I never made a conscious decision to stop blogging, or take a break, or whatever this has been. Like many others, I got caught in the tidal wave of the pandemic, and just getting through was about all I could do. I’m not sure I’m restarting, either, this may be a one-off. But I have thoughts, one in particular, that’s been banging around my brain these past couple of weeks. And good grief, it’s been so long since I blogged, WordPress is using a new (not intuitive!) editor program, and it just took me twenty minutes to figure out how to insert a photo.
This was never specifically a writing blog–and it isn’t about to become one–but I have rambled a fair amount about writing because it’s a big part of me and my life. Over the course of the pandemic, I did more submitting of short stories than I ever had before, had some success (acceptances/publications), and lots of thanks but no thanks, often but not always with specific invitations to try again. That’s the way of the publishing world, until and unless you’re SUPER BIG NAME WITH MANY ACCOLADES. Which is not most, not even those who are successful. Over the past week I received a couple of rejections I’d been waiting for, and this morning I sat down to the laptop intending to choose a few new places to send those stories to, and just couldn’t. Not today. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week. Seriously, I feel like this chicken.
Smashed into an invisible wall and decided here was as good a place as any to drop.
So what are these deep thoughts I’ve been having that I absolutely needed to share with the world? Rejection, of course. Not in a poor me kind of way, not calculations of acceptances/rejections, not looking for pep talks or cheerleading. Just thinking about the repeated choice to continue pursuing some measure of success in an area where monthly, weekly, daily rejections are par for the course. Thinking this must have, have had, an effect on the choices I make, the way I view the world, the way I view myself. Don’t you think?
Seriously, I’m wondering. What would the difference be, if there was a difference, if I was one of the many who enjoyed reading and writing as a child, got some nice compliments from a second or fifth grade teacher, and just left it there? Limited writing to cute or heartfelt messages at the bottom of Christmas and birthday cards. Impassioned social media posts. Maybe became one of those obnoxious, “Oh, you write? I always wanted to write a book but don’t have time, I’m going to write a bestseller when I retire, I’ve got the formula down from all the thrillers I read.” I don’t think I’d be radically different, the rest of me is still me, the rest of life would still be what it is. I’d still have a dark outlook but like to laugh, still be an old-timey Noo Yawk broad, still hate when it’s cold enough I have to wear socks, still have some who think I’m funny and more who think I’m too damned much. But I think there is something, and I wonder if it’s something significant enough that after all these years it’d be noticeable? fundamental?
Sure, it’s well known you have to have or develop thick skin to pursue any creative work. Which is weird as fuck, because at the same time you have to remain so sensitive you’re raw, the proverbial bleeding onto the page. Have such an inflated sense of yourself, your words, your ability to create fictional people and worlds you put your work out there absolutely certain others will care enough about your characters they’ll laugh with them, be shocked by them, maybe even cry when you kill them off. Hope these imaginary readers will pay real money to read your work, while understanding and accepting many more won’t be interested, maybe even think your blatherings are good for nothing more than lining the chicken coop.
As I’ve already blogged, my family’s shelter-in-place isn’t complete, because while we have been going to fewer appointments than usual, there are still some that can’t be avoided/postponed. Every appointment is a risk that is carefully, thoughtfully, analyzed and weighed by us and by the doctors involved. It isn’t like we generally go to any doctor or lab for the hell of it, but yes, when weighed against a high likelihood of death, there’s a whole lot that can be postponed. Because it isn’t just about our family and the risk to us, it’s the risk to every doctor, nurse, and hospital employee we come into contact with, and by extension, their family members, every other patient, ad infinitum.
Yesterday was the eye specialist with Art Child, and I have to say, these appointments get creepier and creepier. I didn’t think hospital (outpatient sections) hallways could be any emptier than they were a month ago. I was wrong.
It isn’t as if the office is normally filled with patients getting regular eye exams. Anyone who is a patient there has a significant disorder. Granted, this is a specialty hospital, and then up to a sub-sub-specialist’s office, but still. Right now they are only seeing those who are at imminent risk of total vision loss. The creep factor isn’t limited to the normal raised eyebrows of a young person being very noticeable in a hospital frequented by septuagenarians, octogenarians, nonagenarians. Not even limited to the 50 stops set up to ask if either of us have a cough, a fever, known exposure to someone with Covid-19, temperature check, please put on a new mask. No, it was the way I felt so noticed. Radioactive. I swear kiddo was the only patient, we were the only non-employees in the place.
