Monday, May 25, 2020

Reaching a Milestone in the Midst of a Pandemic

Yesterday, I hit a milestone. I published novel #30. Normally, this would be a cause for celebration. Well, in fact, it is cause. Unfortunately we live now in the midst of a deadly pandemic. A virus that has successfully scared the crap out of me. Still, life goes on and novels are written. But this time begged the question, metaphorically: If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, does it make a sound?

Would I have invited a lot of people to a book release party? No. Not my style. I would have gone out to dinner with a friend or friends just to at least acknowledge this milestone in my publishing career. But there's this matter of the virus from hell that dictates how we socialize, where we socialize, and how many can gather in one place at one time. And the question hangs like the Sword of Damacles--is it safe out there? I'm not whining. I'm pointing out the challenge of life as usual during this time. There no 'life as usual' right now.

I released my book in the wee hours of the morning of May 24th. It was important for me to do so becaue this book is dedicated to my mom who would have turned 95 that day. I announced the arrival of Running in Place on Facebook. And I so appreciate those family members, friends, and readers who acknowledged the book. Many of whom went to purchase their copy right away.

Running in Place is women's fiction, primarily. Someting I've not written for a while. This particular book has been at least ten years in the writing. It started with a title and a concept.  And, yes, a similarity to where I was in my own life at that time--running in place. The book has taken so many twists and turns and plot shifts over the years. It is a work of frustration, commitment (oddly, a key theme in the book), and of passion. The book deserved a better welcoming into the world than I've been able to give it. And that has been the bigger reminder of the restrictive time in which we live--for now. This time of running in place--working from home, eating at home, spending time at home. 

So, I suppose you could say Running in Place is a book for the time. In any case, here's a glimpse.



Available now at Amazon.com

Callie Regan has commitment issues. Everyone seems to see this except Callie. Which, when she comes to the same realization, makes her question her own skills as a therapist. She’s learned that the best way to confront a problem is to keep moving. Permanence has not been a factor in her life. She thinks she’s found the perfect solution for the stability she seeks. Still, she can’t quite say ‘yes.’ The solution—move. And she does. To rural Mississippi. There’s truth in the saying: Wherever you go, there you are. She finds herself once again running in place and going nowhere. And she’s not alone. 

She meets others who are, in their own ways, marking time. Billie, a young former runner and Iraq war amputee, who has to learn to walk again. Arcadia, a woman who spent years imprisoned because she put her life on the line out of love. Clinton, isolated because of losses that come with age. Mary Alice, who can’t break free of the beliefs and the fears that hold her captive.


~ * ~

I hope that you all are staying safe during this time. I hope you're finding creative ways to fill the time, and that you have the resources you need to sustain you. I hope you find little ways to celebrate the goodness of life and your own achievements. Stay strong. Embrace life. Say yes to the possibilites and dreams.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

After the Fear and Grief



I've spent a lot of time alone. I live alone, so it's not unusual. What is unusual is feeling that aloneness. I've felt that more in the past few weeks than ever before. When I can no longer fill the quiet with TV or music, I've taken moments here and there to listen to the stillness around me. I live in an apartment complex that is obviously very well-built because I don't hear my neighbors. I've always considered that to be a plus. Now I sit in the quiet and wish for a bump against the wall, the reverberation of a door slam from somewhere below, the sound of children laughing outside, or the roar of a car engine. I find myself longing for those sounds of normal life. I fear we've lost that normal forever. I want to say that we'll survive this and return to life as normal, but I can't assume either of those things. Who will survive? Who will not? It's a crap shoot. There are no guarantees.

