Friday, July 16, 2010

Surviving the Abyss

By Jacqui Jacoby
“Never regret yesterday. Life is in you today, and you make your tomorrow.” L. Ron Hubbard

Life comes at you from all directions, sometimes being nice, sometimes hitting your plans right between the eyes. It might be something as simple as “I’m going to work today at three-thirty” and then, before three-thirty even rolls around, you have been smacked by every red light you can imagine and your work day is done before it even got started.

Says 2009 Golden Heart Winner, Anne Marie Becker: “Some days are just ‘do-over days.’ You may have grand plans, but life grabs you and says, ‘Nope. We're going this way today. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.’ On days like that, when whatever crisis popped up has settled down, I'll take 20 minutes to re-center myself. This could be a quick nap, after which it's like waking up to a brand new day. It could be a quick walk around the block. A game of solitaire. Whatever you need to regroup. Then, I re-prioritize and decide what needs to be done, and what can realistically be done in the amount of time left. It's about flexibility and setting priorities.”

Sometimes it’s a little bit more serious. All of a sudden you are broadsided by something you didn’t see coming: financial, marital, death in the family – something catastrophic and you are dumb struck, looking at the horizon trying to figure out what’s next.

For me, Jacqui Jacoby, my odyssey into the abyss started two days after the RWA National Conference in Washington DC, 2009. A Golden Heart finalist, my husband and flown out to share the experience, extending the trip in order to enjoy the sites. Only two days later I woke up feeling – different. Not sure what was wrong, we tried to go ahead with our plans, but it didn’t work. When I tried to stay longer so that we might see those things we couldn’t see, he insisted on leaving. “We need to get you home.”

For the first week or two I tried to sleep it off. When I finally saw the doctor they began to run tests. Though anything potentially “serious” was ruled out they did find an infection they could not isolate. Bed rest, they said. It will go away.

For months I set my alarm for eight-thirty in the morning, planning on getting to work. I had deadlines to make, obligations, not to mention another book to get to my agent. More days than not, I was still in bed at noon, trying to work it out in my head. What’s wrong? Why can’t they stop it? Why do the tests keep saying I’m sick after so long? Why won’t my fever go down?

The weight loss? I suppose that was a benefit. But people I hadn’t seen in awhile would comment how good I looked. “My god, how did you do it?” I refrained from saying “Plague and Starvation. I don’t recommend it.”

By February not only was I not writing, but I had to drop out of school, something I loved.

There comes a time in this process, after it has gone on for too long when it becomes hard to get up and tell yourself “I am a writer. I have to work.” The psychology is playing on your mind. You start to doubt yourself and your ability to bounce back to where you used to love to live.

When the doctor says there will be another couple months of bed rest, you have two choices. Continue to lay there and think “Poor me. Why me?” Or you can finally sit up, slap yourself upside the head and think “Like hell. I have a life and I am going to reclaim it.”

Bed rest. Fine. I called Victoria Secret and bought two of the cutest pajama sets they had. If I was going to be lying around, I was going to look good doing it. Pants, a cute little tank top with a matching light jacket and slippers. It might be noon when I dragged myself to the shower, but after the hair and make-up was done, regardless of how I felt when I got out of bed, I was feeling much better. Not quite? A splash of Channel #5 – the good stuff because even a weak, sniveling body deserves the best – and I was ready to rock the cosmos.

Norman Cousins’ wrote: “The more serious the illness, the more important it is for you to fight back, mobilizing all your resources-spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical.”

It isn’t easy when faced with things even you can’t understand and no one can explain. There are the days you do want to feel sorry for yourself, and you have to learn to kick those in the butt and show them the door. Bad things happen to good people. We have been taught that our whole lives and there are those times when you are that good person. You can use the negative thoughts to bring you down and let them win or you can turn them around and think positively, reveling in the smallest accomplishments.

• I wrote a page today.
• I answered all my e-mail.
• I spoke to two writing friends via computer.
• I judged one entry in a contest

And it is hard some days. But you keep going. And you keep smiling. And you watch funny things on TV to make you laugh. YouTube clips. Thinking positively, even if you only got to the computer for an hour in a day full of things you don’t want to think about. You think about that hour. You move forward and in a small way, keep your presence known in the real world of literary production.

I lost a year of my life, my work, to something that never got a name. Eventually, the fevers went away. The white blood cells came down. But, no, they could never put a name to it. “Weird virus. We’ll never know.”

Today I walk two to four miles a day. I go to the gym. I am back at work on the next books, sharing my experience and trying to let people know you can keep going.