And then home, back online to news reports filled with open-the-country protestors. Keep in mind, those photos are artfully cropped to look as if the number of participants are greater than they are, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real. And widespread. Oh, you poor, deluded fucking morons. Some of my friends (you know, those extremists who believe in things like science) are wondering why? how? I’m not wondering, and at this point no one else should be either. They are cultists. There is no logic to be applied to society or the world at large. Their only thoughts are in service to their leader. Don’t be fooled by taglines about Jesus or the greater good. This is about two things, and two things only, because there are actually two subgroups here. The first are the wealthy and greedy, who don’t give a shit how many die or are permanently disabled from this virus. Get those peasants back to work so we can keep growing our portfolios! The second group doesn’t know any better, because they’re busy listening to right wing propaganda that continues to tell them this is overblown, a hoax, the fault of the leftists and the other, and really, Great Uncle JimBob is a pain in the ass anyway what with his whining about empty insulin pens and the way you have to blend and thicken Grandma’s Sunday dinner so she doesn’t choke on it. Both groups though, part of the same cult. Cult 45, the orange monstrosity.
Besides the obvious warnings signs: a leader who’s considered infallible, placed above God, no accountability for said leader, mistrust of other, preying on the weak, demonization of anyone who leaves the group, calls for violence, harm and threats against their own members, no allowance for questioning leader or dictates–all of these have been true from the beginning of his reign, err, I mean, campaign–there’s another obvious and growing sign. Isolation. That’s an important aspect of cults, same as any abusive partner, isolating members from access to information and people outside of their approved community. I’m concerned that much the way the internet allowed the extreme right wing, white-power-and-mysogyny-prompted nutters to find each other and grow their numbers, our legally sanctioned and medically necessary nationwide isolation will only strengthen the cultists, both in conviction and numbers.
I understand, you understand, this is for the greater good. For physical health and well being of all, in addition to wanting a shot at seeing economic health again. Reopening the economy isn’t going to do squat to help the average JoeJane when JohnQPublic drops dead. Those going out and protesting, those crackpot governors reopening beaches and hairdressers and massage parlors aren’t putting themselves and their families at risk. They’re putting all of us at risk, because of the spectacular combination of communicability of Covid-19, asymptomatic transmission, lack of widespread testing, and the most corrupt, authoritarian administration backing the most narcissistic President this country has ever known.
These cult members? Some don’t understand the repercussions, but many do. And they don’t care.
Not sure if I’ve mentioned this and I’m too lazy to read back, but I’ve been without gas (which = no stove or oven) for a couple of months now. Gas leak was discovered in the building, so it’s nothing personal, the entire building’s gas was shut down, no end in sight. Others I know or have heard of where this has happened, it’s taken anywhere from 8-13 months to get it repaired. With coronavirus in the mix, who knows? I figure I’ll be lucky if I can bake and roast in time for Christmas of ’22.
A friend saw me tweet about this when I figured out how to cook something (can’t remember what) in the slow cooker and sent me an electric skillet. How lovely, right? For all we’re drowning in right now, there have been some wonderful moments of friendship, community, and support.
I was happy to make eggs for breakfast the next day, we’d missed them. After everyone ate, I told them I hoped they enjoyed, because for the foreseeable future, we’re now a one egg family.
I’m not an epidemiologist, not an economist, not a historian. But I’ve lived through some shit, and this is unlike any other. For all the politics and discussion, it seems to me many aren’t understanding the extent of the toll this Covid-19 pandemic is having on our world–and will have, for a long time to come. This isn’t producing a short glitch in the economy that can be rectified by a stimulus package. Hell, half of our elected representatives are still arguing about whether or not all workers deserve to get enough money to eat. Or, yanno, children. The magnanimous bill passed, with $1200 to be given to each adult? A one shot deal, we’re being told some shouldn’t expect to even see that money until September. Sure, I’m sure everyone can wait to buy food, medications, pay rent, electric, gas, water, until September. And they only need to pay those things once, absolutely. And oops, that $1200 “gift?” Maybe not a gift. Maybe an advance on 2020’s tax credit/refund. (Don’t @ me here, as far as I can tell, this is yet to be made clear or official one way or the other.) Besides the obvious ramifications on everyone’s health and societal interactions, we’re looking at hard times ahead. Unemployment, rising at a shocking rate, is expected to reach levels we haven’t seen since the Great Depression.
I’m still seeing a lot of people complaining about not being able to go out to eat at their favorite restaurants. Again, I’m no financial analyst, but unless you’re in the highest of economic brackets, that may soon be the least of your problems. This video, from two weeks ago, shows lines outside of a food pantry. Reminiscent of the old photos of bread lines circa 1929, no? There’s a rising number of people who can’t afford to go grocery shopping, and then there are disruptions in the food supply chain, expected to increase. Do I think we all need to panic? No, and it won’t help if we do.
We don’t all have to choose deprivation and starvation diets. If nothing else that would cause lowered resistance if we get sick. but it is time to choose with an eye towards frugality and stretching. Two eggs per person, for breakfast, is a lot of eggs gone–and in the scheme of breakfast foods, expensive. Two eggs plus flour and small amounts of other stuff (I recommend buttermilk if you can get it, lasts longer than regular milk, tastes great in pancakes, adds some richness) and you’ve got a big batch of pancakes.
