Saturday, March 28, 2015

When It's Time to Let Go

I made a very difficult decision last week. I decided to let my novel go.

This was a novel I started writing back in 2010. It was a historical thriller set in D.C. during WW2. I really liked my characters and the plot at the time, but halfway through, I got bogged down by how complicated it all was. While I always like to include some kind of suspense in my novels, writing a thriller was quite difficult.

So I abandoned it. I wrote two other novels and one got me my agent. So I don't regret letting it go.

However, I would go back and read it every so often and get excited about it again. I decided to give it another go. So I took some time to hammer out all the plot details, all the twists and turns. Finally, I had it figured out.

I went back to the novel and had to scrap a bunch of previous writing, which I was expecting to do. But for some reason, I had an incredibly difficult time just getting myself to open the Word document. I did a few things to try and combat this - including coloring which I highly recommend if you're stuck or just need a writing break - and for awhile, it would work.

But something still wasn't right.

After a few months of torment, I finally realized that while I love to read thrillers, I can't write them.

It was a hard realization.

I'm not entirely ruling out writing this novel in the future; perhaps after I've had more experience and have another few novels under my belt. But I can't let my writing career stall because I'm trying to wrangle a manuscript that is simply beyond my writing capabilities right now.

There's relief and disappointment in this decision; relief because I don't have to torture myself anymore and disappointment because I couldn't get it to work.

But a new novel idea has taken form, one that is definitely not a thriller, and I'm eagerly looking forward to writing it.

Sometimes, you just have to let a project go. And maybe in the future, you'll be able to pick it up again. But if not, that's okay, too. There is no wasted writing. All of it contributes to our experience in some way, shape, or form.





Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What a Headache!

It was a summer day, hot and humid. I was 16 years old. The gymnasium at the small Nebraska high school was packed with high school girls at volleyball practice, and I was one of them. After 20 minutes of running the stairs in the old high school, we were now doing drills (those of us who hadn't collapsed after all that running, that is).

I was doing a particular bang up job of returning the ball, and was quite pleased with myself. Then, I went to get the ball and something wrenched in my neck. It was so painful that I nearly passed out and the world tilted.

Naturally, being 16, I shook it off, and went back to practicing. I never went to the doctor.

But then, a few days after this happened, the headaches started.

That was 24 years ago.

And the headaches have never stopped.

At first, they were just a nuisance. I mean, everyone gets headaches, right? And they didn't slow me up too much. I was a teenager, after all. But when I went to college, they started interfering more with my life. So I decided to go to a chiropractor.

He took x-rays. "You have scar tissue in your neck," he said.

And then I realized: I had a whiplash injury from that volleyball practice.

That first chiropractor visit would be the first of many, many, MANY doctors' visits over the years. For the next 20 years, I would visit three different chiropractors, two different acupuncturists, approximately four different medical doctors, two massage therapists, one neurologist, one MRI, countless x-rays, and one physical therapist.

The diagnosis is usually the same: chronic tension headaches.

I've tried different medications, different stretches, different pillows. I've tried drinking lots of water, exercising, doing this, doing that, and hearing advice from lots and lots and LOTS of people.

And as the years have gone by, the realization that I might have to live with the pain everyday for the rest of my life has become all too real. Yes, you read that right. My head hurts every.single.day.

My most recent foray has been to a spine and pain specialist. A few weeks ago, I got my first occipital nerve block on the right side of my neck. It hurt. And nevermind that I almost fainted afterwards.

But it didn't work.

My doctor wanted to try doing the left side. It hurt - again. But not as bad, and this time, I didn't faint.

It's been an hour since I had the procedure done and my spirits are sinking...because my head still hurts.

It doesn't look like this is going to work, either.

Still, I remain confident that I will find a way to find relief from this pain. I feel confident that we are on the right path, and are at least ruling out what the problem isn't - i.e. the occipital nerve.

To be honest, I don't know what it feels like not to have a headache anymore. That's rather sad. But y'know what? I'm not the only one that deals with chronic, daily pain. A person can either give in to this burden or rise above it.

I choose the latter.

Having constant pain isn't ideal, no, and I certainly hope that I can eventually find relief. But I've learned how to relate to other people who are in pain, to understand their struggles, and to hopefully be able to help.

I write blog posts like this because I want people who struggle to know that they're not alone and to remind them of this:

You are more than your pain. 

I try very hard not to define myself by my struggles. Instead, I define myself in other ways; I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter, a friend; I am a writer, a lover, a dreamer, a historian, an old soul. My identity is not shrouded in my pain. I am so much more than that.

And so are you.








Friday, March 13, 2015

Beautiful, Lovely Sun

This winter has been really hard for a lot of people. The east coast of the US got hammered with so many blizzards that I lost track. Facebook friends living in those areas posted photo after photo of the piles and drifts of snow. It was unbelievable.

We had our share of bad weather in the Midwest, too. Normally, I like winter. I like to hibernate under a blanket and stay indoors and read and write. But this year, I didn't enjoy it. At all. And I'm not quite sure why.

Maybe it was too many days of bitterly cold temperatures, or the fact that my heating bill went through the roof because the windows in our house (it's a rental) are old and our landlady won't replace them. Or maybe it's because my body really did not do well with cold weather, making my rheumatoid arthritis much worse.

Whatever the case, my mood was dark, my motivation nonexistent.

And then...the sun came out.

Literally.

All this week, we've had gorgeous, sunny skies with temperatures to match. I no longer have to wear a heavy winter coat. Heck, even a light jacket isn't required! We have been hitting the low 70s and it's only March!

It's felt glorious to walk outside and hear the birds chirping, see the squirrels and rabbits darting around on the lawn, feel the sun on my face. I've started taking my walks again, slow, meandering walks that allow me to soak in the first bursts of spring. I can't wait for thunderstorms and rain and green grass.

My mood has improved. I feel more like me again.

And this reminds me that we go through different seasons in our lives. Perhaps the season of me enjoying winter is over, and I'm starting a new season of being more of a spring/summer person. In the past, I've always loved fall and winter, but fall wasn't that great and winter was definitely yucky.

Of course, this could be temporary. Last year's health crisis threw me for a curve that I don't know if I've quite come out of. My body has changed. Menopause will do that, I suppose, and I'm struggling to accept this new me.

I suppose that's a post for another day, however.

For today, I shall bask in the sunlight on my skin and praise God for bringing some much-needed spring weather to our little corner of the world.