I entered National Novel Writing Month with a clear purpose and a plan. I wrote some very good scenes for my young adult novel and I saw the arc forming clearly. I was going nail it in November. Then my 93-year-old father had a massive stroke. It would be an understatement if I said that my writing for the month was derailed. I sat alone with my father in the emergency room receiving bad news after more bad news. A little bomb had just gone off in the core of our family. Suddenly, my life was filled with hospital visits, phone calls, lawyer visits, nursing home placements and all the mess that comes with having a suddenly permanently disabled family member. But when the shock of the suddenness wore off I came back to my senses. Writing is my calm place, my meditation and what I needed more than anything was to be calm, clear thinking and thoughtful. I had decisions to make and hard ones. I started a new journal where every day I write about my experiences and what is happening right now with my dad. It’s working. Let me make myself clear, it certainly isn’t making this any easier. You can still catch me staring off into space when I become overwhelmed with everything I have to do right now. But the writing keeps me focused. Once I put a thought on the page I am no longer compelled to think about it because there is a chance I might forget. I also jot down in my journal phone numbers, lists of things I have to do and things I should not forget. Most of the times I don’t write for long periods of time. Sometimes, I just jot a sentence down.
I have written in the past about the concept of a “transforming power.” I am a former facilitator with the Quaker program Alternative to Violence Project. The program teaches that we all have a transforming power that can work to change and guide our lives for the better. For some, their transforming power is God. But the concept of transforming power does not have to be religious in nature. It can be gardening, rock climbing, meditation, poetry or whatever a person conceives it to be. When a person embraces that “thing”, whatever it is and allows it to work in their lives their lives become transformed. My transforming power has always been writing. Writing about my father’s illness will not change it. However, it will give me time to reflect, gain new perspectives and record the memory of this time with him. I certainly didn’t win anything this month. My immediate life has changed significantly. But writing, as it always has, is there for me to help make sense of this world of mine as I take on all the new challenges I am about to face.