Leap

Today the dog leaped over the creek after treeing a cat. I was struck by his graceful confidence, which, though I love this dog, seems a confidence wholly unearned. He made it fine, though.

On Twitter, I saw a person recounting a story of her elderly grandmother’s surprisingly progressive response to a relative’s life situation, the whole family, really, way back in the early 1900s.

I didn’t quite believe the story. It seems a little too perfectly aligned with our politics today and less so with what I know of the politics of the time. On the other hand, who knows? The world is a big place and people have been surprising in it a long time.

But then someone jumped down the storyteller’s throat about how the terminology the grandmother had used in the story–remember, a story recounted as having happened in the early 1900s–was hurtful.

Which, I have to say, is pretty damn likely, being as it was the early 1900s.

And then the storyteller apologized and said she had made a mistake trying to cram the whole story into 140 characters and the grandmother had actually said the thing we would say now.

And then I knew the story was bullshit. But no one else seems to. They’re all just pleased about the apology.

Or maybe it doesn’t matter that the story is bullshit?

I don’t know. I have a hard time knowing if things I remember are real–partially because I think I do genuinely have a shitty memory and partially because I have been trained since childhood to believe that there is always some generous way to interpret a situation that will explain the behavior of assholes, so I have always found my own memories and feelings about things suspect. But that’s why I want to know things, true things. I want to see for myself things I can count on. Even if they’re painful or imperfect.

So, I can’t understand this other impulse to have a story–passed off as true–that probably isn’t true, but tells us that how things are now is how they always have been, we’ve just been denying it.

Senor Don Gato

This cat, the one who fashions himself as a four-legged Clint Eastwood, is driving me crazy. For some reason, he’s put himself in competition with the dog. If the dog gets head scratches, he needs head scratches. If you’re eating something and he thinks you might let the dog lick your plate, he’s going to need to lick your plate first. Are you trying to do anything the dog can see? The orange cat will need to sit in your lap then. Last weekend I sang a song to the dog and the cat harassed me for like twenty minutes before I figured out that he expected a song, too.

I don’t even think he likes this shit. It doesn’t seem to improve his mood. I think he just wants what the dog gets and so, if he gets it, that’s good enough for him.

But the worst part is that, at breakfast, he really wants to lick the last of the milk out of your cereal bowl and so he sits right up next to you, not quite touching, but close enough that no dog can butt in, and rests the very tips of his whiskers on your arm, as if to monitor the situation for any changes in arm motion that might indicate you are done with your cereal.

It feels like a army of Daddy-long-legs standing on my arm. It’s so weird.

 

Stings

Y’all, some Redditor thought my willapus wallapus piece was poorly written and as silly as I think that is, I admit, it stings a little. I’m not sure why. Like, I read that piece and I still find it funny as hell.

But here’s the thing that I have noticed over the years writing for Pith. No matter how obviously funny my posts are, a lot of guys don’t recognize them as even attempts at humor. Not me trying to be funny and them just not finding it a joke that strikes their funny bone, but legitimately, I don’t think that, once they’ve assigned a “female” voice to a piece in their heads, they recognize the signals that say “this is a joke.”

I mean, I’m fine with a joke not landing. They can’t all be winners. But the older I get, the more I write, the more comfortable in my writing I am, the more it weirds me out–this unrecognition.

***

There’s this guy where I work. I don’t work with him. He’s not even affiliated with my employer. He’s just with a group who also has office space in our building. Ever since he started, he’s kind of given me the heebie jeebies, though I can’t really say why. It’s a kind of over-familiarity and standing too close and…I don’t know. Nothing has happened. I keep an eye on him like a hawk. I don’t have any evidence of him deserving my bad feeling.

But yesterday he came up to me in the hall, saying he got a new phone and now he can’t get on the wifi in the building and would I mind typing my user name and password into his phone? Which he then shoved at me. Then he stood too close to me to try to show me how he just couldn’t figure out how to get hooked up to the wifi and I faked ignorance. I said IT had walked me through it over the phone and I didn’t remember what they’d done, but it was a few complicated steps. But he kept thrusting his phone at me.

But finally, he then changed to standing again way too near me and wanting to chat about where IT was and did I have their phone number.

The whole thing was just super weird. Like, every instinct I had said not to touch his phone for any reason and to get away as soon as possible.

***

Today this news is reporting on this pervert cop over in South Carthage who openly harasses women and everyone knows it. The women he’s harassing are all too poor to hire lawyers and sue the town and the mayor doesn’t want to kick him off the force because he’s just two years from retirement.

