Tag Archives: mental health

Monday Musings: A Wonderful Return To Convention-ing

I spent this past weekend at ConCarolinas in Charlotte, reconnecting with fans, colleagues, and friends. And it was great.

The last con I attended was DragonCon at the end of August/beginning of September 2023, before the fall and all that came with it. Since that time, I have largely avoided crowds of people and interactions with even some close friends. I shied away from personal contact with pretty much everyone. It has just been too hard.

And so resolving to attend this con was a big deal for me. I put it on my professional calendar early in the year, committed to it, both internally and publicly. Honestly, I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted to do, but I knew it was something I should do.

All of which made this past weekend such a wonderful and surprising pleasure. Yes, I sold a good number of books — it was one of my best ConCarolinas ever in that regard. But more than that, it simply was wonderful to see people, to talk about writing and publishing, to laugh with friends who have been absent from my life for far too long.

Throughout the weekend, I was touched by the number of people who wanted to offer condolences, words of comfort, hugs of support. I was grateful again and again for the expressions of sympathy, and then for the efforts made by people around me to treat me as they always have — with affection and kindness, but also with irreverence and snark. A weekend that I feared would be awkward and challenging turned out to be fun and refreshingly natural.

It was, in short, exactly the convention I needed and wanted it to be. I have a great many people to thank for that, and I am not going to try to name them here. It’s not that they don’t deserve to be mentioned and thanked individually. They really, really do. But I am destined to forget someone important, and thus do more damage than good with such a list. Suffice it to say that if we shared a moment (or more) during the weekend — if we had a meal together, or a drink, or a panel, or a conversation; if you stopped by my book table to peruse my offerings or buy something or ask me a question about writing; if you had a role in making the convention such a great success (despite broken escalators and hobbled elevators and malfunctioning thermostats) — I am deeply grateful to you. Thank you.

Have a great week.

Monday Musings: “What’s Next?” Well, How About Some Big News?

“When I ask ‘What’s Next?’ it means I’m ready to move on to other things. So, what’s next?” — Jed Barlet, THE WEST WING

Yeah, I will seek out almost any excuse to quote from The West Wing, it being my favorite television series of all time. But as it happens, this is a question that’s been on my mind for a while now. In the show, “What’s next?” was more than a change of topic or a jump to the next agenda item. It was also used to turn the page after a setback, to refocus the staff after a triumph, even to look for a new beginning after tragedy.

As is the case with so much that happens in the course of the show’s seven seasons, the quote has long had great significance for me, and this is especially true now.

I know better than to think I can “turn the page” or “move on” from the past year. And even if I could, I’m not certain I would. But I am ready to restart my life, to venture back out into the professional and personal world, to find a new routine that makes room for all the emotional complexity of the new reality my family and I face.

In some ways, I have already started this process. I finished a book a few weeks ago, one I started back in January. It was sort of a work-for-hire, tie-in book, but it was fun to write. The plotting and character work proved absorbing, and because I started it later than I intended, the deadline kept me focused, motivated, and, yes, just a little manic. If it seems like I am avoiding telling you anything specific about the book itself, that’s because I am. Sorry. For now, I can’t really talk about it. When I can, you will all be among the first to know.

I have also written a novella for a new shared-world anthology that will be released this summer by Zombies Need Brains. And, as some of you have seen, I am again accepting clients for my freelance editing business. At the end of this month, I will attend ConCarolinas, my first convention since DragonCon last September. Baby steps. But steps forward, which is the point.

Today, I can also share some news about What’s Next that I think will please a good many of you.

First a little background.

Many of you will have seen my blog post about the trip Nancy and I recently took to Italy. If you haven’t, you should check it out. For the photos, if nothing else. While we were in Venice, I fell in love with the city’s narrow lanes, ancient bridges, and gorgeous architecture. It is, visually speaking, the loveliest city I’ve ever seen. And there are no cars — all travel within the city is by boat, by foot, or by bicycle. Walking the streets was like a journey back in time.

Street sign in Venice: "Rio Terra Dei Assassini"
Street sign in Venice: “Rio Terra Dei Assassini,” which means, basically, “Street-That-Used-To-Be-A-Canal Of The Murderers.”

We took tours of the Doge’s Palace and Saint Mark’s Basilica (both were spectacular), and one of our tour guides mentioned that while Venice is a very safe city today, once upon a time it was anything but. And as proof of this, she said, we should pay attention to some of the street names. “Street of the Dead,” “Lane of the Murderers,” “Street of the Head” (that’s not a typo), and more.

