Saturday, January 16, 2016

My Aching Body, My Aching Pen

I realize I haven't been on here for a VERY long time. By way of explanation, 2015 was a super challenging year in so many ways, and it still seems I am trying to drag myself up from the murky depths it left me in.

In April of last year, I thought I had injured my knee. It ballooned up like an elephant's, and I couldn't put any weight on it. After several doctor's visits, I had some fluid drawn to check for infection etc... Meanwhile, my shoulders began to ache. Then my hips. Then my wrists and my fingers. My husband said it's like I went from 45 to 85 practically over night. Whatever had me in its grips had spread like a wildfire throughout my body. I was terrified, and even the smallest tasks felt daunting. I kept teaching, but the mornings (when I normally would be writing) were excruciating and exhausting. Finally, the results came back that whatever was happening in my knee was a rheumatoid response, and after several more visits I was finally diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. It's an autoimmune disease which causes an inflammatory response in the joints. My body was essentially attacking itself; I was literally self-destructing.

Suddenly, all of those prescription drug commercials on TV were aimed at me. I had never even heard of this thing before. But despite the prescription promises, the drugs I was prescribed took almost four months to kick in. And what this meant for me in the interim was that I stopped writing. Sitting at my desk was difficult, typing hurt. And I was absolutely and completely distracted by a very uncertain future. For a long time, I began to wonder if this was just the way my life was going to be from now on. I tried to envision a daily existence where I was in too much pain to sit at my desk, and wondered how on earth I would ever write another book. And then, finally, miraculously (though hardly over night), I started to feel better. The magic pills (which apparently are used in chemotherapy treatments -- um, seriously?) started to kick in. And slowly but surely my life started to come back to me.

But the novel that was due in October was hard work. I managed to complete a draft, but every single word was difficult to write. I have never thought of writing as work before this novel. Just as I'd never appreciated the ease with which my arms rose to put a glass away in the cupboard, or of my knees bent so I could climb stairs, I never thought about how readily stories came to me. How easily sentences seemed to craft themselves. In the strangest way, it felt like I was writing a novel for the first time.

And now, even as my immune system has been put in check, I am still struggling with this novel. Every morning I sit down and stare at the voluminous notes from my editor and want to cry. And then I look at the book itself and DO cry. It is hard work, and it hurts. BUT, slowly, incrementally, it seems to be getting better. The edits seem just a little bit easier to make. As with my body, there are good days and bad days. Days I'd really just rather go back to bed and hide.

So, that is where I am. Struggling. Just in case anybody was wondering.