Like a Bobber on the Water

I’m in the middle of an extraordinarily busy time. I’ve basically filled out my calendar, loaded up my car, and am heading from one thing to another to another. Like a bobber out on the water.

There’s the restaurant up in Ashland City, right on the river, and you can sit out on the deck and watch the boats go by. We never go there unless our parents are in town. I’m not sure why. It makes me happy.

Maybe I should schedule some time to go sit on the deck by myself and see what comes of it.

Headache?

I went to bed with a headache that wasn’t bad enough for me to take anything for it. It seemed like the kind of minor headache that you sleep off. But then I woke up with this piercing pain that ran from my eye to my temple.

I took some medicine, but it hurt so much that I was like “There’s no way anything over the counter could touch this,” but I guess that’s just years of migraine suffering talking? Because literally twenty minutes later, the headache was gone.

I’m weirded out. What is this beastly magic that fixes what it’s supposed to fix on the first go?

Ha ha ha, it also makes me realize what bears migraines are. I’ve certainly had migraines that hurt less than this headache, but they were much, much more persistent.

We watched the first episode of Preacher last night. I liked it okay, though it felt kind of hollow at the core for me. Like, I just didn’t believe the main character was very familiar with church. He’s a preacher now, but the conceit is that he’s also a minister’s kid. I didn’t recognize him as one of the family, I guess.

But the Butcher thought the church scenes were pretty accurate, so it may be just a matter of perception.

The chick from Shield is acting up a storm, though. It’s almost disconcerting to watch how good she is.

No Rest

The Butcher and I drove down to Georgia for our nephew’s graduation open house and then back. It was a long day. I kind of wish we all lived closer.

I’m tired, but I woke up, fully woke up at what I thought must have been seven or eight this morning and I got up and went to the bathroom and came out of the bathroom and was startled by a confused dog standing bleary-eyed in the hall. I looked at the clock and it was early, really early.

But I was awake so what was there to do but take him for a walk?

Hello, Migraine, My Old Friend

I have a migraine. If I hold very still, it only hurts at my eye. I have been sad all day for no reason, but now I see it was just this migraine working its way up from wherever migraine live when they’re not trying to destroy you.

I got my hair cut today and the woman who cut my hair kept touching me. This happens to me…well, not a lot because I don’t go to church, so I’m not around women who are a lot older than me in big numbers anymore, but women older than me like to touch me.

Argh, I’m already regretting starting this post, but I’m just going to say it anyway. I think it’s because I’m so fat. It’s not bad touching or condescending. I don’t experience it as negative. Just weird, because they seem unable to help themselves, like how you might reach out and touch a bunny because you want to feel how soft it is. But my theory is that a lot of women, especially older women, came up in an era when, if you could lose weight, you did and, if you couldn’t lose weight, you at least tried to signal that you were trying by not being so fat.

And I think they’re often aesthetically curious about me, that they find something about my soft shape attractive, even if it’s utterly foreign to them.

I’m never fully at ease in these moments because I’m always a little afraid that they’ll turn on me in some way when they realize that they’re attracted to something they’ve been so long afraid of being. That’s not a safe spot to sit in. And I don’t want to have to explain my body, the things it’s been through, the things wrong with it, as if I must constantly be apologetic to be safe. I’m ready for it. But that’s never happened, so I try not to flinch or shy away from it.

Which, let me be clear, is not to say that anyone else has any obligation to let strangers touch them, nor do I feel like I couldn’t tell them to stop.

But I’m always so curious about it, because, in general, nothing in our culture makes me feel like strangers should find me aesthetically pleasing. And it’s always gone the same way, where the woman will touch me and enjoy it and I see in her fact that it’s the feeling of enjoyment that made her realize that she even touched me in the first place. And then she reaches again. I suppose because I didn’t say “no” or flinch from the first touch.

But I didn’t say “no” or flinch from the first touch, because I’m always waiting to see if there’s going to be a second. And there always is. They’ve always liked touching me.

And that makes me feel like I know a secret, even if I don’t know exactly what that secret means.

Longing

Ever since I can remember, I would have bouts of longing. Not for anything I could name. Or the names I gave the longing and then satiated in the way those names might demand never did seem to do the trick.

I need a drink. I need to get laid. I need to round this bend and find…something…that is not a corn field or a stand of trees or more open road.