And, of course, this set my writer brain in motion. One thing led to another, and I can tell you now that I am beginning work on a new Thieftaker universe series set in 18th century Venice. I don’t know yet if it will be a spin-off or will feature Ethan throughout. I don’t even know how I am going to get Ethan to Venice, though I have some ideas about that. But I have already commenced my research for the books and I am totally jazzed. One publisher has already expressed interest in seeing a series proposal, so that’s good as well.

Thieftaker, by D.B. Jackson (Jacket art by Chris McGrath)What about the rest of my life? What’s next in other realms?

Well, we’re about to start doing some work on the house — I won’t say it’s overdue, but it comes at a good time. We have more travel planned for later in the year and several weddings to attend this summer and fall. We’ll see Erin. We’ll see other family and many friends. I’ll be at DragonCon late this summer. And we’ll continue to heal, even as we also look for ways to honor Alex’s memory and celebrate her life.

I look forward to crossing paths with many of you in the months to come. We have some catching up to do.

Have a great week.

Monday Blues: The Hardest Birthday

Yes, another post about our daughter and our loss. A part of me shies from this, wonders if I have written about her too much. “Write something upbeat,” I tell myself. “Something funny, something — anything — that isn’t about grief.” But we are grieving. Still. It’s been six months since we lost Alex. A bit more, actually. It seems like so long. It seems like nothing. And that is what my therapist tells me — that really six months is nothing. We remain at the very outset of a long journey, one that will be part of our daily existence for the rest of our lives.

So, yes, another post about our daughter.

As it happens, we are, generally, doing pretty well. We recently returned from three weeks in Italy (photos to come later this week), where we had an incredible time walking, learning, eating and drinking, seeing friends, and managing to live in the moment. We have more travel coming later this year. We have family and friends to see, weddings to attend, things to anticipate and enjoy. We have work to do, which also remains a balm.

But today, none of that matters.

Today, Alex would have — should have — turned 29 years old.

Today, I am shattered glass. Today, I am leaden skies and unrelenting rain. Today, I am a father bereft.

Tomorrow will be better. I know that. Next year will be a little easier. And the year after that more so. Today is the hardest day.

I understand all of this. But none of it makes this day any easier. As you read this, I will be off doing . . . something. Birdwatching, perhaps. Playing with my camera. Walking. Later, maybe, I will play some music. Mostly, I will be thinking of my darling girl.

I have nothing more to say, I’m afraid. I have no wisdom to offer. No deep words or insights. Today is a day to be endured, to be gotten through. I am simply doing the best I can.

Be kind to one another. Tell the people you love how you feel about them.

Monday Musings: The Tyranny of Clocks and Calendars

Many years ago — more than a decade, which boggles my mind just a little — Nancy, Erin, and I went down to Monteverde, Costa Rica, to visit Alex, who was taking the first semester of her junior year in high school at the Cloud Forest School (offering us an early glimpse of the adventuresome nature and wanderlust that would define her too-brief life; she would later spend half of her university sophomore year in Berlin, and all of her junior year in Madrid.)

Our family in Monteverde, Costa Rica, November 2011.
Our family in Monteverde, Costa Rica, November 2011.

Our visit, which coincided with the (U.S.) Thanksgiving holiday, was fun and fascinating, despite near constant rain. We saw a ton of cool birds, ate amazing local foods, went on gorgeous hikes, and, of course, had great family time. We also spent one memorable morning doing a zip line tour of the rain forest. (Yes, I am slowly but surely closing in on today’s topic . . . .) It was a damp, warm day. Rain showers drifted through the area, but the air was still. The zip line course zig-zagged through an extensive, unbroken tract of rain forest.

The longest leg of the zip course was a full kilometer long, and when my turn came to take on that segment of the journey, I’ll admit to being just a little intimidated. That didn’t last long. I climbed into the harness, remembered the lessons we’d been given for slowing and braking, and allowed our guides to launch me.

Costa Rica RainforestWithin moments, I was gliding over lush rain forest, surrounded by a ghostly mist, utterly alone, and, it seemed, in a cocoon of sensation — birds called from the green below me, the air was redolent with the sweet scents of rain and earth and forest decay, mist cooled my face, the green of the damp foliage was so brilliant as to appear unreal. Time fell away. Yes, I was moving. But to this day, I couldn’t tell you how long it took me to float through that segment of the course. It could have been mere seconds. It could have been hours. It didn’t matter. For the purposes of that experience, time meant nothing to me. I had escaped the tyranny of clocks and calendars.

