Hmm, Cold?

I stayed in last night and went to bed early. I didn’t think anything of it. Like I didn’t think I felt sick or anything. I just suddenly felt like bed was a good idea. I dreamed, like literally dreamed, I slept so long a new neighborhood rose up around me and the Butcher ran our house as a kind of halfway house for his newly divorced friends. I woke up, like, literally, this morning, woke up and it had been ten hours since I went to bed.

I feel that pre-cold thing, where it could go either way. I could get sick. I could not get sick. It’s too early to see how this is going to resolve.

But I do know that I need to get the writing I need to get done this weekend done today, because there’s no guarantee I’ll be up for it later.

Nice, Funny Thing

Last night, Jim Cooper introduced me to his wife and described me as funny, but “uses words not in your dictionary.” He meant cuss words. He seemed aghast and delighted by them.

It was lovely. It also reminded me that, though, to me, I am a weird, boring introvert from nowheresville who drives a ten year old car and hasn’t weeded her flower beds in a year, there is some public notion of me I need to be mindful of.

It’s hard to talk about because my level of fame is tiny. Tiny. I don’t know how to stress how tiny it is. Like, if a normal person ever gets .5 fame, I have .6. Someone like, say, Kid Rock, a person my parents don’t know, has 1000 fame. Beyonce is like 1000000000000 fame. So, really, in the grand scheme of things, I have no fame.

But there’s enough of a public sense of me that the gap between who I am and who my public self is is noticeable to me. There’s me, just me, and then there’s this version of me that people I don’t know know. And that version of me is more real to them than I am.

That version of me isn’t me, but we have some responsibilities to each other and I sometimes forget that.

Bad Afghan Math and Weird Dreams

I am in love with this afghan. It’s so beautiful. But it’s going to be huge! And I thought I had done my math correctly so that it would be reasonably sized, but I had not. Apparently.

After having a bunch of people recommend it, I finally read The Serpent King. It was every bit as good as you’ve heard. Hard going for a minister’s kid, but worth it.

I had a dream last night that I was magical and evil, but I only used my powers to open men’s hotel rooms and attach multiple penises to them–the men, not their hotel rooms. Not like a ton of penises, just one or two more than usual. I had a briefcase. You know, with the extra penises, so I could choose which one(s) to attach.

Here’s the thing, though, when I woke up from the dream, it was scary as fuck. Like, “Whoa, if I had power, I would surely abuse it.” Like, I thought I’d gained some insight into my own self that I could never unsee.

But even in the time it took me to walk the dog, I lost the sense of what was so ugly about it (except for the nonconsensual part, obviously) and it just now strikes me as funny. Like, of all the evil plots in the world, that one is surprisingly one of the dumbest. I mean, what was the menace? “Try to buy comfortable underwear now, gentlemen!”

Was I going to take over the world while men were distracted trying to figure out how to pee, now?

Back to Work

I think I had a nice vacation. I’m ready to have a vacation where I actually leave town and go to a different place and do different things, but alas, it was not to be this time.

Today I went to the Mill Creek Baptist Church graveyard, which I have never been to before. It was so beautiful. I do feel very lucky to live some place so gorgeous. I also feel slight pangs of regret at not buying a cheaper house in town when we first moved here and thus being a millionaire now.

Tomorrow I go back to work.

Some Things I Am Learning About Myself

I say I want to take a social media break. I intend to take a  social media break. But I spent a lot of time waiting around for shit on social media. A lot. I’m genuinely surprised.

I had a really nice brunch yesterday with M. where we discussed all kinds of writing and Ashland. He had a broad suggestion for the first chapters that, when he said it, had the right sting and relief of being right. I think I’m going to take part of my vacation to go ahead and have another look at the manuscript.

I’m not going to think about how much it sucks that the first part needs something and the first part is what I’ve been querying on. Ha ha ha. Of course I am. I’m going to dwell so hard on that I want to throw up. But I’m going to try not to fall down that hole.

We’re leaving the dog with friends when we go to the wedding and I am nervous. I just don’t want him to run off or get lost. Just be here when I get back. That’s all I want.

