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I made some rather bold plans for this year. While it’s barely two months in to the year, I already feel like I’ve fallen woefully far behind.

I was medically cleared after my surgery in January. I was excited to start walking more and regaining my strength. I had things I wanted to try, things I was going to work on to try to earn money.

And then, after only a few days of trying to get back to my life… It all came back. The pain was unbearable. My leg barely worked.

Several phone calls, a trip to the ER, and an emergency MRI later… My disc re-herniated and I’m back to where I was 3 months ago.

I meant to write here more. I have at least a dozen blog posts written, I just never posted them. I’m not even sure why. What was I waiting for?

Like a lot of people, when I’m depressed, I tend to withdraw. And right now? I’m extremely withdrawn. I just wanted to have my life back. Not even “my” life, just “A” life would have been great.

I don’t want to be on my couch, in too much pain to do much more than nap all winter long. But that seems to be where I’m at. I know that I need to take it slow, be kind to myself, and let my body heal. I know it’s the most important thing. But having to “rest” for months on end is its own special kind of torment.

2019 – The Hits

To say that 2019 was a year of change, would be a gross understatement. I do believe that change is constant and our adaptability to it is a big part of what shapes our reality. However, it’s a little extreme when your entire sense of self shifts.

I had to stop working in June because of debilitating pain in my spine, being unstable on my feet, and not being able to see clearly out of my right eye.

Now, for a normal person, any one of those things on their own would likely be enough to give them pause. For me, I had suffered with the first two for a very long time as they steadily got worse. It wasn’t until I could no longer work around the last item that I contacted the company I subcontracted from and told them I needed to stop. I told them I thought my brain tumor might be back.

The fact that I would have heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, and sobbing anxiety meltdowns every time I had to leave for a job, never seemed like a valid excuse to make a change. It wasn’t until I was also unable to see that I stopped.

As I sit here today, I am baffled as to why I STILL believe the destruction of my mental and emotional health is not a valid reason to make a change to my behavior when it comes to work. Instead, I pushed through the misery, made sure I didn’t eat, carefully scheduled out my days to the minute, and cried in the car. And I made myself do the work, even though at the end of the day, it wasn’t even a living wage. Or even minimum wage.

The progression from optometrist, to neurologist, to spine surgeon was relatively quick.

The good news is that my brain tumor seems to be stable. The bad news is that back pain I’ve had forever, the grinding in my spine, the shooting leg pain, the tremors I would have to stretch out, are because I have no discs left L2 and down. Words like “degenerative disc disease,” and “root nerve compression” started to be thrown around. I learned about EMG tests and how many of the things I’ve lived with – and mentioned to medical professionals – for years, were not normal.

I has surgery on my spine in November to try and save function in my leg. There’s nothing to be done for the rest of my spine.

I will never have improved function in my spine. Right now is as good as it gets. The only thing to be done is try to preserve what I have left. It’s scary. I think about all the hard labor I’ve done over the years while my back screamed in pain and I pushed through it because that’s what you’re supposed to do, and I shudder.

In January this year, I shoveled my driveway because no one else would do it. No matter how much I explained that I shouldn’t do it because I fall over, because I can’t grip a shovel with my broken hand, because it kills my back, because I have been expressly told on several occasions that I SHOULD NOT SHOVEL SNOW. I couldn’t get any help. And if the snow didn’t get moved, I was going to be snowed in for quite some time. So I shoveled snow. It hurt so much. By the time I had to stop, I could barely move. I spent most of the next two weeks laying down. That’s probably when I herniated the disc in my back. But that wasn’t enough to send me to a doctor.

So much of my energy has been wrapped up in my health, it feels like I haven’t been able to do much else. I’ve been working on disability paperwork, and trying to find work that my health will allow. It’s a very long process. The mental adjustment is probably harder.

I don’t want to be disabled. It feels like self-pity. I know it isn’t, but that’s the struggle between knowing things intellectually, and accepting them emotionally.

In the midst of this, a few other things happened in my life. A partner I pined for over the course of a decade, ended up being not who I thought they were. Letting go of that idea was devastating. I also lost a very close friendship. I cried over that for months. My ex-husband started legal action against me barely seven months after our divorce was finalized.

It feels selfish to complain. In the last month and a half, close friends of mine have suffered unimaginable tragedies so I shouldn’t talk, right?

But that’s not how life works. We all have our own individual struggles. We can all have horrible things happen to us, all at the same time. In the end, isn’t that what life is all about?

Year-end recaps always struck me as odd. Who can keep track of all these things? I can’t remember what I did this morning let alone what books I read in April. This year felt different because of the over arcing difficulty of my health. I don’t know what 2020 will look like. I assume I’ll spend a lot of time trying to figure out what my life is going to look like. You’re all welcome to come along for the ride.

Etsy Shopping

After much encouragement, I’ve finally opened an Etsy shop for my art!

With the challenges of my employment situation (which is the nicest possible way to say I’m in too much pain to work), this seemed like a really great option!

I’ve put up a lot of plants so far in hopes that they’re of broad enough appeal that I’ll sell a few and be able to buy some more groceries. It’s been working a bit!

Nothing to do but keep trying, right?

Please Check out The Dreaming World Shop on Etsy!