I will never get that year back. I can either sit back and think about what I missed or understand that for that one year, that is what I had to do. I still have a good thirty in front of me and I want to enjoy them. I won’t do that by continuing to look at the past. So I look forward. To the next project. The next hero that curls my toes. The next short story that comes out of the blue. The next … who knows!! I just know I can’t wait to see it arrive.
Bio: An award winning writer and a ten year veteran of martial arts, Jacqui Jacoby’s career is multi- faceted. With her trusted computerized day planner, Miguel, by her side, she is able to work in many aspects of the writing community: as an author and contributor to the Kiss of Death as well as RWR Magazine; as a chapter volunteer and contest judge, and as a workshop presenter, both live and online.

A new participant to Twitter, Jacqui has become obsessed! She loves to follow and to be followed. Join her and win a chance at a three chapter and ten page syn critique. Contest open to new followers only. Winner to be announced July 19, 2010.


  1. Hi Jacqui:

    It is late at night and your story has made me think. And worry a little.

    Has the experience of your ‘lost’ year changed your writing? Do you write about different topics now than you did before? Do your characters have deeper insights into who they are than they did before? Do you think you’ll create a character who suffers a similar fate in a future story?

    I’m looking for a sense of meaning. I sense a “Gift from the Sea” or a “Year by the Sea”. It just seems there should be something more.


  2. Something more? You mean in writing? Because no, I don't think I write different. Still the same kind of stories, same ideas. But I do think I think different. I am much more appreciative of things I think I might have taken for granted before. I don't get mad as easy. I don't let the little bother me as much. I am more quiet and lost in thoughts. And as corny as it sounds, a bowl of strawberries on the back porch with my daughter is heaven. I think I always appreciated it ... but now I **appreciate** it.

    And those walks? Man, the outside never looked so good to me!! :)

    Does that make sense?

  3. Jacqui woo hoo welcome I remembe ryou posting about the illness here while back. Congratulations on kicking its butt and coming back strong. I'm glad you made it back. Look forward to seeing your next book. HUgs :-)

  4. Jacqui, those smacks upside the head really get ya', don't they???

    Oh my stars, girl, if you don't make a story out of this, I probably will, so be forewarned.

    What a great set-up for an emotionally intense heroine, to get blind-sided, have to stop, halt, put on the brakes, and comes back...


    But the same.

    Hmmm... Vince, you want it or want me to run with it if Jax doesn't, because I LOVE pilfering great ideas. I live for the day. ;)

    Jacqui, in all seriousness, that had to be unbelievably frustrating and annoying and depressing but you took charge. And your body won out. Girl, that's super good stuff. God bless you with continued good health, LOTS of books in your future, and many bowls of strawberries.

    The plague and starvation diet???

    I bet that Jillian girl uses that. I run, yes RUN to turn off the TV when those commercials come on. She scares me witless. And not much scares me.

    Except Tina. We all fear Tina.

    Hey, coffee's on, I did quick breakfast from Panera today because I'm off to NYC to see the Yankees play tonight and tomorrow courtesy of Lawyer Boy AND we will be paying homage to Bob Sheppard and George Steinbrenner.

    Jax, thanks for being here, sweetums.

  5. Jacqui, thank you for sharing your story.

    Thank you for fighting back.

    I don't even have words this am to convey how much your story means to me.

    Just thank you.

  6. Welcome to Seekerville, Jacqui! Your story touched me. Not knowing what's going on with our bodies is scary. I admire your fight-back attitude! Praising God for your return to health with the bonus of appreciating the simple things in life each day. Thanks for sharing.

    Ruthy, thanks for Panera carry-in! Have a blast with Jeter!!


  7. Wow, that sounds like a crazy virus! Things are so advanced that it's hard for me to understand how doctors couldn't know what it was. :-(
    Thank you for your post! I can't imagine how hard that was for you.

  8. Oh my goodness what a story! I was so happy to hear that you are back to normal and doing what you love!

  9. Wow, what a bummer! It would be awful to not be able to do what you normally would do because of an illness nobody even understands. Were you afraid it would never go away? (That's pessimistic me! I'd be scared I was stuck that way forever!)

    Thanks for sharing your story. The things that have stopped me have been personal/emotional type things. I get upset about something and then I can't write to save my life. Why can't I channel that emotion into my writing? Doesn't work.

  10. I had one of those years, first diagnosed with leukemia that wasn't, then something else and finally "unknown auto-immune disorder." I took it over the leukemia diagnosis for sure.

    But that was the year I too could not write. I had to relearn how to tell colors and did so by sorting scraps of handmade papers. What to do with those scraps? I made cards because I couldn't afford Hallmark. But I still couldn't write the wonderful things my friends and family looked forward to reading. I discovered and and learned I had a knack for picking the right quote for the person and situation. Voila, a new creative outlet was born.

