No one really likes to think or talk about death. I don’t mean death in the abstract or horror film way, but real, tangible, this is going to happen way.

Although I am determined to live a long life, another 40 years at least, I can’t help but think that from now on it’s always going to be there, waiting for the next fight.

Cancer has made me and those around me realise that I’m tougher than I look, but it has also made me more aware of my own mortality. It was something I always took for granted, living. I still daydream about the cottage in the hills, by some lake in the Lake District or in North Wales or some seaside town with easy access to an airport to that hubby can get to the Alps easily. It has always been the same. Mountains for him, proximity to water for me. We ended up in London because this is where I wanted my career to flourish, and it did. I wanted to take advantage of all that London had to offer. Parks, theatre, ballet, opera, gigs, pubs, restaurants, etc, etc. I made very good use of it all in the five years we’ve been here, before Cancer and a pandemic locked me in the house. I’m glad for those years and I’m happy in my home with its comforts and garden and homegrown veg and big screen TV and two loving but needy cats. My world is complete.

Yet, even though I’ve had a second reprieve from the Big C, and I’m taking full advantage of the time I have, I feel like I’m always ready, always looking over my shoulder or eyeing my blood results with suspicion. When will I be called upon to fight again? Be assured, I fully intend to fight. Fuck you cancer, you don’t get to win, has been my mantra. That hasn’t changed.

Yet, I still catch myself thinking of my parents and others in my life. I don’t want anything to happen to them, but the natural order of things dictates that they should go first. No, I don’t want my parents to die. Not now, not ever, but someday they will and anything happening to me or my brother would finish them off. How do we reconcile that? I sometimes look at the ring my mother gave me when I graduated university and think, which niece will inherit it? Ideally, I want to give my things to my nieces and nephews while I’m still alive. I want to enjoy the feeling of seeing their surprise or the satisfaction of knowing it got to them without a will or other piece of paper telling them that it was meant for them all along.

I also think of people who have died during this pandemic and those particularly brave people who have carried on and cared for the sick or kept us fed by keeping the wheels turning. Death has always been there. It’s the natural order of things, but unnatural death, through illness, accidents, suicide or murder, those are the cruelest things of all. The unexpected might spare one the pain (hopefully) and trauma of death, but it’s the biggest cheater of all when it comes to saying what you really think before it’s over. I forgive you, please forgive me, I love you, I’m sorry, don’t vote Republican, the money is in my copy of Great Expectations, you’re adopted and your real parent’s address is in the desk, your grandmother’s cookie recipe is in the pocket of my kitchen apron, please donate to PETA, you get my jewellery but your sister gets my designer wardrobe, go to Australia for a trip since I never made it, I’m going to haunt you if you even think of remarrying, keep adopting cats, etc, etc.

I’m joking now, but not really. I’m going kicking and screaming, I’m going out scratching, spitting and fighting someday, but not yet, not yet. I just know that’s going to happen someday, the trick is to get as much done as possible before the fucker calls back.

Be honest…but kind

WordPress allows you to set the time and date of posts. I could back date anything I write. It was tempting to put something together this morning and set it to yesterday so that I wouldn’t have a gap, but that would be cheating. 😉 Kidding, I wasn’t tempted, but I was disappointed with myself for not writing yesterday.

I remember what I say a lot of the times I feel inadequate, just show up.

Here I am, showing up and trying to work out what to write about, which is what I think about most days. One of the things I’m studying is how to craft creative non-fiction. There are stories I want to tell about my family, some still living, some long gone. It’s not just my family, though, it’s also my mother’s family. Do I therefore have the right to discuss my thoughts on my family based on the stories my mother told me? I feel like it’s something I need to ask permission for. I have a lot of my own stories, but there’s something compelling about what my mother went through growing up and the family dynamics in her immediate family, mother, brothers, sisters, father, grandmother, were fascinating and a bit scary. There’s a lot of drama there and I know I could do it justice and treat it with sensitivity, but I’d still be afraid of my mother’s reaction. So, what happens when if she says no? Better ask sooner rather than later.

