Health, Work, Discipline, and Pandemic 2018

Yeah, hi. Hi! Hello there! I am writing to you live from my living room, which is nothing short of a miracle on several fronts: I am not asleep, I am not buried under a pile of tissues, I am upright and dressed in daytime clothes, I’m even well enough that I feel like I have spare brain cycles and words to spare for a blog post, rather than pursuing any of my more pressing interests or obligations. Whew.

We won’t talk about my coughing fits, though. 

You may correctly surmise from this that I have had the flu. This is true! I had the flu, but the cough stuck around, and something-something bronchitis plus nose and throat inflammation, something something secondary infections, no seriously are you SURE you’re not a smoker...? (I am not a smoker. I have never been a smoker. I had to assure them several times. They didn’t seem to want to believe me?) 

This blog post, then, is made possible by no less than six prescription medications because asthma sucks, and so do secondary infections following influenza. Get your flu shots, kids, wash your hands a lot, and this year, if you get a sore throat and cough three times, get to the doctor ASAP for Tamiflu. Be quick about it. Tamiflu doesn’t do much if you don’t start it within a day or so.

So I haven’t done a lot of work over the last *looks at calendar* wow, three weeks. To be sure I’ve done some work — some few thousands of words of novel-writing and light scheduling — but nothing like the volume I’d set for myself as my January goals. I’d hoped to have almost twice as many words written than I have. I’d hoped to be on top of my email. These things have not happened.

Oh, but I’ve been sick. I can’t possibly expect myself to work when I’m sick, can I? Or... can I?  Health fails us all in the end, and if I don’t find a way to work even when my lungs don’t quite work right, even when my head is full of biowaste, even when I’m tired, surely this means I lack the discipline to pursue my craft and I should...

Shh, shh, stop laughing so hard, you’ll make a scene. People will stare.

There are many true facts underpinning this spectacularly flawed logic. One is that you can’t and shouldn’t wait for everything to feel and be right before you embark in your creative work. There will always be another set of dishes to be washed, another errand you should run, another loose end you really need to tie off before you can focus. And you do have to be disciplined to write. Doing the writing inevitably means not doing something else — maybe that something is a video game, but maybe it’s also laundry.

That other thing you are not doing so you can write should not ever be “resting so that your health improves.” 

It’s also true that one of the not-very-joyful joys of age involves an increasing degree of disability for most of us, and we all eventually need to find ways to work within the framework of our capabilities. I mull over this from time to time, wondering if I’m really feeling so poorly, or if I’m just making excuses to be lazy. But this working-through-the-pain should never happen at the cost of meaningful recovery, or if that’s not the hand you’ve been dealt, at the cost of worsening what level of health you have.

I think a lot about how Jim Henson died of pneumonia. It was a secondary infection after the flu. If he had arrived at a hospital eight hours earlier, he might have lived.

Take care of yourself, blossoms, and rest when you need it, and see a doctor if you possibly can. The future needs you much, much more than right now does.


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You Don’t Have To

I’m exhausted and on a course of antibiotics. Sometimes you get a sign from your body, and this is one for me. It’s definitely time for me to engage in a little self-care: refilling the well that good work comes from, and maintaining this frail meat shell without which I can do nothing at all. I’m enjoying the thought of wrapping up some fairly small pieces of work and then spending some time reading books, playing video games, napping, swimming.

And yet. Today, it seems, is the first day of NaNoWriMo.  As always happens, this is the point in the year where I panic, because though I’ve written six novelettes, two alternate reality games, and at least a half-dozen other projects, somehow none of that counts. Not to the part of my brain that wants to, you know, write novels.

It’s not too late to fix that, hisses a voice in my ear. You can do NaNoWriMo. You can start today.  

This voice is toxic. This is the voice of the American Work Ethic, for which no amount of work is ever enough, and to whom any rest at all is inexcusable idleness. And it’s all lies.

Friends, this has been a difficult year for many of us. We’ve dealt with the regular stresses of life: loved ones passing, jobs lost and found, heartbreaks large and small. And this has been a landmark year for stressors we aren’t accustomed to: hurricanes and fires, terrifying politics, the quiet possibility of nuclear war.

Be kind to yourself, whatever that should mean to you. If it means that NaNoWriMo is not for you this year,  then I congratulate you on your self-knowledge, and I hope you can spend the dusk of the year on something else, something that nurtures you so you can bloom brighter when the time is right.

You’re enough already. Believe it, and act accordingly.

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