Cancer Log 201: Capacity

It seems like I should be done keeping a cancer log at this point, years out of treatment, but I occasionally run into weird things in my brain that I think are probably related to cancer.

I’ve always said, since college anyway, that I wanted to live my life as if I could be hit by a bus tomorrow. (That prospect is a lot more terrifying now that I have children, because of what the consequences of my death would be for them.) Both then and now, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of saying yes to experiences, choosing to do and pursue the things I deeply wanted, not letting fear stop me. It’s a pretty fundamental part of my character, I think, to try to live as fully as I can.

Where that intersects with cancer, though, is I think that tendency has ramped up since the diagnosis. My first thought on diagnosis was the kids. I got the call at work, at the end of the day. I sat in my office, shaking, not feeling safe to try driving home yet, imagining what I would put in the videos I would make for them, all the mother-wisdom I would try to pack in, so they’d have it when they needed it, when I wasn’t there.

The second thought was about the books. All the books I hadn’t written. Isaac Asimov wrote over a hundred books; supposedly when he was interviewed late in life, the interviewer asked what he would do if he only had a little time left to live, and Asimov said, “Write faster.” I drove home eventually, sat next to Kevin on the couch, silently pressing my body into his, imagining all the books I wouldn’t get to write.

Then there was treatment, which took all the time and energy for a year and then some. And then I got back to writing, and since then, I have been writing and writing and starting gazillion projects and finishing some of them and not finishing others and it’s all kind of a mess right now. I hired a part-time assistant and then I hired another one (for just a few hours a week, to do different things), and slowly, I’ve been catching up on all the backlog, and getting back to writing properly again.

I’ve been running flat out, and there are days, weeks, when I wake up in the morning and I’m just going from morning to night, crash in bed, repeat the next day. I take a little NyQuil to keep me asleep most nights these days, because otherwise my brain is racing too much and I wake up over and over. That’s new since the cancer.

The good thing about hiring assistants to make time to write is that they do a lot of the household chores and SLF tasks and so I do have more time to write. But writing, it turns out, is exhausting. It is mentally and physically and sometimes emotionally draining, and if I try to do more than 3-4 hours of it a day, the writing suffers and I feel horrible.

Hiring assistants has helped me become more productive, but I am also paradoxically more tired, I guess because there was some mental rest and downtime built into the tasks that they’re doing now. I would watch tv while doing laundry, and now, I’m working in that time instead, and at the end of the day, I’m more tired than I was before.

All of this makes me a worse parent too, exhausted and too drained to want to play with the kids, and if I say, “I have to work,” to Anand one more time, I’m going to cry.

My dad worries that I work too much. I tell him I’m fine, and I am basically fine, but he’s also probably right. The urgency that is driving me to produce produce produce is also driving me to exhaustion, and I have got to figure out how to do a better job of resting.

I love my work. I love it to pieces. I am happiest when I am working to capacity, but I just can’t do that all the time, because then I fall down. I got to this convention, and I had planned to write today, but I basically checked into my hotel room, took off my pants, and climbed into bed for the rest of the day. I did a little work from bed, but just e-mail, nothing creative. The well is dry.

I need to work to capacity, but not past capacity. I need to allow time to refresh capacity. Without feeling guilty that someone else is doing my chores and I’m just…sitting there? Reading a book, taking a nap.

I’ll figure this out, but none of it is as simple as I want it to be. And I am terrified that I will fail to write my books. I wrote one book I’m really happy with, Bodies in Motion. I was satisfied by that. I managed another eventually, The Stars Change. (It’s not perfect, but it does most of what I wanted it to do.) But there are least 3-4 more books in my head that I have not managed to get out properly yet, probably more like a dozen, and it’s making me a little crazed. If the bus hits tomorrow, I’m going to be furious.

The only real solution is to get the work done, but I have GOT to pace myself.

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