Away

I’m taking a vacation for the next two weeks. I’m just going to my nephew’s wedding and then…I don’t know. I kind of want to go somewhere, but I haven’t decided and I haven’t talked to the Butcher about leaving him with the dog and I don’t have the money to go anywhere particularly cool.

But I’m not at Pith and I’m not at work and that counts for a lot I think. I’m also going to try cutting down on social media. I love feeling connected to all my friends, but it also is, I think, making me way anxious. We’ll have to see how that goes, though. I want to rave about F&SF, so that’s got to happen there.

I’ve been giving some thought to what I want to be working on next. The first half of the year, I was busy with non-fiction stuff, getting something ready for October, and a couple of short stories, some of which weren’t very good and some of which were too personal for me to do anything with but write them and be glad to be done with them. But I miss the way writing Ashland organized my time.

I am trying to figure out how I want to incorporate the musical component of this October’s stories. And what I’ll do if the artist whose song is at the center of one of the stories doesn’t put the song in a format I can easily link to or embed before October. But I’d like to get that stuff all lined up and in the hopper and off my mind. It’s just going to be a week’s worth of stories this year, but I think they’re pretty fun. Plus, music!

I don’t really know. I just have to do some stuff to recharge, I think. It’s been a hard  year so far and I’d like to change the energy.

Hypericon

The new venue is great. The weekend was long. I’m still feeling a little frazzled.

Our cats are kind of dog-like, having been raised around at least one dog. They’re friendly. They kind of go for walks. But at the end of the day, they’re cats. As dog-like as they can be, at some point, you can hit a wall where they’re like, “Yeah, that’s too far.”

Sometimes this weekend, I felt like a cat among dogs.

I was on Twitter when a guy came up to me, touched my hand to get my attention, and then told me to smile. Like a fucking asshole, I did. I’m so mad at myself. But some of the other authors were delighted when they went up to hug him and he gave them surprise kisses.

So, here’s the thing. If you’re cool with surprise kisses, congrats. This minor celebrity just laid one on you. But how does he know that everyone who approaches him would be open to a kiss? I include myself in this group, so I speak from self-knowledge–there are a lot of socially awkward people at conventions. It’s very likely that a hug might be all they’re game for. I can’t help but wonder if and how many women got kissed who didn’t want to be.

And why would you behave like that? That’s a rhetorical question.

I have been thinking a lot about why I froze and smiled instead of scowling and telling that dude to suck my butt and I have decided it’s because I refuse to believe, in this day and age, that guys don’t know that women don’t like it when you tell them to smile. They know. So, already when you’ve decided that your pleasure is more important than my comfort, we’re in a kind of hostile situation. I want the moment to end without the hostility levels rising. The cost of me acquiescing is only my pride, so I acquiesce and you leave me alone.

I don’t know. It’s not really a big thing. Just in a weekend where no one knew what panels they were on until the last minute and I had to do a lot of running around town as well as doing the convention and meeting a lot of strangers and being “on,” it just stands out as a “WTF?” moment. Like we’re all trying to do our best here, dude, except you.

Hard Heart

I’ve been writing about Orlando over at Pith this week in various forms and on Thursday, I had a post about gun liability insurance. I heard, then, yesterday, from quite a few of my friends who are gun enthusiasts who wanted to talk about my post, and who, yes, utterly disagree with me.

But they were being awesome. They wanted to talk and to be heard and to try to have some kind of understanding.

It’s me. Something has happened to me. In order to write publicly like I do for Pith, in order to open the emails from strangers and see the things they want to show me, in order to be able to reassure my mom or my friends that the things they’re reading about me aren’t going to translate into something bad happening to me, I have had to do something ugly to myself.

And I try not to think about that ugly thing too often, but I felt it yesterday, seeing these people I care about and who I know care about me trying to have a respectful conversation with me and I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let the hardness recede enough to engage with them, to be their friend.