We don’t know all of the ramifications of Covid-19 yet, not how many will die, how many will have died because of the vanity and lack of compassion of a reality tv president, not how high the unemployment rates will rise, not how many will become homeless, not how many will become newly food insecure, not how our society will permanently change, not how long we’ll be under stay-at-home-regulations, not how much longer we’ll have to be under those regulations because of certain pseudo-news organizations’ disinformation and certain governors pretending the US doesn’t stand for the United States, and therefore are refusing to put real stay at home regulations in place (because viruses are partisan, checking to see if you’re a registered Dem or Republican before cozying up in your lungs. Mmmm hmmm). We won’t for a long time. But we know much is uncertain.
There’s an expression from when I was in kid in the old country of pre-hip South Brooklyn: Mr J is so cheap he’ll squeeze a nickel until the buffalo shits. (yes, young ones, there used to be buffalos on nickels). I hope I’m being an alarmist here, and we’ll get all of this under control well before it gets as bad as I’m imagining. Either way it’s time to hold on. And just in case, have a one egg sandwich while you squeeze that nickel.
Come now. You–and I’m talking to you, 45, GOP, Fox News, et al–and I both know what it is you aren’t saying out loud. I have no special mind reading powers, we ALL know what you mean. So say it.
When you state the cure (social distancing, purposeful slow down of the economy) is worse than the disease, you’re saying your stocks and bank accounts are worth more than people’s lives. Hell, Tmp doesn’t even care about the economy of the country (outside of wanting to see big numbers, YUGE), he cares about his personal bank accounts and businesses.
Let’s put to the side that this makes no sense in terms of basic, surface logic. I mean, if 40-70% of the population is sick, dying, overwhelming the health care system, how great is the economy going to be? Who will be buying shit? working? The wealthy, but contrary to popular GOP opinion, the wealthy aren’t enough to keep the economy going.
When you say grandparents are willing to die for the economic health of their grandchildren, you aren’t only talking about grandparents who are 90+. You’re talking about everyone over the age of 60. You’re talking about the…what? one million? two million? grandparents in the US who are currently raising their grandchildren. You’re talking about all of the vulnerable population regardless of age, due to cancer, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, homeless, incarcerated, hospitalized for other illnesses or injuries. For all the nonsense war analogies, this isn’t war, no one is pointing a gun at people in a particular uniform. It’s a virus, not checking to see which flag you’re waving, or the date of your birth certificate, before penetrating cells. You know it. I know it. We all know it. I guess you’re assuming your wealth will protect you from dying, despite your advanced age. Statistically your odds are better than the average Joe retiree, the fact that you can access a Covid-19 test, and access it before you’re at death’s door–will automatically tip the scales your way, so not a delusional thought, though of course, no guarantee.
It is no surprise this administration has created such a dangerous scenario with its mishandling of this pandemic. It is no surprise you were unprepared and unwilling to do or say anything to upset Dear Leader, point out his lack of clothing or unwashed, groping hands. It is no surprise the cult following still standing behind this administration will throw themselves on the proverbial funeral pyre in order to stay in line and protect him, sacrifice millions–including themselves, because many of them are not only among the most vulnerable because of age, health, and economic status, but those sparsely populated red states–very limited access to health care even without a pandemic. No surprise at all. We knew it the day the GOP fell in behind Tmp as their nominee in 2016, when millions voted for him knowing what he did/didn’t stand for, what he did/didn’t understand, or care about.
I understand that doctors in some countries have had to make these types of decisions that place a value on each life because of limited supplies and equipment. I understand it may come to that in certain regions of the US. My heart goes out to the patients and their loved ones and the doctors. People go into medicine for a variety of reasons, some altruistic, some not, but I don’t know of any who go into it in order to be placed in these types of positions. A doctor, a panel of doctors, making these impossible decisions based on the best science and information available to them in the moment is a very different thing than a government making these types of decisions not because of last resort, but because money is worth more than lives–as evidenced by discussion of decisions that will increase the number of human beings who will become seriously ill, with a percentage of those dying.
Frankly, I am very willing to sacrifice myself for my family. If there is one ventilator available, and I and another member of my family need it to live, don’t hesitate. Save my children, my husband, my mother in law. But that is a personal choice. I will not decide your life has less value than mine. I do not believe the lives of my family, my friends, even myself, are worth less than the lives of the uberwealthy nervous only because of the worth of their stocks. So go ahead, you cowards, blustering behind your stock market charts from under the shadow of your red ball caps. Use your words. Tell me it’s worth it to you to take the life of my 18 year old immunocompromised kiddo. My late 50s husband who has worked his entire life, paid taxes, cared about others, raised three very fine children, isn’t done with life yet, and is more upset by the term unemployed than he was facing a rare and risky open heart surgery.