So the continued suffering of the women in South Carthage is more acceptable to the mayor than fixing the problem and maybe hurting his buddy.

And he’ll probably continue to get reelected.

***

It’s hard sometimes not to feel like I am not and will never be allowed equal footing, that it’s too hard to see me as a person.

High Blood

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goth Baby Blanket

So, I did my first zigzag afghan. I’m very pleased with how it turned out, even though I did it wrong the whole way through. I was a third into it when I realized the pattern was calling for working into the back loop instead of the front loop (I guess so you’d get a little puff on each row?) and I had worked into the front loop. But, I wasn’t going to frog a third of an afghan that had all been done one way. I just continued forward in my wrong manner, figuring the baby wouldn’t care.

Anyway, I love it. A friend wants me to eventually make a big one for her, but I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about it. If I could figure out how to do this exact afghan, but scaled up to adult size, I’d be on that in a second, but the spider webs between each chevron and the border aren’t going to scale up. So… I don’t know. I’ll have to think about how to do it.

But lord, do I love this. Vampires would wrap their babies in this.Wednesday Addams probably had one of these.

img_1389

Checking Things Off the Checklist

–Washington Post stuff, done.

–Dishes, done.

–Four metric tons of garbage hauled out from the kitchen, done.

–Oh, shoot! Cool afghans, done! And both their recipients were thrilled. S, that makes me very happy.

–Now I’m working on a goth baby blanket.

–And I have to prep for a talk I’m giving on March 3.

–And sleep for a million years.

We were out of cereal and bread and eggs and anything a reasonable person could eat for breakfast, so I had stale pink lemonade PopTarts. I now feel kind of like death. I’m full, but I’m contemplating if there’s a place I could stop for something not made of nuclear waste for breakfast or else when I see nm at lunch, I’m afraid I’m going to literally be a jittery sugar-crashing mess.

The Last Post!

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

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

In Which Your Narrator Learns an Important Lesson

Do not adjust your crazy pills the same week that you are trying to finish two pieces for The Post that you absolutely want to get 100% right and in which you have heavy-duty day job stuff going on.

But all my pieces are turned in! Tonight I may even do the dishes for the first time since…I genuinely can’t remember. It may have been two weeks. The kitchen looks like an annex of the dump.

But over at Pith I wrote about this weird happening in Nashville back in the 1880s–The Willapus Wallapus.

And on Tuesday, I wrote about Adia Victoria’s vexed relationship with Americana music.

Today I just sent them a post on hauntings. It should be good, I hope.

The Second Thing

My second thing went up for the Post!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Logistics

The Butcher is moving out soon. Soon-ish. They need to make some space for him up at The Butcher’s Soon-to-be-Wife’s house. But then he’ll be up there. I thought I would be sadder, but it’s just up in Gallatin and I like seeing him happy.

I don’t know. I guess as it becomes more real, it might be a bummer. But for right now, I’m kind of looking forward to it.

I did broach the subject of him leaving his cat here. He was not happy with my suggestion, but the cat is seventeen years old. He likes it here and he knows here. We’ll see. I just think you shouldn’t uproot an ancient cat unless you have to.

Some Broken Hearts Never Mend

A long time ago, I liked a guy and I thought he liked me. He fucked my roommate instead. I was angry at her, because I knew she knew how much I liked him, and angry at myself for “misreading” the situation.

Years later, we were both at the same wedding. Hell, we were all three at the same wedding, but this isn’t about her. And he was obviously delighted to see me to the chagrin of his wife. And later, when he was good and drunk, he told me that it had been me and he chickened out and then he kissed me on the forehead and I left and cried for a million days.

That was many years ago. He has a wife and kids and, I guess, a nice suburban life. She has a husband and kids and a nice medium-sized town life. I don’t want those things. Sometimes, though, I look back at those moments and it feels raw, like I got cheated out of someone I would have enjoyed specifically by that someone, who compounded it by then telling me he just didn’t have the guts to be with me.

I hate the feeling that I’m hard to be with. It makes me feel like things are wrong with me, fundamentally, that I don’t know how to recognize, let alone decide whether I want to fix.

Yesterday he picked a teasing fight with me on Facebook about which one of us was the bigger Jason Statham fan–which, of course, would be him, but, of course, I was not going to concede.

I didn’t even realize that bruise was still tender. But man, it felt weird to be having a delightful fight with a person I always found delightful who didn’t find me delightful enough to try for and yet, who still, obviously, finds me somewhat delightful.

I forget all kinds of important, nice things. Why do the bad things linger?

