Unspoken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s hard.

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

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

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Tired

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

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

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

Being the Person You Wish You Had

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

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

But there isn’t anyone else to do it.

Racist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unwise

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

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

But it’s a really, really strong urge.

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

Girlfriend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes I just feel so broken.

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

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

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

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

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

Magical Thinking

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

That’s stupid.

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

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

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

Defeated

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

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

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

Ugly

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

It’s me.

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

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

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

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

Working on the Other

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am so very, very lucky.

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

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

Sitting and Crocheting

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

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

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

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Vague

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

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

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

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

Dreams

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

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

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

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

Bare

Helen sent me an email about feet the other day, which I haven’t responded to because I keep thinking about it.

The gist is that there are all kinds of benefits to walking barefoot, especially on the ground, because it puts your brain to work in certain ways.

And today I was just feeling so grouchy, so I took my shoes and socks off and after about twenty minutes, I felt so much better.

I also stood out on my front porch in a t-shirt and underpants yelling at the dog to wait a minute and not roll in the mud after his bath, so I’m not claiming it’s a miracle cure for all that ails you. But I am thinking about how it is good for us to touch things, skin to dirt or wood or grass or whathaveyou.

Not a Nice Lady

Well, I had been a group of people. Now I’m “not a nice lady.” I think in the past this would have nagged at me. A little stone in my shoe.

But now I just find it curious. What does it even mean to be nice?

I have been on a tear lately. Fed up with some stuff and finally tired of pretending like I could make it work. I told the Butcher yesterday I feel like I’ve just been a monster bitch, but here’s the thing: it’s working.

And that feels like a hilarious, terrible lesson. Trying to be conciliatory and understanding and “nice” doesn’t get you anywhere if other people aren’t also trying that.

I also, though, feel like “nice” is often “lie to me in ways that make me feel okay.”

And, you know, being nice in that fashion if your friend has a bad haircut is okay. It’s the social lubricant that keeps the world moving. But being nice in that fashion when deadlines or money are on the line is not good.

You Can Take the Kids out of the Church, but…

I went to a poetry reading over lunch at Third Man. The boss also attended. Rule one in Nashville is “be cool,” so I tried to be cool.

But I was struck by how much his demeanor was like a minister who’s excited that the youth group meeting is going so well, but also knows they need that room for a board meeting right after.

So, when it was done, I felt this urge to help move chairs. I saw that one of the poets was also folding and moving chairs.

That was 15 seconds before we both learned that our dads were Methodist ministers.

And she also knew that hymn 88 is Amazing Grace, though that was two hymnals ago.

Good

It turns out that, if you have a rash and a persistent cold, they get you in to see a doctor right away. And it also turns out that I have a couple of spider bites, not a rash, and that the cold is actually a bacterial thing that’s probably the same thing that caused my sinus infection earlier this winter.

So, now I’m on antibiotics. And I got in to see the doctor right away and my trip to the pharmacy took literally ten minutes, if that and so I went and got my hair cut, which took no time, and so I went and got my dog’s prescriptions filled.

Which means all the chores I had for myself this morning are done and I can instead go see the Butcher and his family.

Everything worked so smoothly I kind of felt like it was a thank you from old Leander.

Also, you guys, my dad is delightful on pain killers. Funny and quick and smart and thoughtful. I’m a little bummed that I’m not going to get up there for his second surgery. I… wait for it… enjoy talking to him now.

A thing I’m glad about, though, is that it makes me feel less nuts. Why would I continue to let this dude into my life? Oh, right, because this is a facet of him and this used to be much more of who he was.

And I wonder if this is something that we can keep, without insulting him?

I don’t know. It’s just nice to talk to him now. Even if it can’t last.

The Tail End of the Cold

I felt better after dinner last night. Not great, but better. And this morning I got up and walked the dog for the first time in three days. That felt tremendous.

I’m still a little stuffy, but damn, I’m glad that’s over with. Now I have to go into work and deal with ridiculous stuff.

But, hey, I wrote a short story about a surprise new species of crawdads and it turns out the world made a surprise new species of crawdads.

There is No New York Times Cake

I kid because otherwise I’d have to sit with my pleasant feelings and just enjoy them and we all know how bad I am at that.

There’s no guide for this shit, you know? And I have friends, now, whose friends appear in the New York Times, who see the names in that paper and know those people and have their whole lives.

But my whole life, the New York Times was… I mean, if a small-town Midwestern girl ended up in the Times, either something very, very shitty had happened to her or she’d become famous. It just wasn’t otherwise a possibility.

I had dinner Saturday with some people who wanted to talk about being a writer and I realized that all the advice I had was insufficient, because you also have to be really, really lucky.

I am, in many ways, really, really lucky.

And I’m proud, too, that I’ve been working hard and trying to do good work and people have noticed.

I still had to clean the litter boxes last night, though.

Like with all formulations of “when x, then I’ll be happy,” the truth is that there’s no “x” that can do that.

You just have to figure out how to be happy independent of all the x-es.

My Plan Worked!

I did walk the dog when it got a little warmer and then I suffered from unimaginable cramps and then I felt better! (Every month. I’m almost 44 and every month I’m like “What is this weird thing happening in my abdomen?”)

I feel like walking sets me right. Like it allows unsettled things–physically and mentally–to work themselves back into place. I know it’s “exercise,” but it doesn’t really feel like that for me. It’s more like sleep. It’s a thing I do so I don’t feel like shit.

