It’s Probably Me

I’m limited my exposure to things that stress me the fuck out, including unfollowing everyone on Facebook who is still trying to argue that poor Texan could have had a bomb and that he was the asshole, not his school.

I’m still just filled with rage every time I get on the internet. I prefer Facebook filled with babies and puppies and how fucking nice your life is. Hell, I’d rather know how your life is sad and hard for you right now. I don’t want to know how afraid you are of children you don’t know and will never meet or how, even though you break the law 90 different ways, you’re on the side of authority when it comes to picking on children.

I hate the idea that writers are writers whether they’re published or not. I cling to that idea like a fucking life raft. I hate when I say it to myself because I feel like I’m letting myself off the hook, that I’m making excuses for not being good enough that I can live with. And yet, I also believe that it’s true.

This is just the stage the book is at. Not the book. The book is in okay shape, I think. Or being shaped into okay shape.

This is the stage I’m in while writing the book. I hate everything. I resent that I work so hard on this and nothing’s going to come of it. I’m pissed that I let these self-defeating thoughts live in my head.

I’m mad that people are mean and stupid. I hate that I am so mean and stupid to myself.

I am Done with Gardening

My eyes are swollen up again! I’m leaking some kind of weird clear liquid from my face. Skin-face not nose and mouth face where you might expect to find liquid. I have weird bumps. Things itch.

I am fucking done with touching things outside. This is the second time in a month. I had to show up for the launch of The Wolf’s Bane looking like a puffy potato and now I have to go to my very first con looking like, again, a puffy potato. With crusties.

2015–the year of writing wonderfulness and face disaster.

Spring, You Jerk

My right eye is so puffy and swollen I can barely open it. I don’t know if I got stung (something hit me in the eye yesterday on my walk, but I thought it was some dust or something) or if it’s allergies.

But I have a sales meeting at 10 that I have to be sharp for, so no Benadryl. And I don’t think I can put a contact in it, so I’m just going to be wearing my glasses and, behind my glasses, a shocking amount of swelling.


One hard thing about this year, for whatever reason, has been weird class stuff going on. Or, I don’t know. That may be too strong a word for it. I guess I just notice more and more that I, say, could use $100 to replace my wheel cover or the front of my oven and I kind of feel proud because I could put $100 toward either of those things, if I had to.

But there’s always something else a little more necessary in the house, so I haven’t gotten around to it.

I’m constantly aware of how big a change that is from the days when there’d be no money for anything, necessary or not.

But lately there just seems to be a lot of stuff where the people I’m talking about talk about $100 the way I talk about $10.

And sometimes it makes me feel like I’m among strangers whose customs I don’t understand.

It’s tough.

I Have Failed

I haven’t been able to walk lately. The weather’s been shitty. The house looks like a garbage tornado hit it. And I’m just down. I was telling a friend this morning that I feel both like I’ve failed to accomplish anything with my life and failed to protect myself from fools. And that just feels kind of unbearable.

The refrigerator leaks. The oven door is still busted. I’m missing a hubcap thanks to all our new potholes. But I need to do my taxes before I spend any extra money. So, I just have to live for a while in my rickety state of crap.

I told the Butcher this morning I feel like I’m having a midlife crisis. Like the kind of midlife crisis that leads people to come home with convertibles and 20-year-olds. So, put car theft and kidnapping on my list of things to do, I guess.

I’m 40 years old and I still don’t have money. I have more money than I used to. But I still can’t fix my problems when they happen.

I don’t know why it burns me so much, but it does.

Also, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that Project X has been pushed back again.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I really don’t.

One Thing I Wonder about

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Going to Tell You a Secret

I’m having more and more trouble seeing to drive at night. If it’s raining, I can’t drive. For at least a year, I’ve been avoiding socializing with people on rainy evenings because I don’t feel safe driving home.

It’s finally bad enough–meaning I’m starting not to feel safe after dark period–that I’m seeing the doctor. Here in a minute.

I wonder if I can put a chauffeur on my insurance. I wonder if I could get Diggle… Hmm… A driver who can do the salmon ladder.

The Sound of Your Own Heart, Beating

This has been a ridiculously stressful week, full of people saying things they otherwise wouldn’t. I hid under my covers last night and listened to my heart, thumping so hard in my chest, and I wondered if there was one single thing I wasn’t in over my head in.

There is not.

Well, yes, this is not great

I really fucked myself yesterday. I couldn’t sleep and I was dizzy and lightheaded all this morning. But I’ve gotten some stuff done and I’m feeling calmer.

