Posted in On Writing



There’s something wonderful about intending to go to bed early, and just read for ten minutes; then finding yourself at the end of a book, your feet freezing from being in such a position that they fell asleep without you. 

This is what I aspire to.

As a writer – a title I am still getting used to calling myself – my goals are amorphous(?). They are shapeshifters; I want to write full-time, I want it to pay my bills so I don’t have to commute any more. I want to afford a small house where the floors don’t creak until Lucy’s old enough to sneak in, and that’s when they alert me. I don’t need to be famous,  I just want my stories known. 

I want to keep people up past their bedtime reading my books. 

When I finished what I (foolishly, naively) thought to be my final draft of my first novel, I gave it to my closest people who would not blow smoke up my ass. They had some great notes and critiques, and told me all their thoughts, good and bad. And one told me they’d stayed up later than they meant to reading it. 

I carry that like an ember.


I have done no writing this December, other than the 200 or so words above. Not a blog post, not a journal entry, not even scribbled thoughts from my walks. I don’t know why, exactly. Maybe I needed that break after November, where I wrote 50,194 words of a new novel to win NaNoWriMo. That seems legit, right? That’s a lot of output for one month, especially while balancing being a solo mom to my toddler, working full time, and trying to keep up with the rest of life – which, admittedly, some of which went to crap.

Maybe I ran out of motivation; it’s not always easy to get up and moving and settling down to pull words out of my brain at 5 AM, and often harder to get back to that after putting Lucy to bed.  I know my mental health took a dive; what poet Jarod K. Anderson refers to as “brain weather” was dark fog and thunder for days on end. But did that happen because it’s winter and I have SAD as well as complicated grief? Or did it happen because I stopped writing daily, all of my carefully structured routines fell away, and the darkness took the opportunity to close in? 


It’s January now, less than a week left. The writer is there; I’ve got lines and paragraphs that are waiting to find a home, waiting to be taken in and finished and find their place. I’ve got quotes and prompts aplenty, creative fodder galore (quick, name that tune). I’ve updated my inspiration journal, my reading journal, my daily journal. My writing? Not so much. But she’s there; maybe buried under blankets of inactivity and depression, but there, and stirring. 

This is not going to be a good blog post. This is not going to get my voice out there and be read by anyone other than those who have subscribed, and honestly? Maybe only half of those folks, too. 

That’s OK. 

This blog is for me. I have other writing projects that aren’t for me. I write and edit things for work, for friends; there are a few of you who might read this whom I owe some thoughts to, and I promise I’ll get to them. I’m working on edits for two novels I’ve written, and one in progress. I have multiple short stories and flash fiction sitting, waiting for their turn. Those are different. Those are the stories I intend to put out there only after high polishing and buffing, and hopefully, professional publishing services. 

This is where I practice, where I make mistakes. Where I stream it out and write from the heart, whatever comes out. There’s no guise, no plan, no plot or structure. It’s raw, sometimes more so than others. It’s public because just knowing it’s public gives me the accountability I need to return, even when the words are slow to come, even when the document sits open for fifty-one days. 

My goal for this blog in 2023 is to publish 25 posts. I was torn between 24 (2 per month) and 26 (once every 2 weeks) and split the difference. In one aspect, I am already behind; I’m not going to get two out this month, which means I’m already playing catch up. 

In another aspect, I’m just getting started.

I haven’t spent the past weeks since NaNoWriMo idle. I’ve been in consumption mode; I’ve been reading more than ever, searching out inspiration instead of passively scrolling. I’ve been back in the MasterClass series, hanging on the words of N.K. Jemison. I’ve got podcasts lined up, and plans. So many plans. Best of all, I finally have my pen name for what I intend to publish – with or without a publishing house.

Two major things I have accomplished since NaNo might not seem like the sort of things one would crow about, or even call accomplishments. For me, they are. One, I’ve set a date to self-publish my first novel. If none of the queries I have out to agents come back positively by then, I’m partnering with a service to publish my own novel. 

The second is even more of a victory. Every so often, when I would write before, I’d come across something that sounded close to my poems, or someone who sounded more like me but so much better. And I’d stop. If I wasn’t going to be the best or the first, what was the point (I need to be cautious, my gifted child status is showing)? 

This changed in 2022. I remember the exact moment; I’m not going back to check, so forgive me if you’ve already heard this story. I had taken myself on a solo writing retreat in the mountains for three days and nights. I brought along The Night Circus on a whim. On my second full day, as I added more hot water to the clawfoot tub that had gone tepid while I was engrossed in Erin Morgenstern’s world, I felt the ground shift. Beliefs and doubts, worries and hopes were tossed around like Boggle cubes and settled into a new pattern, a mosaic tableau that rolled out, just waiting for me to take the first step.

