Stop sign

2020: Do you have any plans this year? Yes? Too bad. Cancel them now.

I’ve left the house twice since March 6: once for the dentist, once for the doctor (both in June). I’ve walked to the mailbox, but I don’t think that counts.

I no longer have lunches out, which was one of my real pleasures: an escape from the work-at-home monotony and a chance to see people other than my parents. I don’t even get take-out, sadly. It feels too risky.

I had to cancel my annual writing retreat — pretty much the only week of the year that I have time with friends and get to write. I have to wonder if it will even be safe to go next year.

It feels like the last four months have been much, much longer. And there’s no end in sight.

We knew 2020 was going to be hard, but this? This is next-level. And it’s probably going to get worse.

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I’ve always struggled to be creative when I’m depressed. I’ve hardly done any writing for several years now; that’s probably obvious from the long silence here. But a few years ago — probably around the time that I was diagnosed with low iron levels — I noticed I was having trouble reading too. It was hard to concentrate, and nothing seemed to hold my interest; it was a struggle to finish even short books. But in 2018, something changed. I’m not sure what, since the only concrete factor I can identify is the fact that I finally got a library card again and started checking out e-books. It’s true that I was sick for a couple of months (pneumonia followed by norovirus, whee), so I did have more time to read — but clearly that wasn’t the main factor, since I’m still doing well this year.

I do the Goodreads reading challenge each year, and have been since 2013. In 2018, I read 52 unique titles — nearly twice my previous best.

Admittedly, there were roughly ten novellas in that total, and a few shorter works (stories and novelettes) too. And the Hamster Princess books are very quick reads. Even so, I was able to read and finish a lot more than before, which was exciting and encouraging.

I’m on track to do well again this year. So far, I’ve finished 24 titles. although nine are short works (stories or novelettes), plus a novella and three more Hamster Princess books. But there were also a couple of doorstoppers in there, which tends to balance it out.

One thing I’ve learned is that I really do enjoy novella-length works. I’m glad to see that publishers are getting away from the idea that everything has to be 300+ pages and are embracing shorter titles.

Anyway… I’ll keep reading, and hopefully it won’t be quite so long before I write something again.

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It feels like 2017 is trying to take all it can from me.

Some of the losses are small, and some — like losing my aunt to cancer — are too big and fresh and complex to process. But it wears at me, feeling like life keeps taking things from me: not just things that are or have been important to me, but also little things that provide some continuity and stability during a deeply troubling and stressful year. I feel like life and circumstances keep pushing and testing and taxing me, and each time I feel like I’m at my limit, life hands up a new challenge, threat, or loss. I’m exhausted, worn thin.

We buried my aunt two weeks ago. It went as well as could be expected, but it was still difficult, stressful, draining. We endured nearly two months of being told she was getting worse, that it would be soon. We had two weeks of hearing that it could be any day. We had more than two days of hearing that it could be any hour. We jumped every time the phone rang.

The person in the casket was a stranger, unrecognizable.

We were largely spared drama from ill or estranged family members, and for that we were grateful.

We were mostly spared the bad weather from Hurricane Harvey on our drive down to Mississippi. We were not spared from the fact that it was my father’s birthday, and we were driving for hours to bury his sister.

My father was not spared from eulogizing his sister. I watched my father, who rarely ever shows sadness or grief, falter as he spoke, the emotion clear in his voice, and I wondered if he would be able to finish. I gripped my mother’s arm the whole time, willing him to hold together. (He did.)

We were not spared the images of flooded Houston, the bad memories it sparked of Katrina, the knowledge that my aunt died on the anniversary of Katrina, twelve years after she took us into her home for weeks.

We were not spared the worry of Hurricane Irma, knowing that our family members in Miami did not evacuate. (Thankfully, they’re fine.)

I was not spared returning home to a looming work deadline — an immovable, government-imposed deadline — for multiple projects, including two that I’ve dreaded all year.

I got handed another loss tonight. I won’t try to explain it, because it probably wouldn’t make sense, and it seems small compared to everything I’ve mentioned. I suppose I feel it more deeply because of everything that came before.

Earlier today, I read some Facebook posts from a friend, written last night. She’s deeply, deeply depressed and feeling hopeless and worthless. I tried to reassure her as best I could, because I’ll cast a rope for a drowning soul even when I’m submerged myself. Another person told her to get a good night’s sleep, that things would look better in the morning. She responded that they wouldn’t, and I can relate; when you’ve been pushed past your limits, one night doesn’t even begin to undo the damage.

I just hope there will be enough nights to heal all of us.

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