Yes, the tyranny of clocks and calendars.

Human existence has always been governed by the passage of time — the cycle of days, the changing of the seasons, the aging of our bodies. But clocks are relatively new to the human experience and the demand that we live our lives according to timetables, schedules, and deadlines is newer still. Leisure, I would argue, is our attempt to step away from segmented time, whether we are engaging in a favorite hobby, or traveling to some far off land for a vacation. People speak often of “losing track of time.” This can be offered as an excuse, a way to explain a deadline missed or a late arrival to an important meeting. But it can often also be said in a happier context. “I was so absorbed in what I was doing, I totally lost track of the time.” It’s a glorious feeling, one we seek to replicate whenever we can.

Perhaps I am more conscious now of the preciousness of time, the need to enjoy our hours, our days, our years. They are treasures, not to be frittered away carelessly, not to be spent only on things as trivial as work and Zoom calls and chores. Because they can be taken from us without warning. The Beatles had it wrong, I am sorry to say. Money can, in fact, buy us love. But it can’t buy us time.

The four of us used to go to the beach for a week each summer — the North Carolina coast near Wilmington. We would arrive on Saturday afternoon, do a massive grocery shop, claim our rooms in the house (often a fraught process for the girls . . . .), and then go our separate ways until dinner time. I would always head down to the shore and sit watching the surf and birds and the play of golden late-afternoon light on the water. And I would feel the tension draining from my body, being wicked away by the sand. The sweep hand on my watch would lose its power over me, to be replaced by the advance and retreat of the waves. And I would revel in the anticipation of the glorious week to come, during which our days would be measured solely by the ebb and flow of tides and the arc of the sun.

I get this a bit with my daily morning walks. I walk roughly the same track each day, and I know how long it takes me. Even if I stop to look at the occasional hawk or thrush, the duration of the walk doesn’t change very much. And so, I don’t worry about the time. For those few miles, my only task is to walk, and to let my mind go where it will. Some days I think about my daughters, others find me working through plot lines, and still others I spend obsessing over politics or some issue with a friend or family member. And every so often, my mind wanders in ways I can’t anticipate and can barely track.

My point, I suppose, is that we need to escape those temporal tyrants I mentioned earlier. Even if we can’t afford to go on a vacation — because of time constraints or financial ones — and even if we have to measure the breaks we take in minutes or, if we’re fortunate, hours, we can still set aside a small portion of our day to step away from datebooks and timestamps. It’s worth the effort. Just remember to put your Apple watch and cell phone somewhere you can’t see or hear them.

Have a great week, or enjoy a period of time of your own choosing . . . .

Monday Musings: The Emotional Challenge of Writing

Whenever I work with writers who are at the outsets of their careers — whether I’m editing their work for freelance or for an anthology, or teaching them in a workshop, or just talking shop on a convention panel — I try to stress the importance of delving deeply into emotion when telling our stories. There are so many elements that make a book or story effective. We want to create fascinating worlds, imbue those worlds with breathtaking magical systems or mind-bending imagined technologies, and give those worlds rich, complex histories, cultures, and religions. And, of course, we want our plots to be twisty, unpredictable, fun, and, ultimately, deeply satisfying.

At the end of the day, though, the key to a successful story, at least in my opinion, thirty novels and nearly as many years into my career, is character. Every other element of our storytelling can be perfect, but if our characters are flat and our readers don’t connect with them, we can’t consider our narratives successful. On the other hand, imperfections in our world building and our prose and even our plotting can be overcome with believable, memorable, relatable character work.

And I would argue that successful character work demands that we tap into the emotions of the people about whom we’re writing (even if they’re not technically “people”). Emotion is a writer’s bread and butter. Emotion is how we connect with readers, how our readers come to love (or hate) our characters, how our characters give meaning and purpose to our narratives. Emotion is everything. Without it, we might as well be writing shopping lists, or relating our stories in bullet points.

Why am I telling you this? Many of you aren’t writers, and probably don’t care about the craft of writing. And those of you who are writers have probably heard me talk about this stuff before. As I said at the outset, these are points I make at every opportunity, because I deem them so important to the success of any story.

