Ever Onward

Well, yesterday was kind of an existential low point. But, as they say in The Crow, it can’t rain all the time.

And tonight I’m going to make the Butcher a scarf. Then I will finish up the hexagon afghan.

Grr

I made it into work, but the phone is out and the internet is spotty. I’m staying just a couple more hours and then I’m going home. And probably not coming back until Monday.

This is How The Shining Went, Right?

I was cooped up in the house for three days writing. Now I’ve been cooped up in the house for two days because we’re iced in. I’m going to try to get to work today just so I can have a change of scenery. I don’t know why something that is so awesome when you elect to do it–sit around on the couch, snuggling with the dog–is oppressive when there’s no other option.

But it is.

I have gotten a lot of work done on my afghan, though.

One Thing I Wonder about

It has been… not exactly comforting, but maybe a little bit comforting, to be approaching the age my parents were when I was stalked. The question I have has the hardest time making peace with is “How could you let this happen?” and now I see how this is all the amount they knew about how the world worked. These are all the skills for coping they had.

I was thinking about coming into math class and the teacher telling me that my stalker had left his notebook. She said, “Your boyfriend left his notebook. Why don’t you go bring it to him?”

And I flipped out. I stood up and sent my desk skidding across the floor. “He’s not my boyfriend.”

I remember her looking at me in utter confusion and annoyance. “Well, he says he is.”

Like that settled the matter. The dog had peed on me. I was his tree.

I wonder if she has any regrets. I wonder if she ever realized something was wrong.

To me, even now, the most upsetting part of it was the utter loss of control over the narrative of your own life. The feeling of knowing you have one life–where you hang out with this group of people and you aren’t dating anyone, even though you’d like to–and a lot of people believing you have a different life–where this guy, who you’re terrified of, is your boyfriend–just because he says so.

I felt, often, like I was suffocating under the weight of his fantasy of me. Like the longer it went on, the harder it was for me to have my very basic understanding of myself respected by other people.

I guess that’s why the bystander stuff in the Vandy case bothers me so much. A lot of people saw what was happening to me and either didn’t recognize it for something they needed to worry about or actively sided with his version of events. As if it was just “he said/she said” and not “he’s doing things/she said.”

Why am I Here?

I did something stupid the other day. I stumbled across the Facebook page of the guy who stalked me. Part of it was accident, but the part where I recognized the name and clicked through is on me.

He lives, generally, in the same place he did when I knew him. He has the same kind of job he had in high school.

Now that I’ve been around the block a few times, it’s obvious to me that he was mentally ill. I don’t want to brush off the stalking, which pretty well fucked me up from there on out, as just him being “crazy.” I think he would have always been the kind of guy who thought the world owed him the woman of his choosing, regardless of her wishes. But I imagine he would have been more on the “women only like jerks and not me” end of things, not on the “Breaking into your house to leave you a different brand of grape pop, because I don’t like the brand you drink” end.

I guess I’m making light of things. I thought he was going to kill me. I think he thought he was going to kill me. It wasn’t just silly home break-ins. He kidnapped the Butcher, briefly.

But the point is that I think the entitlement helped organize his thoughts, gave him something clear to work for and to do with himself, even when nothing else in his mind was clear.

So, I do have sympathy for him at that level. I can believe that he was suffering, too.

Anyway, that’s a long preamble to the point I wanted to make. He’s still working the same kind of job he had in high school. Everything else about him aside, he was one of the smartest people I ever met (though the Butcher says that, at 17, I may have been mistaking “loud” for “smart”).

I always thought that, if I somehow discovered that this was his life, I’d feel like some kind of justice had been served. But the truth is that I’m not sure why that’s not my life. Maybe this goes back to why I just get so frustrated with this idea that talent is somehow uncommon and thus talented people, no matter what else they do, have to be tolerated. Everyone is talented.

Why is this my life and that his?