Something is missing. Something I didn’t know I ever had has been lost and I want it back.

Hospital Visit

A while back, many years before she got married, one of my dear friends was hospitalized in Illinois. I asked my dad to go see her, because I would have felt better if someone I loved put eyes on her and I, being in Tennessee, was not able to.

He refused.

It hurt and confused me.

This weekend, both he and my mom called and asked if I would go see their friend who is in the hospital and sit with his wife a while, since they’re at Vandy and know no one here.

I was pissed. Am pissed. But I went. Even though I had Saturday plans. Even though I don’t know these people. My mom says I’m a good person.

I didn’t do it because I’m a good person, though, really. I hate the idea of “good” almost as much as I hate the idea of “deserves.” They both seems like kind of bullshit mind-games we get stuck in with ourselves.

I did it because I want people to do that shit for me.

I did it because it wasn’t that hard and I could.

I did it because I heard in my mom’s voice how important it was for her.

But mostly I did it because saying “no” would have meant admitting–both to me and them–that I have a list of grievances against them I carry around in my heart, running fingers over regularly, telling myself I keep poking to see if it still hurts, but doing it to remind myself of the pain.

This weekend I had a conversation with a friend about how there are these kinds of conversations we remember our parents having from our childhoods where they complain about something their family does that really pains them. And now, here we are, thirty years later, and they’re doing the same damn thing they hated that their parents did.

The Phillipses know every slight, every wrong. We horde them in our souls and use them to justify all kinds of terrible behavior that then causes other Phillipses to compile their own “here’s how I’ve been done wrong” lists which they then also weaponize.

I hate that, mainly because when you’re devoted to “I hurt you because someone hurt me and I want you to soothe it but you won’t so fuck you,” you’re pretty miserable. And I just don’t want to be miserable.

I don’t expect to be able to get out of misery all together, but, if most of us find 60/40 misery/okayness normal, the main gift I want to give myself in this life is to have 60/40 okayness/misery. And a lot of that means not doing things I don’t have to do that would make me miserable.

Scrutinizing the “you done me wrong” list, as soothing as it can be, serves to reinforce the idea that I should be miserable, that this is the normal state. And so, most of the time, I try to not even look at the list, to forget that it’s there.

But whoa doggie, was it temping to bring it out and start reading from it on Saturday.

But I did not, because I don’t want to keep all my hurts fresh, even if I’m not as good as I would like to be about letting them all fade.

A Racing Heart

Much of last week was not good. (Much was, but this is not about that.) I had some setbacks and some stress. And I just couldn’t relax, couldn’t calm down.

I took the weekend truly off. I stayed off social media most of the time. I didn’t check work email. I didn’t turn the tv on. I read and ran errands and paid bills and basically, just listened to my heart in my chest beating at a normal speed. It was nice.

But as I laid awake in bed last night, I listened to my heart racing  and I couldn’t calm it. I couldn’t stop thinking about work. I couldn’t come up with a plan for tackling things. I need to find ways to calm down and remain calm.

Anyway, I read the Southern Reach trilogy. It was pretty wonderful. And I’m about halfway into Lovecraft Country, which is blowing my mind, it’s so good so far.

I don’t want to die, you know? I especially don’t want to die soon because I can’t figure out how to destress my head.

I’m probably not going to die soon, but I can’t tell you how much I deeply resent that the gremlin that had only been bothering me during panic attacks has found a way into the rest of my life.

Stable Eyes

I went to have my retinas looked at yesterday. They remain the same, which is good. I am still intrigued by how much the insides of my eyes look like their own landscapes, like I carry around two tiny worlds.

They give you these drops that make your pupils way dilate, which is good if you ever wondered what you’d look like as an anime character.

But it meant that it was so bright when we went outside that sunglasses put no dent in it. They literally just changed the color of the brightness. They didn’t lessen it.

So, I had to shut my eyes all the way home. I watched black and gold swirls mush from one shape to another on the back of my eyelids. I was trying to decide if it was a hallucination, but the Butcher thought I might actually be seeing the remnants of the drops swirling around in my normal eye juice.

It was neat, but it made me a little seasick.

Response

I had a bunch of errands to run and I got busy and neglected the old blog here, but also, I was kind of hiding from the thing I wanted to write about.