I was reading something incredibly magic and engrossing; and it made me want to write. I wasn’t dismayed, I wasn’t disheartened that I could never write that well.

I wanted to write more.

I wanted to bring people into my world, into my stories, to captivate the reader, to pull them along the plotlines and pitfalls.

It took 35 years to figure out I could be inspired, not outshone, by people who were good at what I wanted to do. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me, seeing as it took 34 years to realize I didn’t want to “have it all,” as I had been raised to believe. 

Better late than never.

Today, in the final days of January, I have more than doubled my word count for December. It’s nothing that will get me on the NYT bestseller’s list, but it certainly has not been a waste. I had already decided that my word of the year is “Forward,” following the concept of non-zero days, something I learned on Reddit (yes, inspiration is everywhere). Any progress is good. Another quote I’m keeping in mind, and I am not going to go down an internet rabbit hole trying to figure out where it first came from, but it was still important for me to learn: “Anything worth doing, is worth doing half-assed.” 

As I’m sure it is for some of you, this is a MAJOR adjustment from the idea that “anything worth doing is worth doing well,” another maxim I was raised with. 

So while my blog goal will stay at 25 posts this year, it’s just that: a goal. I may or may not make it. I will absolutely try, but as long as I can continue the forward momentum, no matter how small, I’ll take that as a success. 

If you’re still subscribed, or still reading after this ramble, I hope you’re coming along for the ride.

Posted in Uncategorized

My Apologies to Anne Shirley Cuthbert

October is unpacking her bags, filling up the dark corners of my mind. She is wily; she smiles with knowing eyes and bared teeth, as she knows she is right on time. She makes herself at home, walking over victories and bright memories and turning them to dust beneath her feet. She tucks sharp, intrusive thoughts into hidden nooks and settles words that bite like vicious rats into their daytime cages. She crowds the space with self-doubt and unhappy history until there is no room left for the light to wind through. Seratonin maintains its feeble protest at the edges, still present because it has no choice, but rightfully intimidated. 

I hate October.

I used to think it was because it marked the death of my father, now sixteen years gone. It bleeds into winter, and the death anniversaries of my grandmother and my great-uncle. Our family is small, and the loss of those 3 people in a two-year span felt like a cleaver. We didn’t do holidays together anymore. My mother held hard feelings about the other family members around her perception of how much they cared; she was wrong, but the bridges had already burnt. I maintained contact with everyone; certainly no one had asked or intended, but I felt the pressure as the only thing keeping our family together at all. Now, I am keenly aware of that feeling in its new form after the losses of my father-in-law, my son, and my wife. I have almost no contact with my in-laws, and none of the wherewithal to try to span that chasm. 

I remember being afraid last year of what the dark winter would bring. I had been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder at some point, but I’m not sure I recognized it as such until last year. I would tremble on the way home and cry in the driveway, the baby sleeping in the back, at the thought of facing another night. It was less that it was another night alone, and more the unrelenting darkness. 

The first winter after Hawthorne had been so full of things to do – pack, move, find an apartment and a job, transition our whole lives to a new chapter. Seasonal symptoms were masked or obliterated by raw grief. I didn’t have the time, mental space, or energy to even think about anything else. I was still in therapy, and trying to find a therapist in my new state to move to. I had no local friends yet, and the first Covid vaccines had just been released for those at the highest risk, so most of my family was still hibernating. October’s manifestation had been silenced that year. 

I was anticipating it to be rough last year; bad, but not as bad as it was. I functioned; I took care of Lucy, I went to work. I made plans with people, had standing dates for dinner, and tried. The exhaustion felt different; it felt false and unearned. I felt robotic, and after I had gotten Lucy to sleep, could feel myself power down. I would put the TV on and tell myself I was invested in the show, pull the blanket up to my chin, and sleep. Most nights I wanted to stay there, not having the energy to get myself to bed, but the fear of withdrawal from not taking my antidepressants eventually pushed me to my room. 

One night in February, I called a help line. I wasn’t thinking of hurting myself; I already hurt enough. I did not want to kill myself, but the intrusive thoughts of simply not wanting to be alive anymore terrified me. It wasn’t the first time I’d felt this way; the last time I had, I’d gone to a peer mental health respite house. So that’s who I called. 