Reopening everything, ordering people back to work, will not save the economy. It will kill people unnecessarily. Seniors, yes. Also health care workers, middle aged people, young people, maybe even pregnant people–and we all know how much you care about life pre-birth. I understand this, and you do, too. Fucking say it.
The question on everyone’s lips. Well, not everyone, some are still licking toilet seats because they think it’s funny or just moaning about the inconvenience of bar closings, having to cancel vacations, having to self-quarantine if ill/possibly exposed to Covid-19. But pandemic or not, stupid’s gonna stupid and selfish is gonna selfish. The good news is there are also incredibly generous people working to feed the hungry/about to be hungry, some (too few) companies who are continuing to pay employees they’ve been forced to lay off or furlough while their doors are shuttered.
But back to the question. I am not ok. I know this, knew it, thought if I acknowledged the fact it would help keep my anxiety under control. Until Husband’s appointment yesterday with his young, upbeat doctor who just a couple of months ago said I was feisty, whose face was somber and I found myself having to work not to cry in response. The above photo of the hallway in the hospital? Yeah, that hallway is usually a hub of activity with an outpatient lab, cash machine, tea/snack kiosk just behind, and elevators leading to many of the individual doctor’s offices and departments. more than once we’ve had to wait for one of the elevators to arrive and open a second or third time because they were just too crowded. Not yesterday.
For everyone who is practicing social distancing, there are many of us who can’t stay home for two or three weeks, or six months, or a year, or however long this breath holding season is going to be. There are people performing essential services who have to go to work–and don’t kid yourself, it isn’t only doctors, nurses, police, firefighters and EMTs who are performing essential services–it’s also your pharmacist, grocery store workers, sanitation workers, truck drivers, bus and train operators, etc. And people who have to get to the doctor for appointments that can’t be put off if we’re going to try to avoid needing an array of doctors, nurses, and hospital beds for non-Covid-19 related reasons.
There would never be a good year for a pandemic, but this timing feels particularly devastating. This is a life altering event. Fuck, this is a world altering event. On a personal level, Husband and Art Child, who would both always be vulnerable, are both at points where they have no reserves for their bodies to call on. Mother in Law, who’s at a stage where every year seems to take an exponential toll. Nerd Child is in his senior year of college, campus now closed, though he was able to successfully petition to stay because of extenuating circumstances. Great! Except eek! he’s still my heart, and I really, really hate having him far from me during this. Man Child, who is currently strong, healthy, and miraculously still employed for the moment, but don’t think for a second I’m not thinking about him having contracted viral meningitis less than two years ago.
I was still reeling, just beginning to process the medical mayhem of the last several months for our family when this virus hit the US. On a national level, when we have someone sitting in the Oval Office who doesn’t understand the definition of civil service, or science, or compassion. At a time when it couldn’t be more clear the US needs nationalized health care, the citizens are showing with every Democratic primary they don’t want it. Not enough, not yet. On an international level, with not only our country deciding they miss the good old days of nationalism and sanctified subjugation, and global climate change threatening everyone and everything.
I haven’t been able to focus to escape into reading. Or writing. Or querying. Can’t stress bake because my building has a gas leak, we will have no gas (means no stove/oven) for who knows how many months. I’m still doing my yoga every morning, checking in with friends through text, email, and social media, here at home we’re counting toilet paper squares but we have enough food. I’m hand washing and disinfecting and elbow sneezing, no-face-touching (iffy on that one, it’s freaking hard!), and you better believe there is no toilet licking. At this point no one in my immediate circle has or seems to have Covid-19, but way too much of this is out of my control.
So here we are, in the year of 1918 and 1929 decided to have a baby and call it 2020.
I am hanging in and hanging on, doing what needs to be done, but I’m not ok, how about you?
My natural state is a sluggish ball of anxiety, but I’m not someone prone to panic. Definitely not for medical related issues. But at this moment? Yeah, I’m…not panicking, but I am worried. And pissed off.
Yup, I’m talking about coronavirus, covid-19.
It isn’t ebola, but it is a big deal. A very big deal, for all of us. For some of us, the big deal will be in the form of disruption to daily life, economic repercussions, which are important. Not just vague ideas of stock market losses (I’d be the least qualified to even offer an opinion on the stock market). Lots and lots of us live on the financial edge. And if, like me and mine, you’ve already taken a financial hit this year because of medical mayhem or anything else, you can’t afford another. And for some of us, it’s a very big deal for health reasons, either for us individually or for loved ones who are vulnerable.
