Saturday, February 28, 2015

House of Sand and Snow

I won't be posting lengthy musings for a while, since I'm frantically trying to finish a book. And what is a book if nothing but one, looooong, complex, exhausting, ultimately rewarding musing?

I am endlessly fascinated by my new home, and every day I get a sensory jolt that takes me back in time. I lived here when I was in my 20s, when I worked as a newspaper reporter at one of the many defunct newspapers I've had to pleasure to be part of.  (My presence is not completely to blame for these collapses.)

My New Mexico house sits on a ridge at the northern base of a the Sandias, and from my office window I can see the desert side of the mountain range and a bit of the high forest line. The mountain changes color from day to day and often many times within one day. If I get tired of the "Mountain Channel" as my friend Celeste Bradley calls it, then all I have to do is look out in another direction. I've got the mesa to the west,  the Rio Grande Valley below, the Jemez Mountains, the volcanic escarpment known as the Valle Cardera, and the Sangre de Cristos near Santa Fe and beyond. On clear days I can see the Rockies near Taos, and the White Mountains hundreds of miles to the west in Arizona.

We recently broke our weeks-long run of spring weather here, and it's been snowing the last few days. What an extraordinary sight that is -- the snowy desert. This morning, everything has a couple inches of fluffy white icing on it:  the adobe wall that encircles the house, the split-rail fence, the cacti and sage brush. One of the most striking things I see as I write this is the thick vigas (structural wood beams) jutting from the adobe roof, now frosted with snow. If that doesn't scream New Mexico I don't know what does.

I'm lucky enough to have traditional New Mexican fireplaces in my home, called kivas. I've been burning wood like crazy, because I just can't get enough of that scent -- pinon and cedar smoke rising into the cold desert air. I write a lot while sitting in in front of the kiva in the great room. I drag my dog's bed in there so he can sleep and dream next to the fire.

That's where I'm headed now. I'm going to get a roaring fire going, make myself a cup of tea, and sit in my comfy chair and write, write, write.

I'll touch base soon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tripping On The Red Carpet

Today is the Library of Congress screening for the documentary Love Between The Covers.  I won't be there. I'm in my sunny house in New Mexico, hanging my framed book covers on my office wall and working at my desk by the sliding glass doors. I decided I couldn't do it -- I couldn't sit there and watch myself on the a huge movie screen and then mingle with industry people and fellow writers afterward. I'm not ready. So instead of being in Washington, D.C. at 6:30 PM today, I will be drinking green tea in the sunshine, throwing a toy for my dog.  It's all I'm strong enough to do right now. 

I have been known to be my worst enemy. I set impossible standards for my personal and professional achievements, and when I actually make them happen, I hardly pause to notice. I think, "Well, of course I did that. It's how I roll." And when people comment on how good I am at something or how strong I am for pushing through some obstacle or other, I shrug off the compliment. I think, "Well, yeah. No biggie." But when I don't meet those goals? Shhhhheeeeeiiiiiit. It becomes a Susan vs. Susan smack down, and there's a lot of hair pulling, name calling, and general self-torture.  It's a battle that takes place in private, in my own head, usually at night when I'm trying to sleep. Rarely do I allow my loved ones to watch the action. 

I've always focused on what I've failed to do instead of what I've done. It's the way I'm wired.

My health crisis and recovery has forced me to stop doing battle with myself as much as I used to. So if there's a blessing in all the darkness and loss, that might be it. My illness has taught me to be gentler to myself, and have more compassion for the fact that I'm just another slob on the bus . . . I stumble and fall.  A lot. And now that I have one leg instead of two, I do a shitload of stumbling and falling. Honestly, if I beat myself up every time I didn't meet my own expectations, that's all I'd ever do with the rest of my life -- self flagellation.  I wouldn't even have time to drink tea and play with my dog. 

By moving to New Mexico, I've given myself a clean start. It feels good to be here, living alone in a peaceful and beautiful setting. I am giving myself the space to heal and write, which is the opposite of beating myself up. I'm being kind to myself. And that's why I decided I can't go to the documentary screening. I'm not going to pretend to be in a different space than I really am. I am not all smiley and happy and resilient right now. I'm exhausted. I'm still peeling away layer after layer of trauma-related anxiety. I'm still  trying to understand my place in the world.  I'm not ready for prime time, and that's that.

Old habits die hard, of course, so you bet your ass I'm sitting in a desert 2,300 miles from Washington freaking out about the screening. What will people think? There I am, Susan Donovan, strutting my stuff in a documentary about the romance fiction industry while I'm late on one book and haven't finished two novels that were under contract when I got sick three years ago. It's embarrassing. I feel like an impostor. A failure. 

But I won't go twelve rounds with myself today over it.  I will stop the fight before it starts. I'll go sit in the sunshine, play with my dog, and remind myself that I'm making progress on all the books, that everything will eventually get finished. I will tell myself that I'm not an impostor or a failure, just a stumbler.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pardon The Interruption

I'm alive. In fact, the way I look at it, I've started a whole new life.

I've been quite busy since my last post -- writing, packing, opening a can of legal whup-ass on an ex-husband who decided he no longer wanted to abide by our divorce agreement, packing some more, throwing my brand new iPhone in the washer, packing even more, and driving cross-country to my new home.


I am typing this update from my office in my new house in the mountains outside Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I would post pictures, but the only camera I own went through a permanent press cycle and remains inoperable.

Details are to come.  About my new home and my new life, not my broken phone. Unless that's something you'd enjoy hearing about.