Getting old is so weird. I mean, I’ve been angry before. Probably madder than I was yesterday, when I thought I was going to have a rage-stroke. But man, I felt this.

I Did Not Have a Good Day

I had a very stressful morning. And then I had my yearly physical. Which I kind of flunked while they waited around to see if I was having a heart attack.

Turns out my heart is fine and, if you leave me in a quiet room to breathe deeply for a half an hour, my blood pressure will go back down into the range people can live with.

I wanted to come home to vent to the Butcher, but he’s not here. So I guess I’m going to have some dinner and cry quietly on the couch.

So, That Visit Went Well

My mom thinks the Butcher needs counseling. My dad accused him of being on drugs. He accused my dad of being a rape apologist. My mom complained that, since I’ve asked them not to read Tiny Cat Pants, she couldn’t read the October story. My dad scoffed that it was “probably just as bad as everything else she’s written.”

And now I have this twitch in my eye that is rather unpleasant.

But I am relieved to have said tick, because, frankly, I feel fine. All this nonsense and my internal happy-o-meter is set to content. No wire sticking out of my boob? How bad can it be? And I’m starting to feel like maybe it should bother me that things don’t bother me. I mean, that can’t be right or healthy to just be like “Whatever!” about everything.

But here it is! Evidence that some part of my brain, and hence my body, is actually quite stressed out about things. So, normalcy will return.

My Dog is Dumb

This morning, as I was walking the dog, I was thinking to myself, “Wow, he’s being incredibly well-behaved and pleasant to walk with. Who would have believed that even six months ago?” And then many more cars than usual started passing us. So, the dog kept trying to put himself between me and the vehicles. Sometimes lunging at the vehicles to keep them back.

So, I had to put him on a very short leash and hip-check him to keep him between me and the curb.

This week has just been unsettled. I had to take the Butcher in to work at a bunch of odd times and… Okay, let’s discuss this bullshit.

I went to Walgreens to pick up my usual prescriptions. They didn’t have them. Because the website decided that the last Walgreens I went to–even though I didn’t order anything from that Walgreens via website; my mom just ran in and filled my prescription after my surgery–must now be the Walgreens I want to do business at. So, now I have to somehow get over to Belle Meade today. Thanks for nothing, Walgreens.

But at least that’s still in town. What if I’d had to fill a prescription on vacation (not that I take vacations lately, but humor me)? Would they just automatically start sending shit to Sarasota?

I HATE when companies, in their efforts to make things easy, try to be helpful in stupid ways.

It’s my second least favorite thing about the digital age. It’s like fucking Clippy writ large.

My first least favorite thing is how I’m asked to write a report after every fucking thing I do. “Please tell us how you liked getting your oil changed.” “Please tell us how your meal was.” “Please tell us how you liked the smell of farts lingering in the back hall of our club.” Just god damn. Let me give you my money, get my service or item, and get on with my day. My feedback is that I don’t want to have the kind of experience where I feel compelled to give feedback.

At Full Frazzle

So, they’re going to stick a guide wire in my breast first. And then I’ll go to surgery.

I am low about it. I’m not sure why, but I both can’t talk about anything else and am so tired of talking about it. Everyone has the same questions and I only have the same answers, which means that I feel like my day is just me repeating things that I know are going to alarm people who care about me. And then I feel like I have to manage their alarm. But I also am alarmed.

And I feel kind of guilty because it’s not the worst news, right? It’s just a fast-growing, relentless tumor that’s going to require them to take a big halo of perfectly good tissue with it so that it doesn’t come back. But it could be worse. So, who am I to feel scared and uncertain?

I get so angry when people say they’re going to pray for me. I have to extricate myself from the conversation as quickly as I can, because I just want to yell “Fuck you, for knowing the right thing to do and say.” And then I feel like an asshole for even thinking it. But I’m jealous of and offended by the certainty.

When I texted my uncle to tell him that the biopsy was that it wasn’t cancer, he texted me back, “God is good.” And so I feel a little like I’m inconveniencing people by not being fine since I had good news.

And I feel like there’s something wrong with me because I can recognize a whole mountain of support from good people who love me and who I love, but today I experience it as overwhelming and it’s making me more scared. I want to turn off my phone and hide from everyone.

Though admitting it makes me feel better.

Oh, Monday

The dog peed in my shoe. That self-same shoe broke. So… I don’t know if the pee was a warning about the shoe or the shoe was like “Fuck this shit, Phillips. I give up.”

I have a blister on my boob, near where the Band-aid was. And when I pulled the Band-aid off, my boob started bleeding. Like I’ve become one of these people with tissue paper skin or something. Last night, when I was attempting to examine the blister, I started to feel woozy and sick to my stomach. I had to sit down on the edge of the tub and let it pass. I think it’s just that this doesn’t look like or feel like my boob. The bandages that are left have ugly black bruises leaking out from them. I don’t normally have blisters. So, it’s uncanny to the point of making me feel like throwing up.

I have to write this Nashville book. No matter what the news is.

On a Scale of 0 to 10

Sorry. I should have updated here yesterday, but I was just feeling scattered and overwhelmed. I had to alternate all day 15 minutes on the ice pack 15 minutes off. And today I still feel like my boob is the wrong shape and in my way.

So, anyway, it was cool in that I got to watch it happening on the ultrasound and it’s basically like this–imagine that my boob is a large Jello salad, shot through with thin ribbons of Cool Whip. They basically press on the side of the salad trying to see if they can get a glimpse of a pea that wasn’t supposed to be in the salad, but, hey, you’re making Jello salad and tuna salad on the same counter, shit happen. So, they press and a pea shows itself and they stick a long needle in and click click click grab samples of the pea. So, that’s how the first one went. Took a while to even find said pea.

But then they move on to the second one, which is over closer to my arm, and they press a little and what comes to the surface of the salad is not a little pea, but a great marble. Not a regular marble but an old fashioned shooter. A sun around which other marbles rotate. Oh, god, this is like the Inception of metaphors here. But it was huge. Is huge. And I realize that the ultrasound is magnified, but I mean, even just comparing it to the other thing. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time, except “Wow, that’s really easy to see.” But all afternoon, I was like, there’s a huge thing in my boob. And I’m putting ice on it.

All of this implies that it has more color than it does. Maybe it’s more like you’re looking at a piece of dark gray marble with light gray lines running through it and you come across these great holes. That’s more the impression that you get, that you’re looking into a black hole. It’s just this spot where there’s nothing that looks anything like the surrounding tissue.

Anyway, they leave a little titanium marker in the black spots so they can find them again. Then they tell you they’re going to do another mammogram and you think “I can’t live through another mammogram, especially not after you just shot needles into my boobs all morning, because that sucker is going to hurt, I don’t care how gentle you are.” But it doesn’t really hurt.

Not even now. Fingers crossed. On a scale of 0 to 10 of pain, I’ve been at a 0 or a .5 since the procedure and extra strength Tylenol has dealt with that just fine.

But on a discomfort scale, I would say that I’m at a 3 or 4. It’s tender. The bottom side, where they did nothing, itches, I assume just because my body finds it funny to see me attempt to gently itch my boob. I feel kind of like throwing up any time I think about the fact that I’m not going to know until Tuesday what this is. And I’m terrified of it getting infected or opening back up, even though rationally, I know none of those things are going to happen. I want to carry my boob around like a small kitten, just tucked in my elbow, for safe keeping.

Anyway, I am glad there’s the term “cancer scare” just because this time period feels like a big, traumatic thing and I’m glad to have some phrase, even if everything turns out to be benign, that acknowledges that this part fucking sucks, too.

Laugh With Me

My dad believes my dirty bathroom is the cause of all this. He wants me to recaulk immediately. Because, yes, aside from working and going through the medical ringer, I totally have time to recaulk my evil, time-traveling bathroom.

My uncle B. is going to pray for me, even though I’m a Democrat. At least he updated me on all the family cancers.

My aunt isn’t sure whether to tell my cousins, so she asked my mom for permission. Because my mom controls the spigots of information. Perhaps if we also put my mom in control of the spigots of evil, my bathroom wouldn’t be time traveling to try to kill me.

Also, my body is a total dick. I can’t have any pain killers except Tylenol, which doesn’t always work super-great for me, and I just had my last period two weeks ago, but my body was like “Oh, are you under a lot of stress? Can’t take the usual pain killers? How about some cramps?!” And then I assume my body gleefully danced around my evil bathroom while they both laughed like evil villains. Evilly.

My Preferences

My preference is that this be some kind of severe infection along the lines of the last one, which yes, may lead us down a strange path of “Why does Betsy get weird lymph node infections?” But at least it’s something that resolves itself.

But I have to say that, I kind of thing that my second preference is that this is what it looks like, a very small, well-defined, easily removable cancer. Because that would be terrifying and awful, but it would also be a clear path with a resolution.

