A Year in Review: Revisiting 2013

For those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you may have noticed my lack of goal-checking and goal-setting post at the start of January. There are good reasons for that. Many of them revolve around not having time to write one.

We shall have to remedy that.

First up, let me say that 2013 was the most intense, heart-shattering, life-changing, wing-growing, exciting, devastating, emotional, challenging, rewarding, and intense (did I already say intense?) year of my life. There were days I was so happy I couldn’t even feel the ground beneath my feet because I was flying too high. There were days when I literally cried non-stop for over 24 hours straight. There were days when I felt a zen-like sense of peace and well-being, and days when I was sure I’d ruined not just my own life, but also the lives of my children (and possibly their children).

It was a big year.

Goalpost

But let me start with my writing goals because, after all, that’s what this blog is supposed to be about. (Except when it’s not.)

How did I go with the writing goals I revised in July?

TNT #1

I was aiming to have revised this novel by October, and be ready to query it. This didn’t happen. Largely because in early September, I realised that the manuscript doesn’t just need a simple revision, it needs a complete break-down and rewrite.

This is a good thing and came about because (a) I finally “found” my true voice, and (b) I realised that I have recurring themes in my work, and discovered that those themes are there in TNT #1, but they’re hidden beneath a veneer of self-consciousness. So once I dig them out and make them shine, the whole story will be better for it.

I didn’t make my goal, but I’m darn happy with the revelations I had along the way.

CST

My goal was to finish the first draft, finish revisions, and start querying. I did finish the first draft on schedule — even though it meant writing my way through pneumonia to do it — and I finished my first-round revisions at 10:30pm on New Year’s Eve.

I’m not ready to start querying. Although I feel like I’m close. The manuscript is with beta readers at the moment, and I’m (eagerly) awaiting their feedback.

And feeling ill every time I think about it too much. But, you know, I’m not as bullet-proof as I like to pretend. 🙂

Novel C

I didn’t start writing or outlining before the end of the year, but I’ve started it in the first couple of weeks of January. So I’m about a month behind schedule on this. But I have worked out what I’m writing. I’ll give you a little hint to whet your appetite (and encourage you to nudge me if I stop writing!).

The story involves Greek mythology, violins, and a female protagonist with delusions of monsters and an acerbic wit.

Outline TNT #2 and #3

Yeah, whatever. Who wrote these goals???

Short Stories

Bum-bum. No more short stories written.

Reading

I don’t know if I read anything in the last few months of the year. It just wasn’t a priority for me.

Other

I think my favourite writing-related part of 2013 was becoming part of a great group of enthusiastic, supportive writers. No matter what else happens in my life, I always have these writers there, supporting and encouraging and generally being awesome. Thanks to my P&Peeps for everything. *mwah!*

And that brings to the non-writing related part of this post.

In about August 2013, I got pneumonia pretty bad. It took over a month to recover. I didn’t end up in hospital — although, really, I probably should have. But I have two children, and going into hospital just wasn’t an option for me. So I spent weeks feeling miserable, struggling to breathe, and still doing the cooking, cleaning, raising the children, blah blah blah. You know how it is. But that put a few things into perspective for me. Things like: What’s really important? And: What do I really want?

Just prior to that, I’d been pulling my hair out over finances. So much of our money was being spent on rent and electricity that no matter how I sliced and diced, cut and shaved, managed and over-managed our budget, there was never enough left over for anything. And sometimes not even enough for the most basic of “extras”. Renting a movie to watch with the kids meant not being able to afford more breakfast cereal. Getting haircuts for the boys meant eating nothing but pasta and rice for a week. 

Between those two things, I came up with a radical and crazy idea.

What if we sold or gave away every single possession we didn’t actually need, jumped out of the “rent this expensive house” game, and lived as simply as we possibly could?

What if we abandoned the life we knew ,and started a new one. A cheaper one. A simpler one. A life more in tune with the world, and with nature, and with the values that are close to my heart?

My husband agreed, and we set about the project.

We bought a dodgy, 30-year-old caravan, and I started renovating it from the inside out. (This is an ongoing project.) We bought a tent for the kitchen, and another one for the chemical toilet. We sold or gave away everything we didn’t need. Everything. It was a much bigger (and more emotional) job than I expected. And then we moved out to the middle of nowhere, and set up in a paddock that belongs to a friend of a friend.

DSCN1565[1]

This is where we live now.

It was a massive adjustment. Suddenly, weather plays a massive part in what we can and can’t do on a daily basis. We have to schedule time to move the cows off the road every time we go somewhere. Snakes are a major threat, as are paralysis ticks and venomous spiders. We can’t race off to the shop on a moment’s notice — it’s at least 20 minutes each way to the closest not-all-that-convenient convenience store. We have to go outside in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I hand wash the clothes, carry water to the kitchen and shower, and I even planted a vegie garden.

It was a massive adjustment.