The response to my Napier piece has been overwhelming. In a good way, mind you. But, usually, when I write something, I feel like it’s me yelling across a canyon and not being sure if anyone heard it (especially since I’m not reading comments). Sometimes, people will email me and tell me that they liked something or tell me in person and that’s super great.

And I really like the Napier piece. Of course, like any writing, seeing it in print, I wish there were things I’d finessed better (like, did you notice one of the Napier kids vanishes? I say William Napier raised his five kids here, but then I only account for four of them? I could have just explicitly said that the fifth kid died.) and things I wish I’d been able to do–like get into the Napier collection at Fisk.

But it seems to me like a pretty okay piece. Not my best, but pretty okay. I’m proud of it.

I would not have guessed at the flood of emotion the piece brought forth in people. I didn’t anticipate how it would move them or how much it means to them.

I’m not sure how to feel about it. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m deeply honored and grateful. But I wonder, if I had known ahead of time how much this meant to people, if I would have written it differently.

It’s hard to talk about the ways that being white makes you kind of oblivious to the meaning and implications of your actions. From my perspective, there’s just a lot of history out there, a lot of sources, a lot of ways to finagle some kind of understanding about people’s lives.

And, from my perspective, there are a lot of stories of a lot of people that don’t get told, that we have a tradition of overlooking. As big a feminist as I am, if someone came along and told me that we really don’t understand Nashville history because we don’t understand how, say, Charlotte Robertson was really running the show, I wouldn’t be surprised, and I’d be excited to hear how. I’d want this new perspective.

But the truth is that I don’t feel robbed when I discover something about white women or white people that was heretofore unknown to me. I mostly feel like “Oh, those dumbasses trying so hard to sell the future a lie.”

It’s very easy for me to not have to know how black people in Nashville didn’t even get a lie. They got deliberately erased, every step of the way.

I kind of hate the term “privilege” for many reasons, but it is a privilege to assume that your history just lies to you. The truth isn’t gone, just covered up.

Because a lot of history is gone and deliberately so.

I failed to appreciate how powerful saying “Look, here, none of this stuff is lost” would then be.

So, as proud as I am of the piece, I also am kind of embarrassed about that failure.

Panic Attack

You guys, I had a panic attack so bad today I thought I would die. I can’t shake it. I got home okay, but only because a stranger helped me. I don’t even know how to talk about it.

It’s not just the panic attack, out of nowhere on an otherwise lovely day. It’s the way I feel like, for my own safety and the safety of other people, I have to stop doing things I enjoy.

It makes me so sad.

I Have Lost Track of the Days

I’m a sucker for the conceit of the person trapped alone for such a long period of time that they start to go mad. One of the things I love, too, about that conceit is when it’s really only been like four hours. Ha ha, four hours. How bad can it be?

I sent the Butcher up to his girlfriend’s before the storm, figuring he would have more fun being trapped with her and I would use my time to read and write, which are my fun things.

I have done no reading or writing. Today I woke up with no sense of what time it was or what day it might be. I had a dream a bunch of Nazis had taken over a shopping mall/airport I was at (as a part of some larger invasion) and here we were at the end of the siege where they were finally getting around to killing the people who had been compliant the whole time. I was among them. I kept finding open doors and leaving the mall, but for reasons I can’t explain, I kept going back into the mall to see if it really was as bad as I remembered it being. It always was. I couldn’t find any of the people I had come with. I didn’t know if that meant they’d been killed already or if my dalliances at escaping were why I’d lost track of them.

I woke up feeling unsettled, like something true about myself that I don’t want to know had bubbled to the surface.

I’m still snowed in. It’s only been a day.

Water, Water, Everywhere

The main thing that has allowed me to feel like a human being again is drinking a ton of water. A ton.

But man, it means I have to go to the bathroom ever fifteen minutes, it seems like. How can there be any illness left in me? How has it not all been flushed out in the ounce after ounce after ounce of extra water coursing through my digestive system?

Bah, Sick Again

I’m sick again. It’s a bummer.

I keep meaning to write something about how I’m unhappy and unsettled by how we talk about the Indian situation when white people got here. For people who supposedly didn’t live here, they sure were around a lot.

