First off, happy belated Winter Solstice! The shortest day is past and it only gets brighter from here*.
Growing up in Florida, the winter solstice held little significance to me — winter days are bright and sunny, so why did I need to celebrate the light’s return? If anything, I celebrated the summer solstice with more gusto, as it meant the overwhelming heat would slowly (s l o w l y) recede.
Now that I’ve lived up North, I understand that desire for light at a cellular level. The Solstice is an ever-returning promise, a hope that, even as your world gets darker, colder, warmth and sun will return. This too shall pass.
You can stay literal with it or you can get all metaphorical about it, and the direction I choose largely depends on the year I’ve had. This year? This year, I need the metaphor. I need to know things will get better.
First, the good: DON’T TOUCH THAT! a science-fiction and fantasy parenting anthology was released as an ebook in November and we have approved the physical proofs for a paperback release early January. I have held the book in my hands and, while this journey from idea in early 2020 to full physical realization in 2023 will have been a long one, I think it’s worth it. These stories are so desperately needed.
But maybe next time three parents with fulltime kids and dayjobs shouldn’t be left in charge of a Kickstarter. 😅 TBF, none of us could have predicted the pandemic and that threw a wrench in everyone’s lives.
2022 started out promising. It’s hard to feel anything but joy when you can go strawberry-picking in January, when little girls get pink teeth from eating berries and pink hands from the cold. We lost a chicken to the foxes and I had to hurriedly pen them in, but we haven’t lost one since. I was writing, if haltingly – but I had a proper plan to finish this story I’d been working on since 2020 by August. I stopped drinking alcohol in January and stayed dry all year. Cabin Girl was in Pre-K and we were all gearing up for Kindergarten in the fall. We went to the beach and Cabin Girl learned how to swim and we picked blueberries and I ran a 7k and we went to festivals and Baby learned how to walk, then run. I even weaned off my anxiety meds (with the blessing of my doctor). It was getting hotter, but the nights were still cool.
Then 2020 finally came for us.
My wife had a conference at the end of June and we struggled with whether she should go. Virologists, right? Of anyone, they’d be vaccinated. They’d wear masks. We were more worried about the flights than the conference, but my wife would wear a tight-fitting, high-grade mask from drop-off to her hotel room and she’d be fine.
Except someone came to the conference with COVID, didn’t wear a mask, gave a big speech when their spouse was isolating for COVID upstairs in their shared hotel room, and proceeded to give everyone attending a fun little present. Including my wife.
July 2nd we both tested positive, as did Baby Doore.
COVID hit like a train. We had chills but no fever, couldn’t go from one room to another without getting winded, and food tasted awful — even coffee. We wore masks around the house and set up an air filter and somehow, Cabin Girl stayed healthy. But even though the worst of COVID only last 48 hours, the fatigue and brain fog persisted.
I was out of commission for four weeks. I could perform basic chores, do some stuff at work, but every meeting felt like forcing hard cheese through a flour sifter; my brain could only process so much. COVID also wrecked my immune system and in the span of three weeks, I had a cold that became a persistent fever that became pneumonia. My goal of finishing my WIP by the end of August became impossible.
October, November, life got a little easier, but while I was fully recovered, my wife kept dipping back into periods of fatigue and brain fog, which may or may not be COVID-related. Between that and a certain Baby’s sleep regression, my window to write got squeezed down to a sliver. I made progress, but…
December is not over yet, so I can’t say for sure how this month will be, but I can certainly say the second half of 2022 sucked. 2020 snuck up behind us and stabbed us all in the back. We’re a lot more cautious — again — and it’s hard to feel hopeful when you’re exhausted and there’s no end in sight.
But… that’s the point of the Solstice, isn’t it? At least the meaning we’ve collectively created. That even when it’s darker than ever before, the sun will still rise. We will get through this. It will get better. I have to hold that hope close. I have to hope that 2023 will be better. That it will bring its own challenges, but we’ll get through them like we have these.
May the rest of your 2022 be restful and kind and may we find each other anew in 2023. ❤
*Only available in the Northern Hemisphere. Happy Summer Solstice to those south of the equator, but now your days get shorter.