I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff, watching the spread of this virus over the last weeks, but still, the ground under me felt pretty stable. Be careful, do what’s within your control (have whatever supplies you can that you’d absolutely need in the house, wash your hands until they’re cracked and bleeding, etc). Yesterday, though, well. I am appalled at the number of comments I saw blowing this off, saying it’s no big deal, and who some of those comments were/are coming from. I mean sure, the red hat wearing folks who swallow whatever snake oil being sold by nutty televangelists and our vile, inept administration. Why would they believe in a highly communicable virus? A percentage of them believe the earth is flat. But I definitely wasn’t only seeing lol, look at the libs panic posts from that quadrant. I saw comments of this nature from people I generally respect as practical, thinking, caring human beings.
For most who contract this virus, it won’t be a big deal. No symptoms, mild symptoms, sick and miserable for a week or two and then all better. For anyone who is vulnerable, ie: seniors and or people with underlying health issues, it’s a very, very big deal. The truth is regular flu is a big deal for people who are immunocompromised. But the regular flu has a vaccine that many take, our systems are prepared for it, and it’s less communicable. I have three immunocompromised people in my immediate world. As in, living with me and/or I feed them, people who can’t just put off their annual checkup until this all gets under control, because they have to get to (and I take them to) multiple ologist offices (usually in hospitals) and labs every week. And when you live in a city– like oh, say, New York–you can’t avoid crowds as long as life is still happening. Social distance of 6 feet? Hahahahahaha! Any of my readers ever been on the subway here? The bus? A doctor’s office? A grocery store? A freaking elevator?
Nerd Child is in his senior year of college. Last night I received notice the school will basically be shutting down until who knows when. They explained their reasoning, and it’s frustrating and in some ways infuriating, but above all it’s fucking terrifying. His school is one of many finding themselves in this position. Does anyone think these fancy shmancy private colleges and universities would be shutting doors, switching to remote classes if there wasn’t such a good, science based reason it overrode both their mission and financial interests?
Italy is closed, for all intents and purposes. Closed. An entire, democratic, modern, western country. Closed. No travel in, out, around. My understanding from people there who live in northern Italy (people I know irl, not tweets from who knows who) are telling us they’re running out of hospital beds, ICUs are over capacity, the system has been overwhelmed. This isn’t some super secret insider info I’m getting. Read the papers, watch the news, listen to the damned scientists. Forget Ireland, Boston canceled its Saint Patricks Day parade (if you aren’t familiar with the demographics, this action would have been unimaginable up until two days ago).
But here? Once again, American exceptionalism overrides logic for too many. Ever been to an ER here during regular flu season? Overflowing, literally. More than once, twice, three times, I’ve been in various city ERs with a loved one for days, waiting for a bed. The extra fun part of this is that you’ve technically been admitted, so the ER staff is no longer responsible for the patient (keep in mind the ER staff is already overloaded with patients who are their responsibility), but you’re physically in the ER, so the staff that is? Not physically there on a regular basis. So sick enough to be admitted, yet treatment and attention is less than minimal.
Ever have someone you care about on a ventilator? It’s frightening. Scary to see, scary to think about the need for it, scary to think about what that machine is actually doing to keep your loved one alive, and then more frightening still every day they’re on it, because the longer someone is on a vent, the more difficult it is to get them off of it. You know what’s downright terrifying? The possibility of someone you care about needing to be on a vent and there are none available. Now multiply that one person by many.
Covid-19 is worldwide now. Even our lying American government admitted yesterday we are past the point of being able to contain this, it’s become about mitigation efforts, trying not to overwhelm our healthcare system with too many getting sick at once. America has 330 million people. Not everyone will get sick, and of those that do, again, for most it won’t be a big scary deal. That still leaves thousands, tens of thousands, maybe more, getting very, very sick, some fatally. Diabetes is a risk factor. Last I saw, there were something like 30 million people with diabetes in the US. Heart disease is a risk factor. 120 million people in this country with some form of heart disease. Being a senior citizen is a risk. 47 million seniors. Asthma. 25 million. Autoimmune Disease. 20 million. Cancer. About 600,000 people receive chemo each year. The umbrella of rare diseases and disorders. 25 million. Again, not every senior and/or person with underlying conditions will get Covid-19, and of those that do, not all will become need-a-hospital sick. And you can’t just add these numbers, many who have one risk factor are in several groups. But that still leaves us looking at a very large number, with finite, limited resources.
Because guess what? While this coronavirus is spreading, people will still get sick with cancer, pneumonia not caused by this particular virus, the flu, have heart attacks, strokes, need pacemakers, need new heart valves, develop pancreatitis, need amputations because of diabetes, have serious accidents, have babies, all the million and one things that land people in the hospital, requiring emergency treatment and admission on any given day.
