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.

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.