    I believe those years are never wasted. No we can't get them back but we can move forward. Glad you have done so. Just wish I had read about getting some new VS pjs when I was bedridden.

    Blessings on your writing ventures.

    Peace, Julie

  11. Hey Jacqui:

    Nice post! Great inspirational story.


  12. JACQUI!! Welcome to Seekerville, and WOW ... my respect for you goes through the roof!! I am SO glad you are now back on your feet and sprinting in your career. I absolutely LOVED this:

    I called Victoria Secret and bought two of the cutest pajama sets they had.

    WRITE ON, girl!!!! I'm from a family that wrestles with depression from time to time, and when it tries to take me down, I do EXACTLY what you said:

    1.) Put makeup on and fix my hair and 2.) Do something productive, no matter if I feel like it or not.

    Along with prayer and spiritual warfare, this seems to work wonders in keeping my head above water, so THANK YOU for writing this blog today. EXCELLENT!!

    I pray God's abundant blessings on your life and writing career.


  13. Good morning, Jacqui.
    You've got an inspiring story.
    I makes me shake off all the little irritations that I blow up into something big.

    I should be using them as proof that life is really good.

    If I have time to worry about small things, I must not have any big things.

    I'm glad you're feeling better. Thanks for being on Seekerville.

  14. I think, by far, this is my favorite part of this post: You can use the negative thoughts to bring you down and let them win or you can turn them around and think positively, reveling in the smallest accomplishments.

    Great advice. Attitude is everything.

    Welcome back, Jax. Looking forward to what you dream up next!


  15. Hi Jacqui,
    Thanks for sharing! What an amazing year for you that, no doubt, God will use for good in a multitude of ways...such as the inspiration it provides many of us today in Seekerville.

    Did you know the year before Kit Wilkerson became seriously ill after Nationals? She had a long recovery as well. Does that mean Nationals can be detrimental to our health? Hope not. But traveling and being in a new environment and locale puts stress on our bodies. We all need to remember to get rest while we're in Orlando this matter how much we want to stay up for late night Seeker fun! :)

    Glad the worst is behind you! Wishing you a future filled with sunshine and roses!

  16. Wow, Jacqui - a whole year in bed. How did you stay sane?

    I get mad when I have a 4-day flu!

    So glad you're feeling better and are back walking and writing! And twittering! I must confess I don't have a clue how the twitter thing works. In fact, I somehow signed up for twitter without even knowing it! :) One day I got an email saying Welcome to Twitter, and I said to myself, "Self - What did you do? How the heck did you get on twitter?" Still don't know, but I think I signed up to follow you!
    Maybe my kids can help sort me out!

    Thanks for your inspirational story.


  17. Hey Susan: How did I stay sane? Not so sure I did some days and I guess I would give credit to Mark Harmon!! :)

    I became addicted to NCIS and did you know it is on four times day on some days?! LOL

    I am blown away by the heart felt comments here and so glad that people felt them. That was always my goal ... to get one person up who was told to stay down.

    I want to reply to everyone, one by one, but the truth to known, in taking care of myself, I stayed up until two am playing at the computer and watching movies. I've had four hours sleep. So with the family away and me home alone, I will take myself to bed again, sleep in cuz I **want** to and be back in a few more hours to play!

    Thank you for the warm welcome!!

  18. LOL Bad Ruth. Bad!! Of course I figured out how to channel this into a book!! And man, he's the hero who now curls my toes!!

    Thanks, though, for thinking it was worth ... um ... trying to think of a word ... um ... "stealing" LOLOLOL Not that you ever would, of course. Hypothetically, right?! LOLOLO


  19. Hi Ruth & Jacqui:

    Suffering descends upon an individual. What it is and where it came from is unknown and perhaps unknowable. The travail persists. The human spirit perseveres. Then, like a thief in the night, it goes away. All without any known reason or any warning.

    The above is the plot of Kafka’s “Trial,” and “Castle” . It symbolizes the human condition in the modern world. This condition is very disturbing if left without meaning. Kafka couldn’t provide a meaning and so he didn’t finish these books.

    Man can assimilate and compartmentalize any disaster that can be explained. But when it can’t be explained and it has no meaning, then one is dealing with the irrational. It’s like the caveman who hears thunder and has no idea what’s wrong with the world. It’s a world of “Fear and Trembling.”

    Ruth, if you can make a romance out of death in “Winter’s End”, I think you could be the one to give this theme a try – if Jacqui does not want to do it.

    What a magnificent challenge!


