Tag Archives: motivation

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.


 

 

 

 

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.


 

Scene not working? Change something MAJOR

NOVEL SCENES HAVE A PURPOSE

They are not just ‘something that happens next.’

There are many different ways to accomplish that purpose, but there’s a tendency, as a writer, to have things happen in a particular way, and to have that way get stuck in the chute.

The more things a scene needs to accomplish, the longer it may end up needing to be.

But writers’ brains have the same habit of getting stuck behind the wrong idea as any other brain. And maybe my ME/CFS brain does this more than most writers’ brains because change is so difficult for me.

When it isn’t gelling

So the first thing to do when a scene isn’t writing itself, after a reasonable amount of time expended trying, is to separate the essentials from the window dressing, and consider finding a different way entirely to enact the required elements – and change the window dressing to something else entirely.

A scene could be huge, with many characters interacting.

Or a scene can be small and intimate, or small and intimate within a chaotic outer setting, or the kind of scene where it isn’t until the end that you realize a whole bunch of things have come together.

A paced novel will have all kinds of scenes, to avoid monotony, to keep the feeling of surprise and discovery going.

But few scenes have only ONE way to accomplish their task.

When I started writing this post, I had just made a deceptively small change – the hour of the scene went from 4pm to 8pm – taking it from mid-afternoon to sunset – and was able to unstick a line of attack completely. The number of participants also dropped – from crowd scene to two principals.

Lawrence Block says that when things get stuck and you don’t know what to do next, you should bring in a man with a gun.

That’s a pantser’s move.

I’m an extreme plotter, so that’s not really an option.

But one of my writing guides, Armando Saldaña Mora’s Dramatica for Screenwriters has a whole section on how to change the scope and size of a scene, and still accomplish that scene’s purpose. Which is the real advantage of my kind of plotting, where everything has a place.

Changing a scene completely is often a budget move for movies

If the purpose is for the Protagonist to say goodbye to the Antagonist, say, the scene can be large and showy and done in front of hundreds of extras – or it can be small and intense and private and done in the back seat of a taxi (“I coulda been a contender” speech, Marlon Brando, On The Waterfront). Where the taxi isn’t even really moving.

It is something only the novelist will know in a novel, where words themselves are relatively cheap, even if producing them costs blood: was this scene completely different at any point before publishing?

Changing the scene in NETHERWORLD

You don’t have to choose between ‘telling’ and ‘showing’ a scene; there is more than one way to ‘show.

The original scene was going to happen while ON the set of Opium, filming in India, where the main character would watch the filming for an hour or so, and then form her own conclusions about the undercurrents in the cast.

It works much better without the actual filming being observed, and the scene purpose is fulfilled in an even more intense way. Since the details of filming were background in PURGATORY, the reader gets the idea – and I don’t have to repeat it.

The result:

  • An unstuck scene
  • A better scene
  • A scene between two main characters, instead of one with many to track
  • Advancing the plot
  • Better dynamics
  • Definitely better dialogue

So if it isn’t working, and you’ve spent enough time that it should have gelled by now: consider that you can use a lot of what you already figured out – but reframe how the reader is going to learn what you need the reader to know.

Be bold; try something different.


Really different.

Have you done this?


 

Sleeplessness is where coronavirus stress shows

I FEAR THE FEELING OF FALLING ASLEEP

I have to confess that I’m not normally an easy sleeper.

Partly because late evening I feel almost human (it’s not real – I don’t make good decisions then, and I can’t write then).

And partly because every single morning is a struggle to get myself into a state where I can function at all.

Here at the retirement community I’ve had the ability to sleep later in the morning, and to take naps whenever I need to (or should) take them, I have been able to compensate – and get enough total sleep during a day so that I’m not a complete zombie (there’s a reason sleep deprivation is literally torture).

But it’s mostly fear

I have learned, grudgingly, to give in to the sensation of losing control of my own mind – because I try to master my fears.

But I have never liked the loss, and I fight it – especially when I’m tired and my decision-making faculties are diminished – and I can literally force myself to stay awake if I think something bad is going to happen that needs me to be coherent to deal with it.

This is NOT improved when I wake up in the morning and something new hurts.

Or I find the body position I’m in has resulted in one ankle pressing the skin and flesh on the other ankle into something completely flat that aches and cramps as the blood returns, quite painfully.

Or the medicine that I took right before sleep has decided to dissolve in the back of my throat and wake me with uncomfortable pressure in the middle of the night.

If I could skip sleep

I would. Almost every night.

But I feel worse without it.

And I know intellectually that sleep is so critical that a form of torture is to not let people go to sleep.

I also take 3-5 half-hour naps during the day to rest my brain: if I haven’t had enough sleep the night before or days before, those naps can turn into deep sleep with nightmares during the day. Even with an alarm.

The lockdown and the coronavirus make it hard to let the day go

The tireder I get, the less I can use my mind to suppress the things that are worrying me – as they are worrying everyone on the planet right now: my personal situation re medical services, the lives and careers of my children, and of my family in Mexico. The uncertainty of tomorrow.

Knowing we haven’t had a case here (probably), and wondering if we will – given the news that the virus rips through senior communities leaving devastation in its path.

Since it’s a constantly changing situation, we can’t relax into a new routine, because nothing is routine now.

So I have trouble sleeping.

I’ve tried most ‘solutions’

But I either can’t take them (I tolerate very few meds) or they require me to do something at a time my brain isn’t capable of it.

And you can’t cure existential angst – it’s real.

Meanwhile, I brush my teeth, make sure I have something I can eat in the middle of the night, do my stretches for restless leg syndrome, say my prayers – so that when I reach that point every night where all of a sudden sleep is worse than continuing awake, all I need to do is lie down.

And the battle to stay asleep begins.

Because it’s never a one-time decision.

Things that keep me from staying asleep:

  • hunger
  • uncomfortable binding around any part of me
  • anything bumpy under me
  • pain
  • worry
  • a thought in the middle of the night that must be written down
  • sometimes (!) fiction
  • being too cold or too hot (repeat several times each night)
  • gut pressure (what the heck did I eat?)
  • thirst
  • the sound of the firetrucks and ambulances coming to the lobby
  • outside sounds (do they really have to do these things mid-night?)
  • rain
  • husband’s breathing
  • funny tastes
  • a muscle that twitches every ten seconds for hours
  • etc.