Infusing our prose with emotion, capturing and portraying the feelings of our characters, using emotion as a tool to propel our plots — all of these things are really hard to do well. Writers spend entire careers perfecting the techniques. But sometimes — for me right now — it can be an overwhelming challenge simply to mine our own emotions so that we can draw upon them in our writing.

“Write what you know,” writers are often told. As a writer of fantasy, I approach this bit of wisdom with a healthy dose of skepticism. If all of us ONLY wrote what we “know” the literary world would be a drab, boring place. But “write what you know” does have some relevance for emotional writing. All of us have felt anger and contentment, fear and resolve, love and hate, sadness and joy. We are emotional creatures. And by drawing on our own emotional experiences and memories, we can bring authenticity and power to the emotions we impart to our characters.

The problem is, sometimes we don’t want to go there.

The Chalice War: Sword, by David B. CoeIn the last year, I have written two pieces of original short fiction. That’s it. I haven’t written a novel since I finished The Chalice War: Sword, late in 2022. I have recently started work on a tie-in project (I can’t really say more than that, right now), a novel. It is coming slowly, and because I am essentially playing in someone else’s world, the emotions I’ll be mining are somewhat removed from my own. I spent the first half of last year doing a bunch of editing, for myself and for others, figuring that when those projects were through, I would dive into a new book of my own.

Then our older daughter’s health took a dramatic turn for the worse, and that was pretty much it. I couldn’t write fiction anymore. I didn’t want to write fiction anymore. Because my entire existence outside of writing was about pain and grief and loss, and the last thing I wanted to do was a deep dive into my own feelings for the purpose of bringing life to new characters.

Now, a couple of things. First, fear not — this is NOT a permanent condition. I will write again, books and stories both. I have ideas I want to explore and projects I want to complete. I’m just not ready yet. And second, notice I said, “I couldn’t write FICTION anymore.” I did not stop writing; I have not stopped being a writer. Not entirely. I am writing posts again, and I have been journaling all this time. I have also been writing to friends. In all of this writing, I am processing and prodding. I may not be willing to delve deeply into my emotional world at this time, but I’m not ignoring it completely. I’m being careful. The way we might favor a twisted knee or avoid contact with a bruise on one side.

Because I am bruised, wounded. And I am far from alone in this regard. Lots of you write with and through emotional pain all the time. Which, I suppose, brings me to my final, larger point. Another thing writers are told constantly is to write as much as possible. “Professional writers write.” I’ve said this myself. And it’s true. But it doesn’t mean we can or should always be forcing ourselves to work on the next thing we want to sell. At times, we need to write for our own purposes. At times, we write not to make money, but to survive, to heal, to find peace. At times, we can only ask so much of ourselves.

This is such a time for me. As much as I would like to be “productive” again (whatever that means) I’m simply not there yet. Emotional writing may be our professional currency, but it’s not always possible. Admitting that, honoring that, is a step toward healing.

Have a great week.

Happy New Year and a Musings Post Celebrating Grief (Yep!)

For years now, I have written New Year’s posts, often more than one per holiday. In December, I have often taken stock of the year that’s ending, evaluating my accomplishments, examining my disappointments, trying to make sense of an entire trip around the sun in 800 to 1,000 words. And then, early in January, I usually write another post, establishing goals and expressing hopes for the year to come.

For reasons that will be apparent to those who know me, I am reluctant to attempt any of that this year. The year that has just passed was the worst of my life, a year of tragic loss and emotional devastation. And the year now beginning? Honestly, I don’t know what to hope for, or what to expect. The truth is no full year is entirely good or bad. There were moments of joy and laughter in 2023, just as even the “best” years of my life have included intervals of sadness and anger and dissatisfaction. New Year’s is a convenient time to take stock, but our lives don’t divide into neat units according to the calendar.

So, why am I writing anything at all right now?

In part, I suppose, because I believe it is time for me to start blogging again. I don’t really feel like it. But I don’t feel like doing much of anything, and that is no way to live. I also have no intention of making every week’s post about despair and mourning, and so I guess I think there will be value in having to look beyond my immediate emotions for reasons to write and for subjects for my essays.

