The Peacock Afghan

God damn it, I really need a cockapus afghan and I need your thoughts on it below! Ha ha ha. No, the peacock afghan is going well. I kind of did up all the changing parts so that I could make sure the color combinations worked how I want and now I have a bunch of ends to tuck and then just the yellow and green rounds on the motif to put together.

I think the thing I find very satisfying about this style of afghan (and it’s going to be very heavily based on the beautiful butthole afghan) is that it feels like it goes quickly. Like there’s both a lot to do and yet not so much that you feel like it can’t be done.

But I’m still irritated at other iterations of peacock afghans I’ve seen, which are just making the peacock eye thingy and then appliqueing it to a different afghan. So you have two layers of yarned shit. How hot must that be?! I want an afghan where the eyes are a part of the structure of the afghan, not sewn on at the end.

And I think the beautiful butthole afghan, with slight modifications for a smaller motif, is the way to go.

I’m getting a lot of work done on the afghan, too, because I’m avoiding my problems. Ha ha ha. But no, it’s nice to come home and just not think about anything. Just listen to some podcasts and move my fingers around.

I sometimes feel like a liar. Not like a regular liar. But I feel like I have three really ingrained instincts–1. to shut down in the face of unpleasantness in order to have the unpleasantness over with as soon as possible; 2. to be the person who sucks it up and does what’s necessary to keep things moving; 3. to keep some important section of myself deeply private (and what section that is doesn’t even matter, just that I have a secret thing I don’t have to share). You can see, I’m sure, how very gendered that is and how it was fed by being raised a minister’s kid.

But it means that many of my interactions with non-friends are often fundamentally dishonest. The person standing before you, laughing along, is not the person standing before you who’s really thinking “Is this enough time to spend on this? Can I excuse myself now?”

So, I’m in this jam and it’s kind of self-inflicted, in that I have a few acquaintances, not people who are my friends, but people who could have, under other circumstances, become my friends, who have a view of me as someone who breezily blows off this online shit and who courts and loves conflict. I am “tough” and “a bad ass” and I “can take a little criticism, so who cares?”

This is fundamentally untrue most of the time. This year it’s been especially untrue. As you all know because I gripe about it so often. I have tried to draw firm boundaries and to make clear that I don’t want to hear the negative opinions people I don’t know have of me. These boundaries, it’s become exceedingly clear, are not firm enough, because these same people keep doing this same shit to me–making sure I learn of all people’s bad opinions of me. And then I sit around and question, well, did I not make it clear, clear enough? Am I making it clear but they’re just not able to hear it because who I am as a person is, in this case so incongruent from who they see me as that they just can’t make it jibe, can’t believe I am who I am telling them I am and not who they see me as? Or are they evil and they think I don’t notice?

But I think this is an older problem with me than just this summer. People perceive me as strong and outspoken and yet my oldest coping mechanism is to go quiet and cryptic and smile and get it over with. I hardly ever say “You’re doing a shitty thing to me.” I instead harden myself against them and try to move them along quickly.

You see why it feels like lying? Like, once I decide you’re not safe for me, I just pull some important part of me away from you, tuck it in a safe spot, and handle you as best I can until I can be done with you.

So, like these people. I think I’ve made it clear that I don’t want to hear this shit–but I can’t really be sure that I’ve been blunt enough, since they seem mostly like good people but they haven’t stopped and I am a woman raised to not be very direct–and my ability to be generous to people who are bothering me is not very well-developed, so rather than continue to try to get them to respect my boundaries, I just begin to fundamentally lie to them. I smile and nod and laugh on the surface and me and my true self just withdraw and wait it out.

I’m not sure if that’s a really fair way to deal with the world.

Ha ha ha. I’m not really sure why this has become the September of Introspection, but I promise, the month’s almost over.

Welp

The dog peed on the floor, because why not?

I trashed the first two chapters of my book and spent the day making a different first two chapters out of them. My book sucks.

It probably doesn’t suck. I feel like it sucks.

I still like the ending, though.

Just, blerg. Also, I had to do a huge load of towels because my dog can pee a gallon of water, apparently, and I had to do the dishes because I guess the Butcher doesn’t do that anymore. Or something.

So, happy vacation to me.

Hard Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s really disconcerting, unsettling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panic Attack Dream, Day Two

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

I couldn’t drive.

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

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

Panic Attack Dream

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

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

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

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

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

Hospital Visit

A while back, many years before she got married, one of my dear friends was hospitalized in Illinois. I asked my dad to go see her, because I would have felt better if someone I loved put eyes on her and I, being in Tennessee, was not able to.

He refused.

It hurt and confused me.

This weekend, both he and my mom called and asked if I would go see their friend who is in the hospital and sit with his wife a while, since they’re at Vandy and know no one here.