I can now consume cottage cheese in the middle of the night without waking – much. Which then requires that the next chunk of ‘sleep’ be done sitting up a bit.

If I’m desperate, I turn the computer on and play sudoku or something – after about an hour and a half (one sleep cycle), my body is given permission to try again.

And eventually it takes. And sometimes I can sleep enough into the morning to almost have a decent number of hours’ worth total sleep.

I don’t think it will get better for a long while – the world has turned and is now essentially unstable.

Who wants to go to sleep when it might be your last time awake?

Which is silly, because ‘going in my sleep’ is my preferred method of checking out!

Because I’m not ready. Honest. I’m in the middle of a novel, the middle of a trilogy, and finishing them is the plan.

Even if ‘plan’ has become a joke.

Hope y’all do better at this sleeping thing than I do.


 

Take what is offered for now

Photo of fitness center showing hot tub, therapy pool, and indoor pool

THERAPY POOL IS BALM FOR STIFF JOINTS

And even in lockdown, we are given the opportunity to use the pool.

For a limited time, 8 am to noon, MWF.

But it is a lot more than nothing, and realistically, only in the hot summer months do we use the pool (the outdoor one) more than three times a week.

It’s not a good time – if I spend physical energy in the morning, there is usually no writing done that day.

And I’m not getting up and functional – quite a process for someone with ME/CFS – early enough to do writing before going to the pool, say, at 11 am.

I will try.

Schedules fall apart when the dinner meal isn’t happening

We have not LIKED the schedule here. Our dinnertime in New Jersey was more like 7-9 pm. Here, in ‘normal times,’ the schedule is way too early for us: we are meeting people for dinner between about 5:15 and 6:15 pm.

You get used to it.

The solution is, of course, to get up earlier every day. Something that night owls like us do not adapt to easily.

So we struggle – but the struggle is oddly deflated when they are bringing a plastic bag of takeout dinner around 5 pm.

We can put it in the fridge – and eat when we prefer.

But we had gotten used to the schedule we were trying to learn to live with.

And daylight is when it is.

And the best time to go for an afternoon trike ride is before the setting sun is in your eyes.

Will isolation have its own schedule?

Probably. Eventually.

Everything seems random when you don’t have a few anchors in time.

Days vary. Today I did Zoom on the computer with the child who is three hours earlier – in the state of New York.

Other days vary – depending on when someone else is available for a call.

But we’ve lost the evening concerts, and the evening folksong Sing – no groups allowed, no outside visitors.

The result is a life that is surreal in one more way

I literally don’t know what to expect from day to day.

To add to that, which is probably common right now, everything from checking out the Washington Post, to making sure friends on FB are still with us, to grocery store hours for seniors (6 am – really???) is causing worry, and worry is causing very erratic sleep patterns: one night I go to bed at midnight, another at 2 am, and a third rewards me with sleeplessness until 5 am because I went to bed on time.

Hard to catch up, hard to regularize, hard to schedule.

Being unscheduled wastes a lot of time

Things that should be done because it’s lunchtime get postponed because you just had breakfast after you got up at 11 am.

Every day has to be decided individually.

Adding the volatility of when my brain comes online, and I’m surprised I get any writing done.

It IS settling down. They have nothing else for us to give up, assuming the pool hours continue.

I may be able to persuade my brain to cooperate.

Because this is going to be a long haul, and I need to write.


How has your time sense and your schedule been affected by the coronavirus?


 

Trike ride is different in California Fall

One bright red tree on a background of green and dun vegetation.

A LONE TREE DECIDES IT’S FALL IN CALIFORNIA

Stating the obvious: if the weather is ‘rideable’ all year round, things are different.

Our other constraint is dinner: from 4:45 to 7, and 6:30 on Sundays.

So if we’re going to have dinner in the dining room, the only option on Sundays, we’re missing the natural late-afternoon slot for a bike ride.

Today the spousal unit got us takeout from the dining room, and I realized that I had a chance to go out for about an hour instead of dinner, as sunset is at 6:22 today. And the temperature was down from the 80s to a more sedate 73°, which is not too hot for me, so I MOVED.

The advantage to having been here for a while is that I have a go-bag for each activity, and can be out the door with my bike helmet or my bathing suit or my singing books in about 5-10 minutes. From starting in my pjs (which I wear most of the time while writing – or fooling around on the computer) to out the door, with another 5 min. to get to where I’m going – south garage for the trike, pool, piano lounge…

I realized I hadn’t ridden the machine I actually pedal for almost a week – instead of having few opportunities for getting outside because of the energy/temperature/humidity limits my body demands, I have far more than I can afford to take advantage of.

So out we went, Trixie the trike and I

Sylvia, my long-suffering walker, got me and the backpack and all my biking junk down to the garage, scooting backward. And over to where Trixie is waiting for an outing.

The hardest part of the ride is always getting out of the garage (uphill both ways), and today no handy car came along to open the garage door, so I did it from a dead stop. Because I have to stop, losing all momentum, to push the button to open the garage door.

I think I’m getting better at the process – all these little heuristics: go as far as I can from the bottom one way; then, before it gets too steep and I can’t pedal uphill any more, turn the opposite way, go down to the bottom of the hill, pedaling like crazy, and I’ll go farther up the other side.

Sometimes that’s enough; other times I repeat until I can get to the top of the hill on either side.

And when we got to one of the side gates off the property, someone was coming in and held the door – easy out for me. New person, here two days. Introduced myself and promised to talk later.

We went out to the West Pond

which at this time of the year is a dry creek bed.

Everything is still quite green, even though the rains of California winter haven’t come yet, but the contrast was stark with the tree above (photo doesn’t do it justice) – which had decided to go full-on scarlet. So got its picture taken – before the leave drop off.

Birdies settling in for the evening, kids and dogs and dads and moms and footballs still enjoying the perfect temperature – down the greenway at Arroyo Park next to the public pool and one of the schools.