I don’t know. I really don’t. The Butcher says it’s because I try things. But I experience myself as being terrified of almost everything and just doing the things I’m less terrified of doing than I am of not doing. I don’t feel like I’m motivated by any positive goals. I don’t want anything. I don’t want to get married. I don’t want to have kids. I don’t want some ideal career. I have no goals.

I just don’t want to be stuck back there.

My whole life is just me saying “no” and learning to make it stick.

Ha, honestly, that’s why this whole writing thing is so tough for me. It is the exception. It’s the one thing I do want. I want to write a book someone else publishes. I want to write something that makes people say “Whoa.” I want to fucking crack myself open against the mystery of the universe and see if anyone else thinks what comes pouring out is cool.

But why am I here and not there? Just fear? I don’t think fear can propel a person through a whole life.

I get why people settle on “Well, I deserve it” or “Well, that’s just God’s plan.” Because the world being a confusing place that makes no sense, where some people get really lucky and others don’t, is not very comforting.

I’m Having “An Incipient Event”

I’m putting “Getting a giant Q-tip repeatedly poked in my eye” near the top of my list of unpleasant, though not terrible, experiences. My poor eye today feels like… well, like someone spent an afternoon poking a giant Q-tip around in it.

But the long and short of it is that “something” is happening. You don’t see blue flashes for no reason. But my retina is attached as of right now. So, they’re going to see me again in six weeks, and I’m supposed to come in before then if I see more flashes or something strange and different other than that.

I didn’t see the guy I saw last year (though I’ll see him at the next appointment), but this guy said that, even in a “special case” like mine–really thin retinas with scarring–he thought I was young to have a tear yet. So, from his mouth to my retina’s ear.

I am bummed. Not horribly depressed or anything, but it just feels like it’s been a long time of one medical thing after another, which have all turned out to be nothing. But still going through them is pretty grueling.

Flashing Blue Lights

Well, this afternoon, I’m having an emergency appointment with a retinologist. Never have I been so grateful that my eye doctor made me go last year to see him so that they’d have a baseline for the day when my retina inevitably tears. Which, hopefully, is not today?

I mean, the upside to it tearing is that, when it tears, they think they may be able to fix the blind spot, which is unaddressable until then.

The downside is that it’s kind of terrifying.

So, anyway, last night before I went to bed, I saw this really bright blue flash, like a cop car, but not followed by any other flashes. I didn’t immediately think anything of it, because, at that point, I was like, well, maybe a cop car did go by just once and flash his lights. Then, this morning, in the dark of the living room, there was another bigger flash and I was like “Oh, shit, that’s not right.” But I talked myself into it being maybe the precursor to a migraine.

But I don’t have a headache. So, when there was another one right before ten, I called the eye doctor who told me to immediately call the retina specialist. And now I have my emergency appointment.

Here’s the thing–and maybe it says something fucked up about me–but because there’s no pain and because I feel 100% confident they can fix whatever’s wrong–I’m more curious than scared.

And this time the Butcher is coming with me, so I won’t be stuck wandering around barely able to see by myself.

Boo-oor-ing

You guys, I’m having such a nice day that I’m afraid I’m really boring. Nothing perturbs me. No deadlines weigh heavily on me. No one has annoyed me. I have nothing to blog about, except that blogging also makes me happy, so why not continue the awesomeness of my day?

It’s funny how you can just have a down day and not thing anything of it, but I’m having an up day, just in a good mood, and there’s no reason. Still, I’m going to roll with it.

I Can See It!

I’m wearing my new contacts today and the very first thing I noticed is that I can see my blind spot! It’s not as bad as I’d feared, but it’s basically like a small, dark crescent in my line of vision. I can still see the things that are there, they’re just dimmer than the surrounding stuff. I don’t know if this means that the vision isn’t 100% gone or if my eye just darts around enough to compensate.

But it’s cool.

Well, and upsetting, but mostly cool.

Progress

The bathroom is clean. The kitchen is clean. The short story is almost just right. The afghan is very close to having all its squares completed.  The dog is napping.

And it’s the solstice!

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.