State of the psyche.

Regular blogging is taking a serious hit thanks to ongoing health problems. I sincerely apologize if I’ve been out of contact in real life. After several weeks of painkillers and lifestyle changes, I’m irked to report no change to my pain levels. A combination of stretching and massage have done the most good, but the relief doesn’t last and is negated by even the most minimal handwriting, typing, or Internet scrolling.

Things I’m supposed to be doing right now on top of teaching my summer writing course: building two classes I’m scheduled to teach in the fall, both of which I’m very excited about (some of this is already done). Drafting a chapbook of interlinked stories I’ve had planned out for ages. Finishing a downdraft of the novel I just outlined at the CSSF workshop. Drafting materials for my upcoming attempt at the job market (some of this is already done). Keeping up with my usual slate of reading, which includes reading books for future reviews, reading novels/stories to look for formal attributes I can steal for my own work, reading crit and theory as the yen strikes, and reading friends’ work for critique. What do all these things have in common? I desperately want and/or need to do them, and they all require me to use my wounded limbs.  Classic plaint of the repetitive-strain injured.

In theory, I should be hearing from a doctor on Monday to get a referral to a specialist. I’m working toward a solution as quickly as I can. I’ve also quit drinking, with the exception of a few going away parties for a close friend who’s moving to Montana in a week to take an academic position. After that, I think I really am done with booze. I took two weeks off from drinking out of fear for my liver while I was taking such high doses of Motrin. My mood stabilized dramatically, which was a shocking revelation given the pressure I’m currently feeling, between health problems and the impending job market. I’m not sure I can handle a daily intake of depressants until this phase of my life is behind me — and even then, I’m not sure I want to be able to handle it anymore.

People keep asking me for advice about writing, and academia, and getting into programs, and I think I may need to take a page from the Rahul Kanakia playbook and refuse to dispense such advice going forward, for two reasons: 1)  I love the work I get to do and my brilliant friends and students, but there’s nothing long-term sustainable about my current situation, making me feel like a hypocrite-pontificator whenever I try to explain the vagaries of academia and publication, and 2) Dragon works, but it’s time-consuming (a blog post that used to take me 10 minutes now takes the over an hour; multiply that by every story or essay I write, every review, every critique, every email) and I’m barely able to stay on top of my current commitments. Which is to say, I’ve met some wonderful people and had some fantastic conversations as a result of this blog, but I may need to do more of that type of socializing in person at conventions and conferences, rather than by email, at least until I get faster at Dragon.

I’ve been reading Cat Valente’s recent long posts about weight loss and health in context of self-care. The past two years have been a lesson my body is determined to teach me that self-care is nonnegotiable. I’m finally starting to learn that lesson, but I did a lot of damage playing hard in my 20s. No regrets, but the damage-doing?  Ends now.


In happy news, I have a piece coming out in The Collagist in a matter of days. My friend and colleague Virginia Konchan curated a collection of essays on heroines and monstrosity for the issue, and my essay/story hybrid, “On the Psyche Ward,” is included in it. I’ll put up a link when the issue’s live. This is also the first piece that I wrote and revised primarily in Dragon.  Things that are less fun than they sound on the box: learning a new software while under deadline. I was ultimately pleased with how the piece came out, however, and very pleased when Matt Bell accepted it.

And now I’m off to the gym to do no arm exercises whatsoever.