2017 got off to a rocky start with my pop-in-law, Mr. Mark, getting very sick in January, and then dying in March. You never truly know how the death of someone is going to effect you until it happens. And even when it does happen, the effects can continue to change over time.
While Mr. Mark was sick, and after he died, I ate a lot of Mr. Mark foods. I ate more ice cream, burgers, fries, cheese, mayo, and cookies than I have in years, since I was a child. I did this because, let’s face it, those foods are comforting, and because I felt like I was honoring his memory by eating his favorite foods.
Another reason I ate all these foods is because I thought if Mr. Mark can eat these foods all the time and live to 84, why can’t I? ‘Course he had all sorts of health issues, and I have a host of them myself, different ones than the ones he had, but why can’t I enjoy myself by eating whatever I want? Life’s too short. Or life is long and why not enjoy yourself while you can?
But after four months of eating like this, my health started to falter. You see, my body has a hard time digesting dairy, wheat, and sugar. I visited Mr. Mark’s grave on Memorial Day and told him I was going to take better care of myself. And, over time, I finally stopped eating those foods. For about a month, I felt better. Then I went back on them after attending another memorial for him in his hometown of Chico, California. Now, I’m back to trying to get off of them again. It’s hard. But I’m trying.
What I realize more and more is that life is one big experiment. You try one thing, it works. You try it again, it doesn’t work. You try something different and it’s a grand success. You try something else and it’s an epic fail. So, you go back to the drawing board and you try again. And again. And again. I don’t mind the trying. But I do get upset when I stop trying or when it takes me too long to stop doing something that isn’t working. I’m trying to look at my mistakes as a learning opportunity, not a failure, and I’m trying to be more forgiving of myself.
Speaking of trying, here I am in the last half of 2017, and I’m looking ahead and feeling way more optimistic about trying some new things and starting up again some old things. The grieving for Mr. Mark hasn’t ended, but it’s reached a point where it’s not on me like a low-grade fever or like carrying a 5-pound bag of sugar with me everywhere I go.
When I look ahead, the number one thing I see myself doing is getting out in the world more. I know Mr. Mark would have supported that. I straddle the line between being an Extrovert and an Introvert (if you’re wondering, I’m ENFJ) but my pop-in-law was an Extra-Extrovert. Keeping that in mind, here are some goals that I’d like to go for during the last five months of 2017.
Goal #1: Keep teaching workshops and retreats for writers and creatives.
So far, I’ve taught a Writers Wellness Retreat in March, and co-taught a Poetry Makerspace Workshop with Marcus in May. In September, I’m thrilled to be teaching a workshop on Fear and Writing for the Seattle Public Library’s Seattle Writes Program. In October, I plan on teaching a workshop on Creating a Sustainable Writing Practice. If that goes well, I might teach it again in November. Lastly, I want to teach another Poetry Makerspace Workshop with Marcus in December. If you live in the Seattle area, I hope to see you at some of these events.
Goal #2: Start blogging once a week again.
This time last year, I had written 24 blog posts. This year, this post included, I’ve written just 12. I want to start blogging once a week again. It’s not a quantity thing, but more of a quality of life thing. I stopped blogging weekly because I wanted to have more time to work on my novel. But what I discovered after seven months of not blogging weekly is that I miss it. While I have worked more on my novel, I’m not sure I wouldn’t still have done that even if I had kept blogging every week. You see, I blog for myself as much as I blog for other people. Blogging gives me a regular way to reflect on what I’ve learned, or what I want to learn. It helps me, and it’s valuable to my self-care. So, whether it takes away time from my novel writing or not, I want to keep doing it. Every week. Hope you enjoy the more regular blogging that will be coming your way.
Goal #3: Start using videos in my blog.
Some people call this vlogging. I want to start creating blog entries with videos instead of writing them all. I was inspired when I discovered the videos of awesome illustrator Fran Meneses (aka. Frannerd). Frannerd seems to have so much fun with her videos, while also giving people helpful information about illustrating, and it reminded me of when I ran my law school consulting business, Prelaw Guru, and made quite a few videos and then found that prelaw students loved them. I like sharing my learning in a verbal and visual way instead of just in written form so I’m looking forward to creating videos on writing and the writing life. Thankfully, Marcus has volunteered to help me with my videos (he helped me film and edit the ones I did for Prelaw Guru) and I have a feeling we’re going to have a lot of fun making them. So, stay tuned for some videos coming your way.
Goal #4: Find other ways to make money.
It’s taken me 18 months of full-time writing to realize that depending or expecting my novel writing to make me money not only fills me with massive amounts of guilt (what if I can’t do it and Marcus has to keep supporting me for years and years?) and fear (what if I can’t do it no matter how hard I try?), but it also limits my creativity. I want to create works that I love. I hope that other people love them too but I can’t count on that. All I can do is create the best work I can possibly create, and then work on getting it out there. I’m not an artist that gets mad when other people don’t “understand” my work. My goal is to create stories that are understood so much that people can’t help but tell their family and friends about them. Still, I’m not writing stories that I think will sell. I’m writing stories that I most want to tell. Because I find writing both glorious and hard, I need to write stories that appeal to me, otherwise it’s not worth the thousands of hours of unpaid work I put into it. So, while I do hope my books sell well enough someday to support me, I’m researching some options right now that will help me make money while I get better at my craft. I’m not going to reveal them right now but I will someday.
I wasn’t planning on it–I was trying to make today a day of relatively “clean eating”–but I ate an orange-chocolate-chip cookie this afternoon that was so good, I cried out with glee. I think Mr. Mark would have loved it. I was given this cookie (it was the last one) at a document-shredding event at my bank (thanks WSECU), I have no idea where they got it, and I’m not sure if I want to know because then I’d be there all the time. As I move forward, I realize I don’t have to cut out every single Mr. Mark food from my diet, I just have to savor the ones that I do have, the few times that I have them. I can remember him in other ways that have nothing to do with food but can be just as satisfying. I know he’d support that. For the rest of 2017, my work is cut out for me: remember Mr. Mark in healthy ways, take good care of myself, get out in the world more, and keep on trying.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle. Peg is also a writing coach giving help, encouragement, and feedback to writers from all walks of life.