I think it being something that is not yet cancerous but could be, meaning that I have to just sit here and worry, and go through this again and again, knowing that it could, at any time become cancerous and we have to catch it? That would be very, very difficult.

Cats are Weird as Hell

So, here’s where things stand on the Kool-aid afghan: I have three seams and a border left. I have the skein of yarn I need to finish it, but I need to pre-shrink the skein like I did all the others or it bodes trouble in the future, which means the Butcher needs to do the dishes so that I have a clean sink in which to soak my yarn. So, I thought I’d whoop some of the last bits of yarn together into a square which could, with what was left of the white yarn when I’m done with it, become a baby blanket for my cousin A. and her pending son.

The orange cat has adopted that afghan. He is, right now, squeezed down as small as he can get so that all his paws and tail fit onto that tiny half-done project and he’s sleeping on it. You’ll remember that the dog tried to adopt three red squares from the big afghan, so apparently, Kool-aid and wool is just irresistible to my pets. And that baby blanket is… probably not going to be sent to an actual baby.

But the other baby blanket! So, you know how I talked about doing the Kool-aid afghan with different amounts of color? Maybe not. But anyway, I’ve decided to try it with the baby blanket. I got two different purples and each square has a different amount of each purple. I’ll show you pictures when I get more squares done. But I think it’s going to be super neat.

Also, I got flowers yesterday from “Mina.” I had thought maybe it was just nm, misunderstood, but then I got to thinking, perhaps Mina Harker? Or someone here who needs to be thanked. I don’t know that I know any Minas but, if I do, thank you.

Also, my dad is convinced that all of my health problems are caused by my dirty bathroom. Which I find hilarious, considering that my health problems include–PCOS, sleep apnea, that fungus shit in my eyeball, that infected lymph node, and now this. Four out of which started before we moved here. Which I suppose goes to show you just how powerful and dangerous my dirty bathroom is–it can go back in time and bite me in the ass.

Raise your hand if you’ll be surprised that my Phillipses and H.P. Lovecraft’s Phillipses turn out to be the same. Me, neither.

And yes, I somehow ended up apologizing to my mother so that she would stop being upset that she upset me. And yes, I know that this is ridiculous. And yes, I am going to outsource most of my talking to them to the Butcher for the next little bit. But I also want to say that a hard, weird part of this has been just how traumatic it is on them. I just feel like I’m letting everyone down. Not just them, which I know is bullshit, but I feel so bad about putting this on the other people in my department, making them pick up my slack when one of them, especially, is so new.  I just hate that I can’t be more definitive–that I need her to do x on these dates and y on these other dates. I don’t know what will come up because I don’t yet know when I’ll be gone.

Which is the other thing that’s kind of stressful–they talked to my doctor on Monday and she was like “Yes, do the biopsy!” and then they faxed her all the paperwork she needed to fill out and she hasn’t gotten it back to them. So, no biopsy scheduled yet. I just want to have a plan and institute it. The waiting around for everything to fall into place is really stressful. But in that regard, it was good to talk to my dad because he’s really familiar with hospitals and he was all “Well, if they sent the fax to her office Tuesday morning, but this is her hospital day, then she’s not going to get to the office to fill it all out until late today, if not until Wednesday morning. I don’t think she’s dropping the ball at this point. It’s more likely that it’s just bad timing.”

A Decided Lack of Ghosts

I think the thing I find most confusing about this is that I feel fine. Even the other times that they were like “Oh, it could be cancer,” in one case, I was randomly and spontaneously bleeding from every orifice and so clearly something was wrong, and in the other case, I was having trouble breathing and thought I might have pneumonia again.

But this time? I feel fine. I can’t even feel the inch-diameter thing in there they want to biopsy. If I just check in with myself, I feel fine.

And it’s such bullshit. If my body is my house, it is haunted. It has a spirit in it that wanders around crocheting afghans, writing ghost stories, and watching TV. This spirit feels like she fully inhabits the house, like there’s no closet or toe or basement or rib that is off-limits to her. So, how can there be anything potentially bad in the house without the spirit knowing it? How did I somehow not notice the marble of shit in my boob? How, even now, can I not sense it?

I have a better sense, when I step into my kitchen, whether the Butcher is somewhere in the house even if I can’t see or hear him, than I do about this thing.