I was pissed. Am pissed. But I went. Even though I had Saturday plans. Even though I don’t know these people. My mom says I’m a good person.

I didn’t do it because I’m a good person, though, really. I hate the idea of “good” almost as much as I hate the idea of “deserves.” They both seems like kind of bullshit mind-games we get stuck in with ourselves.

I did it because I want people to do that shit for me.

I did it because it wasn’t that hard and I could.

I did it because I heard in my mom’s voice how important it was for her.

But mostly I did it because saying “no” would have meant admitting–both to me and them–that I have a list of grievances against them I carry around in my heart, running fingers over regularly, telling myself I keep poking to see if it still hurts, but doing it to remind myself of the pain.

This weekend I had a conversation with a friend about how there are these kinds of conversations we remember our parents having from our childhoods where they complain about something their family does that really pains them. And now, here we are, thirty years later, and they’re doing the same damn thing they hated that their parents did.

The Phillipses know every slight, every wrong. We horde them in our souls and use them to justify all kinds of terrible behavior that then causes other Phillipses to compile their own “here’s how I’ve been done wrong” lists which they then also weaponize.

I hate that, mainly because when you’re devoted to “I hurt you because someone hurt me and I want you to soothe it but you won’t so fuck you,” you’re pretty miserable. And I just don’t want to be miserable.

I don’t expect to be able to get out of misery all together, but, if most of us find 60/40 misery/okayness normal, the main gift I want to give myself in this life is to have 60/40 okayness/misery. And a lot of that means not doing things I don’t have to do that would make me miserable.

Scrutinizing the “you done me wrong” list, as soothing as it can be, serves to reinforce the idea that I should be miserable, that this is the normal state. And so, most of the time, I try to not even look at the list, to forget that it’s there.

But whoa doggie, was it temping to bring it out and start reading from it on Saturday.

But I did not, because I don’t want to keep all my hurts fresh, even if I’m not as good as I would like to be about letting them all fade.

Panic Attack

You guys, I had a panic attack so bad today I thought I would die. I can’t shake it. I got home okay, but only because a stranger helped me. I don’t even know how to talk about it.

It’s not just the panic attack, out of nowhere on an otherwise lovely day. It’s the way I feel like, for my own safety and the safety of other people, I have to stop doing things I enjoy.

It makes me so sad.

We Are Who We Are

I’m feeling less grouchy this morning, but man, that’s a rough day. Too much sugar, too much stress, too much of people’s expectations that I’m going to cheerfully make a bunch of food and stand around in the kitchen and wait to meet their demands.

But mostly, in my family, it’s about working so hard to find presents for people only to get to hear all the ways the presents have slightly disappointed them.

Or to hear how they will have to hide the presents, because, if someone were to ask them for said present, of course they would give it to them.

Yeah, no shit.

My parents even told one of their friends, who I don’t know, and who I’ve never met, that they would get her one of my afghans. Their plan is to just root through my closet and give her one of my “extra” ones.

The only two afghans I can think of in my closet right now (and I have zero desire to go look) are the afghan I made my grandma that she died in and a wool afghan that the Butcher stuck in the dryer and I can’t figure out if there’s a way to salvage it, but, since I hand-dyed it, I hate to throw it out. Neither of which I will give away.

If there’s some other afghan in there, at one level, fine. I might even be a tiny bit impressed and flattered that they think something I do might be a treat for someone else.

But holy shit.

Who does this? I genuinely don’t think that my parents know how to understand me as a person in my own right. Because I’m a woman and because I’m not married, I’m this defective support system that might be put to use whenever they want.

Anyway, my dad liked his afghan. Both because he genuinely liked it and because I think he knew if he hadn’t, I would have motherfucking quit this family.

But he never tells you what he wants for any holiday and then he loves to sulk when you don’t end up getting him something he likes and he always makes this big production out of how your failure to get him something he likes proves that you don’t really care about him, because you’re not paying attention to him.

So, as you can imagine, it makes buying presents for him suck. It becomes this terrible, fraught thing where your goal is to get him something he likes and his goal is to prove to himself and you that you don’t really love him.

He’s been halfway talking about getting a ukulele for a couple of years. Mom and I found a cheap, but okay, one for him, figuring that, when he hated it, it wouldn’t sting that bad because it was just $30.

But Jesus Christ! He liked it at first! But then, after he got it tuned and strummed it a little, he announced that he refused to play it because he couldn’t get a clear sound on it because the neck was so small and we should have known to get him a bigger one. And he had this look on his face… like I can’t even explain it. Like he was pleased and relieved to find that the present he, for a second, enjoyed, really sucked. And I wanted to beat him to death with the turkey.

It took every ounce of myself to just tell him he could exchange it then for one he liked.

But, you know, it made his day. He got exactly what he wanted.

So, I guess that’s good.