They’ve added a new parcour course to the park, if that’s the correct name (you move from station to station along the paths doing different exercises).

Not up to that yet – may never be, as the distance back to URC is enough to make me worry about keeping some energy available to get home with. Maybe some day. A station at a time. For few reps.

How does this fit in with being ill?

It irks me that all this is available – and I don’t have the energy to get everything we’re paying for – but I knew that coming in.

If they find a cure for ME/CFS soon, maybe I’ll still be able to get into shape and do more – but they need to get a move on.

Meanwhile, I do what I can.

And the psychological lift from being able to get out of the apartment and off the property with the trike or Airwheel is priceless. I was starting to get cabin fever.

Tomorrow, I’ll hurt. And the energy won’t be there, and I may not be able to write – but not getting out except in the van to church or the doctor’s office is worse.

Peace out!


Get your flu shot – I rode Maggie to the doctor’s office a week ago and got mine.


 

 

The jump cut in writing fiction

TRUST YOUR READERS

This one is sort of new to me. New to my consciousness.

Because a reviewer pointed out something, and I hadn’t realized I do this all the time, and I like to make things clear to myself.

“…Too much seemed to be going on and I was having difficulty following the plot….”

Thing is, I must have picked it up from all the stuff I read in my life, and I have my own preferences which have developed out of all that reading, and which I expressed in my own fiction.

Baffled?

I will now proceed to make that clearer.

Novelists manipulate time.

Again: NOVELISTS MANIPULATE TIME.

We decide for you what the interesting and important parts of a story are, and how we will present those to you, and especially, in what order we will tell you the story.

And you may disagree with our decisions – and perforce not read our stories – but you can’t really change the story (skipping for the moment ‘choose your own adventure’ stories).

I am rarely intrigued or persuaded by novels which bounce back and forth in time, mix two or more storylines together, or switch focus from characters I have invested in to some place else. So I won’t write them. There are plenty of writers who will do that for you.

I even warn you.

If you saw the calendars and spreadsheets and lists I carry for Pride’s Children, you’d wonder when the invasion was.

I have to know when every child is conceived.

How long someone took to get out of high school.

What day of the week someone died.

When the Memorial Day celebration fireworks are set off the Friday night before the actual holiday.

I very clearly label each and every scene I write, and that’s right there in the book.

DATE; TIME OF DAY; PLACE.

But the reader doesn’t need to know all of this.

The reader just has to know it somehow ‘feels right.’ That there is a hand on the tiller. That there is, somewhere, a reason for how the story is fed into the brain.

And, more importantly, that the emotional journey will be always forward (okay, the kind of emotional journey I write).

Modern writers save you time.

Older movies and TV shows sometimes showed actual clocks with spinning hands and calendars with days/months/years being ripped off one by one.

Now there probably isn’t a viewer on the planet who isn’t comfortable with the jump cut: you are there in one scene with a set of actors doing something, and, literally one frame later, are somewhere completely different with different actors doing something else.

I even tried to stop the process, to see if I could catch the jumps, and I kept getting pulled back into the story.

My job is to write YOUR emotional journey.

And that journey is going to have some very intense days when a lot happens – with long or short periods in between where all that happens is dinner and laundry. If I waste your time with laundry, you can be sure something very important is buried in there somewhere, and the purpose is NOT to confuse you, but to plant a seed that will give you the pleasure of discovery – some planned time in the future.

Why? Because I write long, and I edit intensely, and I take out everything that I possibly can – and the books are still going to be goat-gaggers.

Because I trust my readers to be the kind of people who can handle it.

Want to handle it. Choose to handle it.

My favorite reviews state things like:

I cannot recommend this book, this trilogy, highly enough – but not to everyone. This is a book for readers who appreciate literary fiction and a very deeply developed romance with a thoughtful debate on ethics. I believe the pace and the delayed gratification will frustrate many modern romance readers who look for fast-burning romance, titillation, and simple love stories. However, if you are a reader who will appreciate a modern ‘Jane Eyre’, this trilogy is for you.

If you like insta-love romances this is not for you – however if you love detailed, meticulously crafted sentences, strong realistic characters, and an intricate story telling style you are going to love this.

My own pet peeve – with novels and with the world – is the new trope that men and women approach intimacy and love the same way, by hopping into bed. As soon as possible after they meet, and before any of that boring talking.

I just don’t believe it – it leads to reams of pretending. And there has to be something written that is for the readers who don’t believe it, either. Because there’s plenty of the other.

So trust me…

If it’s in there, if you don’t understand it quite the instant you read it, that okay because you are going to get it just in time.

And the jump cuts? That’s because I really don’t want to bore you with anything that doesn’t relate directly to your emotional journey.

There won’t be any explaining. You are smart – you don’t need it.

And you’d pillory me if I wrote it in.

What say you?

PS I’m not sure what’s going on with comments, so copy yours before you submit them, and if they don’t post, send them along to me in an email to abehrhardt@gmail.com, and I’ll post them for you.


Thanks to Stencil for the free account to create images with (the words are mine, the pictures theirs). If you use a lot of images, check them out.


Pride’s Children NETHERWORLD is coming along nicely, and the brain is working every day again, but it’s still a lot of slow, careful work. I know where I’m going. And I think my kind of readers will like where it ends. The joy of writing has returned.

Meanwhile, the Pride’s Children PURGATORY – BOOK 1 – ebook is available on Amazon, as is the print book which is currently showing about 99% of the pages in the Look Inside feature; they tell me it will be fixed ‘soon.’


 

Still writing with ME/CFS years later

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY DON’T

This is ME/CFS month again, for my nth time – and May 12th is ME Awareness Day again – as I’ve blogged about for several years now (since we got more activists and activism going, including Jen Brea’s Oscar-nominated documentary, UNREST).

And nothing much has changed – I’m still sick all the time (that’s what chronic means), and have no energy, and don’t get much done, and don’t get what I want to do done, and all that jazz.

So I found a wayback post from Feb. 2013 that describes almost exactly the same thing I still live with. No capacity to learn – or rather, no capacity to retain enough energy to make good decisions.

And I’m six years older, which doesn’t help (unless you’re 13 and desperately want to get away from home). We ME/CFSers are not spared the vicissitudes of aging, and are probably much less capable of putting in the effort that might stave off the ravages of time (exercise, putting energy into good living and good eating, etc.) than those whose life circumstances are easier.

I say easiER, rather than easy, because Life isn’t ever easy (ask any cosseted princess).

Remember I don’t do much editing on these oldies but goodies, but it is proof of nothing much changing (except moving to California!!!) yet.

I’ll let you be the very first to know if something improves!


Writing with ME/CFS #1 – surfing the web for THE ANSWER

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CAUTION: These posts tagged CFS are a product of my struggle to write in spite of a chronic illness that has brain fog as a side effect. They are probably not interesting except to people who live with/try to write under similar circumstances. They are not intended to be whiny – though they will often sound that way. They are intended to be factual, and to help me find workarounds.

I wouldn’t bother except this is my blog, and I need an outlet, and a small subset of readers may find something helpful. Writing helps me sort things out. You have been warned! Welcome!

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The mornings when the psychic energy to block the web is missing,

I roam the small set of sites I follow, looking for someone else to give me words to read.

Today’s excuse was that DH called me from work before my brain was on: he’d left important papers in the front hall and a frantic romp through two computers and a memory stick were required to email him usable copies. Other days it’s been a call from a doctor’s office requiring me to do something immediately, or a call from my dad needing a bank transfer…

I’m seeing a pattern here: whatever the attention-consumer is must be dealt with RIGHT NOW. PWCs (persons with CFS) have a much smaller amount of usable psychic energy – which I will define as the ability to MAKE myself do something as well as the ability to ACTUALLY do something – than normal people. It’s part of the brain-fog problem. If I could jot the interruption on a sticky or my ‘gathering’ sheet or type it into Things – and deal with it in the normal course of business (maybe today, maybe not until next month), it would lose much of its power to consume. But I can’t – this is an EMERGENCY and must go to the top of the list. Worse, it must be done NOW.

Somehow, I come up with the energy to deal with what needs to be done – and it gets done – but there is an aftermath, a surcharge if you like, and the accomplishment is followed by a period of being awake but completely non-functional. We PWCs really can’t afford adrenaline – it takes much longer to metabolize it.

During that aftermath I often surf the web.

I’m looking for THE ANSWER. What’s the question? Who knows – who cares? Something in me wants someone else out there to tell me what to do, now, in such an authoritative way that it drags my mind out of the hole and gets it to work again.

There’s nothing there. I have a file where I record the ‘nuggets’ gleaned from surfing, the things I am absolutely grateful I have discovered. A short list (Dec. 2012-Jan 2013):

I: Standing desk, walking desk [PV + comments]          3:02 PM
I: Boomer Novels – and Boomer Cafe website [PV]       9:41 AM
I: Sworn Secret,  Amanda Jennings [Dead Guy – Lynne Patrick]
E: Friend – Have started Freedom: IT CAN WAIT        11:17 AM
I: Sharon Reamer. Good book video, cover [PV ->]    12:27 PM
I: Dropbox – saving your information         [PV?]          12:27 PM
I: Reviews [PV], bloggers charged with defamation    12:29 PM
I: Decision fatigue – and sugar!

I: means the nugget came from the internet, E: that the information was in an email. PV is thepassivevoice.com.

Looking at the list,

I can see that many hours of surfing went into relatively few really critical pieces of information – and ALL of them could have waited. Until the day’s writing was over, at least, or until the next day. In the case of late ones, I was surfing instead of going to bed, thus mortgaging the next day’s writing, for the relatively small pleasure of today’s surfing. I KNOW these things – it’s a little daunting to see that my precious nuggets are so irrelevant.

Back to the question of Why? I think it is because, like playing solitaire or sudoku or a million other games, the ability to do something that looks as if I’m using my brain – ie, being human – is required to keep me sane. And I have used up the ability to be creative, so I settle for the APPEARANCE of creative: Look – I solved another HARD sudoku puzzle! I’m ME. I’m functional!

This is data.

I don’t think I’ve put it quite this clearly before: human brains WANT to create, to ‘do something useful with their time.’ If I can’t have real, I will settle for apparent. It’s Catch 22: if I have the energy to get myself out of the loop, I’m not IN the loop. If I’m IN the loop, I don’t have the energy to get myself out.

I’m learning. I can restore SOME functionality when I can put myself down for a nap. Afterward, most of the time (depending on the surcharge), there is some restoration of functionality for that day, that time – I may even get something done.

THE ANSWER: to be normal.

It’s not on the web. It’s interesting that after 23 years I still look for it. The brain wants what it wants: to be the way it used to be.


It’s over 29 years now.

Still here, still broken, still trying to find an answer I’ll remember when the brain refuses the jumps.

I am so boring!

Why do you surf?

Remembering an old and dear friend

Light bulbs in a line, with the one at the right end lifted, ready to be dropped. Test: Oldies but goodies, Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

WE HONOR THOSE WE REMEMBER

As I was going through old posts you may not have seen, I came across something with current applications, as well as remembering that day in Princeton when we put our friend (mine from our CFS support group and the Princeton Folk Music Society) Dr. Paul Whiter’s ashes into the memorial garden at the Episcopal church:

I was reminded of the fourth vow some Christian monks take in addition to their other vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the vow of stability, of staying in one place for the remainder of their lives. Thomas Merton wrote that it meant giving up the hope of finding somewhere else more perfect, and settling in, for life, to the ordinariness of the chosen place.

As fascinating, intelligent man, he would have enjoyed the community we have joined.

He touched many lives, with a gentle spirit.

From April, 2013, when we had just lost him: Words are my memories.

Photo of Dr. Paul Whiter

Keeping books alive while finishing writing

A baby coffee plant in a paper coffee cup, with three red coffee berries

Baby is a coffee plant; it’s finally unfurling

BABY IS A METAPHOR

And a real live coffee plant.

Yes, those are three other coffee beans.