Today, though, with your indulgence, I will take the opportunity to write about grief. It’s been only a bit over two months since we lost our older daughter to cancer. We are still deep in the grieving process (to the degree that this can even be termed “a process”), and we will be for some time. I find it hard to imagine an end to this grief. Which is not to say that I don’t believe I can be happy ever again, or that I can’t laugh or enjoy life or take pleasure in family and friendships, hobbies and travel, the work that I love and the colleagues I treasure. Grief isn’t linear. As I have said before, having dealt with grief a fair amount in my life, I don’t believe it lends itself to division into convenient stages. Yes, it changes and evolves as we confront our emotions. Yes, it is tempered and softened by the passage of time. But it is different for each of us. And it changes with each loss we suffer.

What I have learned most about grief is that it is good. Yep, you read that right. Grief is good.

Loss sucks. I would not wish on anyone the emotional pain I have experienced over the past few months — hell, the past three years (almost), since Alex’s cancer diagnosis. The crater in my life left by her death can never, ever be filled. But my grief speaks to the depth of my feelings for her. That crater is commensurate in size with the joy she brought me, the joy she brought all of us. We grieve because we have loved; we grieve because we remember. And while the ache of our grief dulls and lessens with time, we never stop grieving. Nor would we want to. Because we never want to let go of that love and we never want to forget.

Grief is catharsis. Grief reminds us that while our beloved is gone, we are still alive, which is what she would want. Alex would not want us to be crippled by our grief, but I can tell you with utmost confidence that if we didn’t grieve at all, she would be thoroughly pissed off. Grief helps us place in perspective the importance of the one we’ve lost, and it also allows us to shape the way our memories of her, our love for her, will influence the rest of our lives.

There was a great deal of talk after the pandemic about what our society’s “new normal” would look like. I am having similar conversations these days with my family and friends, as well as my therapist, trying to figure out what my new normal and that of my family will look like. Our lives will never be the same. How could they be? But we can decide what life without Alex will be like, and our grief can help us create that new reality.

What did I admire most about my daughter? Her courage. Her resilience. Her spirit and her determination, even before she got sick, to live her life with zeal and joy and curiosity. And already I know that I want to be more like her in the years I have left. What a gift! A legacy, born of love, honed by loss, given voice within my heart and mind by the memory of my darling girl.

Already, Nancy, Erin, and I have spent time together sharing our recollections, laughing at things she said and did, imagining what she might say in response to some new situation, or how she might respond to something in the news or on TV or in a song. She continues to be a presence for all of us, as she should. Someday, perhaps, Nancy and I will be grandparents, and if/when we are, Alex will be the stuff of legend for Erin’s kids. Tales of her exploits — her bravery, her wit, her intelligence, her beauty, and, yes, even her foibles — will be an essential element of their upbringing. And so she will live on.

No one wants to grieve. As I said, loss sucks. But our grief is something to be embraced, something that gives back even more than it takes.

I wish you a wonderful 2024, filled with love and laughter.

Tuesday Musings (Yeah, I Know…): Another (Brief) Update

I’ve started this post several times, only to flame out after a few lines. The truth is, I have nothing I want to write. I am in New York again, staying with my older daughter, doing what I can to help her through this most difficult time. That includes little things — shopping for her, keeping the apartment clean, cooking, doing small repairs on stuff that’s been broken for too long — and bigger things, like taking her to the hospital for small procedures and scheduling appointments with various doctors (Nancy or Erin or I will be taking her to those as well).

And I am also here to sit and talk with her, to keep her company, to do whatever simple things I can to make her comfortable and allow her to focus on healing and coping.

She has remarkable doctors and remarkable friends. Her support system is wonderful.

And so is ours. Nancy, Erin, and I have been so grateful to the many caring, loving friends and relatives who have done what they can to ease our burden. And I so appreciate the support I feel and see on my social media feeds, in my email inbox, in my snail mail postal box.

I don’t know how much I will be posting in the days and weeks, to come. I want to maintain the blog, but I also know that my focus right now needs to be elsewhere. So, thank you in advance for your understanding. Trust that I am doing as well as I can. I am taking care of myself, even as I also minister to my child. I am seeking out the help I need when I need it.

Wishing you all the best. Hug those you love.

Monday Musings: Family Update

We are in New York this weekend — an impromptu trip to help our older daughter who is suffering through some rough side-effects after her most recent treatments. We are dealing with a lot right now. Her most of all. I won’t get into details, but I will say that the situation remains serious and difficult, and all of us — mom, dad, sister, patient — are struggling.

