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Category Archives: writing

Purpose and control

I was watching television and a character said he became a doctor because it was always his way to try to control things. Being a doctor made him feel he was in control of his life and his patients’ lives.

I was sitting there watching and it was like one of those AHA! moments. I started wondering if my fiction writing (which I’d been doing since I was a pre-teen) was my way of controlling things in my life. Or finding a way to have control in a world where I really had no control, especially when I first became sick…which is when I started intensely on my writing career and when I was first published.

When I talked about this with T, it also made sense as to why I haven’t been able to write very much in the last few years. I’ve worked so hard to release my idea of controlling everything, and so my default way of writing–and seeing my writing–is no longer the same. T said she could see exactly what I was dealing with, and she felt the discovery was a very interesting and insightful one. I’m not sure how I will be able to write again, but T thinks I’ll find a way. I certainly don’t want to go backward in order to find my ability to write again, but as I am now, I feel like my solace in writing is gone. I used to be able to disappear into my books and create lives and worlds where everything was the way I wanted it to be. But now, where I see that control really is an illusion–even though I’m still working on that in my own life–I’m not sure how to create stories the way I used to.

At the moment, I even feel like I’m struggling to get my ideas across in this post. I feel jumbled and like the words I want are not here. It’s sad and disappointing right now. The thing that I always went to feels like it’s well and truly gone. I mean, I know I haven’t worked on any of my books in recent years, nor have I really started anything new of note, but I guess I thought it would still be there to save me.

It sounds dramatic, but really my writing did save me when I got sick. There were days I never made it out of bed except to go to the bathroom, and yet those were the days where I wrote my books. Those were the most productive days of my writing career. Through pain and vertigo and fatigue…I wrote my books. I wrote deep into the night, hours and hours at a time, and slept through until noon. I would eat lunch and then go back to my writing. It kept me sane, it gave me a life to live when I couldn’t live my own life. My hands would cramp, my arms would ache (I wrote my books in longhand), my neck would hurt…but I kept writing. That was the first time I ever wrote a full-length book, and it was the first time I persisted in finding a publisher for that book.

And here I am, in need of that solace, and unable to find it.

I’m not the same person I was, no question about it. I just don’t know how to be the person I am and still have the purpose I had then.

 

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Missing in(action)

I didn’t really realize how long it had been since I posted. I know a lot of stuff has (and hasn’t) happened, but I was genuinely shocked to note that it’s been a month since I last blogged.

Update on my mom. She’s still feeling well, which seems to surprise every doctor she’s seen. We’ve had multiple “second” opinions from a couple of doctors who are top docs in her particular type of cancer. After our pretty crappy experience with the first radiation oncologist, we requested new referrals for her to other facilities. After some extended time waiting for the referrals (holidays, etc), we finally got in to see a local radiation oncologist who is about fifteen minutes from our houses. Since she’s going to have to go 5 days a week for almost six weeks, we wanted to find something a little more convenient than the first doctor…plus, he was an asshole. Fortunately, the new doctor (and all the staff) at the new place were pretty great. My mother is really comfortable with the new radiation oncologist, and that’s all I need to know. Their facility has TWO hospitals backing their technology and research, so we’re getting some really great, cutting edge treatment technology. In truth, this doctor pretty much said the same as the first radiation oncologist–aggressive cancer, likely to spread even if they can kill the current recurrence–but the presentation was different. The aura was different. The intent felt different. I don’t know, it just all felt different, and like I said, if Mama’s happy…

So they had to study all her pictures and test out different treatment applications to see what would be best for HER situation. This week we go for the “dry run” so they can do a walk-through of the test to make sure everything is set. I would guess next week will be the start of the treatments if everything works out for the dry run. And from what we’ve heard, she’ll start feeling side effects in the first 2-3 weeks. But one step at a time. Right now, like I said, she’s still feeling good so she’s playing in the garden and cleaning the house.

