September 16, 2010 | Inspiration
This September I am celebrating two major milestones in my life. First, is the redesign of my Yasmine Phoenix website. It has taken a year to revamp and my web designer, Emily Swank, has been of tremendous support. We bounced ideas off of each other, she created drafts based off my whimsical and sometimes very vague ideas but in the end we collaborated on what I believe is a image of my view of writing and use of The Phoenix as my inspiration.
The site is colorful, the Phoenix’s ribbons of flames are mystical and the links are user friendly. Look around, it’s still a work in progress as I’m adding more information for readers and authors. So if you don’t see your link email me and I’ll add it. There was one major hiccup, a hacker. A Facebook friend saw it first and emailed me. Panicked, I emailed Emily and it was resolved as I was warning my multiple groups not to click on my site.
The second event is more personal and life altering. Last year, 2009, I had two major surgeries. The first was elective. I play tennis, have arthritis and needed left knee replacement surgery. The surgery went well and I was up and around; well on my way to a full recovery, looking forward to walking without pain and playing tennis in the fall. However, it seems fate had something else in store. Labor Day, I experienced severe abdominal pains that resulted in my lying on my bathroom floor, screaming – alone. Well my trusted beagle was by my side, but she couldn’t do much except stare. My husband had driven our son to DePaul University. I called him; he hurried home and I was more than eager to go to the hospital. Paramedics took me and I figured it was my appendix. By early morning, after several tests, I was prepped for surgery. My surgeon said there was an unidentified mass in my abdomen. I began to think, ‘What if I don’t survive?’ My husband looked worried, something I have rarely seen in our twenty-seven years together. I thought about my son and my daughter, of friends I’d leave behind; stories I hadn’t completed and rejections I’d never receive. Strangely I thought about being reunited with my deceased parents.
When I did wake in recovery I found two nurses working over me and a huge open incision down the middle of my abdomen. Drugs are wonderful, when prescribed, I went back to sleep and the next time I woke, I was in a hospital room with tubes coming out of every orifice, and one created by my surgeon. Needless to say it wasn’t my appendix, but Doctor Johnson removed it anyway.
I had acute diverticulitis, a severe infection in my large intestine. There was a significant amount of inflammation in my colon and called for a bowel resection. I’ll spare you the details, lets just say six months later I required a second surgery for bowel reconnection. I have a deep respect and admiration for individuals who have to live day to day for the rest of their lives with what I only had to endure for a short period time. They have full active lives and no one has a clue as to their health issue.
I spent a week in the hospital the first go round and almost went to ICU because my blood pressure refused to respond to the different medications. I was completely incapacitated. I don’t like not being in control of my body and I don’t like being scared. There was only one thing I could do, relax, watch the second week of The US Open, allow my body to heal, and accept my doctor’s prescribed treatment. I’m not a very good patient. Once home at my first office visit with Dr. Johnson I asked specific questions, beginning with ‘What did you do to me?’ Thankfully my husband was along to ‘ah diffuse’ my direct questions. Dr. Johnson handled my attitude very wel. I’m not sure he looked forward to my followup visits.
I was anxious to have the second surgery and six months later, all my plumbing was reconnected with no problems. I was tempted to put a smiley face post-it note on my belly pre-op , just for laughs. Hubby didn’t think it was a good idea, Dr. Johnson saw the humor and said it would have been fine. Recovery this time around proved to be a bitch. After eleven days, blood transfusions and the insertion of a pic-line because they couldn’t find a vein, I went home and crawled into bed and in a deep depression. Instead of fighting it, I wallowed in it. I laid in bed, couldn’t eat, food had no taste and I gagged when I took small bites. I couldn’t even drink half a cup of Starbucks. My behavior worried my husband and basically I didn’t care. I balled up into a fetal position and let the days and nights pass. I didn’t watch tv, tv watched me. My faithful beagle remained by my bedside and even when my home care nurses tried to cheer me up I remained unresponsive. My daughter called every day from Atlanta. My son came home from college on weekends. My husband, who should have been at his office, worked from our kitchen table. I. Didn’t. Care. What no one including me could understand was how I bounced back so easily from the first surgery and not the second when everything had gone well. My good friend, Nellie, understood and left me alone, not like after the first surgery when she called and added me to her Sunday prayer circle. I did appreciate her themed get well cards, dogs. Nellie is scared of dogs so that was about as close as she was going to get to the little four legged creatures. Laurie text me on a regular basis, encouraging me to get up. Good thing she couldn’t see me roll my eyes at her.
Sometimes it’s good to just allow yourself to go blank. And I’m not recommending my solution for those who suffer serious medically diagnosed depression. The fourth week a nudge of clarity poked me. I spent more time out of bed. The taste of food returned. Bitter first I went through a jar of kosher dill pickles. I lost over twenty pounds bedridden and have found ten of them again. The sun seemed brighter, my mood improved and finally I found myself back in my writing space. Not really doing much, checking emails, reconnecting with friends, Internet shopping. My energy picked up, I drove my car. I put on makeup. I played tennis. I GOT MY HAIR WASHED!!!
Then like the bird that is my Muse, I, Phoenix, rose from the ashes and returned to my world. Just in time to attend my Chicago North RWA conference. I was nervous, but it soon disappeared. I was among friends who missed me and I’d missed them. I volunteered, attended fantastic workshops, drank a beer, and got a request for a full copy of my manuscript. I was ‘whole’ again, but the difference this time was a real eye opener. I’d come to the edge of a cliff, peaked over and realized you can’t just put off until tomorrow something you want today. With good health, a better grip on Weight Watchers, and an appreciation for all those who had my back, I’ve challenged myself to attain my goals. Write, be rejected, be published, be prolific. To write, polish, edit and submit the stories that shout in my head, characters that want to tell me explain their motivation, create plots that are imaginative, colored with a dose of reality and delve into the question: Would you commit a bad act for a good reason? My tag line is ‘Where good and evil can turn on a dime’.
Yasmine Galenorn once wrote a blog about her near death experience when no one was around. She’s a fantastic author. Her incident was a wake up call for her also. Now look how she’s succeeded. Success is not a one time thing. It’s an every day work in progress.
If you want something you have to work not one hundred percent, but two hundred percent. Find the time to write, even if it’s twenty minutes while sitting on the toilet, because that’s the only quiet place, or 2am in the morning when your eyes are so heavy with sleep they feel like weights, but your Muse is saying ‘One more word, just another sentence, add that paragraph, your villain needs your input, sleep is overrated’.
I’d said 2010 was the year of hard work, I thought I meant hard work as in writing. What it’s turning out to be is the year of the hard work of learning myself all over again.
This Phoenix is back. Next week – How Weight Watchers ten points can be used for writing. Until then enjoy my new site (I love the links page) and above all – write.