…then I went and almost died, which would have been a pretty good excuse had I missed the deadline, but also slightly awkward.

It’s been three days. (Good Gods. THREE. DAYS.) I’m stuck trying to process what happened. Maybe I am over-dramatising or remember some parts wrong because of the fever, I tell myself. Wait, but if I had that much of a fever… well, I didn’t really feel like I had it, so maybe it doesn’t count? Then a realisation hits me: those hours, or maybe minutes, when I thought I was falling in and out of sleep? I was falling in and out of consciousness. The stormtroopers, or whoever they were, might have been very quiet, respectful, and even kinda sad when they kept entering and flanking my bed again and again and again and again… I wonder, was it more minutes or hours? I remember I tried to look and one of them covered my watch, so I couldn’t see. Can a hallucination do that, or was I actually hallucinating my attempt to look, but I actually couldn’t move my hand?

Isn’t this the sort of thing that only happens to other people? I’ve already collected spine injuries, an impressive collection of mental health problems, how about other people take their other people stuff and leave me alone to do boring stuff like finishing books?

CW: The following contains medical talk (I took out the most gruesome bits) and me not dying. It’s also a mess representative to the state in which my mind is as well.

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I will tell you a secret: the release date I had in mind for Children of the Gods was May 28. I have booked my editor for the final pass at the end of March/beginning of April, the proofreader – first two weeks of April, I have planned to send the ARCs (advanced review copies) to reviewers around April 15-20. I even said the words of doom: “for once, I have realistic deadlines and nothing can go wrong”.

Then 2020 happened and honestly, I have not predicted that when I was setting my totes realistic deadlines.

I am writing this on May 6 [and 7 – Ed.]. I haven’t even finished chapter six (out of ten) yet. Yesterday I thought I was finished, then, a few hours later I re-read what I had written and, uh, it’s not finished. My editor has chapters 1-4. My proofreader, who is an angel, forgave me for not having sent her anything but apologies at the beginning of April. Or May. The banner on my Facebook page says ‘summer 2020’, because September 20 is still summer and I’m trying to think positive.

In the last few days some of the people I know started displaying worrying symptoms. One of them said that it felt selfish to go to a grocery store to buy wine. Another felt horrible for eating sweets all on her own. A few haven’t exercised for a week or taken a shower for three days. This makes them believe that they are practically evil. I told them not to be silly, but I’m all talk and no action – I’ve been feeling horrible about not writing fast enough, so I’ve been forcing myself to work more and faster, so now I can’t write at all. My body and brain refuse to cooperate. Every day I must nap at random times, because my mind just switches off and all I can do is scroll Twitter and click little hearts. I go to bed fully dressed, hide under a duvet and a weighted blanket, and shiver from the cold. Apparently this is normal during endless exposure to stress and anxiety that can’t be lessened by taking a holiday, because taking holidays is currently on the list of things that are even less likely to happen than me winning the lottery.

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Last Christmas

Until the early 2000s, we celebrated Christmas as one big squabbling family. I personally made sure that the TV would stay off. Smartphones weren’t a thing yet. There were always fifteen or more of us, kids and adults from various parts of the country. My uncle would tell fascinating stories about his ulcers – I didn’t mind, it was just good to see him that one time in the year. Some got married, some were heading for a divorce that was not discussed at the table. At the centre of everything was my Grandma. I’d sit on the ground with my chin on her knee and just feel that… that thing that I thought of as Christmas. I did that when I was six and I still did it when I was twenty-something. We were not like a TV family – too much drinking, too much politics, too many ulcers – but even before I turned 20 I wasn’t stupid enough to believe that adverts and movies presented the real world.

Fifteen or sixteen years ago I came out as gay. I was assured that nothing would change, that I was loved as I was, and since I had a boyfriend I thought that meant he’d be treated the same way my cousins’ girlfriends were. My aunt, whose house was the only big enough to accommodate the whole shebang, told me that we were not welcome – it was fine for me to be gay, but only as long as I wasn’t being gay in her presence. That was it. I never even found out whether the rest of the family asked and/or were told why I suddenly stopped appearing.

 

What next?

Our family, with one or two exceptions, considered themselves atheists, but very few people in Poland didn’t celebrate the holiday.  For us, Christmas had nothing to do with the church or Jesus. It was about being together, consuming a lot of calories, laughing at the kids that were nearly unconscious with excitement because there were presents. It took one short phone call – I was only going to ask whether three p.m. was good, or should we arrive earlier or later – to lose all that. I have never seen some of the family members again, those who lived so far away we only ever met on that one occasion. The end of December, however, didn’t get cancelled worldwide to make things easier for me.

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