Monthly Archives: May 2020

Do the right thing while you still can

SOMEONE MIGHT NEED TO HEAR A KIND WORD

The poem Maud Miller was quoted in Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse.

John Greenleaf Whittier died in 1892, but his words have resonated.

There is something valuable in using the current world crisis to do things you should have done, now, before the opportunity is taken from you.

This week I wrote a ‘thank you’ letter

I have been mulling it around in my mind for months, because it had the potential of turning into something else.

I finally gave up on the ‘something else,’ which has been, and still is, an unformed request for help of an indeterminate kind.

And that was the holdup: I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to ask for, and it wasn’t clear how. Sometimes that confusion means something: don’t do it.

But eventually I realized that right now, a thank you note out of the blue, when someone is quarantined and disconnected from office routine and usual sources of affirmation, might make the day bright for a person who, through his work, has made my life easier, and my writing better.

With my slightly increased brain function and the pressure of ‘what if something happens to either of us,’ I had a moment of energy, and quickly sat down to put words to page. Added a short handwritten note (the handwriting had been held up by the damaged right shoulder – thank you notes should probably be written by hand), and sent it off.

Now every time I remember the help, I can feel good about having sent the note – instead of guilty that I should, really, and haven’t figured out what to say. It’s DONE.

This week I sent a tough letter to someone

My, how many ‘somes’ are showing up in this post!

But the writings are private, though the insight might be useful, so they cannot be replaced by proper nouns, and can’t even be granted common nouns, so you’ll just have to see if this is still useful.

One of my favorite parts of the John D. MacDonald Travis McGee stories is Meyer’s Law, which for my own purposes I usually remember as ‘Whatever the hardest thing to do is, that’s the right thing to do.’

My ability to quote correctly is legendarily bad – here’s the Google result:

John D. MacDonald — ‘In all emotional conflicts, the thing you find the most difficult to do, is the thing that you should do.–Meyer’s Law

And I am dating myself! The stories are from the 1960s!

Detour aside, this was something that, if our positions were reversed, I would have appreciated getting from the other person. But the contents were very deep, and I greatly feared adding to the other person’s pain.

But Meyer would have been proud of me: I decided it was her RIGHT to know, and that she could deal with it however she wanted to, but I couldn’t forgive myself for not giving her that choice, however painful.

I’m glad I did and she thanked me, and it will probably be the last time we ever communicate, not because of anything bad, but because the contents were the result of our two lives touching over something (here we go again with the somes) which will never happen again.

I promise not to forget, as long as I have memory. And that has to be good enough.

The results are that now I can move on

Every time in the future either topic comes to my mind – which will happen – I have closure. I did what I needed to do. The actions are in the past instead of in a vague future.

And I did the right thing.

For the reference: it hurt as much as I had expected, maybe more – and I can take it.

I see too many books now with this as their foundation

A person in the present turns out to be haunted by something they did or didn’t do in their darkest past, and the future is forever colored by avoiding the sore topic – until something explodes.

I don’t like this trend in novels – everyone has a horrible deep dark secret. An event in the present (usually a death – or a missive discovered from someone who died) results in digging into the past, and explosions ensue.

It is true that times were different before, that things that can be revealed now – a secret marriage, a child given up or adopted, a wrong to someone’s life or reputation – might have had much bigger repercussions ‘back then,’ and we’re more able to survive the revelation now than when it happened.

‘Do it now’ stops future pain – for me

But the present state of uncertainty in our real-life lives makes me hope I don’t get to the end without doing what I should have done.

I have a few more of these to clear up, and then I’ll be free of that particular kind of regret.


 

 

 

 

Testing the new block editor tentatively

Water drops. Text: How to survive Boredom. Not very well. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

THEY TELL ME JUNE WILL FORCE USE OF THE NEW EDITOR

So I’ve decided to test it out while I still have room to run and scream if I don’t like it.

So far it seems very much like the old editor, except with new controls – which I don’t know yet.

I don’t even remember creating the graphic above, but it’s in my media file from my days in New Jersey, so I probably did.

I’m getting a bit more energy from my low-dose naltrexone.

ldn works differently from medicines.

It blocks opioid receptors in your brain for a couple of hours, during which your brain decides something’s wrong – and creates more of them.

This leads to more endorphins, and other things happen, so you find yourself dealing with generalized inflammation as well.

