“…the work of the brain goes on entirely without the mind, which is its own glass palace, its own hall of mirrors, alternately a telescope, a magnifying glass, a portal, a boundary, a microscope, a prism of focus, a fibrous cable of information, a thin pane through which to view the world.”—Andrea J. Buchanan, The Beginning of Everything: The Year I Lost My Mind and Found Myself
Riddled with Who?
In March 2019 I published the ninth issue of Riddled with Arrows, “Libraries & Bookstores”.
Later that spring I put the journal on hiatus, so that I could attend to a medical subplot.
Huzzah! I found a diagnosis for my mystery illness; but, plot twist! It was not the end to my side quest, but another gripping chapter in what is now my life’s main narrative. (Above: View from Inside, Cedars Sinai Medical Center, SCWinward)
Thus I found myself flying home from Los Angeles after my third spinal surgery in March 2020, with pandemic looming on the horizon. Three days later, we went into lockdown. I posted sardonic love notes to social media, “Wow, I feel loved. The whole world went on pause during my convalescence so I won’t miss anything.”
But what felt at first like a vaguely ominous extended snow day took a hard-left down
a dystopic timeline, and not just because I suddenly had to spend one hundred percent of my time with my children. While we were navigating Zoom school and the art of grocery disinfection, the world was literally burning. Koalas; cities in protest; climate change. Facts and ethics seemed to have slipped their moorings, and people I’ve known for years were suddenly sloughing off their faces to reveal the gaping divide in our respective Americas and the rest of the world. All the while, the global numbers of infected and dead kept ticking, ticking like a doomsday clock.
Also, I was getting worse instead of better. Surgery #3 had failed. By May I couldn’t even be upright without intense pain and impaired cognition. I took my laptop into bed and I’ve been here ever since, living through the Covid Era as a population of one on metaphor island.
Writing From Isolation
I tried to write through all of this, as you do, but inspiration was evasive and, with brain trauma and a horizontal lifestyle, the physical act of writing felt like Sisyphus pushing his rock. There have been times in my life when writing was the only tool left in my survival kit, but in 2020 everything was wrong and I had nothing to say.
I couldn’t even post to social media anymore—how many times did I start an update about loneliness or plan a snipe at a provocative comment on an earnest political thread only to delete everything and go back to doom-scrolling? The words were there; they just didn’t want to come.
Ironically, it was the vague-booking of my writer friends that got me through this time. The midnight rants about writer’s block and ennui, the pleas for strength and love and light, the mutual check-ins and memes of reassurance. The realization that if I was losing my mind on my lonely island, so was everyone else. We were all stranded on our own adrift ships, hailing each other across time and space.
This is what inspired me to produce this special issue of Riddled with Arrows—the first creative decision I’d made in a long time that felt right. This much, I thought, I can do.
So What Next?
The state of Delaware just made sick people under the age of 60 eligible for vaccination against Covid-19. With that possibility on the horizon, I may soon be able to travel again for new imaging and treatment.
In other words, I really don’t know.
I can say that in producing this issue from such a profound place of disability, I’ve proven to myself that I can still do a thing if I set my mind to it. The experience has also reminded me that I still really love the Riddled with Arrows project—and, apparently, a whole lot of you still love us, too.
Support Riddled with Arrows
Although I must once again beg your patience while I find out what else life has in store, I hope you will continue to hang out in our meta-esque social media spaces—we’re mostly on Facebook these days (because of the brain thing), but I also respond to friendly dm’s and to messages wired through our contact form (so long as you are not a bot trying to sell me something, or human person submitting work to a closed submission window). You can also subscribe to our newsletter to get updates and (hopefully) Submission Calls delivered right to your inbox.
You can also show your support by liking and sharing our links to the new issue—boost the signal! Help get these lonely writers and artists the literary-love they deserve.
And if you have the means—and are inclined— to support indie creative projects, please consider making a contribution to Riddled with Arrows. After “Libraries and Bookstores” our coffers were left with just $14 USD. Since we raised our rate of pay for this issue, this funded the honorarium for one and a half contributors. The rest of “Message in a Bottle” is self-funded.
If we never publish another issue, this is our (by which I mean my) gift to the survivors of 2020.
If instead we do find our way to more issues then, well, I sure could use your help to keep feeding these writers.
You know how hungry they can get.
[You can find the DONATE button on the right-hand side of our webpage-(From here scroll up)]
to all Riddlers and friends who have kept me going with your words of encouragement and support, especially as “Message in a Bottle” was transitioning from thought to form. Special thanks to our first ever volunteer first-readers; your contribution was invaluable.
This issue of Riddled with Arrows is dedicated to all of you.
Where would you like to go now?