Update on moi. I go for my surgical consult with the surgeon next week. So far I’ve been able to keep everything in perspective. The results of my hysteroscopy were mostly inconclusive. They grabbed a polyp but it was benign, so that was good. Beyond that, they didn’t get enough tissue to figure anything else out. So I go to the surgeon without that information even after all that. If I had known I would end up with inconclusive results, I wouldn’t have done the damn tests. The CRNP had told me that I really needed this test before I saw the surgeon, but now she’s saying “Well you’re getting a hysterectomy anyway…” Way to back step, lady. They also wanted to do a repeat ultrasound to make sure the cyst in my ovary resolved. Which I did and it did. Then the tech said, “But oh now there’s one in the other ovary.” Dude, they’re SUPPOSDA be there every month. She said the doc would probably want to follow-up on the new cyst, but the CRNP didn’t say that when she called to update me with all the results. So like I said, it’s off to the surgeon to see what he says. They already sent all my test results and the notes from my exams and tests to the surgeon.

My PVCs are greatly reduced. I notice them mostly at night when I’m trying to sleep. They’re manageable. I wish they weren’t there at all, but I can deal with them like this without them really infringing on my mental state. My sleep still sucks. I’m having crappy dreams again. And I’m waking up multiple times in the night. AND I’m waking up early in the morning and not able to get back to sleep. I HATE THAT.

I’ve been doing some hats here and there. Hopefully soon we’ll have enough to send to the infusion unit. Mom has been doing some other projects, so she’s slowed down on her hats, too.

It’s been feeling a lot like waiting around here. Waiting for her referrals, her appointments, her tests. Waiting for my appointments, my tests, my results. Hub has been dealing with some medical issues (minor), so that’s been on our front burner recently.

I’ve been seeing T on my regular schedule. Sometimes I feel like the appointments are just me chattering and not resulting in much. I wonder about that. But other times I know I need to be able to get help for something that’s bugging me. I still think this schedule of once every other week is good.

I’ve NOT been back to my massage therapist. She had to take six weeks off for some knee surgery and when she came back, I was right smack in the middle of all this …. waiting. So I told her I needed to see Mom’s radiation schedule and MY surgical schedule before I made any appointments with her. On one hand, I miss the massages and I know my body does. On the other hand, I’m functioning, so I know I can do without the massages. So I’m sort of iffy about that…

I’ve written a little bit. I did some work on a story and felt okay about it. I wish I had a good direction for it and I wish the characters didn’t seem so SAD at the beginning of the book. I don’t like to start a book that way. But even so, writing is writing and I felt good about what I did.

So now you know. I’m okay. I’m just mid-action.

 

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Post dentist delight

I had my appointment with the hygienist to get my teeth cleaned. Hub drove me, but he sat in the waiting room while I had the pleasure of being poked and scraped and blasted with sonic beams and water. They did a full exam of gums and pockets and tartar and blah blah. That woman poked me so many times. The worst was sitting in the chair for over an hour, tilted with my head near the floor, of course, and without support for my arms. Apparently when the chair tilts back, it opens a section between the arm rests and the back support of the chair and there’s no place for your arms. You either stretch them forward to hang onto the arm rests, or you let them fall backward into that “opening”. I went from one direction to the other, trying to keep from staying in one position too long.

No matter, by the time the appointment was over, I was exhausted, and I felt like I’d been hit by a freight train. I felt run over, sore and tired and my mouth hurt. I didn’t sleep well last night and so I’m still tired.

As for my baby tooth? Still there. The hygienist was somewhat obsessed with it, poking it and seeing how much it wiggled, trying to spray it with water… then she said if I were one of her kids (she was about my age) she would just pluck the tooth out. I said, “please don’t” and we laughed and moved on.

So anyway, I survived, I’ve had a headache since then, and my mouth is still sore (the appointment was yesterday), and my body is tired from being so tense and in such awkward positions.

I’ve written nothing since my appointment with T. I tried, but came up with nothing. I have spent time thinking about it, but nada. It used to be I had characters floating around in my head. I had lines and descriptions and conversations and scenes. Now I have blank. The idea of living in the moment and staying away from poor internal dialogue has led me to feeling blank. Nothing in my noggin. I tend to have this issue…it’s either black or white. Shades of gray are hard for me to live in. Moderation is difficult for me to live in.

