Life, The Thing That Happens

Last week, my husband lost his job of 25 years, and I was diagnosed with stage two non-alcoholic liver disease, all within 48 hours. Emotionally, I’ve been all over the map for the last seven days. Optimistic one minute, crashed to the bottom of a pit the next. This morning I am definitely in the pit. My husband’s job was one of those new bosses coming in with a big broom and getting rid of old management situations. I saw it coming about six months ago, but I also didn’t. My husband tends to be fairly positive and optimistic, and I’m the cynic in the relationship, but because he thought things would be okay, so did I. We believe what we need to believe in the moment, I suppose.

The liver disease came as more of a shock. I’ve had pain under my ribs for years, but I always thought it was radiating from a vertebrae I have which isn’t quite in alignment with the rest of my back. I don’t drink (I might have four drinks a year, but inevitably it makes my head ache, so I tend to avoid it), don’t smoke, and usually eat a fairly decent diet and get regular exercise. This disease, as it turns out, is probably what killed my aunt (who raised me for the first six years of my life, and whom I have always considered my first real mother). She too didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, but unfortunately did have a great deal of stress in her life. She died of liver cancer, which is where this disease lands if it goes undiagnosed for too long. I did have it all checked out five years ago, and all my tests were clear. Still, I wish I’d gone in earlier—this time I’ve ended up with jaundice and bruising on my abdomen—I didn’t know you could actually bruise from the inside out, but yes, as it turns out, you can.

Either of these things would have sent us for a tailspin. I guess like Wile E. Coyote, we don’t see the anvil poised over our heads until it lands on us. Well, it landed with a thump last week, let me tell you. My husband did nothing wrong and they didn’t even give him a reason for letting him go, they just did it. He gave 25 years of his life to them, and always went above and beyond, including thousands (literally) of unpaid hours for them. Companies all seem the same in this regard these days—they simply have neither heart nor soul. We’re not exactly spring chickens, and he was only three years out from early retirement, so this has been such a blow to him.

I don’t know what the future holds, and while none of us do, currently mine seems completely blank—I can’t see a picture of it at all. I’m struggling to make huge changes to my diet, at a time when we have to cut right back on any and all expenses. Eating well is not cheap, as I’m sure most of you know. All of it feels exhausting, and I find myself truly overwhelmed. Other times I buck up and think of the people in my life who have had far worse things happen to them, and managed to get through it, or at least learn to live with it, despite what must often go on inside of them. In other moments I simply want to get in bed and pull the covers over my head for a few days. I have generalized anxiety, and of course it has shot off the charts this last week, and with my liver, I can no longer take my meds—so I stress about what the crazy anxiety is doing to me physically as well. And yes, I’m exercising, but it’s only taking the edge off right now. I think I’d need to run a marathon before I could bleed of this much anxiety. Stress always turns to anxiety for me, it’s my body’s default setting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is it’s simply how I’m wired chemically speaking.

I’m not sure what all this will mean for my writing as we move forward. I don’t make enough money as a writer to sustain a household—not even close. So I may be looking for outside employment, which will put an end to writing much of anything for a while, I suspect. This is a really hard and bitter pill for me to swallow—writing is like breathing for me, I don’t function all that well when I’m not doing it. Unfortunately, I just have never hit that plateau where the books sell themselves, and I’m coming to grips with the fact it’s not likely I ever will. I’ve always had to advertise, which of course costs money—so at present, ads are something I can no longer sustain either.

I know often people don’t understand this—because the comments are said to my face—but writing is really hard work, which requires laser focus in order to do it well. I never want to put less than my best effort forth, and of course in times like this when my brain feels scattered it’s that much harder. And my self-esteem takes a hit, so I look at the book and think it’s a big horrible mess which will get terrible reviews if it ever sees the light of day.

There’s so much other stuff swirling in my head—it’s quite possible we’ll have to move and I hate that. I love this town, I love living here, my parents are getting older and starting to need more help, my girls are here or nearby, as are my grandbabies. I don’t like cities, and don’t want to live in one. I hate the thought of someone else living in my house, maybe ripping out the trees and roses I’ve spent years growing—it literally hurts my heart just to think of it. The world probably sees my type as a fool—an overly sensitive fool who loves the small things and wants to take care of them. I feel like so many of the people who succeed (in the way we seem hellbent on defining success in the West) are not good people, not kind, and not caring about what or who they destroy. Please note, I did not say ALL people who succeed, but a good number of them these days.

For now, though, I’m going to put my head down—once it stops spinning— and finish Butterflies (book five of the Exit Unicorns series) but until I have a better idea of how things will play out for us financially, I’m not sure I’ll be able to actually produce it for sale come March, or whenever it is done and edited.  I know many of my readers don’t realize that I don’t have a publisher, and therefore any and all expenses for production of anything—physical books, audiobooks, bookmarks, etc comes out of our pocket. So if the money isn’t there, there’s nothing much I can do about it. It might be there by then, but it’s quite possible it won’t be.  I’ll try to let you all know closer to the time, if I’m going to be able to put the book out for sale or not.  It’s not that I wouldn’t make my money back, I would, it’s just whether I can front it at the time.

Fortunately, the book is mostly written and I know working on what’s left will become a place of refuge for me—I love being in their world, because I totally forget about mine when I’m with them. I think I can still finish it by the end of this year, but if I’m not happy with it once it’s done, I will take the time to rework it until I am happy—or as happy as I ever am with my work.

This isn’t a plea for sympathy, by the way. When I’m upset, I tend to write it out, and that’s how I begin to sort it out in my head. Right now, my thoughts keep running in unproductive circles, so this is my attempt to start getting my head in some sort of order and hopefully begin to move forward in a less manic fashion. Also, I’m going to ask you really nicely not to tell me that change can be good, etc. I’m not in a place where I want to hear that right now.

I will find my fighting Irish spirit soon, I’m sure, it’s just taken one too many body blows this last while.