Self-Improvement via Coercion

I’ve never been a person for whom moderation came naturally. Why stop at one thousand words a day when three thousand words a day will help me finish this novel three times as fast? If I cut out sugar, why not cut out bread, too, and then I’ll lose weight twice as fast. If exercise twice a week is good, then surely five times a week is better, right?

I wrote a few weeks ago about pushing myself really hard prior to surgery, and it both worked and didn’t. I cleared all my to do lists before surgery, which really helped during recovery because I didn’t feel as twitchy from my permanent spot on the couch. It did, however, make me feel like I was riding in a speeding car with no seat belt and someone slammed on the brakes.

Entropy after inertia is not an easy transition.

So now, two weeks after surgery and with four weeks to go until my next, much bigger, surgery, I’m in a strange limbo. Even though I feel like I should be relatively over it already, I’m still exhausted and my limits are set in stone. There’s really no sense pushing it at this point, because invariably my injury just pushes back.

I got really ambitious and walked around Target over the weekend and I was so tired afterward I had to come home, ice and elevate, and then take a nap. When I woke up, I realized it’s actually kind of stupid to walk more than I have to because hello, there’s a huge hole in my cartilage.

I feel pressure (from myself) to be back to normal, so for now life is a constant effort to reign in my Type-A Nutjob tendencies and remind myself that, unlike in mathematics sometimes, the limit does exist. Each day is a marathon, and if I sprint at any point, I might wind up with nothing left to get me over the finish line.

The same principle applies to my writing. In a fit of naivete a few weeks ago, I calculated that if I wrote a certain number of words every day of my recovery, I’d have the first draft finished by the time I went in for the second surgery.

That’s not going to happen.

I refuse to rush what is arguably my favorite part of the writing process, and I’m not going to do that to myself because some days I can hide on my couch and type. Some days, I have to go to appointments, ice and elevate a few times, or take my kids on field trips. Life happens, and I’m not going to short-change myself by trying to force all of it to happen in the narrow window between now and when everything stops again.

Writing will happen, because I’m disciplined enough to make sure it does, but first drafts, for me at least, are not the place for brute force. This is a time of discovery and finesse, and I’ll be damned if I don’t let myself enjoy that process.

So I guess I’ve finally learned some measure of moderation. Better late than never I suppose, and besides, what other choice do I have? Sometimes you have to become a more balanced, well-rounded person against your will. The universe drags you, kicking and screaming, toward progress, and then when you look back, you wonder why you put up such a fuss because really, this isn’t so bad after all.

Oh, I! I Did Survive!

Hello from the other side of surgery! As it says in the title, I survived. As surgeries go, this one was easy-peasy. Half the credit goes to my surgeon, who is awesome and in whom I trust without reservation. The other half of the credit goes to my anesthesiologist, who persuaded me to try the surgery awake but heavily sedated to avoid the horrible nausea I usually get when I wake up from general anesthesia.

True to his word, he gave me ALL THE VALIUM, so sorry to the other patients who needed it because it was all for meeeeeeee! I was aware of what they were doing to my knee, but I was so out of it I couldn’t even muster up the wherewithal to care. At one point, I felt the scope going into my knee and it freaked me out until my anesthesiologist gave me a little more something through my IV, after which I was like, “Meh. Scope in knee. Whatevs.”

And finally, half of the credit goes to the nurses who took care of me. They were on top of things and took such good care of me. I could not have asked for better care. The rest of the credit, like half of it, goes to my husband, who kept me calm and took the best care of me while balancing work, our kids, and a wife who couldn’t carry anything for herself.

Yes, I know that all adds up to more than 100%, but I don’t care. That should tell you how smooth this surgery was. Here’s what it looked like afterward:

You can’t see them through the bandages, but there are three laparoscopic scars held closed by black stitches hiding under there. I’ll get the stitches removed on Wednesday, after which I’ll hopefully be cleared to drive again and start physical therapy.

Seeing as this isn’t my first knee surgery rodeo, I’ve already begun working on my quad strength and range of motion. Breaking through scar tissue is never fun, but it gets harder the longer you wait so I’m gritting my teeth and getting on with it.

Now that I’m back on my feet without my crutches, life is just a healing and waiting game until we get word that my shiny new cartilage is ready to be installed. My surgeon says I’d scraped my cartilage down to the bone again, which is probably why I was in so much pain.

Now that I’m walking again, I’m kind of bummed that I’ll be on crutches for at least six weeks after Surgery Round Two. That’s six weeks of crutches completely non-weight bearing, mind you. To give you perspective on what that means, I lost an inch of muscle mass from my left leg in three days from non-use. Now imagine six weeks. My left leg will shrink despite my faithful application of PT strengthening exercises. My right foot will cramp up when I stand on it too long. I won’t see the upstairs of my house for almost two months as I continue to sleep in the dining room downstairs.

But all that’s in the future! For now, I’m recovering nicely from the first surgery and we’ve all agreed it was a good dry run for the big one next month. Until then? I will be gingerly walking as much as I can and doing my best to well and truly appreciate how marvelous it is to be able to use both hands to carry stuff.

Pale and Prolific

I just realized that I only blogged twice in August. Apparently that’s who I am, now. I’m just that lady who posts to her blog a few times a year. You know, back in my heyday I posted four times a week. I had A LOT more spare time back then. Seriously, I had, like, no kids and only one book in progress at a time. Simpler days.

Anyway, lest you think I’ve been sitting back on my laurels sunbathing and day drinking the last weeks of summer away, fret not. I’m pale and prolific over here.

