Friday, October 28, 2011

Trouble In Paradise

(note: this was begun on the afternoon of Tuesday, 25 October)

Careful readers may remember me writing recently about the choices I was making in my life, and how pleased I was with them (it was only the second most-recent post; the most recent before this being the actual first essay I submitted to class).  Even if the cancer were to go away (I had discovered about myself and my path), I would still be taking my editing course.  It was quite exciting, to find myself actually fulfilling my needs and desires.

After a mere two classes, I am surprised to be finding myself not Utterly Thrilled, nor Over the Moon, but rather, Increasingly Hesitant about the prospect of becoming an editor.  

People, it takes a lot of work.  I don’t have time to be writing this post right now but I cannot get my brain to focus on any of the projects I am supposed to be doing,  because in the event, it has turned out that I really like almost all the other aspects of my life, and editing is threatening to make many of them go away.  In a nutshell, I can’t have it all.

There are several things interacting here.  One is that I have had two significant changes to my day-to-day life, between applying for the editing program and actually beginning class.  The first change was the introduction of medical cannabis into my care regimen.  I am discovering that editors must be driven, focused, and have high amounts of energy to speedily work through manuscripts . . . and I, to put it simply, really don’t, at least not at this time in my life. On the first day of class we had a proofreading exercise, a sample test, and I was quite mediocre at it.  My teacher did say that proofreaders are very detail-oriented—even compared to other editors—but I am finding that other editors are quite detail-oriented also. 

The second change was the meeting with ET the medium/healer, who removed a number of unwanted, unneeded anxieties.  How much of my “drive” before was inherited directly from my father and was not necessarily  “mine”?  I have felt significantly less anxiety and, concomitantly, significantly less guilt over my own lack of precision, in all sorts of things in my life since seeing ET. The result of these two things is that I’m sleeping more, I’m much calmer, I’m assuming the cancer is finally being eradicated, and all I really want to do is whatever I feel like doing at any given time.  I.e.: NOT homework.

Less recent physiological issues also affecting how I would be as an editor include my eyesight and, more generally, my physical health and fitness.  As far as my eyesight: I still have fluid and some small amount of cataract in my right eye.  To the best of my knowledge (if three years’ experience provides knowledge), the fluid will never again be completely gone.  My left eye had been perfectly fine up until recently (normal short-sightedness and astigmatism aside), when I started noticing an oval cloud over the upper right side of my focal center.  This cloud has not gone away.  I have an eye doctor appointment in a couple weeks, and I will have to get both eyes dilated.  In case the difficulties here are not clear, let me elucidate: Editors use their eyes A LOT.  Sometimes, I can’t look at a computer screen—or even a printed page—without feeling like I’m going to give myself a migraine. Other times, my eye issues are visible enough to me that I am distracted by the distortions and blockages.  Certainly, I cannot always skim-read something as quickly and precisely as I would like. 

Other than that, though—I don’t know that I want to sit down—physically sit down, or even stand still—for the hours needed to really be an editor. No, I think I can be even more honest:  I do NOT want to sit down that much.  I have found a level of physical fitness that I love, and I want to maintain it.  I think I’m a medium-fast reader, and mildly detail-oriented, but I’m beginning to suspect that I’m much more interested in doing a variety of things mediocrely than specializing in just one.   

(note: it’s now Friday, 28 October)

As you can see here, I do not have the same amount of time that I used to.  This comes as a surprise to no one but, as you can also see here, me.  Just after I left off writing last Tuesday, I called Ian (it was his birthday, but I called for advice, not with good wishes), and he talked me out of quitting after only 2 classes.  “There’s a learning curve,” he suggested.  “When I was working on my degree, there was a lot of stuff I had to learn how to do.  And now, years later, I’m pretty good at knowing what’s important, and what doesn’t need to be worried about.” He made totally reasonable suggestions for how I might think about my return to school, I snuffled a bit into his ear, and then I buckled down and did some work.  And I ended up very much enjoying class number 3.

The other thing that happened on the 25th after I stopped writing here was that I got email back from Deb, Dr Specht’s nurse, and she said that my tumor markers had reversed their trend and, instead of taking giant steps down, they had taken a disturbingly substantial step back up: instead of 5 and 56, I am now at 8.5 and 69.  Well, shit.

This led me to do some more thinking about my cancer and what I’ve done for it—I’m finding it harder and harder to hold back from the anthropomorphizing—and just how tired, bored, frustrated, and DONE I am with giving it so much attention.  Yes, folks, I’m tired of sharing news that upsets people (for those few readers who may be cheering every time it looks like cancer is regaining the upper hand, I’m tired of sharing news with you as well). 

I keep saying I don’t identify as a cancer patient—certainly not a cancer FIGHTER—but then, I have a hard time meeting anyone without revealing my breast cancer status.  I’ve been thinking about the difference between an excuse and a reason, and I think that, without even realizing it, I have allowed cancer to become an excuse.  For example, it’s reasonable for my horseback riding instructor to know my health history, and my current situation: drugs, fatigue, bone pain, etc.  But a random co-worker of Ian’s at a party? She doesn’t need to know why my hair looks thinner to me than it used to.  

In short, I'm going to take a break from I Thought I Was Done With This.  I’ll still write in The Dilettante Traveler (coming up: Kenya, 20 November and China, late February!), and we’ll try and keep up with Orcas Estate, and occasionally update Spoover, but I’m TIRED of writing about cancer. And so I’m not going to for awhile (feel free to send me an email and ask me directly how I’m doing, if you’re interested).  

Cancer doesn’t deserve so much attention.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wherein I Return to School After Several Years’ Absence

“Your assignment for next week is to write a one- to two-page, double-spaced essay,” said the teacher, “about anything you’d like.”
One to two pages, I thought.  About anything I’d like, I thought.  Easy! Child’s play! I write all the time—I’ll just pick a topic I can put in my blog! I thought.  And there the thoughts ended.
I lead a rich life, full of story fodder.  “There’s a book in that,” my mother is constantly telling me, whether I’m talking about my dogs or the horses I regularly ride; travel to exotic islands (Santo Antão, Cabo Verde; Necker, British Virgin Islands; Folegandros, Greece; Orcas, USA); or the breast cancer I’ve been dealing with for 12 ½ years now. 
Of course there are stories here.  For the past several years, I’ve written these stories out in blogs: in The Dilettante Traveler for all those exotic locations (dogs and horses occasionally included); or in I Thought I Was Done With This for the still-ongoing, often tedious and boring, and yes, occasionally petrifying experiences of living with cancer. 
The problem for me is that I write fluidly and fluently for my own pleasure, to tell my own story on my own terms in my own time; and that the moment someone issues a command, or just a request, or even the merest hint of a suggestion that I write something specific for them, the taps shut off and the trough full of rich, life-sustaining inspiration goes instantly, echoingly, frustratingly dry.
Ugh,  I thought, five days after class when I had yet to come up with a topic I wanted to write about.  I’m taking this class so I can learn to be usefully critical of other people’s writing, not get bogged down in my own, I thought.
Good thing I chose Editing and not The Art of the Novel.
Calin Taylor