04 June, 2013

Getting Fixed

I come from a long line of big, friendly people and, for much of my life, I was the smallest of my siblings, and even smaller than some of the extended family.

Since I'm tall, and 'extra cuddly' sized, that's saying a lot.

Other than sinus allergies and Rosacea, I've always been healthy, despite being heavy. My brother had his stomach done a few years ago, my sister has lost more than 100 lbs with the help of TOPS, but I remained basically the same weight, at least within 10 lbs or so, for more than twenty years. I also have extreme self confidence issues, part due to the introversion, part not. They all tend to compound and reflect back on one another. Overweight, introverted, depressed, fearful, avoidant, self loathing! Welcome to the family ferris wheel! Round and round we go!

Me, 2012, before I decided to wrestle the weight tiger.
Things started to change for me when we moved up here in 2008. Our daughter went off to college (she's back home now, with a daughter of her own) and it gave me what could best be described as too much spare time. I used a good hunk of it to change myself and my mindsets, starting with Lasik. I've always been dreadfully nearsighted (just like my mother), but when bifocals became necessary, I lost all depth perception and started falling/tripping. A LOT. Yeah, I'm introverted, but the necessity of staying home because walking out in the world meant tripping over the tiniest cracks and falling on my face was a very scary prospect. Anyway, I got lasered in 2009 and now only need glasses to read, which is pretty cool.

I like funky reading glasses. :)
It was astounding to me how much losing my glasses opened up my life and my mind. One of the many, many shields I'd manufactured for myself was no longer there to hide behind and it was a terrifying yet liberating experience. But, hey, it was a start! With that barricade destroyed, I decided to deal with the writing demon. Writing, for me, had never been a pleasant endeavor, always mired in angst and pain and anger. I used it to vent, to purge, to drain off internal poisons, and to let the darkness loose before it ate me alive. I stopped writing after Valley of the Soul for a lot of reasons, but pretty much all of them were, admittedly, psychological and based on fear. Once my eyes were fixed, I decided to stare at the writing monster once again and make it my bitch instead of the other way around.

In 2010, I wrote an amazing, twisty, hopeful novel called Morgan's Run. Almost everyone who's read it has gushed and raved about it, but it was, supposedly, 'unsellable'. I'm not exactly sure why. My only theory is it's because the MC (a child abuse survivor suffering with extreme PTSD) and her situation are rather nuts. Morgan's crazy, yes, but that's why I like her so much.

There's still hope for Morgan - YAY!! - and I'm trying to figure out how to tweak her into a NA book instead of a mainstream psycho-thriller. I'm so excited she still has hope. :)

While working on Morgan's Run, writing once again became a compulsion, but not a painful one. I considered this to be great progress. Unlike the Dubric books, she wasn't an endless trudge of pain and suffering and cutting my psyche open to slap the bloody mess onto the page while it lay there twitching and screaming. There was blood, yes, and pain and tears, but none of it was forced, and none hurt more than it helped. Morgan's Run was incredibly cathartic. And short. I think it's about 95,000 words which for me isn't much longer than a short story. lol

Anyway, I adore Morgan and I'm so, so glad she might yet find a home.

While working on Morgan, I kind of forced myself to become more outgoing. I served as Treasurer for our quilt guild, I worked part-part time at a quilt shop (talking to real people!! Aaack!!), I got onto FaceBook, I self published three short stories (all of the proceeds go to charity), and I joined the Des Moines chapter of Sisters In Crime.

I've cut back some on my responsibilities (SinC especially since time and gas are at a premium) but I'm still making myself be involved in things outside of my head and home. But, anyway, Morgan wasn't selling and I really, really wanted to get back to work as a writer, so I asked my agent what he thought I should write next. I gave him short synopses/concepts of several ideas I had. He picked SPORE, a book about a haunted comic book artist and people who are no longer dead, so in 2012, I began.

Also, around that time, I noticed my knees were becoming increasingly problematic, my feet hurt all of the time, and my energy level... Frankly it sucked. All of my medical particulars were still just fine, but I really needed to deal with the excess weight. I wrestled a long, long time with this because I was hiding behind my weight. It was just one more barrier. I knew it, my husband knew it, my physician knew it. Shit, everyone who knew me knew it. I, however, was reluctant to lose that last bastion of  safety. But I needed to. Having been overweight for nearly my entire life, I'd tried losing weight before, with almost every possible plan under the sun. Nothing had ever worked, or more accurately, nothing had ever 'stuck' because I'd slip up and throw in the towel. So, what to do?? My friends Jean and Wendy had found a good deal of success with Weight Watchers, and while I'd tried them decades ago (I think I was still in high school) my research showed that they were highly rated on successes, especially in the long term. I liked the idea of structure with flexibility, and I liked that going to meetings meant you weren't doing it all alone.

I kind of need some sort of real accountability.

So I talked it over with Bill and, despite the cost (oy, the cost!!!) I joined up in September, with meetings plus online. Also, contrary to my natural cheap nature, I'm all in. I buy the smoothies, I buy the fiber bars, I have the exercise DVDs, the whole shebang, even the ActiveLink fitness monitor, which has been a godsend at keeping me from sitting on my ass all day.

Me, today.
As of my last weigh in, I'm down 36 lbs. Not as fast as I'd like (it never is) but averaging a pound a week is pretty cool. Bill is ecstatic, my physician is ecstatic, and my clothes are all too big. My shoes are too big. It's insane. I'm looking at doing a 5k this fall, just walking it - my knees won't stand for a run longer than a minute or so - but Damn. Me. I still have a long way to go, but this is totally doable, long term, lifetime, forever. And it's making other things better, every lost pound lets in a little more light.

SPORE is done - it was a frustrating pleasure to write and I finished it right before Thanksgiving last year - and I'm currently awaiting another batch of changes from The Agent. It will, with luck, sell to a major publisher sometime this year. I hope it does. I hope he can find a publisher for Morgan too, assuming I can nudge her into the New Adult realm.

I need another book to work on, but so far my brain keeps downshifting back to Morgan and SPORE. I'm not sure why, exactly, maybe because they're still 'unfinished business', maybe because the true concept of the next great twisty story hasn't yet taken root in my brain (I have a few seedlings, but nothing strong enough to pull on yet). I'm not sure, but I'm also not worried. Frustration with writing is no longer about facing the pain, it's about trying to cram a pissed off bobcat into a gallon ziplock bag. Length. Good golly, I fight LENGTH. How the hell does anyone write a coherent book under 90k?? I struggle to trim to get it to squeeze in under 100 and would much rather have 150. It's a FIGHT I tell ya! That's the hard part, keeping it short enough to sell.

And for that I am ever so thankful. After Dubric, I honestly never thought I'd enjoy writing, but I do.