Full Tuesday

I left my house at 9:30 yesterday morning and did not walk back in my house until 9:30 yesterday night. I pissed and moaned with a dear friend who somehow always knows how to turn a good complaining session into a good laughing session. I got a hair cut. I had sushi. I picked up some yarn for a hat I didn’t realize a little boy was serious about me making. I picked up some boots for my mom. I answered in a preliminary fashion a nagging question I’ve had about the Ewing family here in town, and then I hung out with some other friends all evening. When I got home, I submitted my two more stories to the SFWA and now I wait to see if they’ll approve my upgrade.

I don’t know how quickly I’m going to finish this afghan if I have to stop to keep making hats. But I will gladly do so!

Anyway, here’s what I learned about the Ewings. So, near me, on Buena Vista Pike (pronounced Bew-na, because that’s how we roll), there’s a huge really old brick house. Judging by the chimneys, pre-1830. Everyone refers to this as the Alex Ewing house.

But the Alex Ewing cemetery, when it existed, which it doesn’t really seem to now, was at the corner of Knight and Ewing. Two things are peculiar about this. 1. Why is all this stuff by the old cemetery named Ewing Drive, Ewing Lane, Ewingwood, Ewingdale, Ewing Creek and nothing named Ewing by the Ewing House? 2. White people would have made black people go that far to their cemeteries, but white people were either buried within eye of the house or they were buried at church. There’s nothing to indicate that there was a church at the corner of Ewing and Knight. So, why did the white people bury their dead so far from the house?

Well, I was searching the internet and the Ewing family has an answer for this, one that I think is the truth. The Ewing house was there near the cemetery. And the house now known as the Ewing house was actually that wildman Stump’s second house, right next door to his log cabin.

But, as is obvious from early Nashville records, the Ewings were constantly bailing Stump out of financial trouble and, at some point, the nice house became the Ewings’ house. I don’t know if later Ewings lived there. Maybe. It’s really, really lovely and why not?

But Alex Ewing never lived there. He lived where you’d expect to find him–near his cemetery.

My Accent

One thing about being edited is that you start to really get a feel for not just your writing quirks–there is no sentence I will not stick “and” in front of–but also the ways your language marks where you’re from, the language in which you were raised.

I regularly write “I’ll be over in a half an hour.” I’m pretty sure I say that, too, unless I get self-conscious about it. I’m not sure it’s always audible–that “a” between “in” and “half.” Saying it outloud to myself right now, I kind of feel like you might not hear it, because the “a” could almost be because of the shape of my mouth going from “nnn” to “ha.” But I always mean it to be there, even if you don’t hear it there.

I still go “over to,” though this is a harder usage to explain. But I think “over to” usually connotes “I didn’t really have a task or reason to be there. Like “I went to Walmart” means “I had some things I needed from Walmart and thus went there.” “I was over to the Walmart” or “I went over to the Walmart” usually just means I was farting around at Walmart, burning some time.

I’ve lost it some living down here, but there are a series of places that, in my Midwestern accent, have a “the” in front of them if you mean a specific place.  If someone says “Jewel has hamburger on sale,” you can lay money on the fact that they acquired that information by reading the paper and all Jewels throughout the area are having a hamburger sale.

But, if someone says “The Jewel has hamburger on sale,” they mean “The Jewel I shop at has hamburger on sale.” They probably saw it for sale there.

And backwards and towards. Though I’ve become really self-conscious about it and it makes me mad that I’m self-conscious about it. That’s how I know those words. Why should I be embarrassed?

I’m also lately fascinated by how satisfying “Bugsy Siegel” sounds. I think it’s because of the palindromic satisfaction of the vowel sounds–uh ee ee uh. I don’t think “Bugsy Green” is going to be as well remembered. How many ordinary people remember the name “Meyer Lansky,” Siegel’s running buddy? And I think it’s because the name just isn’t that satisfying to remember.

Charlie Birger fought the Klan and won, and even has a folk song about him, but who remembers him? He should have been Glenn Birger, and had that palindromic satisfaction.

Dwell

Because my hobby is fretting, I know how to dwell on bad shit. If you’ve read here any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that.

I’d like to also learn how to dwell on good shit. The same way I can recall stupid ass crap I did fifteen years ago and paralyze myself with burning shame, I want to be able to recall how it felt when everyone sang me happy birthday at the book launch of The Wolf’s Bane or how good it felt to see the excited faces of the people at the Halloween reading.

