Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Here we are at the last blog post of the year.

Dang, why is it when you’re young the years seem so slow, then you hit a certain age, and they seem to flash by?

It’s been an interesting year for me. Two books published — TERROR and REVENGE, books 1 and 2 respectively of the series, Meeting the Enemy. Lots of editing for myself and for clients. A great writing retreat back in the summer. Lots of work and lots of fun.

Then, a downturn in my health in the fall. The sinus node in my heart, which helps to maintain a regular heartbeat, is “sick.” Yep, that’s what they call it, “sick sinus syndrome.” Honestly, when I saw that, I thought, “How does the cardiologist know about my bad sinuses?” I quickly learned the difference.

The solution?

A pacemaker.

I am too fecking young for a pacemaker was my first reaction. Then, I faced the cold reality of what might happen if I didn’t get one.

And so I did, four days before Thanksgiving.

That meant two weeks without being able to drive, shower, or wash my hair, a fortnight that seemed to stretch endlessly. The latter two I could improvise on: sink baths and the nearby hair salon, respectively. The not driving thing? Lucky for me, my sister was available to stay with me for the two weeks. It was rather nice having a driver. LOL!

Did it work?

It seems to have. I have lots more energy (no pun intended, seeing as I have a tiny machine in my chest supplying electrical impulses to my heart). My shortness of breath has eased. Last weekend I managed an extended outing on Saturday and another on Sunday without being exhausted.

How Did This Happen?

I was an analyst for most of my government career, but I was an historian before that. I studied data, came to logical conclusions, and found the causes of certain events. Naturally, I wanted to do that for this heart thing, i.e., why did my sinus node get sick?

I had a couple of years of hearing, “A number of things can cause it,” age being the principal one. Well, I wasn’t happy with that answer, knowing people far older than me not having this issue. Finally, my cardiologist asked, “Do you have an intense, high-pressure job?”

I almost laughed in his face.

Right now, I’m a writer. I set my own work schedule and my own pace, but, yes, there is self-imposed pressure to meet my self-determined deadlines.

So, this was likely not a recent development, but one that accumulated over time.

The job I retired from, especially the last several years of it, was beyond intense on occasion and involved almost constant high pressure, imposed by others above my pay scale. Unlike a couple of generations younger than me, I didn’t entertain the thought of quitting, and I don’t wish I had in hindsight, even now knowing the damage I was doing.

One, my public service was meaningful work, helping to make aviation safer for the public. Two, I was invested in a retirement plan that would mean I wouldn’t have to get another job in retirement. I could work for myself, which I do and which was the whole point of working my ass off.

Scoff at me, if you want. Call me a slave to the establishment, but I can do my thing, which is writing, without having to wonder how the mortgage will be paid. As I said, I wouldn’t change a thing, except perhaps those 12- to 14-hour days.

It’s call a work ethic.

Now, I’ll be the first one to advise not staying in a toxic work environment, one that’s damaging your physical and mental health in the present. Don’t put up with that shite. As we’ve seen in the pandemic, a great deal of work can be accomplished from the comfort and security of your home and not from a central office. In that, you have some flexibility. The problem is, of course, in a capitalist society, you have to create your own retirement fund because your employer only appreciates profit.

But enough politics. Besides, a couple of fellows named Marx and Engels explained it much better.

What’s Coming in 2023?

Better health, of course. I’m going to work harder (but no pressure!) on that because that will mean better writing. More workshops and book events. More retreats.

Right now, I have three books scheduled to release. Books 3 and 4 of Meeting the Enemy (TREACHERY and RENDITION) plus a quasi-mystery I wrote back in 2011 for NaNoWriMo and which I’ve been working on and revising since. That is Supreme Madness of the Carnival Season, and more on that after the New Year arrives, except to say it is not a spy story and doesn’t involve Mai and Alexei or the usual cast of characters. So, quite a departure for me.

See, even an old dog can get out of her comfort zone.

TREACHERY will release at the end of June 2023. RENDITION will release at the end of December 2023. Supreme Madness, I’m hoping, will release in late March; if not then mid-summer.

But, no pressure.

Whichever holiday you celebrate this time of year, may you have a happy, meaningful celebration full of laughter and love. See you in the New Year!

P. A. Duncan