Some people even think it will help deal with the coronavirus; I’m not going to test that deliberately, and don’t know how I will tell that I have or haven’t, but it’s a good thought. Anything that helps.

I’m also getting, a lot of the time, less brain fog

This is the main reason I’m interested in it: in these thirty years I’ve had ME/CFS, I haven’t found anything I can DO to reduce brain fog, and have had to wait every day to see if my brain would kick on and be usable.

Then I’d have to make sure whatever functionality showed up that day wasn’t needed for something critical in life, which is why I did very little writing when we were moving and packing and sorting and dejunking and dealing with real estate agents (theirs) and lawyers (theirs) who didn’t do what they said they’d do or when they said they’d do it, even though the contract clearly said we could dump the whole idea if they didn’t.

My top level functionality hasn’t improved

but I think the bottom level may have come up a bit.

The most notable effect, after taking a year to slowly titrate the ldn up to the therapeutic dose, is that I seem to spend more time every day toward the higher end of the functionality my brain is capable of, and get more done in that time.

And it seems to come every day, which was something I couldn’t count on before.

In fact, I was doing prep work for today’s writing around midnight last night – something that, trust me, never happens. I’m usually dead by 8 or 9 pm, even though my brain refuses to admit it and allow sleep.

Objective measurements?

Four finished scenes in the last two weeks – absolutely unheard of.

It still takes a lot of time to do what I do, but I’m spending more time per day doing it, so it is taking fewer days to get in the necessary time.

As my friend MT would say, Woo hoo!

And other than finding it slightly annoying, I’m not having any trouble making the new block editor do exactly what the old editor did, which is a few headings, some paragraphs of text, and image or two, and

Wait a minute. Where did the categories and tags go?

There they are, under a tag ‘Document’ up at the top of the page.

So far it is twice as many steps to select a heading style for a block of text. Annoying.

There is still a link ‘Switch to Classic Editor,’ which I will use until it disappears, but this was not that hard to figure out – for my simple blogging needs.

Which I’m pretty sure won’t change until five years or so from now when they decide to edit the editor again.

Oops. WAIT. Where’s my horizontal separator line?


This exercise has taken me to the ONE UNFORGIVABLE SIN of an editor, eating my text.

The previous one SAVED everything as I wrote.

Now I have to do it manually.

VERY BAD EDITOR.


It’s a thermostat not a bank account

Skyport

THANKS FOR MAKING MY THERMOSTAT HACK-PROOF

Sometimes the modern world is just SILLY.

When we got our first wi-fi accessible thermostat, years ago in New Jersey, I thought the concept was silly. But the thing needed to be tweaked many times to keep us comfortable (okay, me comfortable – the husband doesn’t notice a range of temperature of at least 20°F), so I found it convenient to be able to do so from my office, without having to go down to the dining room, which was at the far end of the next floor down.

This was a time when I was often having to drawl back upstairs due to back problems, so the wi-fi enabled thermostat was a convenience.

But we’re in a two-bedroom, one-floor apartment now

and it is fewer than twenty steps from my desk to the thermostat by the kitchen.

Nevertheless, we got the wi-fi enabled thermostat because it was the only one available that would let us keep the apartment comfortable by allowing a RANGE of temperatures, instead of just cooling and heating settings.

Yup. We looked for a long time, and couldn’t find, in most thermostats, the most obvious necessity for a thermostat: the ability to go through a California day, heating in the morning, and cooling in the afternoon during the summer, without having to switch manually from heating to cooling or back. Every day.

So. We got the fancy one.

And it came with an app for the desktop (and one for the mobile phones – but that’s just ridiculous).

And it requires an account.

And a password.

Keep in mind that this is a SINGLE thermostat

for maintaining a SINGLE heating/air conditioning unit in a small apartment.

To keep me from walking fewer than twenty steps.

Because, even though it’s the fancy one which can maintain a RANGE, it still needs tweaking by a human, during the peak heating or air conditioning seasons, several times a day.

So I created an account, and a login, and a password – probably 6-8 characters.

And today I get this letter.

So I’m venting here about the ridiculousness of the whole concept of needing a 12-digit password and all this rigamarole for a THERMOSTAT for an apartment.

Because I doubt that if I write to the company they will take me seriously (and I’m not taking them and their 12-digit hack-resistant thermostat seriously).

