By Alexa Padgett
A few weeks ago, when Amy said she was struggling to get her butt in her chair and pound out her words, I told her she should carve out time, set a schedule and make it happen. While this was—and still is—great advice for those normal work days, what does one do when life is no longer normal? When it’s scary and full of grief and disappointment?
Do you know? I didn’t. Still don’t. But I’m learning, and it’s painful.
One of my children suffers from anxiety and depression. Child needs extra support and is often frustrated by Child’s inability to be “normal” like Child’s peers. So when an opportunity came for Child to spend a weekend with one of the groups Child has been part of for years, my husband and I agonized as to whether we should let Child go. We talked it through with Head Volunteer, expressing our concerns. I talked about the opportunity with both Child’s psychiatrist and counselor. We agreed to the weekend, and Child came home happy. Child had so much fun!
Child’s Head Volunteer called a few days later. Child had made a comment that made Head Volunteer worried. Calls were made, Child needed monitoring, and I spent the better part of a week dealing with a slew of organizations, Child’s mental health team and Head Volunteer.
Writing didn’t happen at its normal pace, of course, and not just because I was worried about Child. I needed to make calls, be available for appointments and for Child. But I stuck to my schedule as best I could, forcing myself to sit down at the same time, every day, and write for at least two hours. Most of the work from those days is schlock that will end up in the bottom of my digital trash can (where it belongs). That wasn’t the point of the exercise—I imposed normalcy into my days and wrote because that’s what I do, that’s who I am.
Then, my parents’ dog, whom I’m sure they love at least as much as me (he’s been with them for the past thirteen years while I’ve been out of the house, married, raising children), came to stay with us while the folks traverse the Pacific Northwest and cruise to Alaska. His back legs quit functioning and I feared a stroke, especially after he peed all over my (best) rug. My already-split focus turned toward Mom’s pooch, cajoling him to eat, nurturing him as best I can. He seems better, once again in control of his rump. But during these days, more writing time—and energy—fell away to ensure both Child’s continued health and pup’s longevity.
During these other crises, I received a rejection letter from a publisher I really wanted to work with. Cue further disappointment and soul-searching. I was sad and stressed. I fell into bed, exhausted, frustrated and ready to give up on schedules, goals and dreams.
I awoke, took a deep breath and decided I wouldn’t slack off, I would not give in to the self-doubt.
But within hours, we received the most shocking and brutal blow of the week: A friend was in the hospital. Prognosis was poor and his two children, one not yet a teen, faced the very real possibility of a life without a father. My children responded with support—I was so proud of their strength!—and then, much later, fell apart with me, needing reassurance I could not offer. I’d spoken with the kids’ mom and understood the most likely scenario was he would never awaken.
Friday and Saturday were an emotional struggle. Everyone has been coping with their grief, but just barely. When it’s so fresh, so stark and new, barely seems remarkably good.
Any one of these situations can cause a gal to feel like she’s been punched in the throat by that fickle bitch, fate. But all together… this was too much!
But even when touched by tragedy, life continues, and Sunday was release day for The Magician’s Ruins. While I didn’t do much, my presence was necessary via social media. I connected with my readers. Monday brought another deadline: this blog post I’d yet to write.
As the week progresses, I’ll field more calls, make the necessary visits to mental health professionals, to the dog’s vet, to the pet store, to my friend, holding her hand and holding her kids when they cry. I’ll make dinners for them and my family. I’ll shed tears and hold my kids as they shed more.
But…eventually, I’ll open my work-in-progress. I’ll add some words. They’ll probably join last week’s trash in the digital dung heap, but I will write. Writing helps me process my emotions, center my thoughts. I’m a writer, an author. It’s what I do. It’s who I am.
Over time, I’ll type something worth sharing, make another connection.
Because I am a writer, an author. And writing’s what I do.