And the other thing that kind of makes me uncomfortable is that I’m not any prettier than I was when we were young. I’ve had a long time to become set in my ways, so all the ways I was strange, well, I’ve grown stranger still. And he’s married. And lives a long way away. So why come not only poking around–which, fine, people are curious–but letting me know he’s poking around when I’m doing neat shit?

Like, now I’m cool? Now I’m worth knowing? Or maybe that’s unfair. I do think he always thought that.

I don’t know. I just don’t understand and I guess I never did.

I would have liked to watch Jason Statham movies with him, though. That would have been nice.

Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit

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

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

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

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

The Crowd

I unintentionally learned this week about the lynching of Eph Gizzard from the Woodland Street Bridge here in town. The thing I keep thinking about is the crowd. It’s very easy for me to imagine the raw fear of Gizzard.

And I feel like, as ugly as it is, I can imagine being in the mob. I can understand the heady mixture of anger and self-righteousness and bonding and, once you’ve broken into the jail and beaten a few cops, that feeling that you can do whatever you want and no one can stop you.

But the crowd. The description of people lining the bridge and crowding the roofs of commercial buildings and houses? The city like vultures.

This isn’t the only time I’ve read of Nashville doing this. During the Battle of Nashville, papers reported that citizens came out and sat on (or stood, I suppose, on) the roofs of their houses and buildings to watch the battle and, as it became more and more obvious the Union was going to win, the vultures grew more and more quiet.

And it makes me wonder what the scene was really like when the Trail of Tears passed through. Some stories of people lining the streets and reacting to the condition of the displaced people in horror and trying to feed them and give them blankets only to be rebuked by the military escorts do survive. But I wonder how many then were standing on rooftops, watching like vultures?

I mean, I guess, at one level, these are just spectators–the crowd at a ball game or at a rock concert but for death instead.

But I still can’t quite find a way into those heads. But I experience their evil on par with the mob’s.

It Happened!

The Butcher is getting married! The Butcher’s Wife sounds like a New York Times Best Selling Novel. Or the nickname of a mysterious assassin. “The Butcher’s Wife killed three of our agents in Moscow and we still don’t have a good picture of her.”

Ha.

It’s Happening!

So, the Butcher did get a ring from my grandmother, the provenance of which is unknown. The family story has always been that somewhere along the line my grandma lost her solitaire and her mother’s solitaire. But then she had a couple of solitaires for the Butcher to look at, which were supposedly the “replacements” for the solitaires she lost.

The Butcher got one of those rings. When he took it to the jeweler to get it resized, the jeweler was like “You know, this setting is easily over a hundred years old. It’s not going to resize well and it’s already lost a couple of diamond chips. The cost for you of me bringing this setting back into shape or you just resetting it into a new ring are not that different.”

So the Butcher went with a new ring in the right size. But I remain confused by the jeweler’s pronouncement that the setting was so old. I mean, I don’t doubt him. It looked really old. And the diamond’s cut also looked very old-fashioned to me, with more of a rounded top (it’s almost like looking in a very tiny marble. It does have some facets on top, but they’ve very, very subtle).

If this is the ring my grandma bought to replace my great-grandma’s ring, why is it so old? My grandma continues to surprise me, but of both of my grandmas, she strikes me as the least likely of the two to go into a pawn shop. And if my grandma lost both her ring and her mother’s ring at the same time (unless I’m misunderstanding the story), that had to happen during World War II, after my grandma got engaged–otherwise, she didn’t have a ring to lose.

So, in the very earliest case scenario, she got engaged (I think in 42, right before my grandpa enlisted), lost the ring and her mother’s ring, and went to a pawn shop and got two old ones? Why would she have had her mom’s engagement ring then?

But in the more likely scenario, she got her mom’s ring when her mom died after I was born. Thus putting the loss within my lifetime and I can damn well tell you that my grandma in my life was not going to pawn shops. So where did she get a ring that old?

My guess is that she didn’t lose her mom’s ring, or at least, not the ring that the Butcher ended up with, but over the years got confused and believed she’d lost this ring, when really, it just sat in a pile of junk in her house, safe and sound.

And now the Butcher has that diamond and is about to put it on his girl’s finger.

I’m really thrilled. I like her a lot and I like how happy he is with her. But, shhh, it’s a secret for now.

Respite

I have to find a way to stay engaged enough to, oh, you know, do my job for Pith and yet not sit at my real job paralyzed in front of the computer waiting for the next bit of bad news.