There are fewer than 1 million hospital beds in the US. There are 62,000 ventilators. I’m no math wizard but…
Our government, here in the US, has not done us any favors by fudging the numbers by not testing, being slow to develop tests, and focusing solely on the economics (and here, mostly for the corporations and wealthy, this administration couldn’t be more clear they don’t give a shit about the dish washer in back of your local diner who doesn’t have sick days, health insurance, and will be afraid to go to the hospital and find themselves in the custody of ICE) and not the health and human factors. Hell, we have elected officials who were making jokes and blowing this off who are now self-quarantined.
You can tell me not to panic, and you’d be right. Panic helps no one and nothing, and much of this is out of our control. Scientists are doing their thing, working on developing a vaccine, and it will take time. Time and a toll on many.
But don’t you dare fucking tell me it’s no big deal.
Asses up: is burying my head in the reservoir the same as burying my head in the sand?
Recently I’ve seen a bunch of tweets/comments in the writing world about writing that strike me as…odd. That it isn’t the writing that matters, it’s the story. Umm, what? Yeah, yeah, I know, there are books/stories that are plot driven and those that are character driven, and there are different readers who read for different reasons. But. If I begin a novel and it doesn’t have a strong voice and or strong writing, I don’t care about the story and will stop reading. The opposite is also true, if the voice/writing is strong and the story sucks, I’ll continue to read and still love the book. Obviously, a great book will have it all, most writers strive to create it all, but many don’t. Including, yes, many published and sometimes lauded and/or bestselling stories.
But I’m also seeing the flip side– don’t-worry-about-publication, just write for the love of it, doesn’t matter if you’re ever/never published. Strangely enough, this statement is usually made by people who are published and don’t seem to be renouncing future contracts. Hmm. Yes, I understand where the statement is coming from: rep/publication will bring new pressures, doesn’t solve everything. Nothing does.
I do love to write, oh, the feeling you’ve nailed the phrase, the scene, the word. The other side is the lousy, practically adolescent (at 50,000 years old) angst of rejections. You have to have thick skin, they say. Heh. I’ve robbed Peter to pay Paul, fed my family more than once with a mostly empty fridge and cash scrounged from behind the cushions, seen both my husband and my daughter stop breathing, dealt with more ologists, advocating for my loved ones as a lay person most would love to ignore, actually seen Husband’s heart taken from behind all those nice protective layers of skin, muscle, and bone. The literal start to my day involves measuring the necrotic tissue on Husband’s foot, adding to the photo record of it to track the spread. Yup, my skin is plenty thick, thanks. None of this means I don’t care about my words. As I’ve said many times, for me, half of writing is being read. And nothing, nothing is equivalent to when someone reads my words and comes back to tell me they felt them.
I’m a reader who also plays with words and worlds of my own. I tend to enjoy reading books that are more in line with what I write (not exclusively, a good thriller or sff can be great fun to read, but my imagination doesn’t lean that way for wording). I’m a ferocious reader, a voracious reader, a fucking excellent reader who takes more pleasure in a great book than anything outside of those lovely but boring to others mama-moments. Seriously, half the time I trip over the kids’ names when more than one of them is standing in front of me, but a great opening line –hell, a great line in the middle of a novel– will stay with me forever.
Characters, oh I want characters who are fresh and raw and real. Who feel things deeply, who make me feel things deeply. It isn’t a fast pace, not even an imminent world war that’s going to make me feel, not a beautiful protagonist that will catch my reading eye, it’s the beautifully drawn world, even if, maybe especially if, it’s rich and dark and ugly; it’s the interesting narrative, sharp dialogue, it’s the words. Not is it realistic but does it feel/do these characters feel real? Making me ache is cool, but making me laugh is better, both is best. Does it make me want to move to Alaska in the middle of winter like when I reread The Snow Child? Yes, I want those sentences so lyrical, so clear and ringing I do stop reading and say goddamn, how did the author do that? Is this really the same language I use every day? A great book will somehow take me out of my everyday with characters who are everyman/woman. Characters I see myself and my people in: those who are struggling and striving and failing and pissed off. Characters whose stories shouldn’t be remotely interesting yet are.
In a surprise to no one I, Mrs Fringe, write fringe characters, the people in the background brought to the fore. They don’t save the world, most of the time they don’t even save themselves. If I was smart, as someone who loves playing with words, has no MFA, and wants to be published, I would work on stories and characters that are more commercial. More exciting, more elegant, more sexy, more triumphant. I guess I’m more stubborn than smart. And every time I get feedback from a reader who says yes, I felt her, I know him, every time I get one of those dreaded close but no cigar rejections–you know the ones, they’re personalized, offer specific and positive details but say nope, can’t place it, or not this time, try me/us again, every time I read a novel that rings so fucking true, it frustrates me to no end but also gooses me not to stop.
I’m not everyone, but I’m not the only one, either.
Come, sit, I’ve poured you a fresh cup of my favorite tea.