Just that connection, to a landline phone hundreds of miles away, tethered me back. Two things had just happened: I had called out for help in my weakest moment, and the call had been answered with love and compassion. At 11 PM on a February night, the first flicker of dawn shone gray through the deep and the dark. 

For the holiday season, I had gifted myself a solo writing retreat in a cabin in New Hampshire. That trip came less than two weeks after that phone call, and those two actions are definitely in the top 5 best things I have ever done for myself. That was when the light began to come back. The skies didn’t fully clear for another month, but hope began to grow in the frost-hard ground. 

This past week was a harsh reminder of last winter. I’d had flickers of worry over the spring and summer that this was going to be bad again, but I felt bolstered by the work I had done. I had spent five months waitlisted and am now working with a therapist who is incredibly well-suited for my needs. I have a network of friends and family, local and not-so-local. I have lists upon lists – self-care ideas, people to call, things I’m looking forward to. I’m making a tangible toolbox with these handwritten lists, colorful stones, pretty happy stickers, and my action plan, updated and yes, colorful. 

I have the tools, the supports, the plans to get through this upcoming winter as healthy as possible. I know who I can call when I’m sad, when I’m scared. I will be OK; it’s just that getting there is going to suuuuuuuck.

I don’t want to hate October. I’m not generally a pumpkin spice latte fanatic, but if not for the darkness, I’m much more L.M. Montgomery – I’m so glad to live in a world where there are Octobers. I like football, and apple picking, and fall fests and leaf peeping and all the beautiful benefits of living in New England in autumn. I try to fill my days with them, soaking as much sun in as I can before the light changes to gold, before the evening arrives earlier and earlier. 

The clocks will change soon. I’ll reset the three in the kitchen, the last I have that don’t update themselves. I’ll change the batteries in the closet lights so I can see my clothes without waking the little one who occasionally stumbles in for 2 AM snuggles. I’ll turn the heat on, weed the garden one last time for winter, and trim back the branches that have started to block the way to the trash bins. I’ll get Lucy a new heavy coat and new boots, and pack up my sundresses. Garland of leaves will be hung, costumes finished, birthday plans made. I will stand outside and stretch my arms out and lift my face to the thinning light, trying to warm myself like the cormorants on the rocks.

Spring will come, with its tulips and its birdsong. October will last exactly thirty-one days, and the following months at their prescribed intervals. Even in winter, the sun rises. 

I would have made a terrible Alaskan. 

Posted in Uncategorized

It’s a Shame About the Weather

It’s a Shame About the Weather

I have not been shy about talking about the things I go through and experience – my mental health, stillbirth and pregnancy loss, losing my spouse, queer widowhood, sexuality and gender. These are often taboo to talk about, to write about; there’s a thin line between “enough” and “too much, I don’t want to hear this.” I try to stride down that line with my Docs on. I prefer to lead by example; if I think these topics should be destigmatized and not avoided, I’m going to write about it. The greatest reward would be to help someone else write or talk or explore what they need to.

There are also topics that are important to me that I don’t write about here. This isn’t from shame or remorse, stigma or embarrassment; some things are just private. A couple of times I’ve blurred that line, and asked the other person(s) involved if I could share the redacted story. This is, in part, in deference to the fact that I personally know many who follow this blog, and many of those are family. Oh, it still gets written; just not here. 

All that to say, my mental health has been junk lately. The early dark, the seemingly constant rain, the changing of seasons: none of these help. Depression has made its home in me again; uninvited, but not unexpected. 

I know the signs. The dwindling creativity, the defiance of self-care, the isolation all tell me I was right to be afraid of this season. I can function for about 14 hours a day; from the time I open my eyes before 5, unable to sleep longer, until Lucy is tucked into bed. After that, I shut down, as if programmed. I live in a state of exhaustion, one that is colored by that of having a toddler, grief, and depression itself. If you have never felt those last two flavors, I hope you never do; but those who have know the differences between. 

This is not a cry for help, or even a reason to worry. This is not the kind of depression where it is important to be able to ask, are you going to kill yourself? (The answer is no, anyway.) I have felt that depression before, and it is scary shit. 

This is an acknowledgment. I am depressed, and right now, that’s OK. This is a season I will get through. I’m not afraid; I don’t have scary thoughts, or thoughts I cannot control. I’m not in danger, Lucy’s not in danger. She may notice that I’m crankier and I cry a lot more, and she might watch a little more TV when my spoons are depleted before bedtime, but she still sees me laugh every day. She knows she is loved, she knows I will always pick her up when she runs to me. 