I could write about my first time in the UK, how I met my husband within a week of arrival, got engaged within 2 months, the fact that we both had other partners at the time, our wedding after six months of meeting, our two years in San Francisco and the reactions of our friends and families. We got married on April Fool’s Day too, which made some people think we were kidding. That’s not a bad idea. I think I found my plan B.

Try writing a family history from a first person POV. Just a scene to begin with and see where it takes you. Be honest, but kind.

Just write

My morning pages have turned into evening pages, but the important thing is that I showed up.

I’ve been on a new drug I begged my GP for; Zoplicone. This was after months and months of having a fucked up sleep cycle. I now understand why some countries use sleep deprivation as a torture device. Anyway, I got the Zoplicone (highly addictive, I only get a week) and now I’m rested. The one down side is that I slept too late and by the time I got myself ready for the day, it was lunchtime. The morning pages took a back seat to a fruit and cream of wheat concoction I put together and that was that. Then Rear Window, my favourite film, was on TCM, so another delay.

The excuses can keep coming, as they often do. As a writer, there always seems to be something that it preventing you from writing. It’s too hot, too cold, the room isn’t tidy enough, you can’t find your favourite pen, the cat litter needs changing, the laundry needs doing, etc, etc…

The hard part is yanking yourself off the settee, turning off Masterchef US or Bridgerton and just writing something, anything. So here I am. The cat litter has been cleaned, the laundry is on the go, the film is over and I have just under an hour before I have a yoga session. So what if I fill that hour typing nonsense. If I keep typing nonsense, maybe, in time, if I’m lucky, it will start to mean something.

I look up at the tan, circular lampshade hanging from the ceiling in my study. It sways gently, though there’s no open window to provide a breeze. Then, it hits me, the slight draft is coming from the warm air blown from my electric fake fireplace. It’s just enough to make the lampshade sway. It reminds me of the Northridge earthquake in the late 90s. I was still living at home and it was early morning when it struck. We felt it all the way in Yucaipa, some 60 miles or more away. I was awakened by the tremor, then from getting hit by falling stuffed animals that were on the shelves that lined the room, a foot and a half from the ceiling. Care Bears were flying and I knew at once it was an earthquake. I went to the doorway and called to my parents, where were also awake and within a few seconds, it was over. Nothing broken, no harm done. So we thought. My brother was living in LA at the time. His possessions were not so lucky. Glasses and plates, knickknacks and books flew from his shelves and ended on the floor in a broken heap. His building had shifted a foot off its foundation and he was forced to move. A part of the freeway collapsed and a few people died. It was big, but we still haven’t had the Big One. When I lived in San Francisco in the mid-90s, I waited for it. We had a few tremors, and I chuckled at those who had never experienced an earthquake before, like my husband. Being English, storms and flooding is the worst they get. in any case, I’m sure California is due for one soon. The last catastrophic quake to hit San Francisco was in 1908, so one is well overdue. I wonder what will go when that happens? The bridge, Pier 39, the Marina, Coit Tower, The Transamerica pyramid, the Bay Bridge? I hope not. It still one of my favourite cities and though I will never lie anywhere but England again (really doubt I could be tempted elsewhere), it was one of the happiest times of my life. I was a student, I was a newlywed, everything was new and the city was full of possibilities. I wish I new how much those years would mean to me before I left. I would have paid more attention, dome a few things differently. But, isn’t that what everyone says in hindsight? Just the same, when this lockdown is over, I’m going back to California to see my family and I’m adding a few days to SF onto the trip.

See you tomorrow.

Morning Pages

In one of the many writing guides I’ve purchased over the years, I discovered the concept of “Morning Pages”. The idea is that you wake up and immediately starting writing. Your mind is uncluttered and you might still be half asleep, but it’s the best time to write unfiltered. So, here I am, trying to form yet another good habit to keep me writing and to keep me sane during these weird times.

