Is Happiness Interesting to Me?

I like to think of myself as someone who has no great enjoyment of drama. But one thing I’ve been thinking a lot about as I’m doing my feelings journal is that I don’t analyze and dwell on and poke and prod at happiness the way I do other emotions.

I think part of that is that I worry that happiness evaporates under too much scrutiny–if you think about it too hard, you come up with reasons why you shouldn’t be happy.

But my goal for this whole hard process is not just to stop metaphorically jumping at shadows in the dark, but to learn to live not scrutinizing the dark for shadows. Ha ha ha. But I don’t know if “scrutinize the light” is the way to course-correct.

The Butcher and the Red-Headed Kid came over for dinner last night. We were watching TV and it said something like “Interesting people make jokes. That’s what makes them interesting.”

And the Red-Headed Kid said, “Is that true? What about people who make jokes to mask anxiety? I don’t want to be interesting.”

The Feelings Journal

I remain surprised by how much time I have. Yesterday I cleaned out the litter boxes, took out the garbage and the recycling, framed some art, talked to my brother, talked to my parents, and still had dinner before seven and it took me forever to get home because Nashville cannot drive in the rain.

Partially, this is because I never think to turn the TV on. All last weekend, I watched a couple of episodes of Law & Order and the The Rock/Jason Statham portions of F&F7 and that was it. I prefer to listen to podcasts. I prefer someone to tell me a story, rather than show me a story.

I’m keeping a feelings journal. Yes, aside from this. That was my thought as I was doing it. Feelings journal? Please, I have a blog. I know about feelings journalling. But it is different. It still feels a little decadent to be spending so much time on myself. But I also find it really interesting. And strange.

Look at this happy dog. He recently discovered that he likes to be brushed. He especially likes his face brushed. And, as you can tell from this picture, he is made of sunshine. His feelings journal would be full of “today I felt alive and it was wonderful. Also, I pooped, and it was wonderful. And I ate and it was wonderful.” His feelings journal would be named “My Life: It’s Pretty Great.” Maybe he’d have an entry like “Carrots. Bleh.” or “It’s confusing to me that Betsy keeps putting this stinky expensive joint crap in my bowl when she knows I won’t eat it,” but they’d be very infrequent. “Kids! Did you know humans came in smaller sizes? And you can chase them and they’ll chase you? It’s wonderful.” would be much more common.

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Easter

Over on Facebook, an old friend of mine took the occasion of Easter to announce to her world that Christ is dead and he’s staying dead for her–she’s not a Christian anymore. I laughed. Just the audacity of it delighted me. I always thought she had an inner “drive through town in a convertible with both middle fingers raised” desire, but I was still surprised to see her doing it.

For the first time in my life, I’m not going to Easter services. My middle brother is up in Illinois with his family and my parents. The Butcher is with his family. I can stay home and no one will notice.

What I talked about with the therapist was that it’s not just that I think I have a lot of anger that manifests itself as anxiety, it’s that I often don’t know when I’m angry until I’m super pissed. But more than that, more upsetting to me than that, is that I don’t know how to feel happy at the same magnitude that I feel anger or upset or hurt. I would like for happiness to linger the same ways for me and to come back up when I least expect it, the way all my hurts do.

I’ve said as much here. But admitting it out loud was terrible. And yet, here I am, today, with nothing to do. I already turned in my Pith post. The dishes are done. I vacuumed. I can do anything today that would make me happy. And I don’t know what to do. Which is not to say that things don’t make me happy. But I often don’t know if something will make me happy until I do it. It’s hard for me to plan for it.

I mostly achieve happiness by working hard to avoid sorrow or upset.

You know, I also wonder if this is a problem in my writing. A lot of my stories are about women reacting to things (or sometimes men). A situation develops. The characters respond. They deal with things. That’s the central drama in a lot of my stories. A thing has happened. Can it be dealt with?

It’s hard for me to imagine how stories go when they start “They decided to do a thing. What will happen next?” Because it’s hard for me to imagine deciding things.

Anyway, after therapy and before the movie, I went out to try to find a cemetery someone told me about and I ended up on a winding road with a drop-off on the side, one of my least favorite things in the world. And yet, instead of a voice in my head screaming, “Holy shit! You can’t do this. You’re going to die.” because of what we’d talked about, I said to myself “You are fine and you can do this.” Over and over. And I did. No symptoms of panic. No panic attack.

It seems simple really. What I want is to be able to do the things I want to do and to not do the things I don’t want to do. And yet, I’m going to have to figure out how to decide what I want and don’t want.

So, I admire the decisiveness of the friend who’s just like, “You guys, Christ is dead and gone,” on Easter weekend. And her willingness to deal with the fallout that comes from deciding to do something and following through with it.

The Fate of the Furious

Okay, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love Jason Statham, of course. I love that the women get to be strong and smart and add value above sex appeal to the plot. I love that we have a big blockbuster where the epitome of manhood is being a good father. I hate Scott Eastwood’s smug face. I wanted the prison escape to go on for ten more minutes. It was just so glorious.

