In July, two days after my mother's birthday, my father was wheeled in for oral cancer surgery. It's the second one he's had and his time the cancer was bigger, badder and advanced faster than before. He was let out of hospital two weeks later but a few days after that, had to be hospitalised again because his stitches got infected.
In between hospital visits I found the time to break out into stress-induced eczema and get a back spasm, which was both sudden and unsurprising. My orthopedist advised me to try to reduce my stress somehow and said: this too shall pass. I wanted to tell him he was preaching to the choir, but I didn't because we could all do with that reminder now and then.
So all in all, it's been a rough couple of months. Which is not to say it was all bleak: I signed a contract with a reputed UK publisher for my next book, which I'm quite proud of and told the world about on Instagram. But I didn't tell the world about dad's cancer. For obvious reasons.
Like all content creators, we authors are expected to promote our work on social media. It's what gets you followers and increasingly - depressingly - it's the number of your followers that publishers look at before they decide if you're worth publishing. Not all of them, but an alarming number for sure.
What do people who follow authors like to see on their feeds? Fun, light stuff. Extracts from books. Nice reviews. Authors dressed to the nines at book launches or celebrating their books nicely. Slick pictures of book covers. Dark academia aesthetics - I'm partial to those myself, I mean look at this, what's not to like?
When you follow us on social media, you see all these good bits. What you don't see is our lives behind the scenes. Why should you? Why am I even writing about this? Because you deserve to know that authors are human. With messy, complicated lives that don't always fit the aesthetic. Or your expectations of the writing life. Sleepless nights worrying about my plot? I had sleepless nights worrying about my dad. So much so that I didn't even take time out to celebrate this incredible blessing, this second book deal within seven months of the first one. How's that for overturning expectations?
Still, my orthopedist was right. All this shall pass one day. Maybe tomorrow. The joy as well as the anxiety. It has to. It's the nature of life. It's what keeps us going. So, if you too are besieged by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, take comfort in that. And in this lovely poem by e. e. cummings.