My elderly father is seriously ill. This time the call came on Sunday evening while my husband and I finished dinner. The buildup to the phone ringing developed piece by piece through two weeks of multiple doctor visits, tests, worry. He is fragile. Time spent next to his hospital bed disappears like a ball of yarn rolling down a staircase. The doctor was supposed to be in at ten only now it is eleven thirty and then it becomes one thirty. With freelance work facing deadline, a volunteer writing project due soon, and unpredictable time available, I find myself working on a new novel long into the night. Does it make sense?
Dare I compare creative types to serious athletes who answer stress with pushing to complete an extra mile or adding five more pounds on the machines or swimming additional laps in the pool? Right now I find finishing two more paragraphs, one more scene, a character description bridges that place between the unknown duration of the crisis and the ability to control my work.
Some of us do wonderful creating in the murkiness of insecurity. Some of us become frozen in the moment and find putting one foot in front of the other the most taxing action that can be mastered. When sleep isn’t easily chased, writing brings me more peace of mind and body.
Monitors are sounding up and down the hall. A one-legged man takes his first walk outside my father’s door, a family moves together with a wheelchair, a young woman leans against a wall while her fingers text messages to the outside world. The nursing staff is kind and competent. “Why don’t you take a break, honey,” one says. A new book waits to be read on my Kindle, there are emails from friends and family gathering, but I trust ten minutes of writing to provide respite.