I think the criticisms of the director not letting the camera linger long enough on the spectacle is spot-on. Like, there’s this amazing scene where we’re in a car as it goes out a window and heads toward the ground. We cut before the car hits the ground. It makes no sense. This is the rollercoaster ride you can’t do in real life–falling and hitting the ground and being destroyed. Why would you deprive your audience of the visceral thrill of experiencing it in the movie? And there are a lot of other scenes were it seems like they should be like two seconds longer, so that you can see the reactions of the other characters in the scene.

And it’s weird that, in order to keep it PG-13 we don’t get to see the deaths that are supposed to be meaningful. And physics means nothing in this movie. The whole last third, when Jason Statham isn’t on the screen, a little corner of my mind was screaming “I don’t think this is how any of this really works!” So, maybe that’s the trick of putting Jason Statham in your movie. I mean, nothing about the prison break was physics-accurate, but he was in it, so who fucking cares? But he’s off-screen and suddenly, you notice that’s not how things work.

Anyway, it was glorious. My biggest complaints were that you have to sit through Scott Eastwood and that, even though the movie was so, so long, a lot of scenes were a hair too short. But I’m all in for whatever movie The Rock does with Jason Statham.

The therapist was not easy. So, ha ha ha, going to a movie where the villain is psychologically manipulating the hero, maybe not a good thing. I don’t quite know how to talk about it or what I want to say about it. Even just two sessions in, it is helping. I know that. But it’s fucking rough.

I really want it to work, so I’m committed. But man, just damn.

The Workbook

I’m slowly, very slowly, reading through The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook. I have to go slowly because it often gets my hackles up and I have to wait and see if that’s just a defense mechanism or a legitimate complaint.

I do think, though, that I do have one legitimate complaint–some of this stuff may be too “woo” for me. I know. Me. Who has a ritual to talk to her dead ancestors and the gods who might be interested every October.

But here’s the thing: if you’re doing something in a spiritual context and it’s full of woo, then that’s fine with me. I get it. In my mind, there’s Something or Some Things powerful going on in a realm we don’t really have good access to and we try to understand what’s going on over there through a series of metaphors and symbols that are, always and forever (or at least until we die), going to not quite get at it. In that way, to me, religion is like poetry. You’re using the words to make room and evoke something that can’t quite be put into words. And, so, if I said, “Frigg, work on my brain so that it’s not so fucked up,” I would expect weird shit that didn’t quite make sense. If my dead grandmother came to me in a dream and said, “Be a better mother to your inner child,” I would think that was wise, albeit confusing, advice. If some other ancient ancestor came to me and said, “You must move the negative energy out of your body,” again, probably advice I should take.

But if you are just a person–and in this case, not even a person I know. Just some person who wrote a book.–and you want to start rewiring my brain, I want science. Like, what does “energy” in the context of this book mean? Like, I have to start moving calories around my body in some way? Or is there some way I can control the electrical impulses in my nerves and rework them?

Or where does my “inner child” live?

Or fine if “energy” and “inner child” are woo metaphors. Do you, author, know that they’re woo metaphors? I’m not sure.

But also, I may just be being defensive. The author says that a lot of anxiety is unrealized anger, or at least, starts out that way. I was thinking about that while I walked the dog this morning. And you know, that’s not quite it for me. My anxiety arose when I finally felt I was angry. Before that, before I felt it was okay for me to be angry, I was just depressed. Not “just.” I was very depressed.

But I do think that I don’t always recognize that I am angry, not right away. Or, even if I am angry, I don’t know what to do about it. And looking back on the early big anxiety attacks I had, the ones that stick in my mind, I was angry about something and didn’t know what to do with it.

So, I don’t know. It’s also taking a long time to get through it–and I’ve not even started the exercises, the “workbook” part of it; I’m just reading–because it’s bringing up a lot of feelings I’m not sure what to do with. And I’m sure my defensiveness about the book is tied with that.

Sleeping Beauty

Since it’s allergy season here in Nashville and also “40 one day, 80 the next” season, I was sniffling and sneezing last night, just a little bit. I took some nighttime cold medicine, hoping to knock it out. I went to bed a little before 10.

I think I got up at some point in the middle of the night to pee. And then I didn’t wake up again until I heard the dog barking at something outside at 9 a.m. this morning! All the shit I was supposed to get done this morning? Apparently not.

But here’s what I wanted to ask y’all. I have suspected that, since I started taking the crazy pills, that other drugs work different on me. Like, this scenario a year ago, I might have slept in until 7:30 or so, but today I could have kept sleeping. Soundly. I literally only woke up because of the dog. Who knows how long I might have slept?

And, in the past, when I had a headache, I would just go ahead and take three pills, even though the dose is only two, because two never worked. Now two work.

And, and I’ve had to cut way back on my sugar intake because too much sugar especially on an empty stomach makes me feel really gross, which I think may mean that something is happening different with the metformin.

I will also be asking my endocrinologist about this, but I wonder if this is common. I mean, it makes sense to me that all these things should be interconnected. But man, it also seems like it would be really fucking hard to ever really figure out what was wrong with anyone. Like, why would you treat PCOS with an anti-depressant, and yet, I can tell it’s changing a lot of things in my body.