And in the middle of this adjustment, on October 31st — our 9th wedding anniversary — my husband and I reached a point where we realised that, no matter how much we wished it was different, and no matter what we tried, our marriage was over.

Amidst tears and feelings of guilt and grief and pride-killing failure, we made the decision to separate.

For the good of our children.

For the good of ourselves.

Suddenly, in a change that felt like it happened overnight, I wasn’t a stay-at-home Mum and writer living in the suburbs with a husband who supported us financially. I was a single mother living in a trailer in the middle of nowhere. With no income, and no easy answers.

It was tough.

It was tough saying the words “single mother”. 

It was tough falling asleep at night, listening to the wind buffeting the trees outside, and telling myself that everything would be fine, and I could do this — I could do this on my own. I could face this new challenge, this new life, and I could do it with all the strength in my soul and my arms and my heart. It was tough cuddling my son when he asked when Daddy was coming home.

It’s been almost three months.

And I can do it.

DSCN1566[1]I don’t hate my ex-. Far from it. In fact, we get along better now than we have at any other point during the last six years.  We both love our sons intensely, and want the best for them. And I’ve learned that I can grow vegies. I can make new friends, and be a good parent, and put up a tent, and build furniture, and train a dog, and start a business, and make our money stretch just that little bit further, and I can do it on my own.

With the support of my friends and family.

Now, I stand outside at night, with the stars lighting up the sky, and the damp earth under my feet, and I feel loved and blessed and happy.

I feel like myself. 

I am myself.

And the future’s so bright, I’ve gotta wear shades.

How was your 2013?

 

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36 Comments

Filed under Life With Kids, Opinion, Random Stuff, Writing

36 responses to “A Year in Review: Revisiting 2013

  1. 2013, forever marked as the journey year that led you back to you. Blessed be your journey under the stars, this coming year, Jo.

  2. Even though I knew these things, even though–it still made me want to cry, but with with admiration for your strength, your courage, and your indomitable spirit. The things you set out to do? You do them. Every. One. Best break out the 75 spf sunblock, too, b/c that how bright it’s going to be. (And CST? Ah-maz-ing.)

  3. ??? !!! I’m glad you’re happy. 2013 was a momentously rough year for many people. It saw a lot of people stripped of what they thought they needed and wanted (ourselves included).But maybe that means 2014 could be the brightest yet.

  4. I didn’t know about all of this, but I’m so amazed and happy that I get to see the journey. I’ve always thought you were fantastic — since I saw your posts on WU’s FB page, and in P&P, and in the ongoing Master conversations that shows what a great Mom you obviously are! — and now, knowing what you’ve been going through, I’m even more glad I know you. Hugs from very far away, and I can’t wait to see what wonders 2014 brings you!

  5. My father moved to the other side of the country for work when I was in primary school (I am not certain when for work became “for work”), so I was raised by a single parent. I grew up to be successful and happy.

    Hopefully knowing being raised by a single mother did not set me back in life, will give you a small bastion against some of the fears that might come in the night, or from the mouths of the ignorant.

    • Thanks, Dave, I appreciate it. Every day, I see my sons smiling and playing and being happy. They’re less anxious and clingy now than they were when they had two parents at home with them. They aren’t living in an environment anymore where one or both of their parents are sad or angry or withdrawn or yelling. Now, they have two parents who love them; two parents who are relaxed and happy; two parents who just happen to live in different places.

      But, you know what? It DOES give me great comfort to know that you were raised by a single mother and grew up to be successful and happy. Because I’ve had days where I’ve felt like I’m failing my sons, and I’ve had moments where some ignorant person has judged me for my decision. And I know I’ll keep having those moments. So from now on, when I do, I shall think of you, and be comforted.

  6. Kelly Prisk

    Oh my God. You are so amazing, Jo The Brave and Strong. Incredible, and inspiring. I wish I had known just so I could have squeezed your hand at school as we pass. I love you, I love your sons, I love your writing. You have such a strong spirit path.

    • Thank you, Kelly. So much. I was very quiet about all of this at school last year, because I needed to take the time to come to terms with my own emotional needs before I made it all public, But hand squeezes are always welcome. xxx

  7. You are even more AMAZING and COURAGEOUS than I realized. Also, I pity your future daughters-in-law because you will be an IMPOSSIBLE act to follow. I’m so glad I know you and I promise to stop shouting now. xx

  8. You never cease to amaze me, Jo. I’m completely amazed by what you accomplish online. Between P&P and your involvement in WU, you are one of the most encouraging, informative, and supportive writers I know. Add to that all that you have accomplished IRL in Futureland… I am astounded. And inspired. You stagger my imagination, and I write about kickass warrior women. Guess that makes you a writerly kickass warrior queen.

    Thanks for being such an inspiration… my Queen. 😉

    • I don’t even know what to say, Vaughn. Thank you. I don’t often feel like a kickass warrior queen — just a woman doing the best she can. But if I astound and inspire you… well, thank you. It must be all the good company I keep.

