This isn’t happening. Who the fuck does this? There has to be a way to fix it. Fuck…I can’t go on. I guess I’ll just get up and go on.
Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
Requisite reading: A Stranger Broke My Heart Today (only if you want this post to make sense).
Last May a bad thing happened to me. I talked in detail about what happened in an earlier post and I feel I’ve said what I needed to about the event. This is about what happened next.
When my computer got hit, Destroyed had been coming along beautifully. I’d been right in the middle of my flow and was loving how the story was progressing. It was going to be tight, but I was even on target to make my deadline so I could publish on October 2nd: exactly one year after Fallen went live.
And then a stranger blew up my world and at first I couldn’t accept that it was happening (denial). How did I not have a backup? It was so fucking stupid and careless not to have a backup (anger, and a little denial thrown in for good measure). I’d never faced a computer problem my step-dad couldn’t fix for me. I knew the odds, but there had to be something we could do (bargaining, and also more denial). There wasn’t.
I used to joke that my whole life was on my computer. These past four months I’ve had the opportunity to experience first-hand just how much I wasn’t joking (depression).
Acceptance. I’m working on it.
I’d like to tell you that this story was going to end with me victoriously publishing as scheduled and throwing another double bird to the fuckers behind this scheme, but it’s not that kind of story. At least not yet. I’m going to miss my October 2nd publish date, which kind of breaks my heart all over again, but I will finish Destroyed, so there’s still a victory coming.
Before we get to rise from the ashes, we must first burn. Click & Tweet! This is the story of a fire.
In an instant a spark can unleash a raging inferno. The first thing that hits you when your world ignites is likely to be shock. Your system recognizes the inherent danger, but everything happened so fast it isn’t computing. You freeze and you try to tell yourself that it isn’t real, even though the proof is directly in front of your face. As the implications of what happened sink in, ultimately panic will break through. Your excited system jolts you into action, because it’s do or die time, and you do everything you can to fix what happened. But not all stories end in happily ever after and a moment comes when you realize that it’s useless and you resign yourself to the fact that the battle was over before it began. You lose.
Fuck. What now?
Grieving is a process and and there’s no way to get past it except to go through it. But there are no instructions and the stages don’t always play out the way you imagine they should. Depression might hit you first instead of third or fourth and it’s not always just being really sad or finding yourself randomly and uncontrollably in tears while you stand at the sink washing the dishes (never happened). It might be chronic tardiness to work because you’re just sluggish in the mornings… and in the evenings… and during the time in between. No matter how much sleep you get, how much coffee you drink, or how rested you think you should be, you struggle to work up the energy and the interest to do anything. You might catch yourself staring blankly at the computer screen at work or find yourself unable to finish a book, even though you love reading, because everything feels bland and you can’t get into the story.
You might wonder where your righteous anger is because anger can be a very productive emotion for you, one that spurs you into action and calls on something in you to respond, and maybe if you could just hold onto your anger you could get moving again. The problem is your anger is mostly not directed at the person who wronged you. They might be an asshole, but, really, you hate yourself for “letting this happen,” even though deep down you know that it wasn’t your fault. So rather than feel justifiably irate, you feel ashamed.
Bargaining isn’t always an “if this, then I’ll that” situation. It might be. You might find yourself secretly making childish promises that you’ll be good and back up your work if only everything that was lost will be incredibly restored to you. Sometimes miracles happen. You know they’re the exception, not the rule, but you have to hold onto hope, because the alternative hurts too goddamn bad to contemplate. But as time continues to pass and the pending miracle never happens, reality settles in and bargaining is no longer about trying to recover what was lost, it’s about trying to find meaning in what happened, but you’re not ready for that because there is no meaning. It fucking sucks! So you choose to drift into denial where it’s not really about pretending the bad thing never happened– you can no longer deny the bad thing happened, you feel with every fiber of your being that it happened– but life doesn’t come to a screeching halt just because you’re hurting, so you put on your big-girl face and go about your day, doing all the things you don’t give a shit about doing.
And you keep that up until you get tired of being tired and you decide it’s time to start taking the steps to move forward. You’ve diligently avoided starting any file recovery for 3.5 months because deep down you know that seeing it will make it real and you don’t want to be real, but you’ve decided: it’s time to do the thing you’ve been dreading and recover the handful of files you always knew you’d get back. Those few outdated drafts that you sent to your critique partner a full two months before the shit hit the fan. You try to tell yourself at least it’s something–silver linings, right?– but you know that half of what you’d already written will be gone, along with all of your research, and– dare you even think it– each and every one of the side and future projects you’d started notes, outlines, and drafts for. You know they’ll be absent and you know it’s going to hurt, but there’s nothing else for it, so you sift through your email and download the files you’re able to and you think you’re doing okay, but then you catch that first glimpse of the remains of your ravaged work, and in that moment, you could swear that time stopped. It’s halt coincided with your heart slamming into the backs of your ribs. And time remains frozen as you sit in shocked disbelief and you’d think you were completely numb if it weren’t for the ache so deep you forgot how to breathe. “How the fuck am I going to get over this?” Your one coherent thought, and you don’t have an answer so the fact that you can’t breathe is inconsequential.
Fuck. This sucks.
When you’re in denial, you might find yourself wondering how it’s possible that 4 months later it still hurts so fucking much. Part of acceptance is acknowledging the truth: you never get over it. Not really. How could you? Once you’ve been ripped open, it’s not possible to sew things back exactly as they were. That’s the hardest part, I think, knowing you don’t get to go back.
I have to accept that the novel that would have been has quite literally been destroyed– believe me, the irony is not lost on me. The thing is, even if I had been able to recover every file that was stolen, the story would have inevitably changed because I’ve been changed. There is no point in continuing to cling desperately to the idea of recreating it exactly as it was. Destroyed will never be what it would have been. That ship has sailed. It’s sunk. Gone. Time to say goodbye. The story will inevitably be different, but ‘different’ is not synonymous with ‘worse.’ Vulnerable moment, that’s my biggest fear right now: that I will start again and the new version will be inferior to what I lost.
Please let it be as good as or better than what would have been.
I still have everything I need to finish — the story, the talent, the burning desire– it’s time to start over. It might be slow, and it might be rocky, but it’s time to put one foot in front of the other and get moving. I wish I could tell you I would make my original deadline, but October 2nd is just around the corner, and the words are tickling out of me far too slowly. The words are coming, though. I suppose that’s the silver lining, if there’s one to be found.
Before I sign off, I’d like to thank you to my family, friends, and readers for all the support. The people closest to me really rallied and I don’t know what I would have done without the cocktails and crying sessions or the surprise no-pants cheer up party. You all got me through the worst of it (I hope) and I love you all so much (I’m feeling sentimental, don’t get used to it).
My gratitude wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging my readers. To all my established Cannes-Cans and new readers alike, thank you. Truly, thank you. Your engagement feeds my soul.
To boost morale in the meantime– my own included– I’m going to focus on bringing you, my readers, further into my world while I go through the arduous task of rebuilding it. There’s so much that could be shared with you all and I think we’ll start by dabbling in some history and mythology (my favorite). Stay tuned.
There are lots of types of loss and the grieving process is different for everyone, but no one needs to suffer alone.
General Information: The Five Stages of Grief
**A number of groups specialize in specific types of loss, but many of them will have information about other grief services in the area or local and national hotlines**