A thing I had not appreciated until I got into my 30s is that this is a truly unpleasant aspect of “fame.” I’m using the term very loosely here. If “being famous” is a universe, I’m “famous” at a small pebble in that universe level. What I mean by “fame” is that some group of people knows of you and has opinions about you that come to form some level of reality for you when they don’t actually know you. To use a very concrete illustration, it’d be like, if some guy, let’s call him Joe, Joe owns a restaurant and he reads my blog, He learns that I’m allergic to strawberries and so, when I go to his restaurant–even though I don’t know him or know he reads my blog–I’m never served strawberries. At that level, I guess it’s fine and kind of nice and fun. But what if Joe reads my blog and decides I don’t like men? I might not actually notice if I never get a male server, so maybe that doesn’t matter, but what if he’s back there spitting in my food?

Every one of us has a thin layer, a protective vernier, that is other people’s interpretations of our actions–the way they see us that is not necessarily how we see ourselves. One of the great delights in having dear friends is that you both simultaneously have someone you can trust who shows you the difference between how your perceive yourself and how the world perceives you and who will come close enough to you that they are inside that bubble–they see you for who you perceive yourself to be.

But being famous, for better or for worse, involves a thickening of that vernier. Some of it is intentional. I think I have hardened my heart intentionally so that I can do the work. But a lot of it is done by people who don’t know you to you. They develop these ideas about who you are and they interact with, or attempt to interact with, their ideas of you, not you.

It’s really disconcerting, unsettling.

It’s as if you enter a conversation with someone and come to realize that they’ve mistaken you for someone else. Possibly someone worthy of the hatred they feel toward them.

So, you build a thicker layer so that interacting with people who mistake you for a person they hate isn’t so fucking grueling.

Maybe you even begin to perform the layer so that you can feel like no one can touch your soft, vulnerable innards, because they won’t even suspect they’re there.

Maybe, at some point, you yourself forget that you are not the fake layer of misinterpretation that has been generated around you.

I don’t really have an ending to this post. I guess, just, at my level, way, way, way down here, this very tiny, inconsequential level of fame makes me feel like I’m losing my mind and my ability to interact like a normal human being with the people I love.

I genuinely don’t know how anybody with real fame does it.

(Also, there’s something terrible and funny about the fact that “fame” in this case just means I blog for an alt.weekly and people hate my opinions.)

Panic Attack Dream, Day Two

I dreamed I had just escaped from a prison and was hiding in a bank, but had to go up a fire escape and then drive at night in the snow to complete my escape.

I couldn’t drive.

I had a panic attack in a nearby diner. I woke up before I learned if that led to my recapture.

But this one wasn’t as bad. I think  it was a genuine dream and not also something that was happening to me physically.

Panic Attack Dream

I dreamed I had a panic attack. I was late for a flight that had been moved up on me without me realizing it and I couldn’t find the plane and then I had to get on top of the airport terminal and…ugh, I just curled up in a ball and cried.

And when I woke up, my body was clenched up.

So, you know when you see the dog running in his sleep and “mrph”-ing when he’d normally be barking? I genuinely think I had a panic attack in my sleep and dreamed about it.

That’s not even the worst part. I had a huge cup of coffee with S. today and ate peanut butter M&Ms for dinner.

So, my theory that they may be triggered or exacerbated by caffeine and sugar seems to have another data point in its favor.

Sleep for a Million Years

I feel I’m over this cold, but I have to tell you that I’m still sleeping, happily, a million years a night. Friday and Saturday night I went to bed at ten and got up at eight. Last night I went to bed at nine.

But I’m feeling so much better that it’s kind of a relief. I saw friends. I went cemetery wandering. I went looking for an old fort. I finished the vexing afghan. I babysat some kids. I did the interview I was supposed to do.

It was lovely.

Holy Crap. I’ve Been Really Sick

I really haven’t written anything here since Friday?! Damn. In my defense, I was really busy and then, also, really sick.

I am still kind of sick, but the kind of sick where you walk the dog and go to work, which is better than the sick of yesterday, where I watched a movie and then played Civilization on the easiest setting over and over again, just to have something for my brain to do while my body sat very still and tried to get over itself.

I am excited to report that the afghan is all pieced together. I’m just waiting on the rest of the yarn so I can do a border. Which will require math, which I’m a little bummed about, but I will get it!

And I have a longish short-story outlined, so we’ll see how that goes.

I just need to get well enough to do things.

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?