Is it an ending or a beginning?

I love stories where the ending is the beginning, or the beginning starts first with the ending. Or, the beginning is the core of the story, the tight center, and the narrative flows out and away from it, a widening aperture. 

I rarely see the end of a year as an ending. Or as a beginning. In fact, I never feel this kind of transition in January (I feel it more in September, probably because I’ve inculcated the academic calendar to my rhythms and can’t help but think of the end of summer as the “end” of the year). 

This all reminds me of a psychic I once saw. I asked her why I was so attracted to the spiral symbol. She told me to stop thinking about it as a two-dimensional thing, that I should stretch it out like a spiral staircase that never ends. 

For me, that was a watershed moment. I began to recognize personal, creative energy as a kind of ebb and flow, or contraction/expansion, instead of a path walked around a circular labyrinth. 

2018 has been equal parts contraction and expansion. I:

  • submitted more of my work (expansion) while completing a book project (contraction)
  • widened my social media access points (expansion) while relying less on places like Facebook (contraction) for networking
  • read a lot of the same kind of narrative (constriction) while attempting to write a lot of forms that were completely foreign to me (expansion) 
I also began to take an inventory of relationships in my life (personal, work related). For some, expansion was the next step, while for others, I recognized a lopsidedness that was not beneficial to me. Observation: it is not selfish to ask for friends to put in equal time to a friendship… so there’s been some “downsizing” in this arena as well.
Here’s a snapshot of these dynamics since September.   
I did too much

Another personal odyssey occurred at this time. It took a lot of focus and physical/emotional energy. I’m glad to have done so (and continue to do so), but it involves other people (not in my family, in case you are worried) and it’s too personal to share here. Let’s just say I am grateful for the capacity to love people even when they cannot love themselves. 

PNWA Conference (9.13-16)
I had an extremely productive time on the first day of this event (it was worth the price of admission, for sure), but was not compelled to keep attending and spent most of my time submitting work instead. 
Port Townsend Film Festival (9.20-23)
Not a writerly event (on its surface, anyway… because story is story, after all), but I come away from this one so inspired by narratives, including the documentaries Worlds of Ursula K. LeGuin, Don’t Be Nice, Fish Story, My Mom Vala, and Bill Murray Stories; two fantastic animated short films (Little Fiel, Two Balloons); the hysterical short film, The Good Mother (La Madre Buena); and the heartbreaking short film, So Much Yellow
American Association of Sleep Technologists  (9.26-30)
My first time in Indianapolis. Terrible hotel experience. Great overall small city experience. Gave two presentations (one on using unauthorized CPAP, the other on Sleep & MS); saw some of my amazing peers; ate chicken and waffles for the first time (I know, hard to believe); had birthday cake ice cream on my birthday with my friend Sree; and won a free copy of a book written by one of my sleep medicine heroes, Meir Kryger (he gave it to me himself!).  
Washington State Sleep Society Conference (10.11-13)
After 5 years, my service as the WSSS board secretary came to a close with this event. Some really inspiring presenters this year, and of course, more time with my local sleep medicine peeps. 

November beach writing retreat (11.14-18)
This proved to be a fantastic way to revitalize myself after several weeks of working overtime in order to meet all my other commitments and squeezing in personal time with loved ones in need of support. I stayed at a wonderful AirBnB in Nahcotta, WA and put the finishing touches on my hybrid collection.  

Holiday redux

It was a full house of family and friends of family, with the young people outnumbering the oldsters around a table of classic feasting foods.
Stupid MS can’t leave the holidays alone
About an hour before our annual neighborhood party, my monster friend did a number on my muscles of breathing and I had to attend late and overly medicated with drugstore pain relievers since there isn’t a single pharmacy open after 6pm in all of Kitsap County. 
New medication (baclofen) is a godsend; picked it up first thing the following morning and my pain is g-o-n-e gone. But add it to the list of daily meds I now have to take the rest of my life (wompwomp). 
And then, just last night, at another holiday party, my leg buckled from beneath me. Nobody else noticed but me, but it hurt like a sumbitch. Hmmm. MS… the gift that keeps on giving. I did meet a lovely new Islander who is a journalist and who also has an autoimmune condition. This made my night given I was only one of 2 or 3 who wasn’t drinking. 
Christmas Eve
Was brief, but fun, with relatives on the other side of the pond. My youngest had been home a few days, but the oldest made it down from her northerly hometown to join us. 
Christmas Day
Opening presents, playing poker, eating snacks, watching movies. Oh, and classic Spongebob Squarepants. 