 

What Day is It Even?

This, I think, is what the gnarled root of an ancient, dead tree must feel like.

Or what it is to be one of those bus-sized globs of Wet Wipes and kitchen fat that clog up the sewer drains.

I am a sharp pain up the left side of my face, watering, burning eyes, and an occasional sneeze that sounds like a wet earthquake.

This is an improvement.

I’m trying to be hopeful.

Sick

The headache and the sneezing have now congealed into a sore throat and nausea. I’m trying hard to kick it today, because I HAVE to be in the office the rest of the week.

The Butcher went to the store for me first thing this morning and bought me some cough drops. I know it’s just psychosomatic, but I swear, the second I put one in my mouth and tasted that cherry/medicine flavor, I immediately felt a little better.

Another Old Person Rant

My phone physically works. It’s not broken in the sense of broken in reality. The screen is fine. The body is fine. It is in one piece.

But 50% of the time, if not more, it won’t let me answer calls. It’s pretty regularly failing to connect with wi-fi.

It’s got some programming issue. My guess is that it’s too old to keep up with the newest iteration of the operating system.

And I find that really irritating. They lose interest in keeping my phone relevant and that makes it “broken” in a way that means I need a new phone.

It’s going to suck if cars get to this point–“oh, sorry, we just don’t fix cars that are five years old.”

Young Men

When you point out that most community-devastating violence is perpetrated by young men, it’s mostly ignored. We want to talk about what a “dangerous” religion Islam is or how violent white supremacists are or how devastating street gangs are or how nutty the loner who complains about not being able to get a hot girlfriend on the internet is.

But here we are, with another fundamentally inexplicable tragedy.

And I’m just going to say it. We, as a world, don’t know what to do with or for young men. We live in a series of pyramid schemes. Either it’s straight up capitalism where many of the resources end up in the hands of very few which leaves very few resources for most of the rest of us. Or religious structures where power ends up in the hands of a very few and so on. Or political structures or whatever. Etc. Etc.

But it’s a pyramid scheme. You have more people in the structure than can ever get all the benefits of that structure. But, in order to keep people participating, you have to make it seem like everyone in the in-group can get those benefits, if they follow the rules and do what they’re asked.

There are always young men. Every year we keep making more. All our various pyramid schemes can’t fit them all in. Our pyramid schemes have made promises to them the schemes can never fulfill.

The pyramid schemes need violent young men.

That’s the terrible, terrible truth. The truth I can’t bear but is what it is. This state of things is what the world wants and has arranged itself to need.

The schemes need violent young men to drive people to invest in them because they claim to provide order and security and meaning in this chaotic world. The schemes need violent young men to punish the people who don’t invest in the schemes. And the schemes need violent young men because the schemes need a way to get young men out of the way. The schemes need young men dead or in prison or locked in battle. Out of the way.

Because, if young men stick around and refuse to violently impose the schemes, if they, in fact, refuse to participate in the schemes, the pyramids can’t stand. And then all the old powerful farts lose their power.

And we can’t have that.

Peeves

I have two pet peeves lately that are pretty much ruining my enjoyment of the world.

  1. I hate the reportification of the world. You do anything and some email comes along asking you to write up a report about it. Tell people what you thought of your oil change. Tell people what you thought of that book you just bought. Did the packaging the birthday gift you gave your brother live up to your expectations? We noticed you took a particularly deep breath when you entered the park. Did the smell meet with your approval? Most of the time, I’m just trying to get some shit out of the way so that I can do some other shit I care about. Like, if I have coffee with a friend, I’m mostly concerned about the with a friend part. As long as your coffee doesn’t suck, I genuinely don’t care. I have no opinion about whether it’s better or worse than anywhere else and I’m really fucking starting to resent the implication that I’m supposed to be running around in a constant state of hyperawareness about my interactions with your fucking brands so that I can give you feedback. No, I fucking hate it. Not only don’t I want to write a review, I don’t want your brand fucking nagging me about it. Vomit.
  2. I also hate how much of my ordinary life is devoted to dealing with your fucking ads. Wake up, clear ten emails out of my inbox that are just fucking ads. Same at lunch. Same all the fucking time. I have a few lively email correspondences. But my bullshit to actually useful ads run ten to one. And it pisses me off. Why do I have to hear from Target or Walgreens once a day? I already go there. I hate that the world is just one big goading to get me to buy shit.
  3. I especially hate all this because, to me, it feels like it means the economy isn’t actually very stable. I hate Walmart. I will always choose Target over Walmart, if I can. Target knows, based on my credit card use, that I shop there. That they need me to shop there more and to convert others into Target shoppers? It feels desperate. Same with Walgreens. Don’t even get me started on these loyalty cards. Once you need your customers to market your product for you, I think you don’t know what you’re doing.

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.

Note

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.