I’m thiiiiiiiis close to being finished enough with Bai Treason to send it to my publisher, which is funny because my original goal at the beginning of July was to have it whipped into shape for beta readers by September. Instead, I started a new project and had Bai Treason in my beta readers’ hands at the beginning of August and now I’m just waiting for one last set of notes, having completed everyone else’s notes already.

Say it with me, kids:

As for that new project, I’m calling it Tranquility Land and it’s going REALLY well. Maybe a little too well. I’m 15,000+ words in already and the story is unfurling nicely. It’s actually two stories, staggered with one another, about a present-day daughter taking care of her paranoid elderly mother who suffers from dementia. The first story is told from the daughter’s perspective, the second story is set before the daughter was born and is told from the mother’s perspective.

That’s right. I have two, I say TWO heroines in this book. It’s Bechdel Test-tastic.

And always, the drum beat counting down the days of summer for me this year, is my looming surgery date on September 12. I’m feeling peaceful about it, because I worked my ass off this summer getting my writing projects in line. If all goes well, I have a real shot of finishing the first draft of Tranquility Land before crutches take over my life after surgery number two in October.

I may be a slacker of a blogger, but it’s because I’m RAZING AND CONQUERING MY TO DO LIST.

This is What Comes of Leaving the House

This dog has nothing to do with this post, I just like how annoyed he seems by what he has to put up with.

I was invited to a cocktail party Saturday by some of the wonderful people I met at ThrillerFest last week, and it was hands down my most interesting evening of the week. Now, Wes has been gone since early Tuesday morning, so my bar for interesting is set pretty low these days, but even by normal standards it was noteworthy.

To start the evening off, I did my hair and makeup alone but when it was time to get dressed my five year old daughter took over. When I told her I was going to a grown-up party, she considered all my dresses before selecting the black and white tea-length dress I bought on a whim last month. It was a little dressy for the occasion, but I went with it because 1) I’m not arguing fashion with my daughter and 2) she was so enthusiastic about her sartorial victory, only a monster would have taken that away from her.

I drove Wes’s Mustang out to Seattle for the party, which is always a dicey proposition when I’m feeling pretty because I get kind of cocky when I feel pretty and my driving reflects that. I’m telling you, you haven’t truly passed someone until you’ve passed them in a Mustang. I had my sunglasses on, my Girl Power playlist going, and I was feeling good.

I parked in an adjacent neighborhood to where the party was because I knew I could find parking there and then just took an Uber the rest of the way. My first driver was a 23-year old Chinese-American man who regaled me with stories about his mother’s intimidation techniques. When I told him about Bai, my character, and how a reviewer had recently commented that it seemed unlikely to him that Bai’s parents would disapprove of his chosen profession, my Uber driver laughed and said I’d nailed it.

Gotta admit, that felt pretty good.

The party itself was a lot of fun. Great food, killer view, and I was surrounded by stage actors and the people who love them. Actors make for very diverting company, it turns out.

My Uber driver for the ride home was a guy who’d moved here from Palestine six years ago. He holds a Master’s degree in comparative literature and says driving for Uber is the price he pays for picking that field of study. He also expounded on his views of the Israel/Palestine dispute, which I didn’t feel qualified to comment on so I just listened instead.

Do you see what comes of leaving the house, intrepid readers? You meet interesting people and get to do interesting things.

Empty Tubes and Tests for Days

Man, I tell you. Coming back from Santa Barbara was a great, big, freezing cold splash of reality. Wes had to leave on a series of business trips, which is normally the cue for both my kids to get all kinds of peeved about their father’s absence and take it out on me.

They did not disappoint.

Me in my giant scrubs, mere moments before yet another health professional jammed a needle into my poor knee.

Adding to the fun, I did another MRI with contrast to see why my knee continues to be a literal and figurative pain and lo and behold, it wasn’t all in my head (ha?). I have a flap of cartilage that’s collecting edema, and the microfractures I had done a couple years ago healed irregularly, which means things are all kinds of messed up in there.

Before I go in for (yet another) surgery, I’m going to get tested by a rheumatologist to see if it’s possible to determine why the cartilage in my knee is shredding like a nice mozzarella.

As if all that wasn’t enough, I’m currently undergoing testing from an endocrinologist to see whether he can figure out why I keep gaining weight despite healthy eating and exercise habits.

Just think blood tests. Blood tests for days. All the doctors are holding up empty tubes with my name on them.

It’s all stressful, and at times terrible, but I’m keeping my focus firmly on the things that are going right. Things like:

  • Wes is home from his business trips, and will be home for awhile.
  • I have friends and family who care about me and all my suddenly myriad health issues. My best friend, husband, and mother-in-law all collectively spent hours on the phone with me when I found out about my knee, just letting me feel sorry for myself and assuring me things would turn out ok. I’m inclined to believe them.
  • I’m free of deadlines for now and making progress on revisions for Bai Treason (book 3 of the Bai Hsu series). I love it as much now as I did when I wrote the first draft, which is always a good sign of a worthwhile story.
  • There’s a book blog tour of Bai Tide (book 1 of the Bai Hsu series) that’s happening now and the reviews are uniformly positive so far! Like this one, and this one. I’m always particularly gratified when people who don’t normally read my genre enjoy my books. It shows me I wrote a good story, not just a good spy story.
  • I might be getting LASIK soon because you know what? My knee may be FUBAR but damn it, there’s still hope for my eyes.

That just about brings you up to current. Rest assured, if I’m not blogging it’s probably because I’m hiding from my health woes by writing stories. Given all the feelings around here lately? Bai TreasonĀ is going to end up being a goooooooood book. Trust me on that one.