Currently, in the realm of professional writing and editing, I’m: 
  • writing and producing continuing education seminars
  • working on a piece for the industry magazine, A2Zzzz
  • posting weekly on the blog for the AAST (“While You Were Sleeping”)
  • still writing my column at Health Union, plus new pieces for other communities under their umbrella (i.e. cancer, diabetes, arthritis, etc.)
  • back from a short hiatus from BioNews Services, starting a new series (“Need to Know”)
  • still evolving SHC to become a beefed-up satellite site, while blogging less to make more time for a future podcast (“ZZZCast”) 
  • starting production on the fifth issue of SHC’s literary quarterly, VitaminZZZ 
  • done with galleys for my chapter on Hypersomnia in the new sleep technology textbook, which comes out in early 2019 
As for my creative writing, here’s what I am focusing on between now and spring 2019:
  • I shifted my abecedarian chapbook on MS by adding some new work and reordering some pieces following revision… so it is now the MS collection (no longer abecedarian or a chapbook)
  • Building a short story collection (and maybe a flash fiction chapbook) with the help of an independent editor for self publishing in 2019
  • Outlining and writing toward a new post-apocalypse novel with multiple POV, which I started last summer
  • Creating an electronic book/online class project focused on illness narrative to launch later this year
And yes, I #amreading (since October)
  • Spoonbenders: A Novel (Daryl Gregory)
  • Honeycomb (Israel Del Rio)
  • The Mystery of Sleep (Meir Kryger)
  • American War (El Akkad) *
  • *What I’m reading now

Acceptances/publications for 2018

Not bad for someone who works full time outside the confines of the literary world!
Short Stories
  • April 9” (purchase required) in Crab Creek Review (original)
Flash Nonfiction

Coming up

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve… as well as the date of my standing podiatry appointment, so I’ll be off the grid and watching movies etc for the big night while my foot slowly comes out from under local anesthesia. 

Of course, we have a Dawg in the household, so we’ll be settling in to watch the Rose Bowl on January 1. Whether at home or in a local watering hole will be determined by the aftermath of my therapy, which can make it nearly impossible to walk for about 4 days. 
The good news: treatments may be finished by the end of January, which is none too soon, as I’ve been having this therapy since mid-August and want to reclaim my road walking practice so I can train for Portland to Coast next August.
Meanwhile, my winter retreat is right around the corner… January 7 at another Airbnb! This time, an A-frame house south of Hood Canal reserved for a full on, week-long silent retreat to get my writing year off to a productive start. Complete with gourmet kitchen, where I plan to make another batch of my World’s Best Chicken Noodle Soup, among other things. 
PodCon happens in Seattle on January 19-20 and since I’m still working on ZZZCast, I’ll be there to glean from some genius producers. 
My youngest has major dance performances coming the end of January, so you know where I will be!
Then, I’ll be in attendance at the Workplace Fatigue Conference in Seattle on February 20-21. 
March brings me to the Portland AWP conference. I have digs at a hipster hotel on the people-mover line, so that will be a fun adventure. Since this is home territory for me, I plan to see old friends and family while I’m there.
Meanwhile, I’m still working to develop a new sleep-related podcast for launch this year; the Winter 2019 issue of VitaminZZZ will be published in January or early February. 
Wishing you and yours a peaceful holiday and a 2019 full of resolved dilemmas, relief from tyranny and a rise in laughter and good energy!

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