In related news, the Butcher and I are rewatching The X-Files, trying to cram nine seasons in before the new mini-series. I don’t know if we’re going to make it.

I was a big fan at the time, though, in saying that, now seeing what fan culture is like, I get that it’s not true. I watched it religiously until I didn’t and then I never, like, bought the DVDs or anything.

So, it’s fun watching shows I haven’t seen in twenty years and seeing what I remember and what I don’t. There’s a LOT I don’t. And what I find the most interesting is that, when watching certain episodes, I’ll find myself panicked upon seeing the villain. So, I KNOW I must have watched that episode and had the piss scared out of me by it, scared enough that just seeing the villain again makes me have a physical response.

But then I won’t remember anything about the particulars of the episode.

I mean, they must be in there some place, because, damn, I can see how The X-Files influences a lot of my writing. But the particulars of an episode are mostly crammed too far back in my mind for me to recall them.

But the bad guys? Even though I haven’t consciously thought about them in years either, the memories of them must sit in a more accessible part of my brain.

My uncle believed that your mind was like a room full of filing cabinets. Everything you ever experienced was in there someplace, though you couldn’t always find it.

I find myself, sometimes, having things come up unbidden. Like, the other day, I was in traffic and I had this strong memory of sitting at my computer in grad school.

I’m not sure why my brain threw that back up at me, but I do find that memories are like the coal fields of Illinois. If you drive south, the coal is at first, very near the surface, and easy enough to get at, and then it plunges way down under you, still there, but not really accessible, and then, when you get far enough south again, it comes back to the surface.

You can map where it sits near the surface up north–Coal City, Carbon Hill, Diamond, Coal Valley–and then again, when it reemerges down south–Carbondale–and you know it’s down there in the middle.

As must be my good things. I just need to figure out how to get them nearer to the surface for when I need them.

Back to the Boobs

I went in for my second annual mammogram today. I has to go over to Vanderbilt because my insurance is a dumpster fire. This is nothing against Vanderbilt. I really liked how things went today.

But, seeing as how this was the year follow-up after my surgery, I would have preferred to go to the place that did my surgery and thus would have my films and charts and such.

Instead, only half the shit Vanderbilt needed ended up over there, even though I checked at my appointment and called to make sure everything had been sent.

So, instead of finding out today that everything looks good, I have a kind of half-knowledge. The doctor said he didn’t see anything in there he’d be worried about if this were my first mammogram. However, knowing that this is my second, he really wished he had the first one to compare to.

When he gets those, he’ll be able to give me a better all-clear.

Here’s the thing, though. I’d like to think, based on my mom and grandma, that I’m not quite halfway through my life. But I’m close.

I don’t want to be on my death bed wishing I’d really tried to get a novel published.

Stress

Work is very stressful right now. I’ve been trying to deal by…I don’t know. Going for walks. Thinking calming thoughts. Conquering worlds on video games. Crocheting.

But I just can’t get calm.

I had a dream that I knew a woman who married a creek and they had crawdads as children and she said to me, “You can’t love 47,000 children equally.”

And I woke up in a kind of feeling of horror and like I’d just realized something profound. But what? I’m not sure.

Still, man, you don’t want to be the chick with crawdads pouring out of your cooter. I assume crawdads must be an egg thing, right? Like you’d just go out in the yard, drop a bunch of eggs, and leave them to hatch or not on their own.

Or maybe in the creek?

I definitely would have to learn more about the early life of crawdads before I married a creek.

I Guess I’m Nervous

I dreamed I had to walk to the event Friday, like hike out in the country from one venue that I had wrongly gone to (but where there were wrinkly fries, so all was not lost) to another and, when I got there, I didn’t have the story I wanted to read and I couldn’t get a hold of the Butcher to bring it to me, so I was like “Fine, I’ll just find it in my emails and read it off my phone.”

Which kind of sounds like hell.

I’m really looking forward to November when life goes from being intensely busy to just busy.

Soon Enough, I’ll Have a Closet Full of Toilet Paper Rolls, Just in Case

I’m making more money than I ever have in my life and I have paid off a couple of looming debts. A couple of weeks ago, I was joking with the guys that, if I had some money, I would buy a new sweater. I paid bills today and realized, I could buy a new sweater.