And I cannot imagine why it is necessary, and I thought it would amuse my readers.

The thermostat can handle far more than our little apartment, and has settings for zones, and several stage AC units, etc., etc., etc.

And I still can’t imagine why it needs a non-hackable password.

Oh, well.


I should mention the thermostat does work, after I do all that tweaking, and that the tweaking is probably necessary because of the stupid place the thermostat temperature sensor was installed – probably right next to the thermostat – something over which we had NO control, but I know I will have to go through this procedure whenever they tell me to, and this is my revenge on people who waste my time.

And yes, I know I’m wasting more, but it makes me feel better about the future.

Plus I haven’t blogged for a couple of days from the inside of the CCRC in total lockdown, and small things can be annoying. Such as losing your 12-digit password.


 

Staying comfortable in the saddle again

Section of a side view of the Rose Garden at URC showing the side exit door and some of the path

Out door – but not in right now

UNEVEN SIDEWALKS AS A CHALLENGE TO CONFIDENCE

We are on lockdown, which currently means you can go out, but not in, through all the usual exit doors in our building.

Why? So they can control who comes into our facility, and make sure they’re wearing a mask, and pass a quick health check, and I think take their temperature. Good precautions, and control of entrances is a part of that.

They’ve added a check station by the campus’ front entrance from the street, so cars and people coming in can be queried as to whether they are essential personnel, essential visitors, or not. A patrol car with a private security guy sits there, and some of our staff are in the little covered space to deal with contractors, delivery people, etc.

No enforcement possibility is necessary – it’s all voluntary, but family members are being turned away, even if they’re bringing something, most of the time.s-l500

Maggie2 is identical to Maggie

Both are black. Unobtrusive.

Maggie waits for me to find a part and a repair person.

But I found that after two months of not riding, I’ve lost confidence in my riding ability and Maggie2’s balancing ability, so I need to go out with some excuse to ride around a bit every couple of days.

Part of it is sidewalks and paths and curb cuts and cutouts: they make look smooth to an able-bodied walker with no balance problems, but they are neither truly flat nor even remotely smooth.

Sidewalks and paths are made a square or rectangle at a time, with gaps between them. When a repair is done, or a utility opening is created, the finished product is roughly smooth (an oxymoron).

I’m not a light-weight kid with the great balance of youth

There is a lot of me, and the Maggies cope, but I sometimes wonder how much of a strain it is, and how near the actual limits I might be, especially when riding outside, with up and down slopes. I don’t go near steep gradients any more, and plan my travels with slopes in mind.

But if I haven’t been in the saddle for even a couple of days, I’m ever so slightly nervous when I hop on board, such as to go down to get the mail. When trundling down the corridors, I’m conscious when I start that I’m a little unstable.

It’s like when I haven’t spoken Spanish for a while, and my sisters rattle off on the phone, and I’m expected to just jump in and participate – and I feel so awkward reaching for a noun or wondering if they still say things in a particular way.

So tonight I went for a little planned ride

Checked the battery – 3 out of 4 dots. Good.

Took the elevator down to the first floor (elevators are wobbly because they’re on cables), and headed toward the side door (in picture). Right now the entire first floor is being painted, the furniture changed, and the carpet replaced – and is covered with a layer of plastic that crinkles as we ride along.

Use the paper towel so I don’t touch any surfaces directly, from the elevator buttons to the door opening buttons first into the stairwell, and then out into the side Rose Garden.

Grit teeth – tell myself it isn’t that big of a slope out. It isn’t.

Say hello to other Resident who chooses this moment to come out with a large dog and a frisbee – and ask that they both be mindful of where I am, as I don’t want to be knocked down or startled off my perch by a vigorous dog which is aching to get some running and jumping and catching in.

Go down the path – and run into a moving van which has barely left enough room for Maggie and me to go down the sidewalk.

In through the front lobby – and check that I can get out of the building near the Skilled Nursing section. They say yes. But when I get down there, I find that the door opener doesn’t work after 5pm, but I can get out if I push the door. Push, hoping no alarms will go off.

Then around the north end of the building, in and out of the patio area, and back to the front entrance – all the while up and down slopes, on and off of sidewalks, around sharp corners (keeping the two of us in the center of the walk), around patio furniture piled willy-nilly, smelling some lovely roses, and up and down several curb cuts.

