For 12 hours a night, I dwell in chaos. We've got a residence burning in one area of the county. We've got deputies actively searching for a subject who fled from a traffic stop in another. We have a lady on the phone, begging for help because someone close to her has overdosed and won't wake up. We've got four different verbal disturbances and a fight in progress. Someone came home to find their home had been broken into. Someone else has fallen and needs help getting up. 911 lines are ringing off the hook. Non-emergency callers are holding while we deal with one emergency after another. Deputies are on the radios, trying to get or give information. They need an ambulance here, a wrecker there, the coroner over there, and another agency contacted about X or Y. Five different fire departments are out on calls, and they're on the radios, talking to us or to one another. My coworkers and I are yelling across the room to relay information over the roar of radios and ringing phone lines. Another coworker is on the phone, yelling to capture the attention of the man on the other end of the line, the one who's too busy screaming and cursing at her to tell her what his address is.
For 12 hours a night, that's my life. On nights when we're lucky, chaos comes and goes in waves, allowing us to breathe and catch up before the next wave hits. On other nights, from the minute we walk in the door until the moment we walk out, there's something going on somewhere. On the ride home in the mornings, I ride in silence…it's the first little bit of peace and quiet I've had all night long. I'm exhausted. My mind is running a million miles a minute. I'm starving. I just want to go home and sleep.
And that's what I do. I sleep. Because I have to be up in a few hours to do it all over again, and I'm tired. I'm emotional. I'm sad.
For the last year, I've been in completely unfamiliar territory.
I remember exactly when the landscape changed, too.
"It's likely that, in the next few years, you'll be diagnosed with colon cancer."
That's the sentence that did it. That's the one that reminded me that I'm not invincible. I can't do everything and be everywhere and help everyone. I wasn't ready for that sentence, or everything that came after it.
I wasn't even sure why I was sent to her in the first place. I thought I had food poisoning and my PCP was overreacting.
Turns out, I was wrong. Because that sentence is the one a doctor I'd met only once before gave me two days after removing a tumor from my colon. I had twenty minutes to process those words before I had to set them aside and drive to work. Because someone else's crisis superseded mine.
I figured things would go back to normal soon enough. But it didn't. I got sicker. And I got more words I wasn't prepared to hear.
Crohn's. Medication. Recurrent pneumonia. Inflammation in my lungs. Inflammation in my shoulder. More medication. More tests. More doctors.
Last year, my entire life changed, and sometimes, I think I forgot to change with it.
I worry about everything I eat and how it's going to affect me. I do my best to take my medication on time, every time. I try to exercise and make those life changes that I need to make. I read up about Crohn's and how to manage it and what to look for.
And I still try to do everything and be everywhere and help everyone. I still hold myself to a standard that, sometimes, I can't meet anymore. And I still do so much of it mostly alone.
SS has been a trooper. So have my coworkers. But a lot of my friends, and even members of my family, have kind of disappeared. They don't call. They don't write. They don't visit or even text to say hey. They live in the same state, in driving distance, and I don't hear from them. Maybe they don't know what to say or how to help. Maybe they just don't want to do so. I don't know.
But it takes a toll. It's another issue clamoring for attention when I'm already overburdened with issues clamoring for attention.
Finding the time to write through it all is hard. Finding the energy is even harder.
After dealing with problems and drama and emergencies all night long, I struggle to find the energy to write about fictional conflicts. Sometimes, I feel like I'm failing. I have countless unread emails. Messages not responded to. I have deadlines missed and half-finished stories clamoring for their turn. Sometimes, I remind myself that, contrary to popular belief, NOT writing every day doesn't make me less of an author. It makes me human.
But sometimes, that reminder isn't enough to keep the niggling doubts away. Sometimes, I get so fucking frustrated because I want to write. I love writing. But I don't do it every day. I can't do it every day. I want to do it, but I I have a thousand other things going on in my life, and sometimes, those things take priority.
And that shouldn't feel like such a big "no-no".
It's okay if you can't write every day. You aren't failing.
Why isn't THAT the message we shout from the rooftops to writers struggling to make it home to cook dinner for the family at a decent hour before rushing the kids off to bed instead of telling them that they "must write every day to be a writer"? Why aren't we telling women like me that, hey, it's okay if you're too fucking exhausted to pick up a pen or open a Word document at the end of the day? Why aren't we reminding each other that, whether you write 50,000 words this month or 500, you're STILL a writer?
You are. Even through months when you struggle to write a single paragraph. Even through days when you don't say a word on Facebook to your readers. Even in those moments when you don't feel like you're good enough because life is kicking you in the teeth and you're too fucking tired to deal.
You're still a writer.
No one can take that away from you. Not even that little niggling doubt in the back of your mind.
You're still a writer.
And so I am.