I guess what I’m feeling is that part of having an endocrine disorder probably means that all my body chemistry is a little out of wack. And you start trying to bring any of it into wack and it’s going to affect all kinds of things.

But man, it also makes me wonder, do they ever check people with depression for endocrine disorders? Like, once your body chemistry is wonky, do they ever check to see how wonky? I mean, no one has for me. I’m just finding this stuff out as I stumble across it, but it has me thinking.

But shit, I need to go shopping.

Slowly Getting the Rhythm

Regardless of how much I think I do around the house, I have to admit that I’m not yet in the rhythm of doing my things and the things the Butcher used to do. I could have spent all weekend just trying to get house things done, but instead I also hung out with friends, met a puppy, and watched most of Wrestlemania.

Yesterday, I got down on the ground so that the puppy could climb all over me, and when I tried to get up, I got the hugest charlie horse. I thought I was just going to have to live on the ground or maybe roll over to the steps.

And the rest of the day, that spot was really tender.

I thought that letting a puppy climb all over me would be smelled as instant, unforgivable betrayal by Sonnyboy, but he did not seem to care in the least.

Anyway, I wish I had today off to do stuff around the house, but alas, work calls. I think I’m just going to have to do better about doing stuff in the evenings after work and also getting enough sleep.

I expected to be lonelier, but the animals won’t even let me be alone. Everyone has to sit on me or near me or sleep with me. I get chaperoned everywhere in the house.

I think once they realize that the Butcher is still around, just not sleeping here, it will be easier.

Anxiety with Insight

So, I went to the therapist yesterday. She seems good. I mean, we’ll see how it goes, but so far I like her. I told her that one of the things I find so frustrating about this is that I know what my problems are. I have good smarty-pants friends. We sit around and hash and rehash stuff and try to understand it.

And I have always placed my faith in the belief that knowledge is freeing. So, as you know, it’s frustrated me a great deal that I can’t just think my way out of this or understand it into stopping. And she said that there are two broad general categories of anxiety–anxiety with insight and anxiety without. And basically, I fall into the first category of someone who has given a lot of thought to this and kind of understands how I tick.

But that wasn’t the interesting part (except to reassure me that I’m right to seek help because if this is something I could fix on my own, it would be fixed, because I’ve devoted enough mental energy to it).

No, so I was talking to her about how frustrating and scary it is to be in the middle of a panic attack and to have my rational mind saying “Everything is fine. Nothing bad is happening to you.” and have my body doing what it wants anyway, as if something bad is happening. Because it seems pretty straight forward–you’ve mistakenly thought something bad was happening. You realize your mistake. You stop responding as if something bad is happening. How hard can that be? And yet, that doesn’t work.

But she was explaining what’s actually happening in the brain and it blew my mind! The thing isn’t just that there’s a mistaken bad trigger. It’s that, in avoiding the bad thing, you make a positive connotation with the thing you do to avoid it and then, in doing the thing you do to avoid the bad thing over and over again, it reinforces in your brain how great it is to do the avoidance thing. Does this make sense?

Let me try a concrete example. I have panic attacks when I go up the stairs in my building so I take the elevator instead. I have been thinking of the “taking the elevator” part as having no intrinsic value. But no, the hundreds of times I have taken the elevator without panic have developed in my brain a pathway of positive experience. So, the panic attack serves not just to keep me from the action my brain has decided is negative, but to push me toward the soothing behavior. So, it’s not simply “You can’t take the stairs.” It’s also “Man, wouldn’t this be so much easier if you took the elevator? Isn’t the elevator awesome? No troubles on the elevator, man. Just go for the elevator. DON’T TAKE THE STAIRS MY GOD DON’T TAKE THE STAIRS. But wow, the elevator is cool.”

So, when I’m freaked out about, say, standing on the edge of a drop, my brain isn’t saying “don’t get closer or you’ll fall and die.” It’s saying, “MY GOD WOMAN, STEP BACK SO YOU DON’T DIE.” And then, when I do step back, boom, pleasure and relief.

If I’m understanding what she’s saying, the panic attack isn’t just about keeping me from doing a thing my brain has decided is negative–therefore it’s just a matter of showing my brain that the negative connotation is a mistake–it’s also about pushing me into an experience that is positive–in that it relieves my anxiety.

Now, I think I see why some people believe anxiety and OCD are similar. I do have these kinds of relieving behaviors. They’re not as extreme as “I have to check the lock exactly seven times before I can leave the house or I can’t be sure it’s really locked,” because I usually just have to do one thing once. And it’s not as noticeable as “I have to touch every lamppost or my mom will die,” because the positive action is very closely linked to the negative thing I’m avoiding.

But man, understanding that the panic attacks and the anxiety are not just about avoiding negative outcomes but shifting me toward relief is kind of blowing my mind.  Like, yeah, that makes sense with my experience and it explains why it’s so fucking hard to deal with–there are two things going on, not just one.