On our way back now

Check in, chat a moment, tell them the door doesn’t open automatically after 5pm., but you can still get out (front desk seems knowledgeable all the time, but the details sometimes escape them).

Chat with a few of the servers, both of us masked – we miss our dining room staff like crazy. One is excited they are moving toward reopening some of the dining venues. I tell him we are not: no cure, no treatment, no increased hospital capacity, no vaccine – and exhausted medical personnel. We’ll probably stay in much longer than strictly necessary.

Pick up the mail. Chat with another Resident (I have to keep backing up). She’s hoping the path from hospital (starting in December, not covid-19 related) to Skilled Nursing and now to Assisted Living is only temporary, and that she’ll be able to go back to her Independent Living unit. I tell her I hope so, and want to know – I will be resisting the Assisted Living part in a similar situation unless I’m sure it’s reversible if I can handle it.

Zoom up the corridors, reverse the elevator ride – and husband say: “That was a short ride!”

Decontaminate

Put mail away, put everything back in its place, being very conscious of what might have touched a surface outside the apartment, stabling Maggie2, and washing hands twice, thoroughly, during the process.

And we’re home!

I regained my comfort, mostly, with riding. I’m glad I included time outside and with challenges – they were a bit scary and got better on the circuit. Other people commented on how smoothly we move – and I didn’t disavow the prowess.

But I know.

And that’s all the excitement of the quarantine/isolation at the CCRC today. Absorbing, eh? And reset the brain by seeing other humans (I haven’t been out much otherwise), and talking to them.

Until next time.

Tomorrow is trike ride day.

These things seem and are trivial, but they’re also important to do for psychological welfare, especially since we’re going to be at this a long time.


Stay well.

Writing persists, though right now it seems to be taking me 5-6 hours to get that brain to come on every day. I am well into becoming Andrew to write the next scene, after days of gathering.

That’s all I ask for.

Hope everyone out there is staying safe. Or recovering. I know some are not, and still have trouble some days believing the whole disaster.

“Another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” Yup. Part of the week’s research included watching that used in a whole bunch of their movies. And yes, that quote is accurate. Memory is funny.


 

Too tired to post about ME/CFS yesterday

Image may contain: possible text that says 'MYALGIC ENCEPHALOMYELITIS (ME) MILD ME 25% CAN WORK WITH GREAT DIFFICULTY AND AT LEAST 50% OF THEIR FUNCTIONALITY. MODERATE ME ARE HOUSEBOUND OFTEN REQUIRE A WHEELCHAIR OUTSIDE OF HOME. DAILY TASKS LIKE BATHING AND COOKING LARE A STRUGGLE. VERY SEVERE ME ARE TUBE FED, IN SEVERE PAIN, OXYGEN AND OFTEN CAN NOT SPEAK. SOME AWAY. THEY ARE SOME THE SICKEST PEOPLE ON EARTH. SEVERE ME BEDBOUND IN DARKEND ROOM ALMOST COMPLETELY DEPENDENT FOR ALL PERSONAL CARE. MEICFS AWARENESS @CHRONICALLYRISING'

MISSED EVEN WRITING A BASIC POST:

MAY 12th WAS INTERNATIONAL

ME/CFS AWARENESS DAY

So today, a day late and many dollars short, I’m boosting a post from @ChronicallyRising on Facebook, which will give you an idea of what I live with.

For over THIRTY YEARS now, I have been in the very badly mislabeled ‘moderate’ category – with occasional good days where I’m lucky if I have lost ONLY 50% of my functionality.

Because this is my daily reality, I don’t make a big deal about it.

I have used my experience with the disease

to write the on-going Pride’s Children trilogy, where I have gifted one of the main characters, Dr. Karenna (Kary) Elizabeth Ashe, with the ‘mild’ form – and explore how being chronically ill affects your whole life and all your choices.

When you lose your entire medical career, ‘mild’ is a misnomer.

Society writes you off; it did her.

She learned to write – something I’ve done. But I’ve given her a better experience and a traditional publisher in 2005. She’s turned into a reclusive but well-loved author of several historical novels, by spending ALL her energy on her work (since there is no way she can be a physician any more).

And living alone.

She is much younger than I am – in the ‘adult woman’ vague category.