Which, I guess, is the other hard part. My parents want to come down and… do what? As of yet, I don’t need people to do my dishes or bring us food. In fact, last night, I made this fantastic thing that was pretending to be a pilaf. I mean, I guess it was a pilaf, just at the general level of being rice cooked in stock with spices, but I highly doubt that there’s any real pilaf recipe that calls for asparagus and cashews, and yet, dear readers, I tell you, it was pretty damn good.

I don’t really need anything yet. I don’t feel bad. I’m just frightened and upset, but that’s not really something I need help with. So, I don’t know. It’s just weird.

Eyes Like Planets, Boobs Like Oceans

One interesting thing is the ways in which all these medical procedures reveal your body to be a collection of landscapes. They shoot pictures of the interiors of your eyeballs and you experience yourself as having these vase hollow yellow and red worlds in your face. They ultrasound your boobs and the pictures you see on the screen look like small seas, waves of fat and ductwork (I assume) rolling toward you and disappearing from view. It’s very beautiful.

My phone call to my parents went disastrously and so, even though everybody who texted me was like “Call if you need to talk” I just didn’t want to talk to anyone else. It’s mostly just that my mom started the phone conversation with “How was your day?” and then, after I was like “Did you not get my text? Not great.” launched into all the reasons I was grateful that they were able to do these tests that would all show that this was nothing. Which, yes, I suppose I am grateful for, but we don’t know yet that it’s nothing and I needed a minute to just be terrified and to talk through a plan of action. But it hit me like bricks that she needed me to comfort her and I just started crying hysterically, begging her to stop talking.

And I feel bad about that, because she just handed the phone over to my dad and I didn’t mean to upset her and really, really didn’t want to upset her. But I can’t tell you how upsetting it is to get terrible news and to have to deliver terrible news and have the person you’re telling respond as if you’ve just told them not terrible news.

So, that was something of a disaster.

And it also meant that I just couldn’t hear more about how it was going to be all right, because it was too close to my mom acting like everything was all right.

Anyway, I have to say something to the folks at work today so that my pending erratic schedule makes sense. And I have to fill out a bunch of paperwork.

I’m always amazed when people handle this shit with grace. Just assume from here on out until there’s some resolution that I’m either crying or about to cry. I’m not even going to fucking try to have my shit together. My shit is going to be thrown all over the sidewalk like the aftermath of an ugly breakup. Some of my shit is going to be three blocks away. You’ll see my shit in messy piles, people tripping all in it, it sticking to strangers’ shoes.

My dad said, “You know I’ve seen a lot of this with my parishioners and I can tell you that the one thing that makes a difference is a positive attitude.”

And I laughed and said, “Well, then, we’re in trouble.”

Cancer Scare

So, yeah, today didn’t go how I’d hoped. I had errands to run afterward, because I just didn’t really imagine that the news would be bad. So, I had to run errands looking like end of the world.

I don’t know what to say. This is the third time a doctor has looked at me and said, “It could be cancer,” the second time they’ve wanted to cut me open to see. Eventually, one of these days, they’re going to be right.

Anyway, I suspected the news was going to be bad when the ultrasound tech got flustered. I grew more suspicious when the doctor came in and ultrasounded me again and she turned the wand from my boob to my arm pit.

So, they want to biopsy two spots on my breast and maybe the lymph node. This will happen as soon as they can make arrangements. If it turns out that it is cancerous, they’ll make quick arrangements to cut it out.

So, well, fuck.

Nefarious Presbyterian Churches: Zion, Bear Creek, and Bethesda

I have wanted to find the Bear Creek Church since I moved down here, since it is the source of some of Middle Tennessee’s greatest urban legends (or rural legends, as the case may be). It’s supposed to be haunted or used for devil worship and it contains a cursed Bible, supposedly. My hunt for Bear Creek Church has been thwarted by the fact that there are a number of Bear Creek Roads near Columbia. But today, I found it.

More importantly, though, I went out to Zion Presbyterian Church outside of Columbia, where Jack Macon’s first owner and the father of his longest owner is buried. It was really moving. They’ve kept the place up beautifully, but it made me cry to realize I was looking at a building that, in all likelihood, Jack, among others, was forced to build and then wasn’t even allowed to attend. I stood in a graveyard where I know Jack’s friends and possibly family were buried, but who can know, since they were denied last names?

The most remarkable thing about the Bear Creek Church is that anyone can get a good look inside it thanks to Alan Jackson:


I’m so ready to not be sick. There’s yard work to be done and I’m bored of having nothing to talk about here. I want adventures! Creepy graveyards. Baffling historical facts. At least to get my oil changed.