I've been Radio Silent for ages on this blog. I also haven't been doing much creative writing in seven months or so.
Last week something changed. I picked up my pen and started a new story which could be a novel or a novella, and I'm feeling the great therapy that writing is. I set aside an unfinished novel manuscript which wasn't doing it for me at this present time. That was a painful decision because I hate to feel like I spent time on "wasted work." But that's silly. No work is wasted, it's a process, and sometimes writing is more about the journey than the destination. Making the decision to set that work aside has given me a fresh opportunity to start a new story.
While I took my time off from writing, my little family moved to Northern Ireland, a land that has a strange and disturbing past, but which offers an incredible quality of life in the present. I absolutely love it here, but it has been very different from England, and hence another assimilation process for this American. It took me two years to assimilate in England but I'm hoping it'll be shorter this time. (It helps to live with a local :-)
Six weeks after we got here, my mother fell ill in Upstate NY. She had a heart attack, and an open-heart surgery to repair some damaged valves. During the surgery she suffered a major stroke, and our destiny would forever be changed. She is now paralyzed on one side, living in a nursing home, but let's face it, she's not really living. She sleeps around twenty hours a day. The four hours she spends awake are filled with pain. She has a lot of family there, and my brother (bless his soul) spends as much time with her as humanly possible. But her quality of life is gone, and she'll never live at home again. She likely won't even get to visit there, even though her nursing home is less than a half mile away. She can't sit up and she can only 'eat' liquid meals. Medicare won't pay for her nursing home after 100 days, so my father will outlay an astronomical amount of money for her care. During this time, my father has been battling bladder cancer, although he's ok, and doesn't need chemo, it was just one more thing we didn't need. As my sister often says, the wheels feel like they are coming off the bus.
It was tough to write when this emotional tornado was going on. I have been mourning my mother's life, but she's still here. The psychological impact of this is very, very tough. My dad finds it difficult to enjoy himself. There is little we can do for my mom, other than pray and think of her. But when you allow yourself to really think how tough this is for her, and how unfair it all seems for both of them, it's depressing and it rocks my faith. For me to raise my kids in a happy home, I cannot allow myself to wallow in the sadness, I have to just keep trucking on.
Maybe that's life's biggest lesson: Just Keep Going. We are always going to face hardship in our lives. Everyone does. We can't quit when times get tough. We have to keep on trucking. Even when my faith is really shaky, I still believe in that principal.
Keeping positive memories alive is one way of coping. As a parent, I think the greatest tribute you can give your own parents is being grateful for their best aspects. My mother was great at giving us experiences: Camping in our cheap little camper at Selkirk, boating on Lake Ontario, playing in the sand at Southwick and Westcott beaches, hiking at Watkins Glen. She always let me visit the bookstore at Great Northern Mall and always gave me three or four dollars to buy a paperback. I was allowed to relax in my hammock or climb trees and read a book while she made dinner for us from scratch with fresh food. She worked hard to give us a good childhood, and never took the easy route.
I also believe that writing is therapy. A cheap form of it, because all you really need is a pen or pencil that can be purchased for less than 50 cents. But sometimes I feel like a pen with no ink. Sometimes I find it hard to write when I have so much going on in my head. Just like you can't rebuild after a tornado until the storm is well and truly over, I have to wait for the dust to settle in my mind, and only then can I start to rummage through the scraps to find something that interests and inspires me. I wonder, is writing the same for you?
I'll update more about the new story I'm working on. Right now it's called Hangman, though I usually have a working title and then a final title for stories. It's about how a bunch of creative writers disappear. The reasons how or why are unknown, but the kidnappers' biggest mistake was keeping them all together.
Keep trucking, guys, even when life gets you feeling down and out. Here's a picture of my little family taken at The Bushmills Inn. Because there's no better place to hang out with small children than a whisky distillery. ;-)