And there’s nothing wrong with her – except disease and society’s expectations. And how much she gives in to them.

The world may find out

after covid-19 slams through its entire population, that the incidence of this kind of a post-viral, post-survival of the acute phase, syndrome, is far more common in the pandemic’s aftermath.

It is speculated that a large proportion of the survivors will have life-long problems. Numbers are not available this close to the outbreak.

Maybe my stories will help those who are ignored by the healthy, the researchers, and those who fund public health initiatives – until it happens to them.

We are all still people, still worthy, still capable of pain and loyalty and love.


 

My writing is a walk through a minefield

I AM ALWAYS MY OWN FIRST READER

One piece of advice to writers I’ve always followed is to “Write the book you want to read and that you can’t find.”

I guess as a writer I’m looking for the readers who FEEL the way I feel.

I’m having trouble finding more of them because WE tend to hide our feelings as too intense, too troubling, too deep – and are much less likely to discuss those feelings with other people as we recommend a book.

It is too close.

I am not my characters, and my characters are NOT me.

Because, if anything, there are significant parts of me I’ve consulted when writing all three of the main characters in Pride’s Children PURGATORY, and now Pride’s Children NETHERWORLD.

Readers know what it’s like to be inhabited by warring camps, typically portrayed in cartoons by a little angel over one shoulder, and a little devil over the other.

I contain multitudes.

But I AM an actor

The training, and the thinking, and the practice come in very handy when you have to split parts of yourself off for a character – and maintain some distance from your self.

I’m sure you can’t play Macbeth without finding justifications for killing your king.

So, before you go traipsing through one of my scenes, I have to do the hard work of feeling my way from the First Line to the Last Line, so that it is smooth and satisfying for a reader who goes that way but once.

It’s part of what makes me slow.

Adrenaline is hard for my body to process – and all hormones are big parts of the emotional states that accompany their surges through the bloodstreams of humans.

I have to feel more than usual, and have a smaller capacity for recovering from the emotional hormones, than most people.

You have to get very close to emotions to write them.

Yesterday, as research for the next chapter in NETHERWORLD, I had to go through, over and over, a part of life that, as a married woman who just celebrated 45 years with her first and only husband, was very far behind me.

No one knows the future – it could be useful in some cases, but I’m hoping I won’t need what I went through yesterday, because, as all important decisions, it was exhausting!

And I can’t stop writing these sections until I can recreate that on the page, in words, first in myself, and then, with some degree of certainty, in both men and women.

Models in literature

I had myself wondering today how close Margaret Mitchell got to Scarlett O’Hara, or Charlotte Brontë to her Jane.

I’m not sure Mitchell was fond of Scarlett – Scarlett and my Bianca have a lot in common – and Mitchell gave Scarlett no HEA: she prevailed, but her victory was Pyrrhic at best: never being hungry again is pretty low on the hierarchy of needs.

I take some of my examples from Dorothy L. Sayers, who at least left Harriet and Peter happy and married, but made them work very hard for that win: the hard work is, to me, essential to the outcome.

I don’t take shortcuts.

All of this may make more sense when the next book comes out, if you’re one of the clan.

I hope you are.

When this is all over, I’d love to talk about it. Right now I’m too raw.


If you haven’t read PURGATORY, and do so now, you’ll have a much better idea of what I’m talking about – as well as an appreciation for why it took so long. I had to learn to do the writing/feeling connection – and do it in EVERY scene.


Drop a line if you have any idea what I’m saying. It gets lonely out here.


 

Jeweled anniversary moments in the midst of pandemics

Trolley with white tablecloth displaying our anniversary dinner

Our 45th Anniversary Dinner – courtesy of dining staff

OUR GRATITUDE TO THE DINING STAFF

Before the pandemic, gracious living was the touchstone of the University Retirement Community we moved to as our forever home.

When the staff called a few days ago for an unrelated matter, it occurred to me to ask is there was anything they could do for our 45th Anniversary, as we wouldn’t be able to celebrate otherwise.

And this was their lovely response yesterday.

Chicken teriyaki and a special dessert enhanced by notes wishing us well from several of our staff.

A shoutout to those working behind the scenes, even now

It is not easy to bring dinner every night to the 250 Independent Living apartments (and three meals a day to those in higher levels of care).