We moved Feb. 5, and soon after that, one of the other residents dropped this off outside our door, based on a discussion he and my husband had about growing a coffee plant both as greenery and for the purpose of some day processing the beans – and making a cup of coffee from scratch.

The photos I posted before were of the barely emerged cotyledons (the first pair of leaves from a seed).

Water – specifically too much watering – is a problem for seedlings, and I was determined not to kill off the first living thing someone had given us a present in our new community.

But I was in no real condition to take care of a plant, and we were all winging it.

Becoming a plant midwife by necessity

The thing just sat there on the windowsill for days.

Mindful of the over-watering bit, I scrambled to put just a drop or two of water on the hard outer seed coating keeping the leaves enchained. Several times a day, I would paint the surface with a drop of water, hoping to hydrate the membrane so the plant could push the leaves out.

The giver had said something about helping the leaves emerge, and after days of the water-painting big, I finally decided to try something more proactive. I was convinced I’d already killed the thing anyway.

This is all happening after a move

The final move. To our apartment, the one that has two bedrooms and baths, and had taken three months to customize for us.

More disruptive than I could have known, the move took the few things I had managed to fish out of boxes for the temporary apartment (and five months is a long time to essentially live out of a suitcase) – and threw them in boxes to be transported up one floor, and over three units.

I lost everything all over again.

And I have not been so exhausted in a long time. I still am. ME/CFS doesn’t give you more energy because the stress level increases; the opposite is true.

Because, as everyone else knows, when you change apartments every single item has to be moved from one to the other. It isn’t a gentle thing.

The movers were great (and put our bed with the light bridge finally back together with all the pieces – it had been separated last May!), but the results were still as if a bulldozer had been used.

How is this relevant?

I couldn’t find anything to work with!

This is a tiny plant an inch or so tall, with twin stems, and I knew I could break the seed heads off with one careless or clumsy move.

Exhaustion isn’t helpful when doing fine work.

Finally, after a search through the Amazon boxes (because those contained the more recent stuff, as having been packed after the long move; the things from the original packing were in Home Depot boxes), I found my emergency sewing kit, and the perfect tool: a dressmaker’s pin with a  spherical plastic head to grip and a very fine point.

Midwifery successful

With the pin, and shaking fingers, I slashed at the confining cover little by little until I could fold away most of the hard casing, and over the next two days a wrinkled green thing emerged from each seedhead. At the beginning, it looked like the surface of a tiny brain.

Then the hydraulic pressure unfurled them a bit, and I was surprised to see two leaves separate from each.

Coffee seedlin after opening to two tiny leaves per stem

They are very shiny. You may be able to see that the liberating process left a few tiny holes in the leaves. My bad, but it’s free!

Also, you can see that the other three coffee beans are starting to rot (the one in the foreground has turned almost black), which is how these get started.

Of course, this means they will need their own coffee cups one of these days.

This is a metaphor for the way things are going

Because more and more people here have read PC, and all my print copies are out being read, and one person even insisted on buying the copy from me.

I have had to order a proof copy in the new system, as these are no longer being printed by Createspace.

If it’s basically identical, and uses the correct pdf files for cover and interior (I have heard horror stories), then I’ll have to get a few more author copies to have around.

None of this is marketing

My bugaboo.

As soon as the current situation improves (I actually finally started last night with something easy, and unpacked a couple of boxes today), in two or three hundred years at the present rate, I will plunge into both finishing Book 2 and marketing Book 1.

But meanwhile, I continue to find new readers one at a time, here and online, and some encouraging comments.

I’m sure the frazzled mental state is temporary.

I hope Baby makes it, too.

Do you have stories of forcing something to stay with us?


 

Christmas Present: a change of focus

A mug with the legend 'The Adventure Begins' over the image of a canooist. Text: A new life begins now, Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

KEEPING PROMISES TO MYSELF

I have been holding my breath for a very long time.

Worse than that (but necessary), I have been saving my physical and mental energy for well over six months now, not having enough to write because there was so much to do with moving, selling the house, getting used to a new place (temp.), and now, making the arrangements for the permanent new place.

I had gotten into hoarding mode: don’t spend the resources unless you absolutely must, because you cannot get more, and there are so many things which must be done.

Occasionally, I got a few days in where I was writing, or trying to, and the current scene would get a few more details or another bit of motivation or an insight, but the dark would sweep in again (okay, I’m exaggerating, but things became pressing, and I knew the whole process was depending on us doing something or making a decision on something, and it would take even longer to get over all the drama if we didn’t) and halt all progress on Book 2.

It seemed selfish to even attempt to write

because there are so many burdens on my husband I can’t help with, and there were a few things I could do for us.

I succeeded in NOT crashing, something that happens to us ME/CFS types when we overdo it, over such a long period I thought it would be forever.

And in keeping up some semblance of a cooperative household.

But the last couple of days I’ve realized that intense period is over.

And I have slipped into a waiting mode, a hoarding mode as I said, that is no longer strictly necessary.

There will be supervision.

And we do (he does) have to finalize the choice of ceiling fans.

And I need to remind Facilities that carpeting has a nap, and that seams need to go where they won’t be seen (I’ll write that email today so they have it whenever Christmas is past and someone decides to install the carpet).

Even PT is technically over

Long story. Some progress. But I am now on my own, with a set of exercises, and a sequence leading to the hardest in the set, all laid out on paper, with the timing up to me.

I have to be careful – that’s where some of that energy had to be spent – because the pattern is now ‘day of exercise, followed by two days of hugely increased pain,’ repeat ad infinitum. And dealing with that level of pain is exhausting.

But we were all pleased at how quickly I progressed, even with minimum repetitions, and I can get another referral for more PT when I feel I’ve mastered this bunch.

I am now officially hard-abbed and hard-assed (yay, isometrics and work against a resistance band), to a degree not acquired before.

It really helped to insist on being taught correct form until I got it – the difference is quite amazing for some of the exercises. We didn’t actually do physical therapy at the PT sessions: I used them to demonstrate progress, and get trained, and find out what next, in writing and pictures.

