choosing. But doing it because something’s off and I’m just trying to feel better isn’t how I want to do things. At least not without recognizing that’s what I’m doing.

Dreams

I have this recurring dream lately where I go to visit a couple of my friends, who live in an apartment complex along the interstate, and are history buffs.

And the husband in the dream is all the time telling me I need to go to the restaurant–sometimes it’s a Hooters, sometimes it’s called a guy’s name–down the street, if I can.

The restaurant is located where the interstate is. Except sometimes the interstate isn’t there and, if I can figure out how to get through the tall grass and the brush, I could go to the restaurant, which I can see through the weeds.

But I never can get there. Even though I know there’s something important, or at least interesting, inside.