It hasn’t been an easy year. That’s an understatement for sure.
The world has been full of so much fear and hate. The unknown has reared its ugly head and to combat that, I’ve tried to sparkle through it all. It hasn’t always been easy or even possible, but it’s been a year that I’ve truly tried to live, despite limitations or boundaries. I’ve had to look for joy under every rock that has remined still, knowing that the dark holds the stars.
I think the thing that has really defined what 2021 has meant to me is my health. In October of this year, I began a new medical treatment after new lesions were found in my brain after my last MRI. The medication is called Mavenclad. It’s a chemo drug normally used to treat leukemia. The idea is that it will shut down my immune system so that when it regrows itself, it will do so without the lesions that are caused by the multiple sclerosis I live with. I did two rounds of Mavenclad and I had no idea what to expect, thanks to the lack of information from the medical professionals in my life. It was a learning process and one where I had to embrace rest and let myself heal.
I’ve learned a few things this year, but the big one is that I don’t rest very well. I’m always creating something, whether it be writing or painting. I’ve always got a creative project on the go and I’ve really had to learn what rest is and how to embrace and enjoy it rather than turn away and shun the concept. There were a few weeks where I couldn’t write, where the well of words within me had run dry. Normally, my mind is full of stories and characters and words that need to be written and instead there was only a soft breeze with nothing upon it.
That made me stop and take a look at my constant need to be creative. In talking to my therapist, I realized that in some way, I’ve been trying to outrun the multiple sclerosis in some way since my diagnosis eight years ago. When it first hit, it took everything from me and when I learned to write again, I have been on a continual creative streak, always afraid of having my words taken away from me again. I know that I can’t live that way anymore and I have to learn to balance myself. I’ve realized that whether I write or not, the words or the urge will always be there, or it will be waiting for me when I’m ready. In the past two years, I’ve written three large novels and two novellas. It’s okay for me to take time to rest.
I also had to deal with fear a lot. What with everything that has been going on in life, that’s no surprise. I’ve had to deal with my health and my husbands health issues. Currently, I’m in isolation due to the fact that my immune system it’s at it’s lowest right now. However, given the rise of the omicron variant of covid, that’s not such a bad thing, is it? It’s given me a lot of time to think about everything and I realized a few weeks ago that I’ve been living with depression again. The dark forest that I thought I was done with all those years ago has been alive and well this year. I had been so focused on remaining positive that I ignored the obvious.
I’ve always lived with depression. In my youth, I was diagnosed with a double depression, a clinical on top of a critical. The critical depression was dealt with, but the clinical depression is always there. I had been so focused on sparkling on all the time, despite the state of the world around me, that I hadn’t given myself time to properly grieve. I had to grieve what I had known and embrace what was now, much like my journey with multiple sclerosis. Along with trying to balance myself and my health, I had to learn balance with emotions and positivity. It’s not possible to stay positive all the time and I had to learn to be okay with being depressed and finding ways to deal with that as I had in the past. Thankfully, I had my family and friends that rallied around me, supported and loved me so that I knew that I didn’t have to go through any of it alone. I’m so fortunate in that way.
That’s not to say that it’s all been bad this year. I was fortunate to be able to republish my first novel The Ghost Mirror. It had gone out of print years before and I had always wanted to have it out there in the world again. It tells the tale of a misunderstood girl named Mave who is the last witch. I had planned to make it a trilogy and I’ve got the second book started. Here’s hoping I finish it in the coming year.
I self published two other books this year, Hope Falls and The Other Side of Oz. They were both trunk novels that I had always wanted to do something with. The Other Side of Oz was the first book that I had tried writing after I learned to type again after the initial lapse from my multiple sclerosis. It’s always held power for me. Hope Falls had been a fan favourite when it was first published, and I had been meaning to put it out again. The other three books in the series are soon to follow.
I also had my work appear in two anthologies. I had one of my poems appear in Love and Catastrophe Poetre and it’s an anthology of poems that deal with the difficult things in life, the tragedies that shape us, and it was an honour to have my poem Covidly included. One of my short stories was also included in Artificial Divide, an anthology of stories written by blind or visually impaired authors. It was a joy and a privilege to have my short story The Blood Trees included in the anthology.
One novel I’m immensely proud of is Beyond the Stone. It was published this September and was almost instantly a best seller, which is pretty darn cool. I’ve been trying to write what I know and in this book, the main character Bane is disabled but also a supernatural trying to protect the mortals in the world around him. Bane is the character that is most like me; he’s got a foul mouth and a temper but also a kind heart. I tried to incorporate a lot of what I went through with my multiple sclerosis in this book and I’m thrilled to see the response. It’s also really cool that you can find Beyond the Stone in most bookstores. That makes me so incredibly happy!
To end off each year, I like to publish a holiday themed story. This year, that story was Captain Maven and the Shadow Man. It was inspired by a conversation I’d had with my mother when I was beginning my chemo treatment. I was struck with the idea of the medications that I take as superheroes, tackling the multiple sclerosis. I published it on my blog, but I hope to have a paperback and an ebook come out next year. Again, it was writing what I know and trying to tell my story in a different way.
While it’s been a heavy year full of a lot of emotions, it’s also been a good year. I’ve grown closer to my family and friends; I’ve been able to do (a lot!) of what I love and I’ve kept myself safe from the unseen threat of Covid and all that it brings. No, 2021 certainly didn’t go like I thought it would, but isn’t that what life is like? I gave up trying to endlessly control everything that I could just to give myself some structure and just let life be the way it wanted to. I know that I have choice, and this year I chose to live in whatever way possible. It’s been a year filled with emotions, but thankfully those emotions have included joy, hilarity, happiness and contentedness in amongst all the strife, worry and upset.
My only hope for 2022 is that I continue living my life and taking things one day at a time. It’s all we can do amongst all the craziness. Despite what may come, I will hold true to one belief of mine: we can only learn to sparkle when we’re in the dark, for only at night can we see the stars.
Whatever 2022 brings for you, I hope it’s beautiful.