The last time this was done, a norovirus had invaded, and the lockdown resolved the matter in less than two weeks – complete isolation and a prompt response does that.

But this time they have been working harder and longer, and we have lost the lovely daily interactions with staff which are so rewarding – finding out about their schooling and families is part of here, and there is a scholarship fund and an employee appreciation fund we contribute to (tipping is not allowed) to make our thanks patent.

We miss them like crazy.

They are doing a tough job, and any time we interact (rarely and in masks now), it is a pleasure to have the younger people on staff around.

Management has a different job

Keeping us safe and fed and supplied and from going bananas those of us who need help.

Keeping our campus safe and only open to essential personnel.

Figuring out what to do in the immediate and long-term future.

I wouldn’t want to be them right now – it must be scary, knowing how so many vulnerable people who will live many more years if the virus doesn’t get in here are in their care.

Easy to criticize, impossible to replace.

Yes, they might do it better, but I don’t think it’s pure luck that we’re still functioning, though it might be luck that we haven’t had a scare yet.

But I don’t want to neglect the bright spots

The gardens.

The ability to go out onto the greenway.

Their determination to follow ALL requirements of the various governmental agencies – and do whatever more can be done.

And the little happinesses like ours, yesterday.

Thank you, URC and PRS. We notice and are grateful.

PS The cake was really good.


 

Seniors afraid in lockdown without being consulted

NO ONE HAS ASKED FOR MY OPINION

Decisions are being made left and right about the people who are living in senior communities.

From Independent Living, to Assisted Living, to Memory Support units, to Skilled Nursing facilities, managers and administrative personnel, government officials and medical personnel are taking decisions without consulting those of us who live in these places.

Those who can’t make their own decisions

There are a certain percentage of us who will not be making decisions for themselves because their minds are failing, and they don’t understand what’s going on – or what the options for doing something about it might be.

Families and facilities will be making those decisions, and many in this group have been badly served in homes and in those facilities which were supposed to keep them safe. Many have died without a clue as to what was going on, and without having their loved ones with them.

And yes, they are living and dying afraid.

But some of us are perfectly coherent – and we are being ignored

There are many of us who need some physical caretaking, and others who have joined a facility like our Continuing Care Retirement Community are perfectly functional and coherent but getting older.

Management routinely ignores our expertise and refuses to take advantage of the fabulous array of powerful minds here.

It is a lack of respect.

It is being managed by people who have far less knowledge and experience, compared to the accumulation in our particular facility, than we do, and who act as if we were children looking for something entertaining to do with our time.

I admit we will all fail with time – and some will accept that more graciously than others – but it galls.

Even though I’m one of the people whose expertise doesn’t go to the public good, I recognize the people among us who have been and still are powerhouses – and it galls.

It is a form of gaslighting

If you treat people for long enough as not having competence, they will give up – and that’s not good for us.

The result is an unnecessarily exaggerated lockdown, partly due to those among us who are not capable any more of understanding the limitations, but applied to those of us who are, and it doesn’t make for happy compliance when those with opinions keep getting shot down.

It’s not a good time to leave.

We made our decision, highly based on the people who live here, and will probably stick it out unless one of our kids has extraordinary requirements, and possibly even then, because I am so physically limited I’m practically useless.

It could be, SHOULD BE different

But it could feel SO much more like a collaboration between those of us PAYING for services and those providing them.

Which would serve to allay the fear, and find safe ways around the restrictions such as people who moved here so a spouse could be in the Memory Support unit most of the time, but have some meals with spouse and other family members in the various dining facilities, could see that spouse.

I greatly fear that we have lost what makes this place special, and are too easily giving up what makes this place good for couples where one person deteriorates first.

I fear for the mental health of those completely isolated ‘for their own good,’ who can’t understand or remember the explanations – and have no family or friend able to supervise their care. It is well known that the one thing that keeps a facility on its toes is supervision – for the little things which don’t appear on the checklists.

And for those who need the facilities here to exist even slightly well, I think we are being so restrictive that they/I am in pain far more than necessary, and some may be losing the will to fight on.


Management shouldn’t be as overwhelmed as they are – the business efficiencies, unquestioned, add up to hardship.

The lack of transparency really hurts.

And the attitude is confrontational.


 

The physical cost of writing fiction

Rose bushes in a garden with shady trees.