I’m not going to. I have to work up to buying clothes. I kind of hate it.

But I could.

I have to say, I kind of get why lottery winners burn through their money. And, in a way I haven’t quite come to terms with, I understand why my parents give all their money to my brother and why they’re so weird about giving it to us.

Being broke has a kind of consistent pain to it, like someone is laying a red hot poker across your back all the time. But what can you do? You make it work. You learn to live with the pain. You get used to the smell of your own flesh burning.

I have more responsibilities now than I did two years ago. I do work harder. Not as hard as I worked for Caterpillar or at Dairy Queen. Until you’ve stood so long that sitting hurts and standing hurts and all you want to do is lie down and die but you can’t, you haven’t worked hard. Anybody at a desk job who thinks they know hard work, that they’re really “earning” their check is lying to themselves.

At some level, I feel like it’s some terrible sick joke. I had jobs where I wanted to throw up but couldn’t at the end of a shift, just from physical exhaustion. And I made a quarter of what I do now.  Like, what a huge scam, that this is the working world and this is the kind of job that is respectable and earns you a salary you can have a family on. I can’t tell you how often I walk through this world like some kind of disguised interloper, marveling at all the decadent ways people live and tell themselves they’ve earn.

There were weeks we ate rice, every day. That’s what we could afford. There were times when the Butcher didn’t have a job and I didn’t know how we were going to make it. I never want to feel that way again. I’m relieved every day that, at least, for now, I don’t have to.

But it’s strange to not feel that way. And I can see how, when you’ve hurt that long, you do things to keep hurting. Maybe in part because you don’t trust the feeling of not hurting. Maybe because you know you haven’t earned not hurting, that you don’t deserve less pain than your loved ones. Maybe because you don’t want to lose the callouses you’ve built up, should you need them again.

Flat Lands, Big Sky

I always have really mixed feelings when I go back to Illinois–a mixture of terror and homesickness. Not as bad as the last time I went to Michigan and had to cry in the rest stop to work up the courage to keep driving, but still some feeling of both wanting to be there and fearing that I might see someone who used to know me, who I used to know, and wondering what that would be like.

Away, Away

I’m off to another con. I have mixed feelings. I’m excited. But what if I miss the dog? What if the dog misses me? How will I finish this afghan?

Maybe the dog could finish up the afghan and send me pictures. All problems solved.

Anyway, check back in here tomorrow at six for…um… a story, the likes of which I forget. I think we’re starting with a tale of revenge and witches. If not, then it’s a tale of revenge and dogs. Or a tale of revenge and another dog. Or a tale of revenge and a parrot. I’m just saying, I basically write the same story over and over again. Ha ha ha.

No, I do think tomorrow night is the one about wandering around Mississippi talking to yourself like a lunatic.

I hope you enjoy it.

Stupid Sunday

I made a tactical mistake scheduling all my chores and deadlined things for Sunday, because I am dragging today. I did get a lot of crocheting done, though, because I had to sit around various waiting areas.

I’m going to Archon in a couple of weeks and I’m excited and nervous.

I’m in a kind of frenzy with the book. It’s weird to be working so hard on something that might come to nothing. It’s weird to even think that it might come to nothing. Writing, in general, is a weird thing.

I’ve got to get something decided for October around here. It will be half-assed, though, folks, I can promise you that.

I think this October is going to be weird, in general, but it’s good to open yourself up to weirdness. Still I’m getting nervous about how booked up I am. First weekend is Archon. Second weekend is SFB. Something’s threatening to happen the 17th.  I’m running out of nine consecutive unbothered nights. I might just have to block off the 22-30 now and refuse all engagements.

It’s Easy to Love an Obedient Dog

This week is very busy and stressful. The dog has been walking like an angel.

I understand the appeal of throwing oneself into a fundamentalist religion. It’s really hard when you look at what life has dealt you and you feel conflicted and you’re not sure what to do. There’s something nice about having someone in authority at times like this say “You can’t do that because you’re a woman” or “You have to do that.”

Then you can either be pissed of and do it anyway (and thus ends your short experiment with fundamentalist religion) or you don’t do it. Either way, the path becomes clear.

But when your ethos is be happy if you can figure out how to, be honorable, if possible, and be good to others when you can, there come crossroads where which street to take is just not clear.

You can, I suppose, guess where I’m standing today.