Yesterday, I completed the annual challenge so many authors inexplicably take on despite its obvious opposition to better sense and reason. Yes, I’m talking about Nanowrimo. I wrote my way across the finish line yesterday, and despite the lack of trumpets and balloons, it was a thrilling moment for me. While it’s not my first victory, it was my most stressful battle, which is really saying something because past Nano’s I have been either a single working mother at a high level marketing job while also launching my own small business or the married mother of a two month old who just added a new baby to the mix. Now though, I am solely focused on writing and my small business, the is now a toddler in preschool, and the oldest is double digits. Also, I was super excited to use the event to get started on a narrative that had been nagging at me for a while.
“This will be cake!” I proclaimed on November 1st as I banged out the first 3,000 words without even breaking a sweat. Then God laughed and the trouble began. There were some expected obstacles, like the half-marathon I was running in another state. This was a relatively big deal because I am not a distance runner. I am very fit and active (strong body, strong mind, right?). I love 5ks, obstacle courses, and mud runs, but I can think of zero good reasons to run for 13.1 miles. Like, none. Even if something was chasing me, I’d just lay down and let it eat me around mile 6 cause I mean, damn. Unfortunately, one of my best friends created a good reason for me, or more aptly her sister did. You see, her sister, who was only a month older than myself, passed away entirely unexpectedly earlier this year. She left behind a husband, two children, and my devastated best friend. The sister had always wanted to be a runner but health issues kept her from it, so my best friend decided we would run a half and dedicate it to her memory. I would rather write 13.1 thousand words a day for the rest of my life than run 13.1 miles just once, but I did it. I braved the early morning on four hours of sleep, ran all the miles, and made the two hour drive home. Oh, and did I mention I did that while in pain and projectile puking because I have a hormone imbalance that is wreaking havoc on my person? Cause I did. I did that. What I did not do, was write.
So, there was day one with no words. Then a host of other things collided. There were holiday scheduling discussions, meal planning, co-parenting struggles with the oldest father, fall ball, etc. It was a mess, but we survived…until the plague. The stomach bug, that I can only assume is sweeping the nation because it is all over my Twitter, invaded our household via the toddler. This resulted in baby’s first trip to the emergency room and another lost day of writing for mom, which was especially hurtful because we were supposed to be traveling to see my family for Thanksgiving, so not only did I miss them, I missed those valuable writing hours in the car. (I feel like I should throw in here that in life, it hurt me entirely worse to have a sick baby and miss my family than miss the writing. I need for that to be clear, because I am a Nano nut, but I also have priorities).
Then, like it hadn’t done enough, it got my husband and took me down shortly thereafter. It was madness to try to keep the big one healthy while the three other members of his household and over half his class were succumbing to the vileness. Another lost day of writing, and honestly, Zofran was the sole reason it wasn’t even more than that.
Added to that was a litany of other obstacles of varying emotional and creative sizes. My husband worked from home on more than one of my work days, which doesn’t sound like it should interfere and he really does stay the heck out of my way, but just him being there breathing my air makes it difficult for me to get my rhythm. One of my best friend’s daughters has hit the teenage years and is making the WORST choices and we’re trying to band together to be a village in raising this child, but we have no idea what we’re doing because it’s been two decades since we were 14 and there’s obvious communication barriers, my son’s best friend’s mother has been going through a breast cancer scare and we won’t know if we can call it just a scare until tomorrow. The holidays are hard because I’ve lost a lot of super important members of my family in rapid succession and I’m still getting used to the new normal. It was just a lot.
I wanted so badly for life to just slow down, for clients to stop calling, for issues to stop popping up, to have a safe place to worry and grieve, and to not run 13.1 miles. But, those weren’t options. Which, I guess is why I share this with you because all of us are dealing with stuff we’d just rather not. Cancer is an asshole, empty seats at the holidays are heart-wrenching, raising children is scary, work-life balance is a fictional carrot at the end of stick, chasing your passion is a hard fought battle, and running sucks. These are universals. Okay, maybe there are some people out there that would disagree on that last point, but they’re wrong or on better drugs than me. For the most part though, we are all dealing with versions of these hardships. Your cancer may be chronic illness, your missing loved one may be a spouse you’re separated from, but we are all dealing with stuff and we all fight on and that’s kind of freaking awesome. Truly, it’s a victory that we all continue to get up everyday and not just survive, but thrive. It’s amazing that even after the days we fail, we come back for more. We keep getting up, even if we’ve got to lay down for a moment.
For NaNoWriMo, whether you won with 315,000 words (that is an actual number I saw, hand to gosh. That is not my number. My book is still a chapter or two away from being finished and even then won’t hit 90,000) or you didn’t hit the target and ended with 25,000 or less, you won. You won by putting words on the page. You won by breaking through all the shit we have to live through, work through, survive through everyday to put in the hard work to follow your dream. That’s impressive y’all, and I am so down proud of everyone that tried.