Which helped a lot when the first temp PT person, who was very good, left, and I met who she had told me was the permanent person here, only to find out that he is just as temporary! He’ll be here a while, and may still be when I decide on another bout, but I made sure he did an evaluation to document where I am now (I didn’t want to waste my last session with her on it), and there is a nice bit of progress.

Nothing earth-shattering – I still can’t walk without the walker – but a huge change in strength in appropriate muscle groups, and distinct progress.

So now all I have to do is keep doing it, pushing toward the exercises I can’t do well yet, and keeping everything core rock hard when moving something else…

And the question pops right up: are we writing?

Because, given a life of luxury and doing things to entertain myself, I would rather be writing, if only I can have my brain on board, please.

There will be a long (could be several months, might be just one) period between these last home choices and move-in day, but I can’t afford (writing-wise and mood-wise) to stay on hyper alert for being needed to do something at short notice, so much so that I have to save every drop of energy.

And I’m having some talks with myself about how to shake myself out of wait/interruption/hoard energy mode.

I need to create a semblance of a ‘new normal’ for myself

The old one is no longer available, whatever it was, and it didn’t allow for all the new opportunities I have now for exercising/moving/not just sitting.

The social opportunities need to be sorted out – we have a large number of lovely new acquaintances, but turning a few of those into new friends is just starting.

I love going to dinner and meeting new people – and wonder why I’m left as limp as the proverbial dishrag when it’s over. And the answer is that being coherent for an hour, and coping with a flow of new input, is very difficult for me. We have to eat. We can have dinner just us two at a small table. And no one will judge us. Except I do, sometimes, for having missed an opportunity!

I have a tendency to retreat into sudoku and other such entertainments which can be stopped at any time (ie, the unplanned interruptions).

I have a tendency to push myself to stay awake until the need for a nap is so overwhelming that it can’t really do its job of clearing out the debris of thinking.

I have a tendency not to plan when I know there isn’t a prayer of being able to follow the plan.

But my Christmas present to myself is to realize there is a new present

to be determined, and figured out, and planned.

I have paid most of the price for a new life. I am exceedingly grateful to have it.

Now I have to figure out how to open that present and live the new life, not just survive it.

And to remember that the next move, however horrible, will be to the promised land (yes, I still have to turn our new balcony into a bit of a garden because all I’ll be able to see most of the time is the flagpole).

Not so much New Year’s resolutions as waking up to the new world.

And getting Book 2 finished, etc., etc., while still getting into the pool as often as possible, and using the adult trike, and getting up my courage to buy and use an Airwheel S8 (my long-term plan for mobility). And learning to use CBD oil to manage some of the extra pain. And doing some trips out of here for something other than picking carpeting and going to church.

New life, new choices.

Present, not past or future.

I HOPE each of you is getting a present, too. I’d love to hear about it.


Christmas blessings to all who believe in Peace on Earth to humans of good will. There are still a majority, I am convinced. Don’t know why, except that I seem to be the eternal optimist. In spite of everything.


PS Not much feedback yet, but several people here have already read PC. And it would be amazing to be invited to participate in one of the many book clubs they belong to.


 

How best to take advantage of expert help

Photo of desk setup with laptop, giant monitor, window in background. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt's desk in Davis, California

The new working environment in Davis

DO YOUR PART BEFORE YOU CALL THE PROS

Yesterday was a very productive day.

I have acquired a local Mac guru, and he came and spent three hours with me, sitting at my computer to get me past the July crash.

My intention had been to spend the day before getting ready for him by clearing out the working space I’ve set up, and finally unpacking several boxes full of the things I keep within reach when I write.

The best laid plans of mice and women

Of course, things never go exactly as planned.

Just as I had finished futzing with all the trivia online for the day, the spouse decided to come in and take a nap before dinner.

My ‘office’ is in the Master Bedroom (ie, the only one), and I was faced with the dilemma of starting my planned tidying-up with a sleeping man a few feet away. And the chair squeaks enough already. The other alternative, wasting up to two hours sitting in the living room, was not what I wanted to do.

And I was conscious that I had wasted all the morning, and the guru was coming the next morning at ten.

So I proceeded

as quietly as possible, to continue the plan to end up with a clean desk, the three boxes around the desk area unpacked, and me prepared with my questions for my new and untried helper (the last one wasn’t much help).

That was the plan.

The next hour or so would have made a good Laurel and Hardy movie.

I am pig-headed, Part umptyfrat

I had everything from my file cabinets on my side of the bed, right behind the desk. Piles ready and able to fall over, catch in the covers, get completely mixed up.

But this meant that I could rearrange the rug I’m using under where the chair sits so it would stop catching and tripping me, and in a more permanent way, protect the carpet from the desk chair.

So I decided that once I had loaded up the file cabinets again, I would have lost this opportunity to use them to pin down the edges of the rug and keep it (one hopes) from sliding out of place a little more every time I moved the chair.

Which then meant that I had to move the stiff rug and two short file cabinets into position while making no noise, and all by myself.

That brief description should have daunted me, and kept me from even trying until I had an awake helper, but (proof that I needed another nap), it did not.

I wish I could have saved a video recording of the process for your entertainment. I am quite flexible, though I can’t walk much at all, so I was down on the floor, in an extremely confined space, trying at the beginning to do this all without removing any of the things on top of the desk.

Then by removing the monitor and the laptop.

And finally, with no room at all to store the pieces meanwhile, by removing everything from my desktop slab – the computer stuff up onto the window ledge, the other bits and pieces to the tiny spaces around the desk location – and standing the silly top against the wall so that it would not come crashing down (silence, remember?).

But at each step I thought I could do it

and that it would only take a little bit more to be able to slide the rug under the two file cabinets, line everything up, and resume the real part of the task, unpacking.

The secondary problem, which I didn’t realize when I started, but should have known, was that, when they reconstructed the king-size platform bed in this room, the likelihood of it being completely square to the walls (I assume the building is squared) was nil.

So picture me, literally, on my hands and knees, trying to position a rug I’m sitting on, by making a little hill in one end, placing my weight on it, and trying to propagate that hill to the other end of the rug (like a caterpillar moving), so it would end up a half-an-inch from the platform bed (because otherwise the chair wheels catch).