Must. Try. Harder.

 

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Struggling

I’m still struggling. Last night was a bad night. I ate something that did not agree with me and for the remainder of the night, I was awash with anxiety. It was a typical gluten’d feeling: hot face, feeling hot and cold, anxious, antsy, wired, and thinking about my health. The few times I managed to doze off, I had terrible dreams that stayed with me even after. When Hub went downstairs to work this morning, I dozed again and had more dreams. Bad ones. Unhappy, uncomfortable ones. I’m tired, and I feel down. At the moment, I’m struggling not to cry.

On top of already feeling like crap today, two different times on tv they were talking about women’s health. The first one was heart health, and how women’s symptoms of heart attacks are different from men. When I saw that the segment was upcoming, I took the dogs outside and stayed out for at least half an hour so I would miss the whole thing. It’s too much of a trigger for me. But then as we were getting ready for dinner, there was a local report about breast cancer and how women are just skipping their mammograms. Since my mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer, I’ve been struggling not to dwell on the potential for the hereditary impact on me. I’ve never had a mammogram, though I’m 42. The year that it was first recommended to me, I was unhappy with my gyno, so I didn’t follow through. I’ve not been back to any gyno since that whole episode, so there’s been no one to write me a script to get one. And truthfully, I’m afraid of what might come of it. Now with my mother’s diagnosis, I’m even more afraid of cancer than I was before. Even though my mother did pretty well (relatively speaking) going through her surgery and chemo, I’m way more sensitive to everything than she is, and I’m afraid of everything surrounding the potential of cancer. Surgeries, chemo, pain, nausea, etc etc. But still, the segment on the news triggered me, and I feel anxious and upset. I know part of it is because I’m really tired, but part of it is because I am me.

Tomorrow I go back to the dentist for a cleaning. I’ve enlisted Hub to drive me to and from. I expect he’ll sit in the waiting room and wait for me, even though the dentist is only 15 minutes away from home and it’s only a cleaning. And if they let him, he’d come back and sit with me while I got the cleaning. I haven’t had a cleaning in about 3 years, and prior to that I was in and out of the dentist’s office fairly regularly. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. But my anxiety is worse now than it used to be for me. And this dentist is new to me, as is the hygienist I’ll be seeing tomorrow, so I’m apprehensive. I’m not anxious yet, but we’ll see how the night goes. Unfortunately, my back has been bothering me all afternoon, but I’ve already rescheduled once and I’d like to get this over with. I know the anticipation is worse than the actual appointment will be. I’ve had enough cleanings to know that they are generally uncomfortable, but not life-threatening. However, this IS the first time this hygienist will be dealing with my frakin’ baby tooth. Urg.

I had my session with T this past Friday. I ended up crying in session, because I told her how much I miss my writing. She keeps telling me that I need to get back to it, because it is my purpose. Without it, she thinks I’ll continue to be stuck and struggle. I want to write so badly, but it isn’t working. I’m angry that my books don’t sell anymore, and that no one ever gives me any feedback. It’s like dumping a child out into the void, never to be heard from again. It’s hard to continue to put yourself out there and never see any kind of return. In that same vein, I made a hand-made crocheted gift for a friend, sent it to her, and never heard back from her about it. WTH. It’s painful for me to say, but I want to be validated. I want someone to say THANK YOU. To say, “Whoa, you put your heart and soul in that. That’s awesome.” What I get is radio silence. And it makes getting motivated to do stuff very difficult. It used to be that I’d write for myself, but that doesn’t seem to be enough for me now. I need to find that kind of satisfaction for myself again, and quit worrying about other people validating me.

I do feel like I’m a bit depressed these days. I’m tired and angry and stuck. I’m in pain. My tinnitus is acting up big time. My weight is still an issue. I have anxious moments. Is that reason enough to be sad? Or is this a depressive episode? Does it matter?

