All the Things You Shouldn’t Talk About?

Death, money, politics.

I haven’t blogged much this year. Partly that’s because I’ve been social media-ing on behalf of BristolCon, and maintaining two blogs has been a bit much for me, and partly it’s because of the state of my brain, trapped in a web strung between my health condition and the medication for my health condition (both make it hard to think). I’ve written a few obit posts, and not published any. I’ve made lists of things I wanted to talk about, and not written the articles. There’s been too much to say.

I’m writing now from what should be a very dark place – is, in many ways, a dark place, for me and the world. Lots of people who meant something to lots of people have carked it, mostly not young, but we mourn them all the more; they were our icons. Just today, Leonard Cohen.

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

The political situation I won’t bore you with; Brexit, Trump, the rise of the Right, post-factual politics, wars and famines. People I know and love are shaken and afraid. What slight optimism I’d started to feel about the world addressing climate change and global hunger and poverty is out the window; we are not going to do this the easy way. We are going to send the world up in flames, and devil take the hindmost.

On a personal level, I had found an equilibrium, this summer. Although not well enough to write, I made my peace with focusing on editing, and got some great manuscripts to work on. The Fight Like a Girl anthology was well received. Charley-dog repaid my faith in him, after I resisted calls to have him PTS back in March, by putting his faith in me. With mutual trust, having him around became a source of joy rather than stress. He has become genuinely beneficial to my health and wellbeing, as I’d hoped he would be.

This past month, Charley’s had to be in and out of the vets, first with injuries and then with some systemic problem that makes him itch all over. His hair’s falling out. His kidney function may be compromised. It seems he’s allergic to dust mites, but I’m afraid that won’t be the whole story.

A month ago, I was bumped off ESA onto JSA. From being in the Support Group (considered ill enough to require additional funds to manage my illness) to being asked to sign on weekly and pursue full-time work. I scored zero points in the work fitness assessment, despite the fact that I am more ill than I was when I was put into the Support Group. The assessor didn’t ask me about half the stuff she put in the report, she told me it wouldn’t harm my claim if I didn’t do the physical, which she acknowledged I was too tired and in too much pain to do, then scored me as if I had done all the physical tests without issue. In fact I was unable to stand by the end of the interview, and had to be assisted from the room. That didn’t make it into her report.  My benefits have been cut in half, and whereas on ESA I was allowed to work up to 16 hours a week and keep up to £400 a month of earnings, on JSA I have all income deducted from my benefits, regardless of when I did the work I’m being paid for, and there is no way to offset business expenses against business income, so I will actually make a loss, as my outgoings remain constant but my income is effectively confiscated.

With the help of my friends, I will be appealing the decision, but this is, as you might imagine, a source of immense stress, and everything about it is incredibly time-consuming. My editing work has had to go on the back burner, and I’m feeling incredibly guilty and miserable about it. My authors and lovely publisher all deserve better.

And I’m sick. And tired. Fibro is one of those invisible disabilities, but it’s very, very real. I may not tick any of the DWP’s boxes; I can stand up and sit down and walk around; but I can’t do much of anything and I can’t do any of anything without pain. I’ve sat here far too long typing this. I won’t be able to work my legs or arms afterwards. So it goes.

Then there’s BristolCon. After eight years on the committee, I’m standing down as Media & Publications this year. I may stay involved, I will certainly minion, but as soon as I have the interim changes made to the website that I promised for this year, I will be handing over to someone new. It’s been fabulous, amazing, but with the limited energy I have, I have to prioritise and I can’t do the role justice any longer.

Why, then, am I not in a dark place? In a hole, in the dark, with an owl? Because I have a plan. A cunning plan? Maybe. Maybe only in the Baldric sense. Watch this space.

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