As a lovely side effect, I had turned the AC control up (so the AC wouldn’t come on so frequently), couldn’t get out of the room easily (and noiselessly), and I worked myself into exhaustion – and a serious overheating condition before I realized what was going on.

To be followed – as soon as I realized what was happening – by serious cooling in the form of AC and cold water, and wondering if I was going to be able to get control of all the pieces before our dinner engagement with another couple we’d be meeting for the first time in a very short time.

Don’t worry too much – I made it

Once everything was cleared off the top, and me cooled (husband is still sleeping!), I was able to slide everything into position. I quickly filled the file cabinets with the original (unprocessed) files – as weights to hold down the edges of the rug.

We have enough storage space – drawers under the bed and holding printer and scanner and lightbridge – so I just shoved things in to get them out of the way. The next day I was able to present a clear desk with just my computer equipment (taking everything off made that easier.

Will watch for overheating and dehydration (had a lot of water after) sooner next time. Because there always is a next time.

When the guru came the next morning

I was ready with a short list of the things I needed first, which included Mail (ultimately put on hold), Calendar with the dates for Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD in their places (still have to recover the rest of the calendar data), and me waiting for the software serial number from Write Brothers which I got with a phone call later that afternoon. The folks there gave me a free upgrade and I was back into my Dramatica files immediately.

It was a real learning experience. Sai will update my file structure later, and help recover whatever is still available. I’ll be surprised if it isn’t practically everything I had before (I do have Dropbox and Time Machine backups), even if it takes a bit of work, and he’ll leave me far more organized than I’ve been.

I managed not to seem too out of it, and he knew everything I asked (kudos, White Wave Digital), and was very careful not to do anything irreversible as he went. He told me to disconnect the old external hard drive (all the Time Machine backups before the crash) until we’ve mined it.

But it was good to be able to work with him, and connect Mac-wise. I haven’t had one or needed one before, but I was definitely out of my depth on this recovery (thanks, Apple, for the smart saving of pieces), and delighted to find someone who already knows this community and the people who live here – I didn’t even have to tell him where I was or get the front desk to let him in!

Easy peasy, and I definitely didn’t make things worse.

I’ll settle for that. People who know exactly what they’re doing are worth their weight in your currency of choice.

I know how lucky I am that we hit it off.

And I’m ready to write again.


Quick reminder: check out the sidebar for some of my favorite posts which you might not have seen.

My Patreon link is there, too, if you’re impatient for Book 2 – I am finally in a position to access all my files for the ‘backstage’ part of my writing process (assuming you’re not squeamish).

And hope to get finished efficiently from now on with NETHERWORLD so there will be more than one book link at the top. In the process of regaining my Calendar data, I remembered how much I like the end of this, the middle trilogy book. Can’t wait to get there – but much plot remains before I’ve earned it.


Feel free to share similar experiences; I’m feeling escamada, which is Spanish for sneaking past by the skin of your teeth, feeling you barely escaped – the hairs on the back of your neck stand up at the close call.

From a slow writer: NETHERWORLD in scenes

 

Not a working button; link in SIDEBAR

ONLY FOR THE IMPATIENT

Me at Patreon.

I can’t do an actual Patron linked button because this is a WordPress.com free blog (for which I’m very grateful), and you can’t sell things from them. [Figured out how to make a link available in the sidebar!!! – updated 4/16/18]

I am literally terrified to change anything on my blogs. It isn’t the money, though, unless you’re selling very well, costs can be more than you earn.

It’s change. There is so much change in my life right now, I can’t take on any more.

Plus it’s time – to figure out a WordPress.org site would take more time than it’s worth, and make NETHERWORLD even later. Seems counterproductive.

Click the link (not the fake button) – there will be a few scenes from the beginning, and in a week or so, all of the first chapter (Chapter 21 in the continued Pride’s Children numbering) for you to read.

For those who become patrons, I’ll post the scenes as close as possible to finishing them, as I serialized PURGATORY in 2013 – 2015, and they’ll get access to the completed book a little sooner than the general public.

Why?

I did this for myself, for the fun of it. I expect few of the people who say they can’t wait for Book 2, Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD, to be serious enough about it to sign up for an inexpensive Patreon and get the scenes as I finish creating and polishing them, in my painfully slow and deliberate writing process. I’ve made it ‘pay per creation’, not monthly, in case my cache of startup finished scenes runs out.

I know I can do this – I serialized PURGATORY, publishing a finished scene every Tuesday for two years. It’s presumably going to be a bit faster this time.

There will be some extra content, available in special posts, because I generate at least 10 to 100 times more words than end up in a typical 2000 word scene during the writing thereof, and some of it is interesting.

Since I will be talking mostly to true fans, I expect to have some discussions and questions of a different sort than on this general writing/life blog of mine. If so, I’m hoping it will encourage the writing. That is if anyone signs up: I’ll do the writing anyway.

It’s a different beast from this* or the Pride’s Children blog**

For one, I have expectations of my patrons (and tell them right up front), which I’m always muting in the world in general (where nobody wants to hear writers talk endlessly about their ‘creations’).

It’ll be all about the book and the writing and the characters, and possibly the research and the ideas…

Not so much ego (though there’s plenty of that) as self-centeredness. Me, me, ME. And my book, of course.

Different focus, different content, and me as supreme ruler of… Oops! Don’t have any interest in running the world – too much work, not enough writing time. Just what I’d love to talk to people about, as they try to slip away.

(*General and writing and life posts here.)

(**The Pride’s Children blog was specifically created for those who want to be notified when NETHERWORLD is finished, and I promised not to use it for anything but that and the occasional sales.)


Finishing the trilogy and the story is still top priority

Writing fiction is still the main focus, and everything else comes to a halt when the brain and body give me a break and I can write. And I won’t be writing too much additional content/new blog posts at Patreon, but more grabbing ‘bits’ and throwing them out there from the massive archives.

And patrons can join or quit any time.

I’m doing this for fun – and for me.


Figured out how to make a link available in the sidebar!!!

