Coincidental Universe

Bear with me, those who have heard part of this story before.

About eight years ago I went through radiation for lymphoma. During the treatments, I would share the waiting room with several others, all in our gowns, focused on our personal issues, waiting for chemo, or radiation. We never talked or engaged in any way.

A year or so later I was in the produce section of a grocery store and there was a woman from that waiting area. We made eye contact and immediately burst into tears. Spontaneous crying and hugging over apples. We’d both thought the same thing. ‘She’s alive!’

Over the years, oddly enough, I’ve run into her a couple more times. Both at that grocery store. I haven’t seen her in about two years now.

Some of you know that I spent some time this past March and April in the hospital for internal bleeding. Found out that there’s a tiny spot of a weird type of lymphoma at the base of my esophagus. Sounds worse than it is. Anyway, I find out in a week if I have to do radiation again. If so, it’s not a big deal. Low-dose, localized, etc. I might have problems swallowing and nausea, but nothing I haven’t gone through before. And if I do, this time it won’t involve my brain so I won’t struggle through two years of radiation fallout waiting for the brain chemistry to sort itself out and terrified I’ll never write again.

So here’s the point of this personal non-writing blog post. Today I went to the grocery store. And guess what? There she was. Still alive. Doing great.

Isn’t that  weird? I think that every time I run into her. I mean, I have to drive to the city, and of all the days and times and people, we just happen to periodically be in the same place at the same time. Coincidence today? I think not.

Some might see that as a bad omen.

I see it as the opposite.


When Music Returns

This compulsion called writing is a strange thing. The last few months working on book three has been very difficult. I was beginning to think the story had escaped me, had moved on to someone who might be able to tell it better. But I’ve been doing this long enough now to recognize that fear.

It’s not writer’s block because if I do sit down to write, the words are there; I just can’t put fingers to pen or keyboard. Maybe it’s a lack of trust in the story and the characters. Maybe it’s a lack of trust in myself. I’ve only had this problem the last six years, which makes me wonder if sometimes my brain goes back to its radiation days, moving away from the creativity. Because this feels like a weight. I wouldn’t call that weight sadness but I suppose it could be that. It’s a sense of just not having the energy to start, exhaustion.

I’ve learned however, that if I just keep pretending, if I talk like I know what I’m talking about, if I go through the motions without actually working on the story, eventually that weight goes away.

I used to try and force the story during these time periods, but then learned the only thing that came from that was throwing away a lot of words. The story knows when you’re faking or trying too hard. And that will also show up in the writing. I can read a draft and point right to the spot when the weight descended and I started trying to force the words. The voice changes, everything becomes stilted, unfamiliar. I know now instead of forcing the story, I leave it, and just pretend to others I’m still working.

So this evening, finally, the weight went away and the words came back. Why? I have no idea other than that this time, I put music back on. The familiar tunes I used to write to. Before radiation I always wrote to specific music. It gave me that restless melancholy, that ache that’s needed to write. After radiation, when I was learning to be me again, music was a distraction and I needed silence to be able to hear the characters.

Now I’m wondering if finally, finally, I’ve returned to who I was before lymphoma. Because tonight the music was there, the weight was gone, and the characters took me by the hand and showed me the story that’s been patiently waiting.

This may not be the final fix, the last cure. I’m sure that struggle will come back. Maybe it has nothing to do with the past few years. Maybe this weight is actually a waiting space I need to inhabit during each story, in order for it to grow. We’ll see. No matter how long one writes, the process is always evolving.

Or maybe it’s simply the return of music.