Through it all, our older daughter, Alex, has been remarkable. Remarkable. Courageous, wise, positive, resilient, matter-of-fact. I have been humbled by her strength and spirit again and again and again. And Erin, our younger daughter, has been amazing as well. She has been the rock on whom all of us have leaned. She, too, has been brave and brilliant, knowledgable (from her work in the health care field) and compassionate, a point of stability and also a constant source of humor and light.

I will resist my usual impulse when writing about my children, which is to deflect all credit for their amazing qualities toward their mom. Yes, they both remind me so much of her, and display so many of the attributes that drew me to Nancy years ago. But the truth is, I recognize myself in both girls as well. They are a blend of the two of us. Parenting them has been the great joy of our lives, and we have done a good job of it.

People write not-so-flattering things about Millennials and Gen Z-ers. It’s easy to find articles online and in papers about the shortcomings of the generations that have followed us older folks. I don’t see it. Alex’s friends — all of them her age or younger — have been incredible. They have offered her care, support, and companionship. They have taken her to appointments, cooked for her, picked up prescriptions for her. Back in 2021, when Alex began her first chemo treatment, and started to lose her hair, one of them drove down to Brooklyn from Maine so that she could get her head shaved as Alex was having hers done.

There is no greater point to all of this post. Not really. We as a family have been going through a hard time for two and a half years now, since Alex’s initial cancer diagnosis. We have had more than our share of setbacks and we honestly do not know what will happen ultimately. All of us want to be optimistic. All of us need to be realistic. Reconciling those two impulses isn’t always easy.

In the meantime, though, we are spending time together. We were in Colorado as a family in July. We are in NY with Alex now (Erin was here all week before we arrived, and Nancy was up here the week before that). When we leave tomorrow, Alex will come with us to Tennessee for a ceremony honoring Nancy’s service to the university there and unveiling her official portrait. After that, we’re not entirely sure, though we don’t think that Alex can be alone for the time being. So, at least one of us will fly back with her. Maybe both of us.

We do what needs to be done for the people we love, because love demands no less, because they deserve no less, because we know they would do the same for us.

Be kind to one another. Tell the people you love how you feel about them, how much you appreciate them. When you need help from others, ask for it. Just as you wouldn’t hesitate to come to the aid of those you love most, so they would not waver in their support for you.

Wishing you all a wonderful week.

Monday Musings: A Walk in the Rain, and a Quest for Solace

This is one of those weeks when I really have no idea what to write. The idea of the Monday Musings posts is that I compose something based on what I’m thinking about. But this week . . . well, let’s just say I’m not prepared to do that.

Sometimes our thoughts are not meant to be shared. Or they’re not ready for public viewing. Sometimes they are too private, too hard, too raw.

Those of us who depend on social media for professional purposes are, of course, all too aware of the many, many problems inherent in the medium itself. We struggle to find ways to reduce our lives and careers to digestible units. We strive to come across as upbeat, to announce our successes with the proper blend of pride and humility, to paper over our disappointments, to reveal enough of our private selves to appear accessible but not so much that our posts come across as creepy or maudlin or inappropriate.

I have actually shared a lot over the years, perhaps more than I should. I have written of professional letdowns, personal loss, mental health issues. At times, I’ve wondered if I’ve crossed some line by being too honest, too open. More often than not, I am come down on the side of candor, believing that perhaps my own struggles, whether private or professional, might be illustrative for others. I’ve thought that by revealing a bit more of myself, I might help someone else.

Earlier this week, I took my usual morning walk along the rails-to-trails path near our home. It was raining. Not a soft drizzle, but a substantial rain. I put on rain gear and I walked anyway. I had the path entirely to myself. I did my usual walk — three and a half miles; nearly an hour — and I didn’t see another soul, which is pretty unusual for this route.

The night before, we’d had a frenzied series of storms, one after another bringing pelting rain, angry winds, and a near continuous dialogue of lightning flashes and grumbling thunder. But by morning, the worst of the storms had passed.

As I walked, rain tapped on the forest canopy, on the brush around me, on the woodland floor. And also on me, on my raincoat. The rhythm was the same, but the tone was different, as if I were a tympani tuned to a different pitch. Most of the birds I usually encounter on my walk were hunkered down and silent, though a male cardinal flew across the path, chipping ecstatically. I have no idea what had him so excited. Streams, newly replenished, chortled among the trees, happy to be running once more.