I have worked hard to gather my resources prior to the fall. My medications are stable; blessings on chemistry and SSRIs. I am on the waitlist for a counselor who seems to be an excellent match for what I need right now. I replaced my desk lamp with one used for seasonal affective disorder, and I love it. I have pulled back from social media, and I am allowing myself to only access the news of the world when I feel I can handle it. I have talked to my friends, to my family, to my doctor about it. I am open and frank about what I am experiencing. I buy little junk food and easy (I mean, easy; thank you, Wegmans) meals. I keep my routine and my bullet journal. I try to be strict about my bedtime. I have consistent plans to get me out of the house or allow people in, and I really enjoy my job. 

Someone asked me last week if they did something to upset me; another asked if something had happened. Both answers were no. This is just how it is, sometimes. And right now, sitting and writing with my sun lamp in the dawn of a new day, it’s easy for me to remember that this, too, will pass. This is a season, one I prepared for. 

I am depressed. I have chronic depression, and seasonal affective disorder. I have general anxiety, and symptoms of PTSD and agoraphobia at times. 

I am depressed, and I am OK.

For you creative types out there, I know you understand this next thing – when you start a new piece, in whatever your medium is, and it just takes off on you? You know what I’m talking about. That’s happening right now, real time. Front row seats for all.

I hadn’t intended to talk about mental health, mine in particular, like this. I had intended this post to be short and to-the-point. I wanted to tell my readership (and let’s be honest, anyone who will listen) that National Novel Writing Month begins on Monday, November 1st. I will not be keeping my schedule of biweekly posts to this blog for November, as I am concentrating my writing efforts elsewhere. I have a lofty goal to hit, and a lot to say. The blog will resume in December. Thanks for sticking around!

NOTE: if you are depressed and considering killing yourself, please check out these resources. It might not feel like it right now, but there are people out there who truly care. You will get through this. It gets better. 



Posted in Uncategorized

What a Good Girl, What a Smart Girl

Growing up, I knew I was supposed to be a doctor. It was my answer, for as far back as I can remember, to every adult’s favorite question. Exactly what kind of doctor would change periodically – when my sister was born, a pediatrician; when my close friend’s brother died of cancer, an oncologist. I thought I would make a much better psychiatrist than the inept buffoon I saw monthly, who couldn’t be bothered to know my name before the appointment, checking my folder when I was already sitting on her couch. And my teenage years subtle rebellion was to plan to become a forensic pathologist. Why not, I figured. I had enjoyed some early dissection classes, already had smartass responses when I was incredulously asked why, and I took the snarky pleasure reserved for teenagers when mothers disapprove.

My mother had grown up in Communist Poland when she was a girl in the fifties. Her father was a professor, then provost, of a university in Warsaw. She took the opportunity to remind me every time grades came out – if I didn’t stay at the top of my class, by eighth grade, my fate as a laborer would be sealed. I would have to work a blue collar job, and I’d never be a doctor; I might not even be able to marry one. While I rolled my eyes through most of the lecture delivered in her heavy accent, the thought of not being a doctor shook me. That was the final goal, the brass ring – I’d become a doctor and she would be pleased. The lines of disapproval that carved down from her lips would soften, and she would be satisfied with me. I would still have to find a doctor for a husband, but surely that couldn’t be as difficult as becoming a physician myself. 

I did not know that I did not want to be a doctor until I was twenty years old. By this time, I had passed off thoughts of other careers as dreams; fleeting, nonsensical visions that lived in the twilight, never given the light of day. I wanted to write, to be artistic and expressive. I wanted to teach and coach and have kids and cook. I had passions and desires, wishes buried so deep with that I could hardly acknowledge them to myself. But those weren’t acceptable, those weren’t in the plan. My sister had the artistic talent. Teachers didn’t make money. Having kids was expected, one day; coaching and cooking would go hand-in-hand with that, something to fill my time with after I came home from a day of medical practice. 

It was a clear day in the early spring of 2006. Everything felt heavy, the chilly New England breeze refused to hint at any warmth as it snuck around the edges of my basement windows in my dorm room. I was a sophomore; I was hunched over my laptop trying to tease out a midterm paper from a deep well of apathy. My desk lamp was on, a spotlight over the only action; the watery light the high windows let in did nothing to push back the gloom. The shadowy room showcased my depression and I wanted to see the evidence as little as possible. The dorm was on the far reaches of campus, and was set up as an apartment. It boasted an actual kitchen, bathroom, and two separate bedrooms. It was meant for upperclassmen, but the campus housing lottery had shown us favor this year. It was a great starter apartment, a set up to adulthood; you lived on your own and were responsible for your day-to-day, but you still enjoyed utilities included, on-site cheap laundry, and professional building maintenance. To get past the real-world isolation, I had to cross the tracks and walk ten minutes steeply uphill; and, of course, half my classes were at the other end of campus, up more inclines and culminating in 55 stone steps. 