  20. Morning Jacqui, Thank you for coming to Seekerville and sharing your story. We all need to hear these stories and be reminded how fragile life is. And how tough you can be. smiling.

    Thanks again for giving us a dose of inspiration.

  21. Jacqui, what an inspiring post! Although we may never know the reasons, I believe God uses times like these to make us slow down, reevaluate our lives, and regain perspective.

  22. Jacqui, thanks for your story. It's so inspirational that you fought back. And not just after you started to feel better, but right in the midst of tribulation. What an encouragement. It's great to hear you are back on your feet and loving to write. All the best!

  23. Sadly, I think I'd need a year of the plague diet before anything in Victoria's Secret would fit me.

    Hard way to manage cute underwear.

  24. What a great story! And to think your body just said on its own, "I'm done with this thing." Wow!

    I'm a firm believer in doing only what we can in each moment God gives us. My sister is currently waiting for a heart transplant, and she told me that sometimes she feels like she should be doing more than falling on the couch exhausted after one measly grocery trip. But to me, she's doing what she can do. Once she gets that transplant and has her strength back, then she can invest her life in others or whatever she feels called to do. But her calling in this season of life is to survive.

    Thanks for being a living example of this, Jacqui!

  25. Wow. I knew you were having a tough time, but I guess I didn't know the extent of it. Welcome back to the land of the living.

    You make me feel a little guilty for all the time I've wasted over the years, though. If I'd been focusing on writing all along the way I have since January, I'd be so much further along on the road to publication. I might even already have brought down that elusive agent!

  26. Sorry to hear about your "lost year," but what a fabulous story. I love your attitude. The next time I have to face a cold that keeps me in bed, I'm definitely phoning Victoria's Secret!

  27. K.M. Weliland: Definitely **do not** under estimate the power of Victoria Secret and some Channel #5. When asked why? Cuz it makes me feel pretty and if I feel pretty I can answer the doorbell and not scare the UPS man!! :)

    Want to arm wrestle over it?! LOL


  28. Jacqui, when I saw your name, I knew it looked familiar - and it was from RWR! Thanks so much for sharing your story! What an amazing journey. I know, you didn't get very far, but amazing in the spiritual growth that can happen in times like that. Sometimes we really do have to just BE STILL, don't we? Bless you!

  29. Some people have asked how I stayed sane. Just last night I built a blog about this new hobby I started. It may sound weird, but it did keep me going. If you want to look, and it is so not required:

  30. @ Mary Connely

    Irritations: I have to agree with you. I would say I might have had a bit of a temper before, letting little things get to me even if it wasn't too bad. But now, I spend more time quiet, love my iPod, love watching my movies, even when the family says "Again?" and I don't get as upset as I used to.

    Perception, I guess. You just have to put it all in perceptive. The little things? Really? Don't add up to much. At least, that's my opinion.

    Good observation!!


  31. Thanks for your post today, Jacqui. It brought back lots of memories and was a reminder I needed. Glad you're up and about again.

  32. What an inspiration, Jacqui! Thanks for sharing.

  33. Wow, Jacqui! so sorry you got godsmacked like that, and so glad you're up and running again!

    Stay healthy, girl, and keep on going!

  34. That word was supposed to be "gobsmacked," but there may have been a Freudian slip....

  35. Thank you Elisa for the sorry ... but you know what? I think I am going to have to go out on a limb here and say I am not. Oh sure, it would have been nice to avoid, but I learned a lot. I think it made me a stronger person. I think I appreciate things a lot more. So, yeah, like all bad things, as well as good things, we learn from what happens in our lives and it makes us who we are.

    I think that is pretty cool.


  36. Wow! What a story. I'm glad you came through okay and with your positive attitude and humor in tact. I suffered with Lymes Disease for over a year. I think if I didn't have children there were days I wouldn't have dragged myself out of bed at all.

  37. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Kinda makes my tired, overworked schedule look unimportant.


    Makes life easier.

  38. @ Wendy: Huge factor there. I had three kids who were *not* going to let me give up and a husband of 27 years who might have kicked my butt. I remember my son coming in at one point and telling me straight out "You are not going to die. You will get better."

    How do you argue with that?


  39. Great post, Jacqui! Attitude is everything. Glad you're back.

  40. Jacqui this experience had to be so scary for you! I work as a nurse so I know there are still so many illnesses that we just know nothing about. My 19 year old son had a weird virus that stole two weeks but not a whole year.

    Your strength is truly inspiring!

    Laura Iding

  41. Laura, that is scarier, I think, a kid. Watching and not being able to help. I am sooo sorry for your experience and hope he feels better.