Anyway, there is also homework! Which I find delightful, but also, man, trying to figure out what all my triggers are…I mean, just on my walk this morning, I realized I hate walking across bridges on the greenways. And I just don’t do it. Like, I’d forgotten that I just don’t do that anymore. So, I’m going to have to do some digging to see what else I’ve just cut myself off from and then, whew, problem solved, forgotten about.

Nerves

Today I see the therapist for the first time and huge scary storms are rolling through this evening. I’ve already made the executive decision that my department is going to close early so we can get home before the weather hits.

But if the behavior of the dog can be used to predict the severity of the storms, his squirrelly-assed behavior this morning makes me think it’s going to be pretty bad.

Also worrisome was how there was both a really hot breeze and a really cold breeze and I wanted both to take my jacket off and wished I’d brought a heavier one.

Family Time

I’m not saying that I’m feeling anxious about much of my family descending on Middle Tennessee for the wedding, but I dreamed that one of my cousins was running around the reception demanding we all weigh ourselves publicly so that we would all know our “health.”

I have been trying to reassure myself with a constant mantra of how awesome I am and then a listing of my accomplishments. But it doesn’t matter. I love my family, but they don’t give a shit. So, it’s not really a good defense. Am I still fat and ugly? Well, then, there you go. No one loves you, but us. And how could they, really?

The fucked up thing is that I’m not even sure how much that narrative comes from the outside and how much of it is internal, but triggered by the presence of my family. Like, I keep thinking of Jesse Walker’s The United States of Paranoia, which I know I talk about all the time, but it really has influenced my thinking on a lot of things.

Anyway, in the book, Walker talks about how conspiracy theories are self-reinforcing no matter what. “Evidence” such as it is proves the theory. The lack of “evidence” just proves that the conspiracy is wider than you realized and that they have allies to help hide shit. And it’s apparently nearly impossible to get someone to give up a conspiracy theory (if it’s going to happen, basically, it’s because belief in the conspiracy by the conspiracist becomes untenable for some reason that’s incredibly hard to predict and not usually sparked from the outside).

And the thing I’ve slowly come to realize is that, even if it is true, my conspiracy theory that I am fat, ugly, obnoxious, kind of suck at everything, and unlovable is just that–a conspiracy theory. I find evidence of it in the words and actions of my family. My belief in it is reinforced even when they’re nice to me, as if they’re being nice to me because my situation is so unfortunate. And like any good conspiracy theory, it has a great ability to withstand logic and evidence to the contrary. Others cannot talk me out of it or provide enough outside evidence to shake my belief.

And as much as I am starting to see intellectually what’s going on here, I’m still feeling hella anxious and worried about how the weekend is going to go. Whatever it’s going to take for me to find the belief in this conspiracy theory untenable in my bones hasn’t happened yet.

I don’t know. I don’t really have a point other than that understanding is not always cathartic. I understand my situation, but it hasn’t freed me from it.

If You’re Not Salty, What Are You Worth?

My parents always call me on Tuesdays, on their way home from dinner with my grandma. Last night, they wanted to talk about their friends who they’d seen recently and my dad was on a tear about how abusive–his word–they are to their daughters-in-law. “We all know [our ex-in-law], but I don’t blame her at all for [my brother] being a jackass. That’s his choice.” Which I thought was funny, but it also makes me sad. Why do my parents hang out with these people they think are terrible?

My cousin is still made that my other cousin came to her town and didn’t see her dad. The Butcher has done the same thing and that’s all right. But that’s probably not germane to my story. I think it’s been almost two years she’s been pissed about this. And I’m not saying I can’t hold a grudge. Y’all read me. You know how I am. But she’s not walking along all okay and then something brings it up and she’s pissed again. She’s actively still trying to litigate this and get people on her side and…like…whoa. It’s tedious and disturbing and sad. And she’s wrong, which also may be beside the point. But why is she still so actively engaged with being pissed? I suspect it’s not that my other cousin didn’t stop to see her dad. But that, unlike the Butcher, he didn’t stop to see her.

Third, I know a person who is well-respected in his profession and extremely well-respected in his hobby and who has incredible opportunities based on his hobby and, I mean, really cool shit. Radio interviews, displays at local museums, etc. And he’s still really hung up on whether or not these people he wants to respect him do. And based on some imagined slights he’s decided they do not and so everything he’s accomplished seems to not feel like a sufficient enough victory.

In all three cases, it seems to me that the people involved do not see their own worth. Don’t believe that they can have happiness and good friends or that their accomplishments count without the right validation.

And maybe this is myopic on my part, but I’m trying to learn to be happy. Which means finding a way to heal–and not just top off–the gaping hole in my soul that can’t be filled. So, I observe carefully the ways that hole tricks people into continuing to feed it.

Nice

It kind of feels like a time when things are coming together. The Butcher getting married. Me doing that talk, meeting internet friends, etc. Some folks are figuring out that I don’t just write for the Scene, but have another job.

I don’t know. Maybe those things don’t all fit together or suggest a trend, but they feel like it to me.