The Rose Garden at University Retirement Community

I’M PLANNING TO WRITE A NOVEL SOME DAY…

Say many people. Most of them don’t.

I’M NOT DISCOURAGING ANYONE! But I haven’t cloned myself even once: when people expressed interest and I offered to point them in the right direction, none followed up.

My oldest is writing fiction – I get an occasional peek. That’s all.

Why? Because it’s a lot harder to do than most people realize. Lots of words, and they need to be in some kind of a comprehensible order.

It’s on the order of thinking you might be able to build a car because you’ve driven lots of different models. Or even because you’re actually a pretty good mechanic.

Different set of skills, and the finished product DOES NOT SHOW where the tools were applied.

I’ve produced two completed novels in two different series

but it is not likely that the first one (a mystery written before the turn of the century) will ever get the attention it needs to be turned into a finished product, given that I’ve learned a few things this century. Maybe, maybe not. The more I learn, the more I realize it need a lot of work. Great characters, I thought, and a good end and premise, but we’ll let it live peacefully for now. In the trunk.

The first one in the Pride’s Children trilogy took me 15 years, many of which were spent learning such things as how to write a full-length play (great for dialogue).

I’ve aged, and have not gotten well

Thirty years of ME/CFS is a long time, and during that time I’ve had at least the usual vicissitudes of aging, and probably even more than average because the energy to exercise, for example, isn’t there – thirty years of no real exercise (because we can’t go aerobic – our cells don’t produce energy fast enough) leaves you deconditioned, even if you’re diligent at doing what you can (bike/trike rides, pool exercises).

That’s one of the reasons it takes me so long to write: the energy has to come from somewhere, I’m chronically ultra-short of energy, and other things in Life have to be done, too.

I’ve pared away and given up almost everything. The pandemic is forcing me to relinquish even more: at the same time it is giving me a bit more time, it is increasing the stress – never helpful.

Most people don’t think of writing as requiring energy

They’re more likely to think it needs time, because how hard can something be that you do sitting down?

They know it gets you tired – mentally tired – and that you need to keep your body in at least reasonable shape to support your brain’s work.

But beyond the obvious, most don’t realize that writing fiction is exhausting under the best circumstances. Physically exhausting.

I can’t, apparently, do two energy-sucking things in the same day

I can count as rarities the days when I do something physical first (like a trike ride, or even a trip to the front desk on Maggie a couple of times to get a package in the mail in the right sized container with the correct postage).

I used to get around this problem by doing my writing first, and then going for a ride in the late afternoon, or for a swim AFTER writing (since I never get anything done in the evening anyway).

But there’s no pool Yolo County is allowing us to use, and the days are now so hot (though not humid, bless California!) that I can’t afford to go out after a certain time. This is because California starts off cool, and then heats from the sun straight through the day. Without humidity most nights cool off, but on a day over 90° like today, if I don’t get out by noon it’s already too hot for me to be out.

My physical body is a real limitation

to my current writing. I just don’t get the hours of functioning usable brain that I need, and days will go by when no writing can get done.

I’m doing – and will continue to do – the best that I can.

That’s a given. Non-negotiable.

But I’m wondering exactly how low I can push ‘taking care of body’ vs. ‘using body to support brain.’

So the rest of you?

Maybe you should get started on that novel, and not depend on retirement, or ‘when you have more time,’ because I’m here to tell you the physical part of writing keeps getting harder every year.

And there’s NO guarantee something won’t come along and knock you clean off your pins (must look up that phrase), and you won’t be able to do it at all.

As for me

I keep trying to cheat, and figure out ways to NOT do things, so they won’t absorb the little energy I have.

My long-suffering husband keeps not complaining. He gets points.

The mess will have to wait some more.

I don’t know how long it will take – I hope days, rather than weeks or months – to get the next chapter through the last little bits (epigraphs and chapter title and a final round of AutoCrit). I only know that I keep inching forward, and I’m still excited about the story (this chapter was a doozy), and I hope I’m still around to finish this job (there’s a virus out there that eats older people and people with co-morbidities), because I still haven’t found anything I love as much as this little obsession of mine.

Thought I was improving a bit, but not really. Shrug. It won’t stop me, but it sure slows me down.

Oh. And I’m grateful. It could be a lot worse.


Stay well. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Etc.