Speaking of Pith, this weekend we went out to look at a part of town where the Trail of Tears had gone through and there was an old Indian village. A thing I will never tire of is the moment when I realize “Oh, shit, that’s what this is.”

Like, for instance, when you’re driving up 18th Ave and you’re going up hill but it makes these stair-step jogs, as if you’re crossing a series of terraces, that’s because you’re driving through an old quarry–the old quarry the state capitol and the old state prison came out of.

And so there was a moment when I looked at that old map of the Whites Creek Road when I realized, holy shit, the Trail of Tears could not have gone up the Whites Creek Pike, because the Pike didn’t go in until the 1840s. Here, along the river, this road on this map, is it. Here’s the way it went.

Who had seen this map in recent years? Just whoever digitized it at the TSLA and whoever put it online and then who really looked at it? Let’s say a hundred people looked at the map when the TSLA announced it was online. How many people realized what they were looking at? That number’s hard to guess, but maybe ten, maybe fewer? Of that amount, who would have realized that other people didn’t know this? And of that amount, who would have a platform to say “Oh, hey!”

I can’t tell you how much it blows my mind, how much it delights me–always delights me–to feel like I might know something no one else knows yet.

But I also had another experience with this map, before I went out, where a friend was telling me about the Indian village that was there and he mentioned the mounds and I was like, “you mean these bumps?” and I pointed to them on the map. So, in that moment, I was in a small group of people who had seen the map but didn’t know what they were looking at.

And he was the one person, the first person, to look at that map and realize what he was seeing–the only known rendering of those mounds. Archaeologists have known they were there, but no one’s ever seen a picture of them or a drawing of them or an indication on a map of where they were. Until last Friday.

It was amazing.

But here is the sorrow to go with delight. Those mounds, most of which were burial mounds, were there when the Cherokee were forced through town. The scope of the shitty thing we were doing as a country is hard to realize, hard to focus on, it’s so large. And while I do think that the trauma of the Indian wars was partly the driving force behind walking them through settlements they had tried to stop–look, you didn’t destroy Nashville. You didn’t destroy Clarksville. We’re destroying you.–and I’m not sure we were trying to send any less blunt a message than that, it’s hard not to read into it a message of “look how we live on top of your dead, how we knock down your mounds, how we erase you from the landscape.”

Because that’s the other thing that struck me doing the research–when the Trail of Tears came through, we weren’t certain that those weren’t old villages of tribes we were familiar with. Some folks had begun theorizing that they were not, but that wasn’t widely accepted.

Hell at that point they were still not sure where saltpeter in the caves around here came from. (Hint: batshit).

So, you know, the “empty Eden” story we tell about Nashville when we got here has to be so much bullshit. We arrived at a place full of villages. Creepy, empty villages, but villages. And we didn’t know how old they were or who they belonged to. We just settled in those villages and fought off the people who came to drive us out.

 

Knights of the Round Table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I Made a Face of Angry Confusion So Long It’s Now Stuck This Way

I need to process what happened tonight, but god, I don’t want to insult anyone. Important Person A invited me to a thing at a ritzy place full of liberals to hear Important Person B and Important Person C talk and then meet B and C because I might run into them again.

So, A, who I don’t really know, was doing me a big, generous favor.

I was the fattest woman there, by far. There were a couple of plump women, but nobody genuinely fat. Which makes sense, I guess, since these were all people who could afford to be affiliated with the ritzy place and if there is one thing I have learned, it’s that fat and class are very closely linked.

Most of the time, I don’t give a shit, because if we’re going to be pulling out intellectual dicks, well, I’m not ashamed of the size of mine.

But it became quickly apparent that the talk was going to be on “them.” The people who voted for Trump. Those mysterious angry white people. Which I felt so dumb about because I should have realized the second I saw that I was the fattest person there, by far, how the talk was going to go.

I have to tell you, though, I now get why the media describes Trump supporters as these blue collar salt-of-the-earthers. Because apparently plastic surgeons who live in the city and have a country house with a pool and diplomat friends are “upper middle class.”

I feel so angry. I’m so angry that people like me are these odd mysterious creatures you have to go out and find and study and work to understand. I’m so angry that people who admit they don’t understand us think that it’s then their job to bring me (angry at Trump voters) together with Trump voters so that we can learn to understand each other.

Bitch, it’s Saturday.

I went to school with Trump voters. I share DNA with Trump voters. I live in a state ruled by Trump voters. Don’t stand there telling me how, because YOU don’t know MY life and the life of my people, I must need to talk more to fucking Trump voters.

