November challenge

Dia de los Muertos San FranciscoPosting on here as much as usual, around once a week, has been something of a challenge so far this month. I knew it would be busy because I was taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge — that’s National Novel Writing Month, and it’s a race to write 50,000 words in 30 days. You don’t get a big prize at the end, but you do get bragging rights. And you get to write a rough draft of that novel you’ve had kicking around in your head for however long. For me, that’s almost as long as the grilled cheese restaurant idea.

In the days leading up to November 1, I cleared my calendar, alerted friends that I would not be as available socially, and got done a lot of annoying little projects I knew would nag at me and pull me away from my writing if they were left hanging. I knew it would be a tough challenge — once you figure in sleep, work, eating, and commuting between and preparing for all of the above, let’s face it: most of us have 3 or 4 hours of free time a day and that’s all. This was going to require discipline.

I mapped it all out and tried to be realistic, giving myself days off like BayBee’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and a couple of others, when I knew I would not be able to write. That left 25 days where I’d write 2,000 words. I didn’t quite know how long it’d take to write that amount, but I guessed almost all of my free time would be taken up.

Never mind that I didNaNoWriMon’t have much of an idea what I would write about. I’d figure that out as I went. I knew it would be about relationships — what makes them good and how they fall apart — and I came up with a structure, inspired while writing a recent blog post, of having each episode correspond to a hit song by the Carpenters. I even had a working title, “What to Say to Make You Come Again.” I was ready.

I got home from work on November 1 and churned out 2,244 words nonstop. No editing, no looking back, just letting things flow…quite a change from my usual way of writing, but a good one. I even had a few passages I liked.

Next day, I received a phone call from my dermatologist saying the mole he’d biopsied two days earlier was cancerous: melanoma. We hear words like this all the time, and know they’re bad, but what did I know about melanoma? I googled it while still on the phone and learned “melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease.” Oh great. He needed for me to come back in right away.

Good thing I had gone to that half-day workshop and meditation on death and dying at the Saraha Buddhist Center just a few days before. Seriously. Life can be funny that way. I was a little freaked out, true, but mostly I felt an amazing sense of calm and clarity. Did I mention this happened to be Dia de los Muertos?

I got an emergency appointment to have the area excised that same day and spent the next few days getting blood work and x-rays done, meeting with the melanoma specialist and surgeon, and having what sounded like a pretty minor surgery but ended up feeling pretty major. I’ll spare you the photos. They’re gross. I’m still kind of amazed the entire process took just 10 days.

Pre-op self-portrait with markingsSo now I’m recovering and waiting for results with fingers crossed. I’m also back to my writing and am not even all that far behind schedule, now pushing 20,000 words. It’s actually good that I have a big project to occupy my time since I’m spending so much of it at home recuperating. And, of course, playing my records in reverse chronological order. Gary Numan graced my turntable today.

Wish me luck. Because in this life, so much can be planned, but it really almost all comes down to luck.

Addendum (November 16, 2011): Good news just in: They got it all, and there’s nothing in the lymph nodes. That means I just need to heal, and get checked every 3 months, and stay out of the sun, and stop taking my shirt off, and write like the devil. Thanks to all for your love and support. It means the world to me.

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10 thoughts on “November challenge

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