I was going to avoid political talk for a little longer, but that seems unrealistic these days, doesn’t it? Actually, it feels irresponsible to avoid it completely if you have any type of platform, no matter how small. I’m not going to address last night’s performance piece of a State of the Union speech, I’m going to focus in a bit more. On health care. Yeah, that old topic. You’d think we’d have exhausted and put it to bed by the year 2020, but far from it.
So. When I was a kiddo in the wilds of south Brooklyn, everyone knew one other kiddo whose dad had died in his thirties or forties–maybe when we were a little older, in his fifties–from a massive heart attack. Shoveling snow, working construction, running to catch the train, maybe eating Sunday dinner. “So young,” it would be whispered. It happened, and really, outside of the immediate family/friend circle, it wasn’t all that shocking, because it happened. Not frequently, but. Actually, it often wasn’t all that shocking within the circle either, because more than half the time you’d hear the same had happened to Grandpa/Uncle/Cousin. Genetics, though then we’d say “it runs in the family,” like freckles or broad hips.
We also all knew at least one someone whose Grandma/Grandpa lived with them, but you didn’t know until you’d been to their house or apartment twelve times, because Gramps was hidden in the basement or a back room. Gran was creepy, with an odd lurch to her step and slurred speech in the brief periods that she was awake and banging for dinner. Sounds like the setup to a gothic novel, doesn’t it? No, an elderly person post-stroke, with a poor or working class family who couldn’t afford home health attendants or a decent nursing home. There was social security and medicare, but it didn’t cover enough for many families who couldn’t supplement.
Now we hear, “So young!” when someone dies at 75. Because health care is better, and more broadly available. Not for everyone, not enough, but certainly better. The 43 year old who has nausea and sharp jaw pain goes to her cardiologist and gets a stress test, the 38 year old with chest pains goes to the ER and has an angio resulting in a drug eluding stent placed to unclog his left anterior descending artery. True, pollution was much worse (in our air and water) and everyone smoked, but it’s now rare to hear of someone under the age of 70 who had rheumatic fever as a child leaving them with cardiac issues, and the number of people living with diabetes has skyrocketed. Oh, you didn’t know diabetes is actually a multi-systemic, devastating disorder?
When the Affordable Care Act was passed, things improved for many. Medicaid was expanded, adult children could stay on parents’ health care plans until age 26 (so important in this age of shrinking unions and gig economy), lifetime caps were eliminated. If you don’t think the elimination of lifetime caps is a big deal, congrats! Your life has been charmed. Annual caps were eliminated (also, a really big issue for anyone dealing with chronic disease). Insurers were no longer allowed to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions, insurers were no longer allowed to jack up the rates for those with preexisting conditions (making health insurance unattainable), preventative health care had to be covered, garbage plans that basically offered no protections were banned. Was the ACA enough? No. Was it still too expensive for too many? Yes. Are there too many doctors who don’t accept ACA plans? Yup. But it was better than what we had before. Much better for many, and a huge step in the right direction for all.
One of the first things this administration and GOP did was try to roll back the ACA. By the grace of John McCain (there’s a phrase I never expected to type) and the huge push of constituents nationwide, they were defeated.
Well, guess what? They’ve been successfully chipping away at it ever since. The individual mandate has been eliminated. States were allowed to tie work requirements to Medicaid (now in court, but so far tens of thousands have been kicked off Medicaid in Arkansas). Access to garbage (called short term or skinny plans) was expanded. And now, right now, this administration is in court, trying to take away protections for those with preexisting conditions. Of course, this President spews lies about this along with everything else. Why does he lie so much? Because he can. Because he gets away with it. Because of his supporters, many aren’t informed enough to know he’s in court trying to take away their healthy care–and savvy enough to tell SCOTUS not to hurry to hear the case, wait until after the 2020 election. A number of his supporters know and don’t care, they’d rather lose their own protections and health care than know one of those others is getting a bypass in the operating room next door.
My personal favorite (and by favorite I mean drooling/sobbing/ready to throw myself off the terrace) is when I see/hear people who continue to support this administration and President because who knows why, but they know it’s ok, and they’ll be ok, because they aren’t like those greedy libs who want entitlements. Sure they want and need their Social Security and Medicare, but those aren’t entitlements. Oops. But come November, they’ll still vote for him. Why? Because in the meantime he’ll lie, and they’ll swallow those lies because they want to, and really, when you think about it, maybe Uncle Joe’s had a good run after all.
That old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?…”
It’s showtime, folks.