ANYWAY, I think the Bauhaus blanket is turning out even better than I could have hoped. I think I’ve decided to stair-step the red down. I’m not sure what I’m going to do for a border. But there’s time to decide.

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I started making my way, slowly, through Season Three of Someone Knows Something, but it’s so hard. I just feel so much stress and anger. And the kids who died were my dad’s age.

I don’t feel like Trump is some anomaly. I feel like I was lucky enough to mostly live in a slightly strange, better version of America that I was sheltered enough to not know didn’t really exist.

Seasons of Therapy

Yesterday was my last day at the therapist, at least until I need her again. A thing she said and has said a couple of times which I’m mulling over is that I find incongruity in my life very hard to deal with.

Like, instead of being all “I’m accomplished in x, y, and z, so that outweighs the fact that I can’t do a, b, and c.” I’m all “I think I’m accomplished, but I can’t do a, which means that my sense of self is false and I am secretly a failure.” But really, I’d be happier with a belief of “I’m accomplished in these areas. I’m working on these areas. I haven’t yet tried these areas.”

So, I was recounting how worried my dad is that with this Fort Negley stuff, I’m going to become too prideful, like turn into this ego monster. But really, I have that problem in the opposite fashion. When I feel fear/failure, it becomes monstrous to me. My problem isn’t that there’s some “I’m so great” monster waiting to be unleashed. It’s that a “I suck” monster is always ready to trample the shit out of me.

My yarn came in, so I fucking started the Bauhaus afghan. I do not have the motivation to work on those stupid mermaid tails. “How’s this going to turn out?” is an important part of crocheting for me and I already know that the mermaid tails will turn out delightful.

So, these are my inspiration.

And here’s my start:

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I think I’m just going to do five panels–three this size and two larger–since I don’t quite know what I’m doing. And if it’s not as large as I would like, I’ll just add a border. I have a red, too, so each panel will get one red stripe. My plan is to make it the same height on the small panels and then down from that just a hair on the large panels so that it looks kind of woven. But something to draw your eye all the way across the piece and make sure all five panels are tied together.

I need to go do some shit today, but I don’t have it in me. I think I’m going to downgrade my goals to “walk the dog when it gets a little warmer.”

Neither Brave Nor Unflappable

Tuesday night when I got home from work, it appeared that the neighbor’s shed was on fire. I went over to look more closely before calling 911 and it was just a fire in a barrel right next to the shed, which, considering that the shed has ordinary shingles, seemed like a bad idea. But I didn’t call the fire department because that would have meant interacting with the neighbor and, if it jacked him up? Well, he lives right next door.

But when I came home last night, there was a big moving truck in the driveway and he was going back and forth with a lantern on his head. It was too dark for me to make out if he was taking things out of the truck or putting them in.

But if he’s moved away, who will shoot my creek?

Maybe y’all saw that picture that went viral of the target against a fence with a house clearly behind it and the girl with the rifle about to go shoot? My neighbor’s propensity for shooting at my creek was not quite that level of stupid, but it was still stupider than I’d care for a person with a gun to be.

If you’re standing in the creek, which for some dumb reason is lined with concrete, shooting away from our houses, there’s a low hill in the pasture behind us and then a house, the roof of which you can see when the leaves are down.

Unless you’re a sniper, I guess I have a hard time seeing how you could hit something in the house, but it certainly seems possible to me that, if you got startled or, oh, I don’t know, slipped on the slick concrete bottom of the creek, right as you fired, the bullet could easily end up in those people’s back yard. And what if they or their dog were in that back yard?

Also, if the bullet hit the concrete sides of the creek, isn’t there a chance of ricochet?

The whole thing was just so stupid. But he was also very scary (or may still be, but I’m hoping the truck was a good sign) so I chickened out.

Plus, once he knew I knew he was shooting in the creek, he seemed to stop. Or become more stealthy about it.

I had a meltdown at work yesterday. I knew as I was doing it that nothing good could come of it and that, in fact, it would only lead to movement away from my goals instead of a hastening toward my goals, but I did it anyway, because I was tired of feeling like I was the only person actually worried about the thing going wrong.

I’m not proud of that. But also, I kind of am.

Do y’all still have an active fantasy life? Not a sexy fantasy life. I’m going to go ahead and assume you do. But I mean where you practice your Oscar speech in the car on your way home from work or where you go over all the ways you will let the dude you loved who didn’t love you back know what an awesome person you’ve become.

I have a fantasy that I come back to in various iterations, but the gist of the fantasy is that there are large forces working against me–like say the FBI and MI6 both want me dead because of my international terrorist deeds–and just at the moment when they think they’re going to reveal to me just how fucked I am, I instead reveal to them how all this time I have been playing them against each other and it would be far better for them to just let me go about my business–because, of course, in my fantasy, I am a good-hearted international terrorist just trying to bring some justice to the people–than to take me out and have all their various misdeeds come to light.

I think part of the reason this fantasy is so attractive to me is, sure, yes, I get to be powerful in it, but also I get to be very, very smart, the kind of smart that can think five steps ahead and place herself in a seeming position of weakness temporarily in order to have the upper hand in the long-term.

In my fantasy, nothing is mysterious to me. I am unflappable and cool. I know what needs to be done and I know how to do it.

In real life, I’m a tiny rowboat trying to get to shore fighting a storm coming in. In my fantasies, I’m a warship.