 

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Me speaking to me

My last appointment with T (last week) was partially about Robin Williams, as I felt like it was interesting how it had affected me. RW was a part of my entire growing up years, both in film and on TV, and I was sad. Sad for him and sad for his family. But I also found it interesting how people responded–more about his life and his humanity than how it ended–so we talked about that a bit. Then we talked about how I’ve been kind of stuck on watching (or mostly listening) to Frozen. The songs seem to touch me in some way, and T encouraged me to continue to listen to the songs and “let them do what they need to do for you.” I don’t really like the animation–it in fact is rather offensive to me–but the songs are hitting me right now. So any time I have nothing on the television to watch, I put Frozen on and while I’m doing other things, I enjoy the songs. And it isn’t just “Let it go” that works for me, it’s almost all the songs…even though I don’t necessarily know why.

Once we were finished talking about that, we started talking about my previous homework. T has asked me to listen to a couple of specific Miles Davis songs, to see if that kind of music would move me, but again it was a bust. I see music so different from her (and others, I’m sure) because it’s more a “friend” or companion for me. It’s not about the emotions of the song, or even the words…it’s just about the companionship. I always have something going in the house–the TV or music–because I don’t particularly like silence. Sure, there are times when I will be in silence, but most of the time I like some kind of noise when I’m alone. I have tinnitus, and the way I chose to deal with that is that I keep noise on all the time to keep the tinnitus at bay. So television and music is just background noise…company, that is all. So finding the emotion she is looking for just won’t work for me.

We talked a little about the issues I have with eating–thinking about it so much, and how I not only pre-think it, but then I think about it as I’m eating and after I’m eating–and how that was going. I asked her if I’d ever told her about my grandmother. My grandmother loved us all, and was a huge part of our lives. Being the only girl, I got a lot more of her attention than the boys did, which was not always a good thing. My grandmother had her own weight issues, as did pretty much every woman in my family and in my life. As I was really in the hardest time of my life, pre-adolescence and etc, she was learning how to eat healthier and exercise. She went to extremes (which was “normal” for lots of people during that time period) on a low-fat diet, trying to control her cholesterol and blood pressure and weight. She went to extremes working out as well. And she talked about everyone around her, family and friends and strangers. She talked about their weight and how it fluctuated, and she talked about their size and the food they put in their mouths. And I was always overweight, so she put her hooks into me and tried to “help” me. She took me with her to her aerobics classes, and told me I needed to lose weight and eat differently. This went on for years and years. I never lost weight because I snuck food and I ate the things I wanted to eat when she wasn’t around. I hated dealing with her during those years, even though I loved her so much. I wanted to please her, but I hated that she hated how I looked and who I was. As a child, I had no idea that it was HER who had the issues and that she was projecting them onto me. At about fourteen, maybe a little younger, I was out with my grandmother and my mom. We were shopping for bathing suits for my grandmother because she was headed to Florida for the winter and while there she taught water aerobics to her elderly community every day. So she needed multiple bathing suits and she wore them out. So we went to Loehman’s, which if you don’t know, they were a discount store and their changing rooms were just a big open room where everyone could see everyone. We found her a couple of suits to try and went into the room to keep her company while she tried them on. After she bought stuff and we were back in the car, my grandmother immediately starting talking about some of the other women in the room. How heavy they were, how they didn’t look good in what they were trying on and if they just lost weight they’d look so much better.

I got so mad. I was always the good kid, I never talked back and I clung to my mother all the time. I never stood up to anyone, I never gave my opinion because I didn’t want to have a confrontation. Maybe I was younger than fourteen, maybe I was twelve or so, I’m not sure. But I was sitting in the back seat of the car and I said, “You need to stop!”

“Stop what, darling?” my grandmother asked.

I told her to stop talking about other people’s weight. Stop talking about what they look like or what they should or shouldn’t be wearing, or should or shouldn’t be eating. Stop judging them. She had no idea what I was talking about. I told her she talks about everyone like that, whether she knows them or not. And I said to her, “What if you overheard someone else talking about ME like that? That I’m too fat to wear a bathing suit? That I’m too fat to be eating that bagel? That my hips are huge and my thighs must jiggle…”

I don’t think she got it because I recall her saying, “But you just need to lose some weight and you’ll be so pretty!”

