When autumn comes and the trees change their leaves to red, brown, and gold, the winds of change arrive. Everything has more weight to it, a poignancy that you can’t resist. At least in the UK, where the pavements are littered with those crunchy and soggy dead leaves, you can see winter coming with the arrival of shorter days.
I’ve struggled to write and blog this year. The year started well, with a course in pitching and writing for women’s magazines, and then two courses covering developmental editing for fiction. I felt positive about getting my career off the ground, and starting in a new direction. I had plenty of ideas for articles, started to feel a bit more confident about pitching to magazines, and realised I needed to keep reading about fiction editing to really absorb what I’d learnt.
But my brain had other ideas, and for a few months I’ve been struggling with a lack of direction despite having the tools I needed to pull myself up again. And I’ve experienced a few traumatic things in the past few months that have thrown me completely.
My husband had a mental health crisis this summer, and thankfully (I’m so grateful) he’s okay, and has been going to therapy since then. We’ve both learnt a lot about checking in with each other more and talking about anything that’s bothering us.
And my Mum is back on chemo after about a year and a half of remission. It’s only a couple of small hot spots they’re treating – the doctors are positive and have a few other treatments to come if the chemo doesn’t get rid of everything.
But there is a big but that comes with that. Cancer is so difficult to understand and quantify, and theoretically she could have a lot longer cancer-free than they’ve given her, but at the moment, it seems to be three years.
I don’t know what that means – three years possibly cancer free and then more treatment (of some kind) if it comes back, or three years with a good quality of life and then, well, it’s possible that unless they have new kinds of drugs and treatments, that might be all she has.
There is always some hope – she is much stronger than she was two years ago and there are hints that new targeted drugs will be available in December, so who knows?
Mum had my sister and I when she was in her mid to late thirties. I turn thirty-five this December. Dan and I don’t plan to have children, but my sister and her partner do want kids sometime in the next few years. So there are lots of painful things to consider when life throws you curveballs like this.
I haven’t really stopped to think about what I want or need in all of this, because I’ve been trying to focus more on the immediate now, and what’s happening around me. But today is the beginning of that, is the start of trying to make some sense out of my feelings and to share this journey when I can.
To be honest, I’m surprised with myself. I assumed that writing was the thing that I turned to when I needed to release my emotions, to understand life better. Yet I’ve only written a tiny amount. I’m not great at self-care despite knowing all that I need to know about what makes life better, easier, and meaningful.
There are a few big things I’m focusing on at the moment – clearing, tidying, and decluttering the attic room Dan and I live in, to make way for a new carpet and a few other things (like proper curtains!), and helping my parents out with the spare room. I think we’re all in agreement that calmer, less cluttered living environments means we can all relax more and concentrate on living and spending time together.
Maybe what I’m feeling, a kind of urgency, is changing how I feel about life, writing, and what my goals are. I’m largely uncertain, yet there are definitely things that I do want. I have things to say, but also thoughts that are only half-formed, trying to come into the light. My life doesn’t feel or look like I expected it to when I was a child, but that doesn’t matter so much to me.
I’m grateful for a great many things. I’m less concerned about expectations, and more concerned about what feels right. Who and what makes life meaningful? How do I show love and gratitude? How do I show myself and other people compassion?
I’m taking part in NanoPoblano next month, which is usually posting a blog post a day for 30 days. But this month the NanoPoblano community is doing a different format – 10 blog posts, 10 days of reading and commenting on other people’s blogs, and 10 days of sharing – whether on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or reblogging.
These can be mixed up as you wish, and obviously you can blog more if you want to. The aim is to encourage restarting blogging, community engagement, and to find/share inspiration. So you’ll be seeing a lot more of me in November!
‘Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.’ – Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky.