This isn’t about writing, not exactly.
It’s about how life can change in the blink of an eye. And it’s about how those changes can be traumatic but also can usher in a new – and possibly better – phase of one’s life.
In tarot, the Tower card is generally viewed with trepidation, if not some well-founded fear. It’s all about seismic change, the upheaval of everything you’ve become accustomed to, whether you like it or not. Sometimes that means chaotic change. Other times that change, although life-altering and possibly painful, leads to better or at least more grounded things. A lot of the time, how it resolves depends on how you respond to the events.
Thing is, inside that Tower moment, everything sucks. It’s traumatic! Change, especially unexpected change, is difficult to process and often painful. But it can lead to transformation, too. There’s a reason why the Star, a card of hope, follows the Tower.
For a lot of people, the COVID lockdown was a Tower moment, and understandably so. There were so many changes in such quick succession! Even now, things are different than they used to be in many ways, and we’re still figuring some things out. For me, the lockdown was actually the transition from the Tower to the Star.
See, I was rushed to the hospital with my emergency small bowel resection at the end of August 2019. THAT was my Tower moment: I could have died, it restructured everything that I knew about life, and I was put out of commission for months. I’ve written plenty about it, but here’s where the title of this text comes into play – because just when I started to pick up the pieces of my life and contemplate returning to what I used to do, COVID showed up and kicked all those plans in the nuts.
You might know that I was a full time fiber artist before I wrote In Sleep You Know. It’s a very physical job that had me doing a lot of events and making yarn and fibers to sell every day. I loved it, and I was doing pretty well at it before everything went bust pun intended]… but I was feeling pretty burned out, too.
In part, that’s because I’d been sick for a while but I didn’t really understand that. Crohn’s presented a lot of symptoms that I excused as being “just a touchy digestive system” or “a picky gut.” I mean, you feel like that every day and you learn to adapt or convince yourself that you’re just being a big baby about it or whatever. Also, I hadn’t had much luck in getting doctors to take me seriously, so there was that. So I was tired and in pain a lot, and that made it difficult to do what I loved, and tough to love what I did.
I’d actually just started coming back to working with fiber and doing shows after the surgery when the lockdown happened. My last show was in March of 2020. I was so happy to be there but physically, I was miserable. I was wondering if I was ever going to be able to do a bigger event again.
I was ready for the pivot. I just didn’t know it yet.
I spent some time over that first Lockdown Summer doing online teaching and a creativity group. I love teaching but there’s a different skillset that you need to do it through video, especially for something hands-on like spinning yarn. I adapted, but I didn’t love it. And my medical treatment wasn’t doing enough, so I was tired all the time… and depressed. I could feel the depression looming. It had been building since the surgery, because so much changed, including me and my body.
One day, I was digging around in my files, and I pulled out an old story fragment that I’d written a while back. I re-read it, and my spark to spin tales reignited. Suddenly, I had motivation again, as the story of Merrick and Aisling and the Eleriannan started to blossom in my mind, and I began to write down the new story that came from that fragment.
At first it was just something to entertain myself. Escapism, maybe? A Baltimore with a secret Fae population was a lot more exciting than a city where no one could see each other face-to-face. But as the story grew and my love of writing came back to the forefront, I began to wonder… could I publish this? Could I become an actual “legitimate” author, and not just someone who used to get published in small press ‘zines?
I whispered the idea to a few friends, slipped one or two people an excerpt. I was enthusiastically encouraged to keep going. My confidence built, and then I decisively proclaimed one day, “I am writing a book! I will be publishing it soon!”
Obviously, a LOT more happened after I made my great pronouncement. But the act of claiming it for my own, that was the important point.
It took more work on my part to start telling people that I am an author rather than a fiber artist. That has been my major identity for almost 20 years! I’m still a fiber artist, of course, just like I’m still a DJ even though I don’t spin music at clubs or on the air anymore. Those are part of my identity.
But these days, being a published, honest-to-goats author is my main identity, and it’s one I dreamed about since I learned to write. So in a way the pivot is me coming back to my earliest sense of self. A homecoming, if you will.
There’s so much power in that. Here I am, living my childhood dream.
I didn’t get here in the way I expected, but if it wasn’t for that Tower moment I might not have ever have found my guiding Star.