I had a roommate to start the year; she spent little time in our apartment and moved in with her girlfriend partway through first semester so at 19, I had the apartment to myself. My boyfriend spent a lot of weekends with me. I wonder if the powers that be chose twin mattresses to reduce cost or to dissuade technical teenagers from exploring their sexual autonomy, out from under the parental gaze. But, like you do at 19, we made the skinny mattress work. When my roommate moved out, we dragged the mattress off the built-in box springs and filled the floor in her room with both, and rolled around the wall-to-wall bedding like puppies. 

This particular spring Saturday, I was alone in the apartment. My boyfriend hadn’t stayed over in a while, as he was figuring out his own situation with school and transfers. I had slowly given up on things like dishes or laundry; the dirty plates and flatware overflowed the sink to cover the tiny counter and stovetop. My clothes were in piles of “probably clean, I dunno,” and “whatever, it doesn’t matter.” My shelves were in disarray, books scattered; notebooks and pens wherever they landed. Rings from coffee cups circled every surface, and the dregs in forgotten mugs looked like overgrown petri dishes that had escaped the lab to live freely in my squalor. 

I was carrying an average of about 70 in chemistry lab, but half that in the class itself. My first midterm in the class I had earned a 17. I had no idea that it was possible to score so low. All my life, I had been told I was gifted, talented, brilliant. I could not understand why I was doing so badly. I don’t remember my grades in other classes that semester; I’m sure they were absolutely fine, but all I could focus on was my failure. I didn’t dare tell my mother. My father had completely lost ability to communicate, but I couldn’t face the disappointment that would show in his eyes as they tracked me around the room. I was convinced I would fail out of school and have nowhere to go. My mother would never let a dropout move back in, she had made that clear. School had become a razor-edged rock façade; if I slipped off the precarious cliff, I faced nothing but the abyss. I didn’t know what life could possibly look like if that happened.

I had come to realize what so many others in my class already had: I was not gifted or talented, and certainly not brilliant. I had fallen; I no longer led the pack, but rather wallowed in mediocrity. I lost all motivation and all self-esteem. Depression took me up in her gentle jaws and carried me back to her lair, a lost cub that had grown homesick on its adventure. I could not be a doctor if I couldn’t even pass pre-med chemistry. I was finished, and I had barely begun.

That Saturday wasn’t special. I don’t remember the date. It was after most of the snow had melted, but rugby hadn’t started yet. I don’t remember what other classes I was taking.

But I remember slowly straightening up, lifting my head from its proximity to the keyboard, one cheek every so slightly warmed from the heat emanating off the laptop. My back straightened; the muscles in my neck tensed in a new position. Every cell of my body, every fiber in my muscles was on high alert. My breath hitched and came quicker. I could almost feel my pupils dilate; my hands stilled and my calves flexed above my cold feet. I felt the adrenaline pump in my blood and the activation of my fight-or-flight response.

I did not want to be a doctor. 

The anarchist thought flashed red on the ticker that wound its way along the contours of my brain.

I did not have to be a doctor. 

I stood up quickly, pushing my chair back with nothing but the surge of my legs. My fingertips pressed the desk on either side of my laptop. 

I was not going to be a doctor. 

Heart pounding, I stood there in the heavy gray room, my hands and wrists lit by the desk lamp, trembling.

I was going to do something else.

I don’t know what caused this revelation. The aftermath of it remains soft and blurry in my memory. I didn’t immediately come out of my depression. I wish I could say that I felt like I woke up from a fugue and didn’t recognize what had become of me. I didn’t start cleaning. I didn’t start anything. I don’t think I finished my term paper that day, but I don’t honestly remember what I did. Everything I had believed about my life trajectory and what I had worked so hard for was shattered, a table of glassware upended at a yard sale. The pieces of my identity, so long dusted with acceptance, refracted blindingly. My mind wheeled with fear and trepidation; but there, slowly, rising up through the layers of shock and disbelief, was excitement. There was possibility. I did not yet know where I was going, but I knew that it wouldn’t be med school. On a chilly spring day, I left the safe harbor of a life planned out for me, and found myself in uncharted seas of the unknown.