I had really good intentions with this newsletter. At the very least, I figured I’d, you know, send out something on Freed by Flame and Storm‘s pub day. But pub day was last week and this newsletter did not go out. It wasn’t just pub day, though. I had a list of ideas ready to write — for newsletters, for promo blog entries, for Medium articles. There were graphics I planned to make. There was a lot that I wanted to do.
Nearly none of it happened.
I suspect most people reading this already can guess why. My father died just a few weeks ago. His health had been declining rapidly since August, and that overshadowed pretty much everything else happening in my life — including Freed‘s publication.
It wasn’t just Dad’s death, though. My beloved cat, Lily, passed away in September, three days after the anniversary of my mom’s death. And while that happened on a personal level, the world itself seems to have shifted into something ugly and unrecognizable. Every day has seemed to bring a new disaster: thousands dead or displaced from hurricanes and flooding, constant attempts to roll back healthcare regulations that my friends rely on, a spike in hate crimes and violence with no end in sight.
I spent the first half of the year trying to stay engaged and productive. I called my senators countless times, joined activist groups online and off, and somehow powered through writing the rough draft of a novel. But then Dad had his first major health setback in August, something he never fully recovered from.
I haven’t really written a word since.
Oh, and by the way, that manuscript I drafted? It’s pretty terrible. Which wouldn’t be such a big deal — all my rough drafts are terrible. I always end up rewriting from scratch. But in this case, it’s not just terrible, it’s that I have no idea how to fix it. That hasn’t ever happened to me before.
I haven’t read a book in months. I haven’t even been watching TV or movies. I’ve dragged myself through work every day counting the hours until I can go home; at home, I count the minutes until I can go to bed.
Sometime in early October, I said to a friend, “I think I might be depressed.” She answered, in much kinder words, “No duh.”
I’ve been taking steps in coping. I was already in therapy, since the political hellscape had been giving me panic attacks back as far as January. With my therapist’s and doctor’s help, I’ve started taking anti-depressants, which has made a huge difference in my day-to-day ability to function. I’ve been intentionally trying to let go and not beat myself up over what I haven’t done, books I haven’t finished, stories I haven’t written, emails I haven’t answered.
And there have been a few bright spots in the year, too. My sister and I adopted a pair of adorable kittens, Freed by Flame and Storm is out in the world, I attended the Sirens conference for the first time and it was practically life-changing. I’ve rekindled a tiny sense of community in my life, something I hadn’t even realized I was lacking. And I have been reminded time and time again in the last couple of months that for all the horrible, selfish people who seem determined to wreck the world, there are plenty of others who kindness and compassion know no bounds.
I said to my therapist a few weeks ago, “I just feel like all of 2017 has been a black hole.”
She said, “Some years are like that.”
I don’t know if 2018 will be better, but last weekend, I wrote a paragraph of a new project, the first thing I’ve written since August. I don’t know if I’ll do anything with it, but there it is, a few hundred short words.
It’s cold and dark right now, but tomorrow is the shortest day of the year. After that, the sunlight starts to come back, and I’ll still be standing when it’s brighter.