But everyone else was just clapping along and nodding and “oh, that’s so smart and insightful”-ing and all I could do is sit there thinking “I hate everyone in this room and I would never willingly choose to be in this room again with these people.”

And, I have to tell you, part of the reason I’m so upset is that I’m not really sure why I felt that kind of visceral hate. They seemed perfectly lovely. And obviously, they’re all great do-gooders who mean well and do good things. They’re on my side. I’m on their side.

They didn’t mention race once. So, no mention of the deep, deep racism fueling this nonsense. And I’m not interested any more in discussions of what’s going on in America, why we’re so fucking divided, that doesn’t admit up-front the A1 problem of racism. Every discussion that ignores racism is bullshit and a waste of time.

They tut-tutted about the Women’s marches not being nicer to anti-abortion people, as if there’s some room for disagreement between whether I have the right to make decisions about my body or whether you should get to dictate what happens to me.

Just, god, I don’t know. Everything about it made me feel really alienated from people I’m supposed to view as my peers. And I’m sad and angry and embarrassed. And I’m mad at myself for sitting there silently, like I was tacitly agreeing with all the liberal do-gooders safe in their ritzy enclave. And jealous, too, frankly. Deeply jealous.

Rage

It’s only been a week, but I swear, the longer it goes on, the more enraged I am that people did this to us. Not just that, but then they’re all hurt that we won’t just make them feel okay about it, that we won’t “let” things get back to normal. They want to have done this shitty thing and have it mean nothing.

And you know, why shouldn’t they get their way? What in American history tells them they won’t? I’ve been thinking how often white people do some dumb evil thing that other white people disagree with and know is evil, but the second group of white people run around American history trying to make the first group understandable and to help us all relate to them and come together with them. Brother against brother, so let’s have a family reunion and keep the power of the country in our family’s hands.

Bah, I’m not being clear. Basically, though, it’s this–we propagate national myths of white tragedy so that white people, even when we have internal disagreements, will try to find ways to be kind to each other, which, since part of the people doing the disagreeing are unabashed white supremacists, means that “good” white people are constantly arguing for kindness toward and understanding of utter shitbirds, on the mistaken belief that this is what makes us “good” people. And all that reinforces white supremacy.

This is obviously familiar to anyone who’s been in an abusive situation. (And I’d argue that you can see Trump’s actions this weekend as the ‘isolating from friends and family’ stage.) Everyone feel sorry for the abuser who just can’t help but be a jackass. Maybe if we’re all kinder to him or her, he or she will see that niceness is awesome and take up the habit.

But it doesn’t work. And it’s cruel to the asshole’s victims.

Talking and Talking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strange Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Strange Architecture of Dreams

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

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

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

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

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

Walk to the One You Love the Best

I went for a walk this morning, by myself, since the dog was at the park with his real friend. I didn’t go the whole way. I’m not quite 100%.

But I could have gone the whole way. I wasn’t that far from my turn-around spot. But I felt really crappy and just wanted to go home.

And I said something to myself that I realize I say quite often to myself: “This isn’t a punishment.” Like, I am not obliged to go the whole way out of some sense that the misery going the whole way would cause me is what I deserve. I can turn around. I can try again tomorrow. I walk because I like it. It’s okay to not do it.

I get caught up in this sometimes about crocheting, too, that I can’t take an evening off because I have to get this done. And then I have to remind myself that I crochet because I enjoy it, not because it’s a punishment. I don’t have to keep going through unhappiness. It will be fun again tomorrow.

I’m a middle-aged woman, who didn’t decide I deserved to be happy until I was well into adulthood. And I’m only now–now that I’ve decided that wanting a baseline of pleasant comfort with myself and the world is not some decadent sinful evidence of a kind of moral gluttony–realizing just how often I do things–even things I enjoy–to the point that they make me miserable. I am having to develop or perhaps redevelop a sense of “okay, that’s enough for today” that uses the arrival of unpleasantness as a cue that I can stop.

Even now, admitting this, I feel a desire to explain that I’m not suggesting that everything be fun all the time and that one should never have to struggle. Even as I know that, for my own well-being, I have to learn to say, “Okay, that’s enough for now,” even with things I really enjoy, I feel this overwhelming pressure to assure you that I know we all must suffer and that I’m not trying to get out of my share.

I mean, I haven’t even gotten my internal indicator recalibrated to accept that its resting state should be at “let’s do things we like while we feel like doing them” and I’m already worried that I’m a hare’s breath away from “let’s only do things we like, ever and let the world go to shit around us.”

I guess that’s one way to keep myself on the Puritan misery path.