New Year’s Eve…Already

I’d really like to write something utterly eloquent and moving that would sum up the past year and express my hopes for 2016. This has been a year like no other. I can sum it up perfectly in my head, where I don’t have to use words.

When I reach for words, however, what I get is, OMG, you guys, the horse can whinny scales! I’m off Death Row! I’m not halfway through the rest of my life!

If I’m feeling particularly grand and dramatic, I think of Sarah Connor at the end of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, where she talks about how the future is finally unknown to her. Yeah, I know, it couldn’t stay that way. Needs must when the Devil or the franchise––or cancer––drives.

Breathe in, breathe out; no air goes spare.

That’s it. That’s all I got right now.

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Christmas Eve––Time For My Favourite Christmas Story

Actually, it’s not a Christmas story in the traditional sense. But the first time I encountered it, it moved me in a profound way and when Christmas rolled around later that year, it immediately came to the front of my mind. I post it every year on my Facebook page and now I’m going to post it here as well. And unlike the story in the previous post, it won’t disappear after Christmas:

One night, Confucius had a dream about chopsticks.

In the dream, he was transported to Hell, where he saw multitudes of people sitting at enormous tables set out with wonderful foods of all kinds. There was so much food that the tables groaned under the weight and the various aromas were mouth-watering, promising incredibly delectable flavours. But the people sitting at the tables had not touched any of it—they had been told they could eat as much as they liked but only if they ate with chopsticks that were five feet long. None of them could figure out how to eat with five-foot-long chopsticks so all they could do was stare hopelessly at this amazing feast and cry in hunger and misery.

Then Confucius was taken to heaven where he again saw multitudes of people sitting around enormous tables laden with glorious foods. They had also been told they were allowed to eat only if they used the five-foot-long chopsticks. But these people were not crying with hunger and frustration—they were eating their fill, talking, laughing, and enjoying themselves.

Because in heaven, they were feeding each other.

My friends, whatever holiday you celebrate, however you celebrate it, I hope it’s heavenly.

Sorry!

Well, as I agreed with my editors, “Chilling” has had to come down as of today, 27 December. But you can find it in Horrorology, edited by Stephen Jones and published by Jo Fletcher Books (follow the link to find more wonderful things to read).

Meanwhile, here’s the table of contents for Horrorology:

Accursed by Robert Shearman
Afraid by Clive Barker––who also provided illustrations
Afterlife by Michael Marshall Smith
Chilling by Pat Cadigan
Decay by Mark Samuels
Fearless by Joanne Harris
Forgotten by Muriel Gray
Guignol by Kim Newman
Nightmare by Ramsey Campbell
Possessions by Reggie Oliver
Ripper by Angela Slatter
Vastation by Lisa Tuttle––who chose a word completely new to me

If you think I’m proud to be on that list, you’re right!

Also, I should apologise for my vanity in not taking down the good comments I received. I know I should be more modest. So far, the best I’ve been able to do is to apologise for that particular shortcoming. Baby steps.

 

Live Is A Verb

Earlier this year––up until late last month, in fact––I thought that by Christmas, I would be halfway through the rest of my life. At lunch yesterday, I made a joke to a friend about how I could have had the perfect midlife crisis––overturning tables in a diva-esque sh!t-fit. And then I could get really crazy.

It’s been two and a half weeks and no one has called to tell me there’s been a mistake and they gave me someone else’s results. I’m still here till further notice. The party in my brain has quieted a lot so I can get some work done; I’m over my embarrassment. Now I’m dealing with picking up the threads of my continued existence.

No, I can’t say I ever really believed, down in my gut, that I was going to check out about this time next year. I never felt that sick. Even when I had anaemia, I felt debilitated but not like I was fixin’ to die, as it were. But I hadn’t realised how much of the future I had simply seceded from, or abdicated, or just given up on.

I’d read about something scheduled for the year 2020 and think, Well, I don’t have to care about that or Not my problem. Well, now I do have to care and it will be my problem. Thinking in terms of what I could conceivably accomplish in the time remaining to me, I mentally stepped away from my place in the world into a liminal state. 

Now I have to step back into all the responsibilities that make up my life––supporting my friends and my family as much as they have supported me, planning writing projects to come after the one I’m working on. Yes, I’m ill but I’ll be living with a chronic illness, not dying of it. There will be times when it will give me some problems and when it does, I’ll have to figure a work-around for it, the same way people work around migraines or digestive problems or accessibility issues or bouts of fatigue or any number of things that the world refuses to slow down for.

Well, this is what I wanted. I said I wanted to live and son of a gun, I’m going to. That means going all in, taking not just the bitter wih the sweet but also the plain old day-to-day stuff nobody gets medals for. It’s time to do more of the housework, to give my husband a break from having to do so much on his own, and to reassure my kid that I have the stength and the energy to be Mom (even though he’s all grown up). Time to offer my friends more emotional support, to be as much of a friend to them as they’ve been to me. And time to work harder and write more, to push myself harder for more hours during the day because really, it’s not like it will kill me.

Of course, all I have to do is start doing all this stuff. But believe me, the mental act of returning to my old status of being alive till further notice also had to happen. It is as real an act as washing dishes or doing the laundry or writing a story. 

Live is a verb; it’s the only way you can have a life. And as the old Reebok commercial pointed out some twenty-odd years ago (I think), Life has two settings––pause and play. I’m here to tell you that you can put it on pause without even realising it; getting it back on play is a deliberate, conscious, willful act.