My mother looked at me over the seat back–she was driving–and I think she felt appalled. But she said nothing. I told my grandmother that every time she said those things about other people, she might as well have been saying it about me. Then I fell back against the seat and clamped my mouth shut. It’s possible my grandmother may have apologized and said she would try not to talk like that anymore, but I’m not sure if that’s real or I made that up as an adult to make myself feel better. I only know that things didn’t really change, as she continued to watch my food intake and my weight.

T asked me if I had ever told my younger self that it was not my issue but it was grandmother’s issue. I didn’t answer, but apparently I had a look on my face because T sort of smiled and said that it was clear I didn’t believe what she was saying, that it would make a difference. I asked why she said that and she said that every time she talks about being kind to my younger self, I make a face. I told her I didn’t understand how to do what she was suggesting because I AM an adult, and as an adult I understand what the issues were. And how was I supposed to talk to someone (my younger self) who didn’t really exist anymore. And she tried to tell me that younger self still lives inside me and she’s STUCK because I haven’t gotten past those traumas of my youth. I said I didn’t understand how to talk to “my younger self” in the manner she suggested. So she asked me to try to picture that day and picture all the details. Then picture myself as an adult sitting next to myself as a child. And then talk to younger self about how the things my grandmother was saying and doing were HER issues and not mine. That I’m a fine and creative child, sweet and compassionate, smart and worthy.

I could only tell myself that it was my grandmother’s issue, not OUR issue. Then I cried, and I asked T if I could go home and write this instead of saying it out loud. She said “sure” and asked me to email it her before our next session. I think mostly because our time was up. I still haven’t written it, but I will. I just don’t know how it will work for me or how it will make a difference. But I always promise to try things…and if they work that’s great. If not, I will try the next thing.

Anyone else talk to their “younger self” ? Does it help you?

 

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Failure on ALL the paths

I had my session with T today, some of which was taken up by my issues surrounding this funtastic post. I’m distressed over what happened, and I feel badly for my brother because something must be going on that he isn’t ready to discuss yet. Which is his prerogative, to not discuss it. But in the end, I shouldn’t have engaged with him in what happened. I should have just stopped the whole thing by saying my decision was done and I wasn’t discussing it further. I wasn’t really prepared for what happened with him because we rarely have fights.

Toward the end of my almost-hour, T asked where I wanted to go from there with our sessions. I said that I still needed to work on why I felt so blocked with everything. That I’m sure she had figured it out by now, but I hate the thought of failure. That I feel like everything I’ve done up to this point has ended in failure, and I’m locked in place because I don’t want to make another decision that ends in failure. Our previous session she tried to convince me that any path could be the right one…could LEAD me to the right one, but taking no path goes nowhere. I told her today that I’m frozen in place because I feel like every path ends in failure, no matter what direction I pick. And I’m tired of failing, and tired of feeling like a failure.

We talked a little about my writing, because last time I promised I would write something, despite my inability to write anything in recent months (besides blogs). And I did…I wrote about 1500 words that I don’t think will go anywhere. I didn’t go back and re-read it or edit it, and I may never look at it again. The point was, I did it and was doable. And we talked about another writing exercise where I pick up a book and take a line out of the book, then start writing my own version of where the story will go from there. I said I would try it, but I have no idea how that’s going to work. Then we talked about the fact that she’s never read any of my books, which made me feel uncomfortable. I told her she’s never ASKED to read them, but now she says she is asking. I’m very self-conscious about my books, even though they are published and out there for everyone to read. She said maybe it was too intimate for me to allow her to read something of mine, but that isn’t really it. I always feel like my writing isn’t good enough…that what I write is junk. She said she didn’t believe me when I said that I don’t feel that my work is all that special, just that it has a special niche for readers. She said having known me and spoken to me so much, she feels I must have the talent to write because of how I speak and the thoughts I have. I don’t agree. I know I have self-confidence issues, but I’m not sure if that’s a writer thing or if it’s just me.

