George and I had very specific plans for this summer. We were returning from Colorado to Oregon on June 14th. We had plans to host my brother and sister-in-law in August. I was meeting a friend for a writer’s conference in Portland in July. There were trails to hike, writing to do, beaches to sit on, friends to visit.
We’d cleaned the Colorado house, packed the car, and prepared the dogs for the long trip. Then, less than 24 hours before we were to leave, George was diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition that needed to be addressed immediately. Instead of returning to our home in Oregon, we would be staying in Colorado indefinitely.
We canceled our plans, unpacked the car, notified my brother, and abandoned the idea of meeting my friend in Portland in July for the writer’s conference. Instead, we scheduled medical tests, doctors’ appointments, and surgery.
And then the fear hit. Suddenly, I was facing the possibility of losing my husband. He, of course, was facing loss of his life! Or, at least, life as he had up until now been living it. We had just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. We were happily planning new adventures in a new home in a new part of the country. I couldn’t imagine any of it without him. Both of us turned our attention to doing whatever was right in front of us to do at that moment. We tried to keep our eyes on the now and enjoy our time together. The irony of this was not lost on us. This is something we should always do for, of course, none of us know how much time we have. Still, it almost always takes a crisis to remind us of this reality.
I reminded myself that absolutely nothing was more important than George’s health. It was easy to change plans and make new ones that now revolved around our lives in Colorado and its medical community. And, I knew I could write anywhere. I could coach writers as easily from Colorado as from Oregon.
Off and on through my writing life I’ve struggled with what is called writer’s block. I’ve read about it, agonized over it, periodically convinced myself there is no such thing, and sometimes succumbed to it. Once in awhile, I’ve even decided to give up writing altogether. I’d tell myself, it’s just too damn hard.
Surely that wouldn’t happen again this time. I had a book out and a website and a blog with subscribers. I’d made a commitment to myself and my readers to write one blog post a week. I now coached others through such things as writer’s block. And I’d returned to writing fiction, a genre easier for me than memoir.
But whenever I sat down at the computer to write, nothing came out. Part of the problem was that I truly did not know what to share about the medical situation George was facing. Even though the memoir, Above Tree Line, describes a great deal about our personal life, it happened in the past. I’ve had time to come to terms with all of that–make sense of it, learn from it. This was happening now and made no sense. I certainly had not come to terms with it at all!
So I froze. Couldn’t write. Couldn’t put my terror down on the page. I couldn’t share with you, my precious readers, what our family was going through. I probably had a bit of superstition around it, too. If I put the words down in black and white and sent it out into cyberspace, would the situation become more dire, or more permanent?
These past six weeks or so, George and I walked the path we’d been thrust upon, rather than the one we’d chosen for our summer. I used the energy I had to keep my focus firmly planted on the present moment. (I never realized how difficult this is to do and how much energy it actually entails.) Even as I hoped for the absolute best outcome, I couldn’t bring myself to visualize it or say affirmations around it. I was too afraid.
And I couldn’t write. Not a word, except the occasional journal entry. My priority was George; the George in front of me, looking healthy and active and happy. I didn’t want to focus on a computer screen or dig deep within myself, something I’ve learned I must do to write anything at all.
The summer is coming to a close. We are back in Oregon now and I am writing again. It is slow and choppy. I most likely won’t be all that pleased with the writing of this post, but I’m making an attempt to break the block. To get to life as usual whatever that is. George is not cured, not out of the woods, and probably never will be. Treatments will continue and we will deal with whatever comes up, when it comes up.
But we also need to get back to some semblance of normalcy. And I need to get back to writing. Because this is what I do and this is who I am.
I want to thank you for sticking with me, even when I wasn’t showing up, offering you something in return for your support of me. I never stopped thinking about you, my dear reader, and wanting to do better than I was.
But sometimes life happens and we do the best we can, in the present moment.