My Life Collapsed on December 29, 2013

In a nutshell—

My husband died unexpectedly that morning. My husband’s death left me responsible for managing all elements of our severely disabled adult son who lived with us and required 24-7 care. While my husband and I performed well as a team, his tasks were ones I never wanted to handle. He spent hours doing gobbledygook paperwork, which I absolutely detested.

“Too bad, MJ. Suck it up and start learning,” my husband whispered in my ear from his eternal rest, like he often did when I questioned my talents and stubbornness to succeed. So, I dug in and assumed his chores. A bit of grumbling, working in tandem with my stubbornness, pushed me forward.

Three months later, I had an accident and re-injured my knee which I’d been babying in an effort to put off a knee replacement. That option no longer appeared possible. In the process of getting all the pre-op work done for my knee surgery, my doctors discovered three, far more serious health issues. I was devastated. 

I never thought I would have to deal with chronic, potentially life-threatening, health issues. This meant major adjustments. I had to find methods to curtail the stress and drama in my daily life—no easy task as a caregiver for my son. Plus, find time for new medical regimens: doctor visits, regularly scheduled lab work, and more daily medications than I’d ever taken. I was exhausted all the time. And angry—for not charging ahead full steam and subduing this new lifestyle.

Not happy, lonely, I often felt I was living the life of a fictional character in a future book—a book I’d probably never write, or if it did get written, it would be boring. I had barely enough energy to do the minimum for my son and myself. Amid this maelstrom of emotions and daily routines, my writing life plummeted from my priority list. Six to eight hours a day writing in my office fell into the black hole of…What once was.

That broke my already fractured heart. I was a total mess and not liking what I saw or felt. Somehow, I garnered enough energy to fight off despair and serious depression. I focused each day on what had to be done—then added one more task, phone call, or completed report. After three years of exhaustion and medical issues, I finally had several months when my body started to respond to all those medications and new routines. I even began to think about what it might be like to slowly step back into my writing life.

Talk About Baby Steps…

So much had changed within the writing world. I needed a new computer. The operating system had morphed into a devilish monster that sometimes brought me to swear at the machine which ignored my emotion. The software I’d been so comfortable using in the past now had a steep and frustrating learning curve. By the time I finished figuring out how to do what I wanted to do—my writing time was exhausted for the day. I fought feelings of hopeless stupidity regarding new technology.

Doggedly, I slowly inched my way back with writing projects…

Fast Forward to 2019

My new lifestyle is routine. I’ve learned to cope and manage all the new responsibilities I inherited and settled into a relatively stable health pattern.

What does that mean? I see myself as a writer once again!

I’ve put myself back into my writing space. I still have to finish those last four chapters of the book I had been working on when my husband died. I’ve thought a lot about the themes in that book. I realize I’ve gained greater knowledge regarding life changes. I will use this to enhance those themes as I revise the book.

Just a few weeks ago, I was able to get away for a few days. I flew to California to celebrate my brother and his wife’s 50th wedding anniversary. My brother and I drove down to Big Sur and walked a few paths I’ve been to in the past:

  • First time as a newly-divorced, single mother with the ink barely dry on my graduate degree and an even newer teaching contract in hand.
  • Second time, with the man who became my second husband, the love of my love, who believed and supported me in all my professional ventures. That second time the ocean was wild with emotions and hints of undercurrents and trials. A bit of foreshadowing which together we resolved.
  • Many additional visits with my husband. Always we were swayed, challenged and inspired by the water, the waves, the rocks, the birds, the changing shoreline. Just like our lives.
  • And this last time. Alone once more, but as I sat and watched the waves spread over the shoreline, I felt my muse spirit nudge me, saying “Get going, MJ. It’s time. And next book, use what you’ve learned, what you’ve seen in this new life you lead.”

So, this Reminds Us—Writers Write

We are Compelled to Do So

We find inspiration, plot ideas, characters, scenes, within the scope of our daily lives, our dreams, our dramas, our sorrows, watching the world around ourselves, observing the lives of others.

Writers don’t just write. We watch. We think about what we’ve seen, experienced, read about, listened to a story that jumpstarts a story of our own. Writers are thinkers and need time to think, to create a new world, a new character.  I’ve been doing this in the past several months. It’s made me feel whole again. Like my writerly self is re-emerging.

  • A trip to California and the Big Sur area did that for me.
  • Because I was ready.
  • Because I’ll always be a writer.
  • Because I’m happiest when I am writing.
  • Because I still have books to get written and maybe, just maybe, these last years have given me the new life experiences and situations I can draw from to make my upcoming books the best they can be.

We writers must keep our minds open to all that happens in the world around us. If we do, we will always grow as writers. What we write will be fresh. Don’t we all strive toward those objectives?

That’s a resounding YES.”

by: Mary Jo Schiebl

A short summary of Mary Jo’s, a.k.a Casey Clifford, life might be as follows: She’s been there, done that, and is still trying…”

She’s not perfect and wouldn’t want to be.  She was determined to finish college and graduate school to teach college level classes. She accomplished this while working and single-parenting 3 sons. She taught for 27 years and retired to pursue what she dreamed of doing since she was a child—write the stories that had been tumbling about in her head.

Today she writes women’s fiction and romantic suspense as Casey Clifford. Her first novel received the Holt Medallion for Literary Achievement for Best First Book of 2009. She also won the Write Touch Readers’ Award for the same book in the romantic suspense category. She blogs every Sunday and dabbles in photography. Her other published books have also finaled/won additional awards.

She strives daily to be a wise woman and believes all her heroines have already gotten there. Her Dessert Dames and Soul String series reflect that as do her romantic suspense and single titles.


One Response to “My Life Collapsed on December 29, 2013”

  1. Way to go, Mary Jo! You are an awesome, resilient person and I’m so glad to see you back to full writing power again. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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