Notes from a writer in liver failure

My situation isn’t dire – let me start out by saying that. Evasive action has been taken to prevent a complete and utter biological collapse. Perhaps I should say liver crisis, as opposed to failure, as a crisis can potentially be averted. Failure seems so final.

If nothing else, it’s a warning, a reminder that eventually everyone’s body gives out, and mine is particularly vulnerable due to an inherited autoimmune disorder that is likely what is driving my liver to begin to show signs of malfunction.

It’s also fueling my writing.

Maybe it’s also my 40s, and the sense of confidence that has come along with that. I’ve spoken to many women who hit their stride in their 40s – I think because the world spends so much time tearing us apart that it takes us longer to fully grow into our own.

But it’s really the sense of “something is going wrong that’s beyond my control” that’s wind in my proverbial sails right now. It’s something I can channel, as a lot of good stories are about characters who bump up against something they can’t move, or get caught up in something bigger than themselves, and are pushed into action. It’s also something that pushes me.

I feel the changes that my autoimmune disorder is causing. It’s not dire, merely chipping away at me – to continue my ocean analogies, it’s much like the waves that wash up then retreat than wash up again, gradually wearing away at the shoreline. Tides are notoriously unstoppable – the proactive measures we take will never stop the erosion; they’ll only slow it down a bit.

So I feel a bit like a shoreline, with hidden treasures sprinkled across it, waiting to either be found or returned to where they came. None of us are ever completely explored or discovered, probably not even to ourselves.

But when you’re going through a staging process to understand just how functional a vital organ is, and then have to make certain lifestyle changes to make sure things don’t get worse, then struggle with those changes, it makes you dig into your psyche a bit. I’ve had moments where I think, what the hell is wrong with me? Why do I keep doing things that are contrary to my best interest?

I get out of breath easily and that scares me. I have intermittent pain when I eat the wrong things and I think, I have to do better. I will do better. Then…I don’t.

Fatal flaws are essential to good character development. We’ll see if I overcome mine.

But the struggle has helped me dig into the side of human nature that is messy and contradictory and sometimes succumbs to cognitive dissonance and denial. We’re such messy creatures, and I don’t think one can write an effective story involving humans without reflecting back pieces of that messiness.

I suppose it’s no surprise that in my primary work in progress, I’m breathing more life and more complications into a character who keeps doing things she knows she shouldn’t. In the end, that inability to change is what saves her, in the sense that her messiness is the thing she’s able to use to deflect others away from something that has to stay hidden. Her flaws in a sense become the thing that saves everyone.

I’m not sure I would’ve come up with that ending in better health.

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