I’ve not written much over the course of the past few months, mainly because I’ve been rushing to finish what started to be an edit but wound up being a major rewrite of my book. I’m almost there. Just a few last things and it’ll be ready to send off to my agent. But first, I’m forwarding it to a trusted beta reader to make sure my chapters are all in order, that there’s no major plot holes, or change of perspective in the middle of the page – you know, that stuff that makes a writer look less than professional.
What’s made this so hard is that I’ve been entirely distracted by events surrounding me: the pandemic, my job, my health, anxiety, elections – the usual suspects of 2020.
There were long stretches of time where I found myself unable to write. After a long day of working hard to keep the nonprofit that employs me afloat, my brain dried up. Sometimes even watching TV became too much of a challenge. That’s when I turned to “Schitt’s Creek” for diversion. Never failed to make me laugh.
But something ridiculous happened while watching TV: I became jealous of the characters in the show. How happy they were to dine out with friends. Or go shopping without a care in the world. Enjoying the latest Hollywood epic in a dark crowded theater. Sharing a generous plate of antipasto. Dancing in sweaty, jam-packed night clubs. How come I couldn’t do these things anymore?
Okay, it’s been years since I went dancing in a sweaty, jam-packed night club. But still.
I felt my two-bedroom cottage, adorable by anyone’s standard, closing in on me. Even though I took advantage of sitting at my picnic table with my laptop, working in the relative cool of the mornings throughout the summer, I took no joy in my once-fulfilling job. In fact, it seemed kind of imaginary. Everything we did was virtual – meetings, interviews, events. What universe was I living in? Who signed me up for this?
Imagine watching an episode of “The Twilight Zone” in which our hero finds themselves locked in a relatively comfortable space, with all their basic needs fulfilled yet doomed to remain within it and no hope of escape. Groceries appear weekly. Occasional meals delivered. Entertainment streamed directly to your screen. Yet personal contact is nearly nonexistent. You’re alone, all alone. I know if I’d seen this show, I’d be a bit freaked by it.
Incredibly, it was real and it happened to me.
Perhaps, most acutely, what got to me most was my vanishing family. Not all that long ago, I had parents, a sibling, a husband, a son. Some good friends too. I never once imagined a time they’d all be gone. Over the course of a few moments, the parents passed, my husband left, my son grew up, my friends disappeared. Fortunately, my sister remained.
New friends mean well, but sometimes say things that aren’t helpful. I started crying on Tuesday, out of the blue. My son wanted to come home, but because of COVID, couldn’t. My sister and her husband came up, because they isolate. I mentioned to a friend how awful and lonely I felt. Her response wasn’t what I expected. She couldn’t imagine how I felt, because her family was around her and they had other friends they’d been visiting too.
That’s not what I wanted to hear. Wanted just a little sympathy and a shoulder to cry on. Instead, it felt more like salt in a wound. Can’t hold it against her, though – it’s the truth.
Somehow, I manage. It’s little things that keep me going. I get up early and walk three miles in my very scenic town. I lift weights and do a workout when I get back. I stick to a routine during the week and allow for flexibility on the weekends. I get in my car and take a drive. Never looked forward to doctor’s visits like I do now – they’re practically social. And that leg surgery I had recently? Almost like a visit to a spa. I’ve even gone to my former place of employ, Phipp’s, to shop and say hi to my old friends.
At the end of July, I got serious with my manuscript. I read it through, making notes as I went along. The second time through, I did major rewrites. The third time through, I fine-tuned it. The fourth time, I checked for errors. Now it goes to the beta reader.
I’m just about at the point where I can pick this blog up again and write it with regularity. Tell you the truth, even if no one reads it, I enjoy writing it. It’s good therapy and connects me to the outside world. So hopefully I’ll continue this Friday night ritual with increasing regularity, and I look forward to hearing from you all and reading your blogs too.