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Abigail B. Calkin

A Blog of Personal Thoughts

A Shot in the Eye

January 2023

I can only say that I am delighted to close 2022 and open 2023 with a shot in the eye. My health is fine. Just the usual aspects of a lifetime of epilepsy and the equally usual aspects of growing older. I am very fortunate that my macular degeneration is only in one eye, so far, and responds well to treatment. It sounds awful, getting a shot in the eye. It sounds only a bit better to say I get an injection in my eye.

My first thought was a bit of terror. The ophthalmologist is going to put a needle in my eye? Oh yuck. Oh no. Not me. Not my eye. Better than eventually going blind in that eye. My sister had seven injections. They did not work. She can’t see to read or read music to play the piano. She can’t drive anymore. I called her yesterday to wish her a happy 88th birthday. This is very different from our mother who had dementia by this time in her life. My sister still thinks clearly and we have wonderful, cheery conversations every week. Yesterday we commented on the happy and positive family we grew up in. We consider ourselves fortunate as did the oldest two in the family.

What was wrong with 2022? Nothing really. It was just the end of three and a half years of intense work and the epilepsy diagnosis. First came an offer on the last day of June 2019 to coedit a special edition about precision teaching for the journal, Behavior Analysis in Practice.

Two weeks later, 15 July 2019, I was diagnosed with epilepsy, something I’ve had since I was five-years-old. I always suspected something neurological, but when the neurologist who is also an epileptologist, told me that, it threw me for a loop. This was a reality and not just my hunch. I should have called Andrew and said I just had a diagnosis and needed to withdraw from being a guest editor. But no. As usual, I thought I could handle everything thrown at me. That was a bit of an overload because I became very interested in my inner and outer behaviors related to epilepsy. These parts of me I’d known all my life, but now that it was official, it felt different. I became a bit preoccupied with it and wanted to learn more.

Then along comes May 2022 when I attended a live (as opposed to virtual) conference, the International Association of Behavior Analysis. I was at a table for a book signing. Suddenly, a man walks towards me and says, “Abigail Calkin! I’m Bill Webber and I want to publish the book you’re editing about Ogden Lindsley!” I said it’s a deal and went back to the 1950s deal made by a handshake. Meanwhile, one of the 14 authors says I needed to finish this up and have it out by another conference, the Conference for the Standard Celeration Society, the beginning of November. I don’t seem to be someone who says no often enough. I thought, that’s five months away and the book is almost done, I can do that. Wrong. The release date turned into December and will now be January. I’m fine with that because the book is now at the printer. Out of my hands for the moment.

That winds up the chaos of the last three and a half years of what I call writing and editing for others. I edited a literary magazine, two editions a year, for four years in the 19990s. I’ve now been a guest editor for two behavior analysis journals for special editions on precision teaching. And the book about Ogden Lindsley is done.

In the year 2023, I will focus solely on daily meditation and in and outdoor exercises. I will focus on the writing I feel moved to do. Poems and prose. An article on how we got to a scientific analysis of inner behavior—thoughts, feelings, and urges. A memoir of my thoughts, feelings, and experiences of epilepsy. A book of commercial fishing stories. A book about people’s military experiences. Poems. More poems. And prose. None of these with a deadline unless it’s self-imposed.

As always, I need some solitude and quiet. How will I do all this? Going for a daily walk will help immensely. When in Juneau I’ll walk and swim. When in Gustavus I’ll walk, ski, and ride my bike.

Certainly, I won’t finish all the writing in 2023; I have no intention of that. This year is just a start. How will I organize what I do first? What will inspire me for which project? The deadline of reading at Fisher Poets Gathering the end of February will have me write poems and stories about the sea, boats, and fishing.

I will need a tidy desk, not the one that looks and feels like I just returned from two months of being in the lower 48. I wish I could have a chat at least once a week with someone else who likes to check the goals and direction of moving forward. If I had such a partner, what would I say to you?

This week I plan to start such and such. I plan to edit this. I plan to finish that. As if I were still a twenty-years-old, I want someone other than me to check in with. How many pages did you write this week, first draft and finished pages? Or how many sketches did you finish? How is that painting coming along?

It doesn’t help me that I’ve lost two to four hours a day to sleep due to epilepsy medication.  It doesn’t help that I just finished a very major project and returned from being Outside for two months. My desk and study, even my clothes closet, all need some serious tidying and sorting. It doesn’t help that we’re going to Juneau to be with family next week (which I wouldn’t turn down even if I wanted to).

It's not a case of procrastination. I think it has to do with loving to do too many different things. I still want to do them all! I’m not like a good friend of mine who learned to say No! However, if anyone asks me to be the editor for a journal, literary or behavioral, biannual or guest for one issue, or editor of a book, my flat answer will be NO! I want to focus solely on my own writing. Why? Because I live to write a poem, a story, a fiction or nonfiction book.

The December shot in the eye helps me close 2022 and open my vision to the calmness of caring for body and creativity in 2023.

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