I’ve had books published since 2001, and I have some really nice fans who follow me and email me. But for the most part it’s such a solitary career that it’s hard to know if anyone actually enjoys your writing. And being a small author with small publishers, every time sales numbers come in, I get more depressed about it. It’s never the number I want, and so at some point I stopped paying attention. Is it because I’m no good at writing, or because I am no good at marketing my writing? Either way, I feel like the end result is failure. Either failure at being an author or failure at being able to market my books. Or both. Bleh.

 

 

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Finding happy

Had a session with T last week. Of course we talked about my mom and her cancer situation, as well as the situation with my dad and brother. And gently, but firmly, T reminded me that I am not my mother’s sentry. I want to protect her, but really she knows how to protect herself. I have to take a step back and offer her my support without trying to take over. I had already started doing that before my session with T, but she did reinforce that for me.

So among some other conversation, T and I talked about my relationship with food. I told her how I feel traumatized every time I take the digestive enzymes my nutritionist recommended for my heartburn and stomach issues. The enzymes seem to work (this past week not so much, but prior they were working REALLY well), but they remind me so much of all the “herbal” pills I had tried to buy and take growing up to lose weight. There’s a smell to them, and the look of them is not much better. And I can’t help but smell them every time I open the bottle. She suggested I put a cinnamon stick in the bottle and/or to inhale before I open the bottle so I can’t smell them. We talked about being mindful with my food, but truthfully–as I told her–I either think about it too much, or I think about thinking about it. Which sounds weird. So I’m not sure what direction to go, because I don’t want to obsess over food, but I don’t want to eat unmindfully. One of the problems I have is that I have to think about food constantly because of my gluten/wheat issues. I can’t go out anywhere without spending time thinking about where we’re going and will there be food for me and will I get sick afterward and will it be worth it. I can’t go to other people’s houses without thinking about it, or even randomly pick up a chocolate bar in the store. I can’t even randomly pick something out of my pantry or refrigerator without thinking about the ingredients because Hub is not gluten/wheat free. So I have to think about what I eat all the time.

T asked me to think back to a time when I felt like I wasn’t worrying about my weight or my body image. And there was a time, shortly after we moved into our house from the townhouse we first lived in together. I was deep into my writing and felt that I was a part of a larger group…and that I was touching people’s lives. So she asked me how I could get back there, but I told her I wasn’t likely to ever be in “that place” again, because it was years before I realized I had food sensitivities. Back then we didn’t think about or worry about gluten/wheat. I ate what I wanted to, when I wanted to, and in the amount I wanted to. Now I can’t do that with pretty much anything. I eat too much cheese, I get sick. I eat split pea soup, I get a stomach ache. I eat GF pretzels, it makes my stomach hurt. My favorite cheddar cheese potato chips? They leave sores on the inside of my mouth. Pineapple? Burns my lips. Fritos (which I love but actually can’t eat at all anymore) makes my lips burn, too. Spinach upsets my stomach. Chocolate upsets my heartburn. Tomato sauce upsets my heartburn. Popcorn gets stuck in my teeth and gives me toothaches (stupid delicious movie theater popcorn that I haven’t had in about ten years.) I avoid sugar substitutes, so a lot of foods are off limits because I can’t take the sugar substitutes in them. I literally never pick anything up at the grocery store without reading the ingredients and searching for items on my no-no list. I’ll never be able to just eat what I want to eat. I’ll never not have to think about it. And it sucks, because it makes food an obsession of sorts for me, which is one of the last things I need.

And I miss writing. I know that I’m writing here, and I hope that I’m touching people’s lives…but I miss the writing that I loved so much. I miss being buried in those words, in my characters, in the worlds that I created. But I can’t seem to find my way back there. I can’t seem to be in that place anymore. And that hurts me, too, because that was a happy, comforting place to be. It made me feel like I was doing something good, offering something to people, and I felt fulfilled. I want that again, too.

 

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