White Peony on black paper

Contest in Review

It was brought to my attention that I never updated ya’ll on the Dream Foundry contest!

I was not selected as winner for the contest. I know, sad panda all around. It was amazing and very affirming to have been selected as a finalist and I am still quite thrilled about that!

Congratulations to the winners! Good luck to all of us on our future endeavors. 🙂

Dream Foundry Finalist

The most shocking and amazing thing has happened.

No, not that.

I have been selected as one of ten finalists in the Dream Foundry writing contest! It’s astonishing! I can’t believe I’m one of ten finalists from a pool of over 300…

It was a struggle to not title this post “Clerical Error.” Instead it just reinforced how strong the impostor syndrome is with me! I had no idea.

I almost didn’t submit. That’s how this works. I wasn’t really happy with my story, I wanted to do another round of edits. I had finished a small rewrite, but wanted to read through it again and clean up the rough edges. I was pushing up against the deadline for the contest but I was exhausted and knew I couldn’t force myself to stay up any longer, and even if I did, that I wouldn’t be doing good work.

I reminded myself of one of my favorite pieces of writing advice: Don’t self reject. You never know if you’ll get into an anthology or a contest, or if an agent will like your pitch, if you don’t ever send it out.

So I sent it.

I was totally blown away to be selected as a finalist. Keeping it to myself was so very hard! Now that it’s out there, I’ve had a wonderful time sharing my joy with others.

Congratulations to everyone who participated, and especially to my fellow finalists. Personally, I think we should all be friends now. hehe

It will be another couple weeks before we know the winners, but quite frankly, I’m so thrilled to be a finalist, and have my work in front of judges I respect, is a prize in and of itself.

Vulnerability

Being a creative person and blogging, both require a certain amount of openness and vulnerability. If you ask any of the people I have dated in the past, you would quickly find out that those are not things that come easily to me.

I struggle.

There’s a fine line between being truly one’s self with whole and open recklessness, and being a genuine and honest person. I am comfortable saying I am an honest person. I know I mean what I say, and I take others at their word.

I am terrified of being vulnerable. I have been hurt so much, that openness feels like asking to be traumatized. And I’m full up on trauma tyvm.

What happens then, is that something will happen, I’ll take time to process it and withdraw. Then something else happens and I’m already withdrawn. Which means I’m hurting again, but now I’m also very much alone.

In my life, the escalation is fast, and dramatic.

After the fourth or fifth trauma, I’m devastated, alone, out of options, and putting any energy into artistic things – stuff that makes life worth living – is impossible. More than impossible. It’s a distant joke.

Creating is one of the most important things in my life. When I can’t focus on it, when my thoughts are a desperate handful of soggy crackers, it’s like I’ve lost myself. I don’t know how to get back from here, but I know I will. I always do.

I will always carry these burdens. This most recent trauma, will be with me forever. A very deep scar across my heart. It has taken my faith in inherant goodness, a piece of my identity, a part of my fragile joy, and a slice of my light. I’m still working through how I move forward from it.

I need to create. Even when my well is dry. Because it’s usually barren.

Progress is progress

I had two short story anthologies I was working on this past month.

The first one, I totally blew. I thought I would have an easier time working on it than I did and the whole thing sort of fell apart. That’s okay, I realized it wasn’t working for me early on and moved to the second.

That one took off splendidly. I was drawn in quickly and my MC asserted her voice in that way that lets me know we’ll make it through. That isn’t to say it still wasn’t hard – it was. I think I’m still so rusty, that everything is difficult.

I put in the work though and we’re on the second round of edits. I’m feeling pretty good about it and plan to start shopping around once I’m finished.

It’s good to have something that feels like a complete thought. Even when I’m also certain that it’s terrible. Oh hell, it’s terrible, isn’t it? Crap. Well, I’ll keep working on it.

-R

More TI work

I’ve got another feedback post up on the Tickled Ink blog. It’s a longer one but I found it quite engaging! Check it out and let me know what you think.

-R/AC

The Publishing Cycle

Last week I wrote a little piece over on the TI blog about the sad news regarding Less Than Three Press. The loss of this publisher has been felt deeply by myself, and many of my friends.

LT3 filled an important role in romance publishing. They actively supported marginalized voices, and treated their writers well. It was wonderful to have a mid sized publisher like them around, especially for new and emerging writers.

I have one title with LT3. It’s old enough now that I’m not entirely sure that I’ll re-release it. I haven’t decided. I photographed my own cover for the novella, so I’d still have that! The perfectionist in me wants to go back over the story and polish things up. I feel so much more confident about my writing these days, and I’m sure the piece could use some work.

At least two other authors I know have opted to not re-release their work that was with LT3, primarily for the same reason. They’re older works and perhaps not as reflective of their author’s current work. I get it.

There are a few uncomfortable realities that go along with this. The first is that as of now, both publishers I’ve worked with have closed. It’s a worrying pattern within small and mid range publishers. What will we have when none of these can survive? Will it only be the big publishers and self pub, with nothing in between? That’s quite worrisome.

The other is simply that it reminds me how long its been since I’ve published anything. It’s been years. I’m not a fan. I’ve spoken with a few friends and my current goal is to have another novel finished by the end of the year so I can start shopping it around to publishers.