I guess the thing I’m continually wrestling with remains the same. How do I enjoy good things without being paralyzed by the fear that good things are just the things life throws at you so you’ll let your guard down for the bad shit? How do I integrate my feelings of success and accomplishment into who I am without becoming an obnoxious egotistical jerk?

Like, I’m glad to not have these feelings all the time of “you secretly suck and no one will tell you”–and I thank the medication for that–but I don’t want to swing so far the other way into “I rule, you drool.”

But I am enjoying feeling like I’m doing okay. If this is how most people feel all the time, I see why they like it.

Old

I want to grow old like Robert Plant or Patrick Stewart, or like the little old ladies you sometimes find at the smaller house museums. I want to be able to still be delighted. I want to always be curious. I want to always have a dog.

What is Happening to Me?!

I’m making a peacock pillow for a friend–the peacock motifs from the afghan but put together in a pillow. And, dear readers, I am enjoying tucking the ends. I’m finding it soothing.

Me. End tucking. Enjoyment.

Is there a way to check and see if you’ve become a pod person?

Last night, it struck me that I’m about to have the whole house to myself. It seemed ludicrous and marvelous. I know it will also feel sad and weird at some point. Even now, I’m finding it disconcerting that the wedding is happening and so far all I’m doing is bringing gummy things to a bachelorette party and listening to my dad as he tries to figure out how to fly my nephew here.

But even that is also really nice. This isn’t my problem. And not my responsibility. I have nothing to do but show up. And possibly clean my bathroom.

Another weird thing is that I’ve had coffee or lunch with vendors twice over the last couple weeks–one coffee, one lunch–and both of them went on, for a long time. Like… well… I don’t think that I got tremendously better looking in the last 14 days, but maybe it’s my sparkling wit? I don’t know. It was nice. These strangers were enjoying hanging out with me.

Maybe this still is what I was trying to wrestle with yesterday. Things right now are good. I am happy. I’ve done some things these past few years that I’m really proud of and they’ve paid off in big and interesting ways.

But I don’t know how to experience happiness and satisfaction as anything other than a trap–either the bait that lures you into complacency so that life can kick you upside the head or the hubris that then causes you to run around being an unbearable jackass who no one likes.

Unhappiness, as I have been taught, is the mechanism by which the Universe keeps you from utter misery and bearable to other people.

In my mind, I know that’s a lie. You can foster an atmosphere of pleasant fortune around you. But convincing my heart? That’s an ongoing process.

Filling Out Forms

I had to fill out a bunch of forms for the therapist and I found it really interesting. Like, on the one hand, I’m all “Oh, man, my problems could be so much worse.”

On the other hand, there were some questions where I was like “Oh, yeah, this is me. Is this really a problem? Does everyone not do this to some extent?” It made me feel like I might have benefited from some screening decades ago.

Which, also, is slightly embarrassing.

I just hope this helps.

Last night I dreamed that the contacts I’d crocheted myself were scratchy and dried my eyes out and I didn’t like them. And when I took them out, they were huge! Like, no wonder they didn’t work.

But I do like that, in my dreams, I am fairly competent and can just make things I need.

The Presentation

I think the presentation went well. I had too many census records that were too hard to see, but people gasped where I was hoping they’d gasp and they asked such good questions. I think it worked out that I didn’t come up with an answer for where Bud Rogan was buried, because I at least was able to share why and how I failed to come up with an answer and how I’d go about finding an answer, if I were going to.

And then I said that I wasn’t going to because, without the permission of the Rogan family to dig further (hee) into Bud’s burial place, I’d just be what they feared from the time he died–a white person more concerned about finding the body than letting him rest in peace.

There were a handful of TSU faculty there and I said what I normally say, that I consider myself a history buff as opposed to a historian, because historians do stuff that regular people can’t do, but my goal is to do history, publicly, in a way that shows other non-historians that they, too, can do this. That’s why it’s important for me to be wrong sometimes and follow-up sometimes and change my mind about things.

But then afterwards one of the TSU people came up to me and said that I was a historian, not a history buff, because I corroborate my theories and try to be clear when something is just a guess and when I know it. And I have to admit, that felt really nice.

I also had a nice lunch with a historian I admire and she told me that she’s notice that the tour at Belmont has changed since my Isaac Franklin piece and she thought that was directly attributable to my piece.

And I have to tell you, this is a nice but weird turn of events. I’m used to the reactions I learn about to my pieces being negative. It’s weird and nice to think I might be doing something that matters.

 

High Blood

A long time ago, I read a book about rootworkers in Detroit. Don’t quote me on this, but I think it was called Walking Over Medicine. But in it the author talked about how a problem with getting people healthcare can come when people who practice folk medicine and recognize folk ailments talk in those terms to people who went to med school.

One such folk ailment was “high blood,” which, when people complained about having high blood led the doctors to be very confused because often the people didn’t have high blood pressure at all. But “high blood” was a folk ailment. (I tried to look up “high blood” on Google, but it still seems like most scholars are linking it to blood pressure and I remember this author talking about high blood, low blood, thick blood, and thin blood and other types of blood. It wasn’t some cutesy way of talking about blood pressure.)

