Lately, I’ve been utterly failing.
I got sick the week before last-ish. Without looking at my calendar I can’t give an exact time frame because time has blurred. The actual being laid up in bed part wasn’t too terrible. I had chills, fever and a colossal headache for a week and then I was back up and ready to get back to things… except I wasn’t.
Physically I was ready, but my brain decided to play hooky. I had zero focus or motivation to write. I managed to squeeze out a few poems and blog posts and then I gave up and started gardening.
I could hear the deadlines wooshing by so I’d peek into my three email inboxes, flinch at the amount of work that had piled up and go back to gardening. If I popped into social media I’d feel that colossal headache coming back and I’d just click back out. It felt like the world had become a very dark place in my absence.
The fact that the world seemed to have suddenly been drenched in ignorance and negativity isn’t what knocked my feet out from under me. It was my reaction—the fact that a global-scale catastrophe could affect me. I write about this kind of thing. Fictional ignorance and negativity are my bread and butter. Why was I now failing?
In one of my brief forays into Twitter during this time I found a video posted by Neil Gaiman where he stated he was failing. I replied with some trite statement about how maybe he wasn’t failing but processing. This was just after I’d gotten up out of bed and was expecting total insta-recovery both mentally and physically.
I think it was my quick, pseudo inspirational reply that got in my head to work its dark magic. I was telling an author I respect not to feel bad about the words he couldn’t seem to write, but where were my words? I couldn’t accept that I was also “processing.”
So here I am. I’m 30k words away from finishing the completed Bitter Suites. I have a large dark fantasy novel I’m editing for Ryan Aussie Smith. I have a collection of poetry ready to be published and another started. I have a pile of stories to read so I can announce the Space and Time ToC. I have a small stack of magazines to mail out. I have zero motivation.
The new world I find myself in caters to my inner hermit. I am secretly pleased that hugs are outlawed and events have become digital productions I don’t have to leave the house for. This is my natural state of being. If I didn’t have goals I would probably live alone in a cave and never see daylight. It’s tempting to let myself vanish into solitude.
But, those pesky goals. Things have changed, but my obligations haven’t. The world has a sense of normalcy about it, but it keeps skipping around like a damaged film reel. One second we are traveling forward just fine and then a few frames of death flash by. Destroyed houses, bodies lined up in hallways, angry faces yelling—and then back to skittering normalcy.
I will try to take my own advice and allow myself to process this. I keep hearing the word unprecedented. It’s simultaneously whispered with fear and shouted as an excuse. Experts aren’t, but everyone else is. I’ve finally decided that normalcy, what I thought of normalcy anyways, is gone for good. This is something else.
What something else is it? I don’t think anyone knows yet, but do we need to know now? Apparently I’m not alone in my brain freeze. Among all the emails I haven’t answered (sorry!) are quite a few that mirror my own lack of focus. It seems we are all either turning out piles of garbage in a fervent effort to look busy or staring, mouths agape, at the abyss.
Soon we will all figure out what the Hell just happened and process it. Until then, I give myself permission to reduce my output to minimal functions. I am preparing another shipment of magazines to go out today. I will select the ToC for the next magazine. I’ll figure out how on earth we will print that magazine given the circumstances. Most of all, I think I’ll allow myself time to grieve. I’ve already lost a few faces to this pandemic and I think we are just getting started. I’m bracing myself for further loss.
With confession comes absolution, so here is my confession: I feel overwhelmed by the losses. I feel fear of future losses. I feel guilt because a theoretical apocalypse has been bouncing around in my imagination all my life. I feel like I discovered Santa is real, but he isn’t jolly. I’ve waited for him all this time, but now I hesitate to unwrap his gift.
Now that I’ve confessed, I will go mail this stack of magazines and retire back to my garden… and process.