Working Through the End of the World (as we knew it)

Singing along to “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher” while thinking about next Nyx story and patching up a pair of gardening shorts. Thinking about how the way back to mental health after this last year in particular and four years generally is a slow one but progressing.

I have a lot of respect for folks who were able to continue producing regular work the last 18 months. You are heroes. While I kept up with my monthly stories for Patreon, I struggled with them. Rewards ran late. Stories got shorter, because I couldn’t concentrate on long form

I had one backer ask for a refund, and I gave it quickly. I know I lost others who said nothing, just left. It was hard time. I had to keep producing because we have taxes and spouse’s grandma’s elder care to pay. But long form was impossible. I couldn’t keep long form in my head.

o to finish an 11k Nev story (I just uploaded a revised file yesterday, for those who may have missed it), was deeply satisfying, for me. And to have 30k of a book draft is pretty incredible, after all this slog. I knew I just had to get through it. I knew I’d come back.

But it was really fucking hard. And so much looked so blisteringly hopeless. I knew, though, that there was a future on the other side. That if I could just muddle through, I could get myself back to myself.

I’ve been through many low times before, but this last 18 months has been the most protracted. I’m excellent in times of short term stress. I can bear down and muscle through. Like most humans, though, long term stress is unsustainable. It grinds. Literally grinds down your body.

My garden saved me. And though it’s not a popular opinion, frankly, the liquor saved me too, because it was the only vacation I got from myself and this timeline. And I needed that break. Having a sane, understanding spouse saved me. The dogs saved me. My Slack friends saved me.

The thing with trauma is that you always carry it with you, even when the worst is past. I think of the bizarre depression-era habits of my grandparents and great grandparents; the hoarding of food and literal hard currency out back in a shed. Weird shit from a traumatic time.

I thought about this yesterday when I went out to a restaurant for the first time in 16 mo and realized I’d forgotten how to Human with the waitstaff. I was hyper alert, like I had stepped into a possible sniper situation. And, well. That’s understandable, considering.

I watched a couple of diners slather themselves in hand sanitizer after dining. So did I, and that’s certainly one thing I’m likely to keep doing that I didn’t before – carrying around travel bottles of hand sanitizer. Reflexively keeping my distance while in line or among groups

I still find myself obsessively checking toilet paper levels. Do we have enough? And there will never again be a time where I run out of clorox wipes. Never again. These seem silly things, and maybe they are. But so are the obsessions of other eras. And they have similar roots

There will of course be other traumas. The six-tornado-warning nights here are only going to increase, as will the temperature. But it is in rebuilding myself after this one that I’m finally processing how deep that last year went:

incompetent government putting kids in cages and openly colluding with foreign governments to influence elections, pandemic, election stress, attempted coup. Like, wow. And that’s just wider world stuff. It doesn’t count the small, daily personal stressors in our private lives.

My hope is that I come out of this a stronger and even more resilient writer, but for me – as for many – there will always be this gaping hole in my professional and personal life, this Lost Year that nobody will want to hear about or talk about, just like other periods of trauma.

I don’t know what comes next or what that future looks like, but I made it through the worst of 2020. And now we pick up, we piece together what we have, we sing along to The Witcher soundtrack. We write another book.

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