Jay Lake: Writer

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[Cancer, Writing]

[cancer|writing] The road goes on forever, and the party never ends

I have very mixed feelings about my weekend at ICFA. Not at the professional level, wherein I had a gloriously fine time at the conference. Nor at the social level, see above. But at the level of internal reflection and how I experience things through the cancer lens.

I still haven’t sorted out what I thought and felt while there. It’s complicated. So, in no particular order…

Meeting and talking to a lot of students, facing a lot of life choices, reminded me that so many of my own choices are shutting down or being cut off due to my mortality. This really isn’t a feeling I have experienced prior to the cancer. Even as I’ve aged (relatively speaking, I’m only 48), I’ve always seen myself as having copious professional and personal choices. Not so much, now, not with the commitments I have. Some of those commitments are joyous, being parent to [info]the_child, for example; and some of those commitments are reasonable, such as my Day Jobbe career. But mostly I’m committed to this path of mortality which already restricts the kinds of plans I can make and dreams I can work on, and promises to soon restrict those much more tightly, until eventually they contract into the narrow point of my death.

Likewise, seeing a number of old friends and making some new ones in the process kept reinforcing my sense of being on a Farewell Tour. As I said the other day, while this might well be true, it’s not a helpful mindset. Yet there I was. Melancholy set in pretty hard.

My tolerance for social static and disruption is leaching away. Likewise my patience. I do not like these trends in myself. I’ve always aspired to be a good listener, a good friend, understanding about the challenges of human nature. As my illness evolves, I become more and more inwardly focused, which makes me less and less of those things.

I gave away or ditched most of my free books from the conference. I found myself explicitly thinking, “No, I cannot have more stuff at home.” I’m giving things away, not taking them in. Given my lifelong natural tendencies to be a hoarder, this is another dying kind of thought. My joy in stuff has almost vanished, taking with it much of my desire. These days when I look at books, one of my key thoughts is, “Will I live long enough to read it?” That’s not me, that kind of thought. Except now it is.

Meanwhile, cool things keep happening. I signed a nice little subsidiary rights contract yesterday which I’ll be able to announce soon. There’s various other bits of good news coming down the pike in my writing life shortly. I’m about to start writing Original Destiny, Manifest Sin. That online course I’m teaching starts today, and I’m giving a science lecture tonight. Friendships and loves bubble along, I still put my own socks on every day. There’s plenty to live for on a day-to-day basis. But the sadness keeps creeping in.

The road may go on forever, but I can see the end of the party from here.

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