Every time I think my hands are better, they get worse again.
A couple of weeks ago I’d finally reached the point where I felt able to, well, do things. Type without constantly worrying it would hurt; write by hand whenever it felt like it. Illuminate a manuscript, paint a glass tea-light holder, play the fiddle for the first time in about a year. And okay, so my wrists still hurt sometimes and I knew I had to be careful, but I was able to look back at the past year and think, “Hey, I’m doing okay.”
Maybe, I allowed myself to imagine, I’ll even be able to take notes in lectures — by hand!
And of course, inevitably, it didn’t last. My wrists have been more painful in the past week than they’ve been for months. Using a mouse is difficult, limiting my ability to edit the video footage I took on the camp I went on. Typing for any length of time hurts, and I spent yesterday evening and this morning using Dragon to write. I’m typing this blog post, but that’s only because I feel I need to use my hands for something as I’m afraid of them wasting away like they did last time I rested them.
It always happens. Every time I think they’re getting better, there’s another setback.
Because the wrist injury is linked to my underlying hypermobility syndrome, it’s unlikely to ever leave me completely. Even when I’m back to playing music regularly, I expect I’ll still have days when it’s painful even to hold a tin whistle. I know this, academically speaking. I know that I need to set things up for myself so that I can still function even when I can’t use my hands.
But somehow, I keep letting myself slip into that foolishly optimistic mindset where I think this time it’ll last, and I stop using voice recognition and I put my headset away and I live my life as normal. Which means that when the fall comes, it’s harder to bear, because I wasn’t expecting it and I couldn’t roll away from it to break the fall. I just fall flat, hard, awkwardly onto the floor.
Thanks, body. I really appreciate the fact that my morning routine seems to involve putting my wrist joints back in place before I try and use my hands to get out of bed. That’s a really fun bonus you’ve given me there.
Obviously, this has repercussions on my writing. On what I’m able to do. Instead of working on my third poetry collection (which is … happening slowly, and with a lot of structure problems), I’m returning to assassin!trilogy book 2. I can’t write poetry with dictation software, let alone edit, rearrange or format a collection. That involves a lot of mouse-work, which just isn’t feasible right now, so the collection has to go on the back burner.
Ironic, that, given that one of the major themes of the collection is overcoming health problems and reclaiming my life from them. Yep, apparently not. Again, body, thanks.
So I’ve gone back to this novel, even though I lost faith in it and had to set it aside a few weeks ago. I’m not saying the world’s okay again now, but sometimes I need the emotionless characters, the completely screwed up assassins who don’t know what it’s like to be loved or to love anyone. Writing emotional characters is only fun for a while — it gets overwhelming, and I find it hard to separate my own feelings from those I’m writing about. Isabel, who manages to compartmentalise everything, is a welcome relief.
I don’t get lost in her the way I sometimes get lost in Ani, from The Quiet Ones, or Irial, from Death and Fairies. Mostly because she never gets lost in her own head either. She’s very detached and cold, and that helps me whenever I feel like I’m too stuck inside my own brain. Not to mention the fact that Isabel is strong. She’s a survivor — she has to be, to have got this far — and when my hands are aching and I feel weak, I like to hide inside her.
Also, I just acquired a coat from my sister that looks like a lot like the one I’ve been imagining her wearing since I first invented her in, like, 2011. So that helps.
Tori, my wonderfully entertaining beta reader whose comments primarily consist of “I hate you” and “ugh why”, sent me back her opinions on book one a couple of days ago, which is partly what has spurred me to go back to working on this draft. After I read her comments, I was surprised to find that the plot of book one was better than the prose, which had some good moments but was middling the rest of the time. Shouldn’t really be a surprise, as it’s a first draft, but I usually write clean prose with terrible plot. This time, my plot actually hung together… well, mostly.
So then I started reading through book two, and while I was having some plot issues (another reason I took four weeks’ break from it), the prose seemed fairly strong and with the distance I’d got from the novel, I could kind of see how to resolve the plot problems. Well, mostly. I’m kind of muddling through in the dark, but I’m getting there.
And this was a helpful realisation, given that it came round about the time I looked at my poetry collection and knew I can’t work on this because of my hands. It gave me something I was capable of doing with dictation software, even if I have to type the word “Comma” (for obvious reasons). Something I can focus on so I don’t just sit in my room feeling useless until my body decides to start working again.
It’s a setback for the poetry collection, but on the other hand, I might actually get this first draft done before I go to uni, and that’s got to be a good thing, right?
Working with my physical limitations means I need to be able to adapt like this, to change my plans. Maybe things won’t happen in the timescale I originally envisioned, but that’s okay. I can use that time to do something else. And okay, I’m annoyed that I can’t play the fiddle, but on the other hand, three strings just snapped on my harp right in the octave I use most, so it’s not like I can do any practice anyway. It’s a reminder to myself to see the positives, even if they’re not the plans I originally had.
I’m not a spontaneous person. But I’m being forced to learn to be. And maybe it’ll be good for me in the end. I can only wait and see.