I’m fascinated by folk ailments, some of which seem completely social–like, if you don’t live in that community, you will never have this ailment–but others seems like a name for a constellation of symptoms that otherwise might not have a name. We talked about this before with having a cold in your eye or a cold in your back.

I don’t remember what the symptoms of high blood were. But I woke up in the middle of the night because the sound of my pulse in my ear was so loud. I don’t know if it was the front bringing rain pushing through or a minor cold or what, but my ear is stuffed up. Eventually, I found a way to lay that let it drain and the sound lessened. I went back to sleep.

But, when I woke up, there in the middle of the night to that loud sound, my very first thought was “This must be high blood.” It’s right there, in my head, high up.

But since I never understood what high blood was, I don’t know if I have it now. But I did think it was funny that that’s what came to mind, rather than, “Oh, shit, I better not be getting a cold.”

Nothing

I didn’t do anything all weekend. I mean, I finished that afghan and I did dishes forever and some laundry and walked the dog and wrote a Pith post. But I saw no one and had no real deadlines and slept a lot.

And I’m feeling pretty good this morning. It’s definitely not as bad as when I started the medication, but I’m feeling the change in medication. No use in denying that. And it was nice to have a weekend where I could just be all “I will be a weird ugly tired mess in my own home” and I was!

I’ve been trying to write stories about aliens, to expand my repertoire to include “sci-fi,” but I had to admit to myself this morning that I just don’t find them very interesting. I don’t know if this is a lack of imagination on my part, but we barely understand cephalopods. It took us a long time to recognize how intelligent they are because their intelligence is so different from ours. And those are carbon-based life forms distantly related to us.

I’m not convinced we would recognize aliens if they got here. And as for communicating with them, I just don’t believe we’d have a whole lot of success at it.

So, it’s hard for me to figure out what I would find compelling about unrecognizable things passing unnoticed among us having either no effect on us or no effect we ever noticed. Like, how often does an ant contemplate an eagle, you know?

Anyway, so that’s something I learned about myself: eh, aliens. Don’t want to write about them.

Which is weird because I like to read other people’s stories about aliens. But whatever, the brain is a weird place.

The Last Post!

Argh, this was so much fun. And I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders being done with them.

Also, I have been fretting about whether it’s too flip to call the drugs I’m on “crazy pills,” so I just want to reiterate that this is all about me. I am deeply self-conscious about this and am really glad for the improvements, but also feeling not quite like myself while changing doses and saying the thing I’m nervous about hearing is just my way of feeling some control over it, like I can show myself that it doesn’t hurt or feel like a terrible judgment, that it’s okay.

The Second Thing

My second thing went up for the Post!

I’ve got my third thing mostly written, I just need to clean it up this weekend. And at least I know what I’m doing for my fourth thing, I think, assuming it comes together quickly.

I went back to the doctor yesterday for my crazy pills check up and she’s upping my dosage. I wonder if I’ll go through another period of sleeping a great deal or what. But she seemed pleased by how things were going and agreed that we can see what the medication is helping and what I need to see someone over at this point and so I have to find a cognitive behavioral therapist.

Will I be non-fucked-up by Christmas? We shall see.

I’m still somewhat frustrated with my brain’s ability to pop up this bullshit that ruins my day. Today the Butcher told me this awesome news about a friend of ours who got this amazing job offer, basically a huge promotion at this place she’s only been working a year. So, it’s super great, even if she decides not to take it, I think, because it means she’s doing a really stand-out job and is working some place where they recognize her talent.

But I swear, my first thought was “Wow, that’s really great.” And my second thought was, and this is funny, so it’s okay to laugh, but also not funny, “I have done nothing with my life. I’m not even married to Jason Statham.” And I felt it, this wave of crushing failure and disappointment.

Which, yes, it’s funny. But come the fuck on, brain. I watch a couple of movies with an actor I enjoy over the course of a couple of months and now it’s proof of my failures as a person that I’m not married to him?!

Like, just what the fuck is my brain trying to do to me here?

But it’s also funny and curious to me because before I was medicated, usually when something funky with the anxiety would happen, I would feel this massive disconnect between my brain and my body and my sense of self would be in my mind with the alarm coming from the fact that even though I was having all kinds of rational thoughts about how ridiculous this panic attack was, my body did not give a shit and was going to just act like an animal without my input.

But this morning, I instantly knew my brain was being ridiculous and that here in my body, things were fine.

I’m also cutting myself a little slack here because I think I’m just having big feelings this week. I’m really happy about how the Post is going and I also feel a lot of pressure to try to make sure each post is good and that Alyssa didn’t misplace her trust in me when she asked me to do this. And I still feel some big unnameable feelings about Mr. X sniffing around–some mix of anger and sadness and longing and missing how nice it felt and then anger and rejection again.

But I also think that, no matter how fucked my brain is, it wasn’t going to just toss out, “I’ve done nothing with my life and I wasn’t good enough for Mr. X,” because my brain and I would have had a huge fight, if that had happened.