And through it all, I walked and thought and tried to find peace, solace, strength, inspiration — anything really. I suppose mostly I wanted a path out of the musings that had gripped me for days. The musings I was, and still am, in no state to share. Nothing came.

No, that’s not true. I did feel at peace while I was walking. I did find inspiration for this post in the sounds and sights of the rain. And maybe to ask for more is to ask for too much. There may be magic to be found in a summer morning walk through a warm rain, but I don’t know if there are miracles.

This is another strange post, I know. I have written several in recent weeks and months. Times are hard. Some weeks I can find something to write about, a thought thread that distracts and even entertains me. Other weeks, I can’t be diverted. Life holds sway and I can’t pretend to care about other stuff.

Next week, perhaps, I will write something less strange, less cryptic. The women’s World Cup is winding down, and I have wanted to write about that. Maybe I will. Next week. In the meantime, you have my apologies for the vagueness, the navel-gazing. As I say, life is hard right now. And my walks in the rain can only last so long.

Have a great week.

Monday Musings: A Strange Post In Times Of Personal Struggle

This has not been the best week for my family and me. It was, actually, the sort of week that not so long ago would have convinced me to take a break from blogging at all, to say “I need some down time” and withdraw from the social media world.

I’m not going to do that. After the last time, I pledged to all of you — and to myself — that I wouldn’t do it again, and I intend to live by that pledge. The fact is, as a self-employed writer, I have the luxury of being able to slip away when I want to, to take as many mental health days or personal days or vacation days as I please. Put another way, I am spoiled rotten.

I look at Nancy, who is dealing with the same things I am, and who goes to work every day to complete projects and interact with people, and I marvel at her strength. I look at my younger daughter, who also faces the fear and grief as well as issues of her own, and who also goes to work each day, in the health care industry no less, being reminded constantly of our own family struggles, and I am amazed by her resilience and self-composure. I look at my older daughter, who lives in the center of the storm, coping with this cruel, relentless illness, and who still manages to live her best life, and I am humbled by her courage, her resolve, her spirit.

And I think of the rest of you, who face challenges of your own — emotional, physical, familial, socio-economic, cultural, and more. Obstacles are thrown in our paths every day. All of us face them. Few are as privileged as I am in terms of the freedom I have to grapple with them on my own terms. The fortitude I see around me on a daily basis blows my mind and inspires me to do better.

Yes, my family and I are working through a lot right now, and it’s not going the way we would like. But we have the resources we need to face our problems, and too many others in this country, in this world, don’t. We have friendships old and new that sustain us when things get rough, and too many others have to meet their challenges alone. We have one another to offer love and support, to share laughter and tears, and we are so fortunate in this respect, as well.

This is an odd post, I know. My apologies for that. In the past, this would have been a post in which I tried to explain, in vague terms, why I was stepping back from my blog and my various accounts. And since I DON’T intend to step back this time, I thought maybe it would make sense to explain how I came to that choice. And the short answer is, it’s because of the amazing people around me — family, friends, colleagues, fans, acquaintances. You all have given me a standard of strength and bravery to which to aspire.

So, I will continue to write and edit. I will continue to blog and comment. I will go about my regular routine as best I can given the circumstances. I am getting help. I am taking care of myself. I am taking steps to maintain and improve my emotional health. I am enjoying time with my newly-liberated-from-an-overwhelming-administrative-position spouse. I am chatting regularly with my beloved daughters. I am reaching out to friends and extended family. And we have some fun stuff planned for later in the summer, which will help in all sorts of ways.

If you are struggling right now, facing obstacles of your own that seem insurmountable, I wish you peace and strength, comfort and compassion. Life throws all manner of stuff our way and none of us is immune to its vagaries and difficulties. One of the hardest things for me is something I listed in the preceding paragraph — reaching out to people, to my support network. None of us likes to be that person, the one who always seems to call with terrible problems. And so we pull back, waiting until we feel better, believing on some level that we ought to be able to get through this stuff on our own. Asking for help takes courage, and too often I shy from it.

But the thing is, speaking now as a friend, a brother, a father, spouse, I NEVER mind when the people I love seek my help. I am always eager to lend love and support. And I know the people I rely on feel exactly the same way. In the end, I think it’s about pride, which is silly. I know this, and still I struggle. I’ll work on that, too.

Anyway, thanks for reading this. As I say, a strange post, but one I felt I needed to write.

Wishing you a wonderful week.