Fearlessly make a stress inventory and face it

FACING STRESS IS A TOUGH ONE FOR ME

I realized that I’ve been living in a very tightly wound knot, and I’m making myself aware of how often I need to relax my shoulders and breathe.

Stress has the potential to further affect my health, even as far as accelerating my death, and exposing me to not very pleasant forms of that.

Normally, I’m a calm person, but the past couple of years, continuing chronic illness (ME/CFS), the debilitating back pain I will find a surgeon for once we’re settled (maybe), plus new health challenges give me a resting platform that would be too much for anyone not used to it (or who has a choice).

But I didn’t realize how MUCH stress

I’m laughing at myself (laughter at self, good) because I recently identified that my assistant, who works for me part-time, was carrying way too much stress from her other, real, job, and family circumstances, and I wisely gave her one of the stress inventories available online, suggested she fill it out, and she did, and she discussed it with her doctor WITH her parents present – and I think it helped.

So I was primed – and knowledgeable – and still to clueless to realize I had an awful lot of extra stress this past year.

Fear for your life is big stress –

but you can’t think about that every minute. Not unless there’s something you need to be doing.

Including coming up this Feb. 21 on the one year anniversary of the stent debacle last year (from Feb. 6 to 22, IIRC), where it took the (?) cardiologists three heart catheterizations, 4 hospital admissions in two hospitals in different states, a nuclear stress test, and luck – before they found the place (on the third stent) which was going to cause a nice heart attack as soon as it closed up a bit more. Don’t ignore chest pain, folks.

Two more days, and all I’ll have left is the medical PTSD (keeps biting at odd times); the memory of the horrible side effects of the drugs, all of which I dumped; the possibility of more drugs if the flu (yup, I’m getting over the flu, too, and yes, I had the shot) after-effects don’t go away.

I hate turning into a hypochondriac, so I ignore anything that isn’t severe – while remembering that doctors sent me home from the first catheterization with chest pain – and a clean bill of health.

So, facing the stress requires listing all the possible sources

Very partial list:

Moving: We’ve lived in this house, only the second one we’ve ever owned, since 1981. On March 5th it will have been 37 years. I’m pretty useless around the house any more, so all the fixing will have to be done through intermediaries, which means finding, making decisions, following up on, paying strangers wandering through my house. And making the decisions (and expenditures) necessary to sell a house in good enough condition to attract a decent buyer.

Dejunking: With each assistant, I’ve been dealing with the stuff which accumulates in a house with five people and the mother ill. For literally YEARS. With no false sense of keeping it all forever. To show a house, it must be tidy, the closets must feel airy and large, and the storage spaces should appear ample. Do you have any idea how many coats I’ve given away? How many remain? And how many are not mine?

Finding our forever home: I’m not doing this again, so we have to pick a place to live, with our diminishing energy for the task and before other people have to do it for us, that we will die in. I’ve written about Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), and we’ll be visiting California to pick one, knowing it’s intended to be a permanent move.

Kids: I will point out that any good parent of adult children worries like crazy about everything (and ours are doing well), by definition.

Family: How to see our far-flung offspring, and arranging the once-a-year vacation, with activities at all levels from zero (me) to healthy young adult. We weren’t doing the ‘visit Mom and Dad for the holidays’ thing anyway (they no longer really fit here, and there’s nothing to do, especially nothing I can participate in).

Finances: Goes without saying, even if you have savings – plus there’s that pesky bit about spending after you’ve spent your entire adult life (especially since disability meant I would not be earning again) NOT-spending. They want how much for a two-bedroom apartment at the CCRC?

Gizzy: A big problem. Rodents are not welcome at all CCRCs, chinchillas are long-lived, and she’s been a bit spoiled. It would be better for her to have a younger owner. Define ‘better.’ And how to find one, and hand her over safely. I will take her with us if I have to, but I’m coming to the realization that this may not be the best solution for either of us. Love the little gray furball.

You get the idea.

There are actually many many more, and some of them are connected with writing.

Slow writers have a problem in that the possible feedback from self-publishing (not even going anywhere near what writers who are not established enough to call the shots go through with traditional publishing) is slow. Unless the writer does all the things successful indies do – promotion, newsletters and mailing lists, interviews, keyword ads – the best help is the next book, and Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD will probably not be finished this year, not at the current rate. It goes well – the advantage of a writing system like mine is the ability to work on a manageable piece at a time – but slower than usual.

Benefits of dealing rather than slogging on

The payback for doing the move should be the ability to dump a lot of the above stresses, and get back to a writing schedule which doesn’t keep getting interrupted.

Okay, those of you laughing in the back: I know it doesn’t work that easily.

But I do have the fact behind me that when I finished my parents’ final tax returns, and mailed them to the IRS, that stress just stopped. Hard. I worried for a day or two I might have done something incorrect – and cut that out. The paperwork supported the returns I mailed in – and that’s that. I have a nice plastic box an inch thick only with everything I might need if audited. Done.

I have started

I sent my assistant to the basement with my iPhone to take pictures of the information on the tile boxes. I checked out that the tile store I bought the front hall and bathroom tile from are still in business. Closed, by the time I checked, but open tomorrow.

I called the recommended mason. Yes, he does chimneys on roofs! Sent him pictures I finally extracted from the husband’s OneDrive. He is coming by tomorrow to take a look. Yes!

Oh, and I finished the last beat of the last scene of the next chapter – and listened to it in the robot voice – and it’s fine. I think I’m writing cleaner and sparer as I go (but it could just be this scene).

I firmly believe there are a finite number of steps necessary to get a house ready for market. I am determined to direct the efforts. I talked to someone who will call me back tomorrow about staging (yay cellphones – she was half a country away on a trip).

The flu will go away. I will find something to eat, and watch Olympics, and try to get some sleep.

And go back to whatever I can do tomorrow.

Did it help to list the stressors?

Yes, but the danger there is that listing is not reducing. Only reducing is helpful in the long run. Had we any intention to stay here when I started nagging several years ago, they’re gone. The movement is forward, interrupted by everything.

It’s keep moving – or literally die trying.

If I could finish my writing first, please?