But I can’t help but suspect that was the asshole thing my brain was implying.

Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit

It’s really real. It’s happening. Remember yesterday when I was all “I have two things completely done for the Post. I am super awesome. Now’s the time to make Jason Statham jokes. Maybe contemplate cocktapusses.”?

Today I am all “Oh, fuck, I only have half the things I’m supposed to have for the Post done and the only things I have any opinions about are Jason Statham and cocktapusses.”

Anyway, I’ll just be sitting over here, freaked the fuck out.

Scandinavia, if you ever loved me, you need to release a weird movie that doesn’t involve putting Madds Mikkleson in a cage for eight hours right now.

Knights of the Round Table

This morning I was thinking about how the fundamental flaw with our country–and granted, it’s a general human flaw, but I write from where I can see–is that, though we live in a capitalist society, which should mean that everything has a price and, if you want the thing, you have to pay the price, we’ve always wanted other people’s stuff for free.

We’ve come up with justifications for why some of us should give free stuff (land, labor, etc.)–black people aren’t as good as white people; Native Americans don’t have souls, God says women are under men and so on–and we have embedded those beliefs in our very core because, when it works for the people it’s supposed to work for, it’s super awesome.

But it’s a theft and it’s a theft that requires a massive amount of violence to maintain. And the ongoing violence is necessary because the theft is ongoing.

(I’m kind of just understanding this on the fly. I haven’t thought it over a lot, but it’s interesting to think of family abuse as the deliberate means by which something of value from the victim is being stolen.)

As are the narratives that excuse the theft. Not just excuse. Justify.

A really core, fundamental desire is being soothed in the thieves–we are getting something. And our greed and covetousness drives us to justify why our theft is okay–hence racism and sexism and so on. We get something really pleasurable in a lizard-brain way out of propagating those oppressions.

My guess, and again, I was just thinking this shit this morning, is that the core subconscious thing that’s being fulfilled is “someone is taking care of me and all my needs and I don’t owe them anything in return.” Like, racism and sexism and so on are the ways through which we are destructively trying to force the world to be our mommies, forcing the world to make us feel safe and cared for and taken care of. (Which might explain why it was so important to whites to report that their slaves loved them.)

Anyway, I was thinking about the violence at the core of this and I was thinking back to how I learned in school that King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table represented this huge change in our understanding of governance because it was a change from “Might makes right” to “Let’s talk this stuff out as equals and try to come to mutually beneficial understandings of what is right.” Like, first we had “an eye for an eye” and then we had King Arthur and then we had democracy.

Motherfuckers, I learned in middle school that King Arthur was a real person on par in importance with Hammurabi. And I never realized until today, January Thirty-First, Two-Thousand and Seventeen, how fucked up that is. Christ. No wonder America is so fucked.

Are kids going to learn in a thousand years that Captain America was a real person?

 

Talking and Talking

I have gotten nothing done on the afghans since Monday. The Butcher’s been busy in the evenings all week so I’ve been using my time to get ahead on my Post stuff. Transcribing interviews is no-joke time consuming work. I’ve got two written (rough drafts, obviously) and one I feel pretty certain I can knock out fairly easily and one that is more tentative and I’m depending on an old guy with a wife I know has been in poor health (and knock on wood isn’t dead) with a job he works only half the year to check his work email during the half of the year when he isn’t at work. I don’t know if I’m going to be lucky enough to swing it. Fingers crossed, though.

I had lunch with a brilliant acquaintance and I got to show him a map the TSLA recently digitized and he was hugely excited to see it. But talking to him always makes me sad because it makes me realize how much we lose of our past all the time and how unimportant it is to people that we’re losing it.

I’m taking S. out on Saturday to do some exploring based on that map, though, and I’m very excited. I’m going to write it up for Pith, I think.

I have been trying to evaluate whether the drugs are working. I feel like this month has been a good test, since I had to do lots of new things and hear things I maybe didn’t want to hear and such. And I definitely feel a difference. I’m not obsessed with worry that people might shoot me. I don’t have to pee at least five times before any high-stress activity like, say, interviewing a congressperson. I haven’t had any anxiety issues on foot, but I haven’t needed to take the kind of stairs that do it to me or been in a high open space.

There’s still a thing that happens when I’m driving, though, that I dislike and terrifies me. Definitely, on the meds, it doesn’t spiral into “Oh my god. Stop the car. Stop the car. You’re going to die. Stop the fucking car. Okay, the car is stopped. Never get back in that fucking deathtrap.” But instead I’m having these moments more like “Oh shit! You’re going to die. Stop the car or at least move left! Do something. Oh, cool. You didn’t die. Carry on.” And it happens so suddenly that I am instinctively jerking the car or moving my foot toward the brake until a half-second later I get what’s happening and recorrect.

And so far, it’s been fine. Like, I haven’t been a danger to others. I’m not even sure it’s noticeable to others. And I’m able to realize what’s happening and diffuse it. But, okay, this is what it’s like. Say you are driving on a road and your passenger shouts “No! A dog!” You don’t see the dog but your passenger’s obvious distress tells you there is something you need to do. But what, since you don’t see the dog? Maybe at the last second you think you see something right at the right edge of the road. You might both brake and move left.