As for returning to life as normal--that may or may not be a good thing. Think about the ways we're seeing this crisis with the Corona virus impacting our world. Sadly, we see people getting sick, having to go into quarantine, and many are dying pretty much alone with the exception of those tending to their care from behind masks and gloves. Those people, by the way, are the true heroes of this time. It's frightening, really. I fear and go into a near panic with every tickle in my throat, every sneeze, every cough, every bit of a headache--all of which are typical for me due to seasonal allergies. But I ask, "Is this the virus? Is this going to take me down? Am I sick? Do I need to call someone to take Stormy and care for her?" The fear isn't crippling. Not yet. But it has me shaken.


This virus, this invisible monster, has made me re-evaluate. It's certainly been a learning. I've learned how little control I have in life. I've learned I'm not all that significant, no more so than anyone else. I've learned how little I need as I watch people scramble to get the basics like milk, eggs, and toilet paper. How much is enough? We don't seem to know anymore. We're all just scared.


Then I hear news stories about how the environment is being impacted in a positive way. The once-green and muddy canals of Venice are crystal blue and being visited again by dolphins. Mountain vistas previously shrouded in polluted clouds are visible, the skies above them clear and bright. The earth is seizing this down time to breathe and renew.


We humans are asked or, in some cases, ordered to stay home. Stay away from one another. Stop the spread of the virus by refusing it a new host to take hold. It's the only way. It's all we've got. (I'll avoid the political aspects of poor decisions and bad timing and why this is all we've got.) New language has sprung up: social distancing, self-isolating. Words that those introverts among us--like myself--not only understand but embrace. We are our own worse enemies in this fight. We have one job to do to win--stay home. And, yet, people deny the severity of the pandemic, deny the expert medical opinions that inform us, refuse to give up their "rights" to congregate, hence furthering the life of this monster that could take us all down. Lives have been turned inside out with job loss, illness and death in families, the change of plans.


Plans. All of us have plans. I had plans for a trip to visit family and friends. Canceled. I had plans for a beach vacation with friends. Canceled. I have plans for a July trip that will likely be canceled. It's a hassle arguing with airlines to get a refund or at least a credit, to cancel reservations for a beach house, to face the disappointments. It would be a bigger hassle to be hospitalized and possibly die alone in a sterile hospital room and have family and friends grieving a funeral they could not attend.


This crisis should help us put things into perspective. It has forced us to change our daily routines and our longer-range plans. It has forced us to slow down. It has forced us to more carefully tend to our finances. It has forced some of us to ask for and/or accept help we would never have had to request or receive. It has forced us to evaluate just what we do need and what we can live without. It has forced us to hold onto the love we share with others and cherish them.


What about tomorrow? Not Thursday as in 'that' tomorrow. What about when this is over or at least over enough that we can come out of our hiding spaces and into life again? What will our lives look like? Many will be having to start over as surely as if a hurricane had swept ashore and washed everything out to sea. How do we rebuild, or do we build something new? How do we heal from the fear and the grief and lean into hope again? How do we lean into a new normal and create the lives we want?


I hope I take to heart the learnings I've gotten from this so far. And it's far from over. But I hope my life, if I survive this, takes on new meaning, reflecting all that I've learned from this--that I don't need nearly as much stuff as I think I do; that I do need the people in my life to be in this with me; that I have a great capacity to care about others and tend to their needs above my own; that I should and can take better care of myself--physically and emotionally; that when it comes to an invisible virus with the potential to wipe out masses of human life, we all become one. We are all in this together. We fear the same. We grieve the same. We love the same. We die the same. And we will be given the same opportunity to come out of this a better person, with the chance to live in harmony in a better world.


This is what I believe comes after the fear and grief. Hope and understanding and acceptance and purpose and humanity, along with a greater love and respect for our earth. We are in the midst of what Christians recognize as Holy Week. It's a time for atonement and sacrifice and joy, only then to stand in the darkness of Good Friday. But we emerge into the light of hope and resurrection of Easter Sunday. I don't think it's an accident that we were told earlier that this week would be the most trying and filled with loss, but that then the expectation is that things will begin slowly to improve. Don't be afraid to stand in the dark, stay home, close the doors, and wait. New life will come.