Here I am, back home again. Not that I can’t blog from the hospital, I just didn’t want to. Husband has yet another brand new part, Art Child has a brand new diagnosis of walking pneumonia, and me? Well, I’ve got the same old pile of dirty laundry staring at me. Much like the file that holds the current manuscript I’m sort of kind of querying, I’m ignoring it. Every morning I get up, make my coffee, exchange emails with my writing buddy, squint at the newspaper while I try to pretend I’m not living through the death of American democracy, do my stretches, open the file intending to make notes for a synopsis (some agents require these when you’re querying), read a couple of paragraphs, weep, and close the file again.
Life has been pretty damned weird these days, and I feel like I’m…on the cusp of a new stage, or grieving, maybe both. I think those two things go together. Grief, not just for dinner dying anymore.
No, no, don’t get nervous, I’m not going to go on about health, hospitals, or death. We grieve a lot of things at different stages: loss of friendship, loss of marriage, job loss, major financial difficulties, leaving school, starting school, menopause (so I’ve heard–personally, I celebrated), children growing up, viagra prescriptions, a healthy planet, elected officials who understood the term public service, and dreams. Oh, those traitorous, treacherous fucking dreams. Mine, as anyone who’s been with Mrs Fringe for any length of time knows, is tied to my writing. A contract. Someone in the industry who believes in my words, my fiction, enough to think they and I could earn a dollar from them.
That clip above? From All That Jazz, my favorite movie, I honestly don’t think I can tell you how many times I’ve seen it. Gah! I was an adolescent during one of the golden ages of movie musicals. All That Jazz, Saturday Night Fever (I know, technically not a musical, but it was the soundtrack of my youth), Hair, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Grease, Fame, Yentl, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, The Rose, Shock Treatment, Fame (yes, I wrote it twice), The Blues Brothers–there were a lot of them. They were all great fun and great tears with a message. If you had talent, determination, someone who believed in you, willingness to put the work in and put up with various setbacks and humiliations, booze and/or mind altering substances but didn’t OD by the time you were 30, well. You would make it. That or you’d be beaten by life and give up those stupid dreams for a house in the suburbs. Or financial security. Or you’d just be too busy with financial insecurity to care anymore. See above, “I acceeeeeept!” Whichever way the chips fell, there was definitely no soundtrack telling me I’d take a twenty year break from trying, wake up one day to hear the alarm ringing from Pink Floyd’s Time in my head and start writing again, and write and revise and write and revise and connect with other writers and learn about the publishing industry and get derailed again and then write and revise and submit, and write and revise and submit, over and over again until I was 50,000 years old, still care, and what’s playing in my head is no longer the alarm clock, but Clare Torry’s brilliant, wordless vocals. Yeah, I’d like to see that movie. It’s possible this manuscript is a version of it.
I want to accept. I say I accept. I think I’ve accepted. And then I don’t. Because even as I grieve the loss of my writing dream, the writing is how I get through, how I live, how I grieve.
The closing scene of All That Jazz is below. Kind of long but you should watch it, about the death of a dream realized, and also Ben Vereen is a god.
I’ll say one thing for all of our recent time in the hospital, they have the best damned views in the city. Most of my photos have weird shadows and reflections because of the double paned windows combined with my terrible photo taking skills when using the phone, but hey, I’ve woken up to worse.
Scary hospital stays are scary. How’s that for profound blathering? And when faced with these stays, we are a family that talks around things, jokes about them, because we do. I don’t want to cry any more than when I absolutely can’t hold it in, leaves me with one of those vicious migraines that have teeth and nausea every time, and hospital security gets really testy when you stand in the halls and scream profanities. In the past, I’d tell Husband I appreciated the vacation, but next time let’s pick a better hotel. These last few times, well. This is a fancy shmancy hospital, with tvs larger than the wall our living room tv hangs on. I told him it was the nicest hotel he’d ever taken me to. That was the joke, over and over with each new nurse, each new visitor. Not all that funny the first time, less so every time I said it, but again, wtf else am I going to say?
Words may be my thing, reading and writing them, but I lose them when I most need them just like a cab driver trying to explain in his third language that the crumpled fender of the car in front of his isn’t his fault.
In November I began reading a novel I had long been waiting for, and it’s truly rare for me to buy a book at full price. I wish I could more often to support authors, but my budget is limited and I read a lot. This one, though, I had to. Erin Morgenstern. There are many authors I admire for different strengths, and her strength is incredibly lush sentences I just get lost in. Nevertheless, I stopped reading once Husband was admitted because I just couldn’t relax into those opulent, fantastical dreams on the page. Nothing I can imagine myself writing.
Because my words are wrong, too raw. Too many shadows and distorted reflections that gauge their way out of my mouth with teeth and claws.
This morning I finished the novel. It didn’t inspire me to write anything beautiful, say anything beautiful, but I did bake an apple pie with all the cinnamon my heart desires, on top of a puff pastry crust with a layer of cheesecake in between, as close as I get to lush. Five minutes ago–as I was writing this–Husband’s doctor called, we’re looking at another inpatient stay next week.