I’ve been dealing with a lot since I last posted an author’s update in the middle of May. I’ve been depressed with all that life has thrown at me at once. I’ve been angry. I’ve lost my motivation, and I’ve regained it. But through it all, I have kept writing. Maybe not much by some standards, but I’ve written daily.
Mid-May to June was dominated by sickness and unemployment. I had to devote a ridiculous amount of time— literally three full days— to reaching the unemployment bureau which hadn’t paid me a penny of compensation since I was furloughed April 1st. It took calling them with an auto-dialer on my phone every five minutes, constantly, during their business hours to at last get past the “we have no agents available” hang-up message and actually get into their phone system on the third day. Four hours on hold after that, I reached a human that could fix the issue.
For the huge effort, it was something that only took the right bureaucrat FIVE minutes to fix. The problem? I recorded my last few days pay before the furlough on my first claim in the wrong spot, where things aren’t very clear to begin with. That’s it. And that’s what they couldn’t tell me with either snail mail or email. And that’s why every claim I placed thereafter was put on hold, even though there wasn’t a single issue with the subsequent ones.
But thereafter I got my checks, including the many weeks back owed… which by that point were sorely needed.
The next day I got a sinus and ear infection when I no longer had any health insurance thanks to unemployment. With lots of over the counter medicine, I fought it off without need of a— even if I could get one during the pandemic— doctor’s visit or antibiotics. But the medicine interacted with my other health problems to exacerbate my lethargy. I was functioning in a fog until the end of the month.
On June 1st, my furlough from work because of the pandemic became a permanent layoff. I wasn’t surprised. The company did grant me severance pay, which was something they were under no obligation to do. It did help, and did let me depart with a better opinion of them than I would have held otherwise. But it was and still is depressing. On the same day, my replacement health insurance from the marketplace kicked in. Refilling my prescriptions, I immediately discovered that some aspects of the plan had been deceptively presented, and they did not cover all of my medications.
Two of them were “covered”, but only after I pay a deductible of $3,000. My out of pocket for a month’s supply of the two prescriptions would have been $1,200. Once I’d paid three grand, I’d “only” have to pay $360 a month until I’ve spent $8,000… after which point they’d pay 100%. Gee, thanks.
Obviously, I can’t afford that being unemployed. So I had to work with my doctor to downgrade my medicines to prescriptions they cover. It will be an ongoing process, but my diabetes is acting up on the new stuff. Now I’m trying to help my body out with increased exercise and I’m biking 10 to 15 miles daily. But my blood sugars are still too high. There are more options that can be tried, but it is discouraging and an added risk factor in this time of COVID-19.
These individual frustrations hit right before the massive Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd gained momentum across the country. The tide of sadness and outrage that swept through my circles was tangible. So were some outswellings of racism and privilege from a few others that caught me off guard. The latter required me to cut some old, and formerly friendly, ties. It was painful.
I don’t want to get too political here, but on a personal level, equality matters to me. Justice matters. Lives matter, and by extension and importantly, Black Lives Matter. These aren’t new values for me and are common themes in my writing. So if you think you know me, and yet believe I’ll tolerate your crypto-fascism… well, to hell with you!
It all took a toll. The constant, one-thing-after-another since the 1st of April was the momentum behind an emotional steamroller that left me flattened for a time. It was the best that I could do to keep up with my daily microfiction writing. My work on A Contract in Azure and Indigo languished.
Pulling myself up from that low point, I have gotten back to work on Azure and Indigo. But it hasn’t been easy, nor consistent. It is a hard time to focus when your country is being torn apart politically, economically, and by a virus that’s infected millions and on track to kill hundreds of thousands. More American deaths as I write this than from all the wars we’ve fought since World War II, combined. Enough lives lost to equal forty-five September 11th attacks when this posts. And the pandemic is far from over.
Yes, it is a hard time to write.
It’s disheartening to see a sizeable minority of my fellow citizens reveling in willful ignorance and apathy. To see small inconveniences like wearing masks and social distancing that have been shown to be so effective the world over, refused. Refused because they have become irrationally politicized. These same people scream about their freedoms being infringed, but the word they are saying is privilege: It’s just muffled by their hubris, and often by an added cloak of unnamed racism. All the while, the virus doesn’t care. All the while, it kills us regardless of our politics, race, or creed.
Yes, it is a hard time to write.
But I’m still writing. Soul bruised and battered; I’m still telling stories. Because they heal me. Because I see them bring joy to others in these hard times.
Because they matter.
Keep writing out there. The world needs you.
~Jason H. Abbott.