And that’s fine, if there isn’t a car on your left.

But my brain is still tossing that level of panicked alarm at me over culverts and narrow shoulders which I see coming a long way off (though my brain doesn’t care until we’re right on top of them). And I’m reacting. And someday, if my brain doesn’t immediately kick in with “Oh, wait, just a steep drop-off, no worries” I am worried I could have an accident.

So, when I go back to the doctor for my check-in, I am going to ask her about recommending a shrink who can help rewire my brain so I’m not all “Culvert! Culvert that I totally saw coming but now am anxious about” in the first place.

Strange Days

It’s been a strange couple of days. I’m trying to pull some stuff together for my Washington Post stint, so I’ve been interviewing people and pitching ideas and such. Before I got sick I interviewed a local author and it was really interesting and fun.

Listening to my voice to transcribe the interview, though, ugh. I kind of wonder if I could hire someone from our public radio station to teach me to talk in a less nasally manner? But I do love my laugh and I like the way I can hear the places I’ve lived in my voice.

It’s a weird thing, to be raised to loathe yourself and find everything about yourself falling short of how you “should” be, and also to be raised with people you love so much, who, yes, also loathe themselves. But so many of them are gone now and the most immediate way I have to still see and hear them is in the traits I have that resemble theirs. I’m supposed to hate my fatness because it marks me as lazy and unhealthy. But what other way do I have to feel the soft side of my grandmother I snuggled against as a small child?

There’s something about the pressure society puts on us to all look a certain way–and it’s beyond dieting. Carve up your face. Paint yourself to “minimize” “problem” areas. Try to look like some version of yourself untouched by history and experience–that as I get older feels like pressure to not have a history, to not feel connected to your people.

Anyway, I got to interview the mayor and our congressman and, yes, sure, at some level, they’re politicians and they know how to play those games. But I was asking them about Nashville and I have to tell you, I found it really moving how much they love the city and like to talk about it.

And on the one hand, it’s weird to interview the mayor of Nashville, but on the other hand, it’s weird because I’ve known her for a million years. Not a million, but a long time. And I guess, you live long enough and your acquaintances start running shit, but it’s still weird. I didn’t know if I should call her Megan or Mayor Barry or what. Still, I have a way to make sense of that. I knew a person. She became mayor. Her press secretary is an old Nashville blogger. It’s not weird that I should talk to them.

But sitting in the waiting area of Cooper’s office? It’s surreal. It will never not be surreal.

In my head, no matter what, I’m a nobody from rural Illinois. I have good friends and a happy life, but don’t aim too high. Don’t expect too much. If something really good happens, it’s either a trap or a mistake. Don’t trust good fortune. Maybe, maybe, if you work really hard and endure a lot of hardship, something okay could happen to you. But the big wide world is a scary place and it’s not for you.

And now this? Writing for the Post? Interviewing national politicians? It just feels like I’m getting away with something, like, whoa boy, they don’t let people like me do things like this. I wonder how long it’s going to take them to notice I’m a people like me?

I’m doing it anyway. I’m not going to decline based on the fact that it’s ludicrous on its face that a person like me should be doing these things. Like, I’m going to make them tell me I’m not in the right place. I’m not going to do that work for them. And so, until someone asks me who the fuck do I think I am and tells me to get out, I’m just going to keep going and see where it leads.

Still, weird as fuck. So, so fucking weird. And amazing. Really amazing.

 

The Strange Architecture of Dreams

I think we’ve talked before about this. I dream, sometimes, of a house we lived in when I was in kindergarten, except that, always, in the dream, it has many more floors than it did in real life and staircases that go non-Euclidean places and endless halls and even when I’m dreaming of being in that home, I know that though something is telling me this is that childhood home, I am in the dream-version of that home, not the real version.

Weirdly enough, I sometimes dream of my Grandma Phillips’s house there on Bradley Street and it is architecturally just as it was in life, always. No strange additions. And yet, I sometimes have the knowledge, even in my dream, that this is a dream home.

It’s hard to explain because it’s not quite lucid dreaming. I never make the connection that, if this is the dream version of these houses, it must be because I am dreaming. It’s just the explanation my brain needs for why I don’t recognize aspects of these places I should know in and out. (Though, I think in the case of my grandma’s home, my brain just needs an explanation for how I’m in the home of a woman who’s been dead over a decade that she sold many years before she died.)

The other night, I realized that I now often dream of a neighborhood in Nashville that does not exist in real life. It’s there on the high ground in Metro Center, where the Starbucks and the gas station is and across the street where the Maxwell House hotel is. Instead of all that commercial stuff, there’s a neighborhood full of Victorian row houses and in my dreams, my friends live there and they often invite me over to see how they’ve remodeled and renovated. So, clearly, they don’t just look Victorian. That’s the era in which they were built.

That neighborhood has never existed in real life in Nashville. Not like I dream it. Definitely not in that spot. But I go there, sometimes, anyway.