      And don’t forget you owe me a karaoke duet in November! Perhaps something by Queen… 😉

  9. I just love you so much. Your friendship, strength, resolute joy, how you take life’s snarls and turn them into a place to set your feet on- you make me want to be better. Those are the best kinds of friendship to have.

    I admire you not because you’re a Goddess (though you are) or a Queen (which you infinitely are) but because you’re a real woman and writer who owns all the parts of herself. May 2014 shine upon you, lead you further back to yourself, and remind you of the roundness of things, always.

    You stood at the cliff, and embraced yourself. That is a cause for joy.

    I’ll be looking up at those stars tonight, thinking of you, and sending you my love. xox

    • You made me cry, Tonia. Again. *hug* Thank you for your friendship, and your blessing. The same stars shine on us all — what we see when we look up at them is a reflection of ourselves. xxx

  10. I never guessed any of this from your posts on Facebook the past few months, Jo. I’m sorry about the things that have gone wrong but pleased that you seem to have ended up in a good place, with those wise little boys. And glad that you have electricity and Internet access, even if the traditional indoor plumbing is missing.

    • Plumbing I can do without. Internet access, not so much. 🙂 Thanks, Kay. I try to keep positive on social media (except when I’m complaining about the weather or politics!), and I needed time to be emotionally ready to talk about all of this. Besides, my boys are an endless source of wisdom, humour, and love. Writing about them always fills me with joy.

  11. You are indeed a powerful person keep on budilding and growing

  12. As ever, I’m blown away by your spirit, bravery and honesty Jo. So sorry to hear about the tough times and the illness but glad they seem to have led to brighter days and that your beautiful boys continue to thrive. You are such an awesome mum and friend. You have given me much needed comfort from afar during my own parenting journey – when those doubts set in, please just read some of your posts at THL and reconnect with that strength, self knowledge, compassion and greatest of all, maternal love. PS: Glad I was right in thinking that your absence here must have something to do with your continued writing success, (even if only part of the reason!) and look forward to reading more as you continue your (quite frankly) humbling journey. Virtual hugs x

    • Thanks, Emma. Hugs, virtual or otherwise, are always welcome. As for being brave and honest… I don’t know how else to be. If my honesty inspires one other person to open up and be honest about their feelings — good or bad — then this whole blogging thing has been worth it.

      Love to you and your family. xxx

  13. It’s good to be hearing from you again, even if the news is bittersweet. I’m working on CST and so far I’m loving it. I formatted it for my Kindle and Nook (because that’s the kind of geek I am) so if you’d like an eReader copy, I’d be happy to send it to you. I think you were one of my first online friends when I was starting out in this blogosphere two years ago and your encouragement in those early days always meant a lot to me.

    BTW, do you mind if the little red-haired girl reads CST too? I think it might be right up her alley.

    I wish you all the joy, happiness and luck I can send from halfway around the world. I’ll try not to be a bum and get CST done in the next few weeks. 🙂

    • Thanks, Ben. Good to know you’re enjoying CST so far — hopefully that doesn’t change as you keep reading!! 🙂

      Your little red-haired girl is welcome to read, as long as understands it’s still in the beta stages…. Which I’m sure she does, being that I have no doubt she reads your early drafts as well.

      Thanks for the blessing. 🙂

  14. Keep on going, and when you can, keep on writing. Virtual hugs from the other side of the big pond.

  15. Jim Franklin

    Hang on, I think I can find my list of clichéd, hackneyed and patronizing sayings involving stiff upper lips and so on. Though quite frankly, I think you’re one of the last people who’ll need it. Firstly, you’ll see them as little more than vacuous space-fillers and secondly you’ve already grabbed the bull by it’s horns (or as is more likely it’s testicles) and had that strength to make your life what you want it to be, rather than just learning to live with how it ended up.

    Plus, even with your life being turned upside down you still managed to achieve far more than many other people.

    So bravo, dear lady. Bravo.

  16. My 2013 was tough… but nowhere near this tough. And yet… I got even less writing done than you. (That sounds wrong, considering you wrote a book in 2013, whereas I wrote almost nothing.)

    • Comparing your situation and/or your progress to someone else is a loser’s game, Stephen. We all have different journeys, different priorities, and different challenges to overcome. And we overcome them in different ways.

      I’m thrilled (and amazed) that I achieved so much in my professional (aka writing) life last year. Certainly, I’m proud enough of myself that I want to shout it to the world. But please don’t use my achievements as a stick to beat yourself with. You have plenty of other things to celebrate.

      • Heh… yeah, it’s a loser’s game when you’re a writer who isn’t writing… 😉 I do wish I could’ve written more in 2013 but I handled what I faced the best that I could. Going from one bambino to two was a much harder transition than I anticipated, especially when bambino #2 turned out to be a very poor sleeper…

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