You know, everyone keeps saying that these are difficult times. They are. Everyone has their own coping mechanism. I write, read and sew. I’m trying to watch less TV, not always successfully, but that way I don’t feel lie this time locked in the house is wasted. I don’t believe you have to be overly productive at a time like this, nor do I think you hold judge anyone who only wants to get through their virtual work day and spend the rest of the time watching Netflix. I’m lucky, I have time. Unlucky, because it don’t to medical issued, but I need to turn a frown upside down somehow.

For some people, the hardest part much be not being able to visit loved ones. That’s probably the toughest for me too. I want to see my parents desperately. I want to be in my home in California, lecturing my Mom about eating right and exercise and playing with my Dad’s drones. I want to be in the kitchen teaching Dad my new recipes and cooking for them while dad and I tuck into one of the 35 bottles of Scottish whiskey I’ve brought him over the years. One year I brought him an Irish one, but it just wasn’t the same. Jura gave me my first whisky hangover. I spent the evening having one dram after another watching old episodes of the “Twilight Zone” on their version of Netflix. The next thing I new, it was 6am and I had the mother of all headaches. Netflix in the US, by the way, has different stuff than we do in the UK. FYI.

I spoke to my family on Sunday via Zoom. It’s awkward sometimes. My brother gets impatient with my parents and I can feel the tension between my Mom and Dad. She’s bored and lonely and looks about ready to break a vase over his head. I want to tell her to be calm and sort herself out, not to put everything on his shoulders. I think she forgets sometimes that he’s going to be 80 years old this year and she depends on him him entirely. Dad can be frustrating, a control freak and too opinionated sometimes and he treats her like a child, but she also helped creat this dynamic. I’m frustrated with both of them, but I’m still so grateful to have them both in my life. Imperfect as things are, I miss my parents.

I’m sure there is more that I could write, but I’m feeling awake now. The old worries are creeping in and I’m feeling less free.

Morning pages can be as long or as short as you need them to be. Today, I’ve said the first things that came to mind. I didn’t dream, so there’s nothing to report there. Though, I do keep having a reoccurring dream about my hair. Could be a subconscious response to the trauma of losing my hair thanks to Chemo, but it’s MAK now and down to my shoulders, you’ll be happy to hear

Also, morning pages should have no self editing. Don’t matter if the grammar is wonky or the punctuation is a bit all over the place, just write and see what comes out.

Have a good day. See you tomorrow.

12 Feb 2021 – Daily Post

It has been months since I posted anything here, but I got my domain renewal recently and I thought, best make use of it. The work I’ve been doing of late is all about creative non-fiction. How do we take stories from life and present them truthfully, while maintaining ethics and accuracy. If it is someone else’s story, how do we tell it when we weren’t there? These re questions that trouble me, but are important if one wants to be true to the writing and the story.

I’ve trying to find a subject for a 2000 word essay, but it has to based in reality. Do I talk about my quick marriage, my cancer, my family? I’m inclined to discuss my family as they offer a wealth of anecdotes and a level of emotional depth that the other two subjects off, but to one extreme or the other. Quick marriage offers fun and crazy, but cancer is a downer. I think that is left for when I’ve run out of things or write about. I think I’ll for us on some of the stories my mother told me about her mother and their tough upbringing in Mexico. You want to see what a fucked up family looks like, look no further. Grandmother and mother excepted, they all sounded awful. Ok, Aunt Irma is the exception.

Still, from which perspective do I tell this story? I think its probably most useful if I tell it from my POV and insert my other’s voice when it makes sense.

In the meantime, I have also been evading loads. I’ve been trying to read 100 books this year and so far, I’m up to 14. I think I have every chance of making it. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t make it, but I want to have something to shoot for and this is going to help me stay focused. More than the number, I think it would be a good opportunity to read those classics I’ve always meant to get around to, but never mustered the eatery to try. Anything my Salman Rushdie and Tolstoy need to be on the list, surely.

If you’re wondering how I’m getting on, have a look at the 2021 Book list. There are the highlighted books I’ve managed so far. Not bad, if I do say so myself. 🙂


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