Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Brutally Honest Viewpoint on the Stages of Loss and Greif

By now popular psychology has informed most people that there are five stages of loss and grief.  I studied them relatively in depth in college and have used them in my practice more times than I can count.   But I've never actually experienced them myself, certainly not so acutely that on any given day I can quickly pinpoint that "Ok, today appears anger.  Alright then."  But that's where I am- and this is what it looks like.

You listen to the doctor explaining what the test results are and which diagnosis is likely (because apparently your PCP will never give you a definitive diagnosis, you need a specialist for that) and you focus on what the next step is.  Which appointments do I have to schedule?  Can I get someone to cover for me at work?  When I can I see the endocrinologist?  How am I going to afford all these co-pays?
You get way more information than you can really process and you do everything you're supposed to with a smile on your face: learn how to use your new devices, get all your prescriptions filled, go shopping for all the healthy food.  You show people your cool new medical alert bracelet and talk about the lifestyle changes you're making.  You tell yourself that you'll use this forced change as a perfect excuse to get healthy, which you need to do anyway.  You believe people when they tell you that in no time you'll be so used to it you won't even have to think about it.  You feel strong, capable, like you'll be better because of it.

You realize that finding things to eat is a lot more difficult than you thought it would be.  You resent the nice co-worker that brought cookies to work and put them on the table to share with everyone.  You wonder why traffic, supermarkets, insurance companies and the rest of the world won't accommodate you since you're having such a tough time.  You find yourself mentally cursing your friends for wanting you to be happy.  You wish death on the world in general because it's another really bad day. 

You listen to the people who tell you that once you've controlled your diet, you'll feel better and won't have to do all this anymore.  You think about how once it's under control you can go back to living the way you did and not worry about it.  You tell yourself that you can have that cookie or donut and it won't really do any harm.  You fantasize about the next big meal you'll have once everything is back to normal. 

You suddenly remember how much your life in general sucks and get hopeless about it improving.  You feel sorry for yourself and resentful at the same time because you know that so many people have it so much worse.  You hate yourself for feeling this bad over something so trivial in the grand scheme of things.  You overreact to everything and lose all perspective.  You cry all the time, for no reason.  You get sick of seeing your pathetically sad face every time you look in the mirror.

You get better at remembering to pack your lunch and eat meals at around the same time.  You become skilled at administering your medication without hurting yourself.  You get accustomed to what you can and can't do and don't think it's so limiting anymore.  You remember that the rest of your life is far more important.  You go back to enjoying your time off, planing for the future, challenging yourself to do better.  And life, as they say, goes on.

At least that's the plan.  Right now I seem to be stuck ping-ponging between anger and depression.  One of the things I always hated about this theory is that there's no linear progression- you can cycle through a million times over, even hit acceptance one day then revert back again.  And there's no set time line of how long it's supposed to take.  Day by day I wonder if I'm done yet.  I think I am because I'll feel good when I wake up, optimistic that things are finally going back to normal.  Then my mood shifts and I'm back in one of the earlier stages.  I

I try to be patient, but it's hard.  I guess I'll see what it all looks like when I'm on the other side of all this.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

NaNo No Go

In case you couldn't tell by the fact that I cowardly hid away from the blog over the past few days, I did not hit 80k on new year's eve.  Nor did I miraculously finish the novel in less than that.  No, it seems that I am no closer to being done now than I was a week ago.

I don't need to go into detail about the amount of mental effort required to keep that inner critic of mine quiet with so much fuel readily available for the fire.  Nor do I need to say how many times the word failure has floated through my mind only to be beaten back down by that optimistic champion of mine who endlessly defends me against the barrage of insults I usually hear on a loop in my head.  Because you all know me, so you can safely assume all that without me telling you.

No, what I need to say is that despite this set back, I'm not giving up.  That deadline was not actually a deadline because, let's face it: I'm not dead.  Nothing terrible happened.  I didn't delay the release of a paper or prevent myself from finishing the novel.  All I did was delay it.  As one of you simply asked when I reluctantly admitted my lack of forward momentum, "Will you finish it this month?"

My response?  I don't know.  I know there is still much more to be written and much more of the story to unfold.  More than i've even thought of yet, I suspect.  The more of this thing I write the more it seems to decide it's own path.  I started out with some pretty specific plot points and it hit those relatively easily and then went further, meandering down little side paths I didn't see at the start.  And now all I have is a vague idea of where I want to end up with no clear plan of exactly how i'm going to get there.  This will likely make the word count grow more than I planned, and I'm ok with that.

For a terribly brief time in high school (before I realized how much I absolutely despise running), I joined the cross country track team.  After a week on the team the regulars decided to initiate me by showing me the side paths through the park near the school.  The unpaved, publicly unused paths through the woods that they frequented.  I loved them.  The canopy of trees overhead, the quiet, the lack of people.  It was so much better than the main track on the school grounds we all had to do warm-up laps on.  I hated that track- the noise, the constant shouts to go faster, keep up, push it, whatever.  Give me hours on the trails in the park over that.

That seems to be what I'm going for here.  The finish line is there, somewhere in the distance.  I'm in no rush to get there.  I'm meandering, exploring, wandering around in the story and discovering lots of fun little facts along the way.  I will finish, someday. But for the first time since I started this thing, I'm in no rush.

I don't know if this is the right way to do things.  The threat of going off the path is that you might wander into quick sand, or trip over a log, or get bitten by something nasty and never reach your destination.  I'm sure there are pitfalls I could reach that could seriously injure me (metaphorically speaking) and possibly prevent me from finishing.  But I'm counting on being able to backtrack, re-write and move past those should I encounter them.  And I'm sure there's much to be learned from that.

So I'll keep writing.  Hopefully the story will move forward as it fleshes itself out.  Hopefully it'll stay at least vaguely readable.  Hopefully I won't want to kill my main character out of frustration.  And maybe, just maybe I'll end up with something worthwhile. 

And in the meantime, I'm way overdue to get back on track with the random little snippets of fiction that I originally started this blog to practice.  So stay tuned for those.