Eighteen days ago, I was ahead of my National Novel Writing Month goal; I had two weeks of blog posts pre-written to free up time for novel writing; had received nibbles on a couple pitches; and was feeling hopeful after interviewing for a part-time publishing position. My house was clean and I knew what was going with my kids at school. Eighteen days ago, I felt like I was coming down with a cold.
After a few days of a cold, my temperature topped 100 and stayed there for about a week. I’m usually the sort of person who sits in front of TV with a tub of ice cream when I’m sick, so when I say that I lost 10 pounds over two weeks and never turned on the TV or read a book, you can infer that hospitalization was considered.
I went to the doctor instead. He was reluctant to call what I had pneumonia. But he did put me on a breathing machine before sending me home with antibiotics, an inhaler, and strict instructions to return if I wasn’t well by Saturday.
Two days ago, I returned to the land of the living with a severe case of bronchitis, but a mostly clear head. I found that I would need to write 3200 words per day to finish NaNo. I have no blog content prepared and no new freelance work in the pipeline. I have a vague memory of completing a test for the publishing job; I can only imagine the quality of that work. My daughter’s promised birthday party is less than three weeks away, and I have done nothing about it. My inbox is filled with ignored holiday and play date invitations. My bedroom is filled with dirty laundry, my kitchen with dirty dishes but no food. Meanwhile an ecosystem has sprung up in my bathroom.
I hardly know where to begin. When someone’s house burns down, or battles rage over farmlands, or earthquakes destroy homes, everyone talks about “picking up the pieces and carrying on.” But they aren’t really “carrying on.” The tasks are completely different when you’re carrying around pieces of the life you had before.
Of course I realize that a couple weeks of not-quite-pneumonia in no way qualifies as the sort of disaster I’ve described above. I am just kind of stunned at how completely things can fall apart in a fortnight. I’ve made major changes in the last year to step away from the extreme overextension that America considers normal, but my life continues to be a precarious balance with little room for error.
Maybe it only seems overwhelming because I’m still sick. It’s possible that instead of following up on dropped pitches, buckling down to write 3200 words a day for NaNo, or washing 8 loads of laundry before dinner, what I need to do is sit in front of the TV and eat ice cream for two days.
But with a major holiday a week away, and child’s first birthday party a week later, I think I have to start picking through rubble.