Launching my latest novel, Book 1 in a new mystery series, while dealing with a broken foot has forced me to confront some things about myself. For instance, I discovered I’m a pretty impatient person.
I can also be my own worst enemy when it comes to living in my head.
What ifs and worst case scenarios are great for fiction writing. And for foreseeing possible problems when you’re representing a client in a lawsuit. Not so good for mental health.
So here’s what I’ve learned. Or at least am trying to learn.
In No Girls Here: Naming The Worried Man, I wrote about why I used Girl and not Man when titling my latest novel.
But I didn’t think seriously about why Worry made its way into a title, something that was probably inevitable for one book or another.
My mom was kind of a champion worrier. When my dad unexpectedly needed heart surgery (a problem that fortunately was caught before he had a heart attack) she told me she’d always worried about his back, not his heart, and that was why this had happened.
I thought that was a fluky sort of thinking unique to my mom.
But later I learned it’s pretty common. One self-help book I read on anxiety said something like “Remember, worry has no magic power to stave off bad luck.”
But knowing that your brain is pursuing a path that’s not healthy doesn’t mean it’s easy to stop going down it.
When I first got my cast, it was very tight. It’s supposed to be. As the foot swelling goes down, the cast becomes looser. If it doesn’t start very snug, it’ll get loose too soon and won’t do much good.
All that was explained to me. I still spent the first two nights obsessing over whether I’d wake up with my toes numb. Or my whole leg. And then it would fall off, and I’d probably die, and then….
It’s like a vinyl record album where the needle gets stuck in a groove. (Now that vinyl has made a comeback, I feel safe using that analogy.)
I’d always thought the thing to do was reason myself out of the worry. Yet somehow I always came back to the same scary thought. What I needed to do instead was bounce the needle out of the groove.
I did this at night for the first 2 weeks by relistening to my favorite audiobook edition of my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice read by Shiromi Arserio.
Listening occupied my mind and distracted me from my fears. And I know the story so well that it didn’t keep me from falling asleep when I grew tired.
I hope when I’m recovered and healed, I’ll keep practicing good habits to distract and calm myself.
The Impatient Patient
The doctor warned me this would be a long 6-8 weeks.
Because I broke the bone on which you put most of your weight, I didn’t zip right to a boot and start walking around. I’ve got 2 weeks in this cast (after 5 days in a splint), at least 2 weeks in another cast (which I’ll get Thursday), and then maybe a boot for an unknown amount of time. Then physical therapy.
All the same, I thought I could write as much as I always do, take care of any law projects, and update my bookkeeping while healing.
I forgot to leave room for being tired. Also for the fact that everyday tasks take two or three times as long on crutches. The same is true with the scooter (shown above).
For the first week, during the 15 minutes every hour that I iced my leg, rather than writing I discovered I needed to rest.
To relax and entertain myself, I finally watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. The YouTube series adapts Pride and Prejudice to present day. It’s great fun.
Watching that plus listening to the book reminded me what a fantastic storyteller Jane Austen was. Now I’m thinking that among the next 3 writing books I write will be one about what writers can learn about plot, character development, and narrative techniques from P&P.
As someone who loves loves loves Chicago but finds the cold, mostly gray months of January through March (and often April) a real challenge, I’m hoping this recovery process will give me perspective next winter.
Here’s what I want to remember:
- Outside air is great for mental health.
As soon as it grew warm enough for me to open the windows, my cast became 5 times more comfortable and my mood 10 times better.
A reminder that if it’s 45 or above next winter, I ought to open at least one window for a while.
- Being able to move and walk freely is a wonderful thing.
My walk to the law school where I teach once a week is a mile.
In the winter and early spring, that often means a walk through icy rain. Or with wind smacking my hair into my face. Or along streets that seem permanently streaked whitish gray with salt.
But walks like that now look like luxuries because walking on crutches with a cast is far more challenging.
Next winter I hope I’ll have good use of my arms and legs. And I hope I’ll appreciate how wonderful that is.
- Many people deal with physical challenges every day.
Assuming I’m fortunate enough to recover as expected and I avoid further injury, dealing with a cast and crutches is temporary. But people with longer term or permanent injuries need to navigate a world filled with barriers all the time.
I hope when I’m recovered I’ll appreciate how much easier it is to get around everyday obstacles. Within a block of my home, those include gravel-strewn roads, broken curbs, and blocked sidewalks.
And I’ll do my best to be more aware when someone else might appreciate some help. Friends and strangers alike have been kind. They’ve opened doors, offered rides, and spotted me in difficult situations. I want to be sure to pay that forward.
Happily, I’m finally a little more on track with my writing.
Between yesterday and today, I wrote most of the last quarter of a very rough draft of The Charming Man. (That’s Book 2 in my new Q.C. Davis mystery series.)
Crossing my fingers the rest of the week goes just as well.