It’s been a tough year. For me, toughest have been the professional losses: a book I thought my audience would enjoy, which they didn’t respond particularly well to; the loss of my agent; the sense of being stymied, especially when I write about people like myself; and, more generally, a feeling of alienation from the rest of American letters, including and perhaps especially that small portion of it composed of people like myself.
But there was also the pandemic. We coped. We had a baby on what was essentially the first day of lock-down, and the pandemic has coincided with baby-having fugue. It’s gone about as well as one can expect it to. Our baby is literally the most adorable child on the planet. I truly believe if more people could see her, there would be world peace. She is so adorable. She also looks just like me! So sometimes it’s like I’m just seeing a little mini-Naomi harrumphing and shoving blocks into her mouth and giggling.
It’s a radically different way of living, though, being responsible for another person. I’ve largely forgotten what it was like in the beforetimes, but sometimes wisps of it come back to me, and I’m like…it was nice to just do what I wanted and not have to think all the time about what this tiny human needs.
I dunno, it’s just been an emotional year. I think this year I really scaled back on my emotional aspirations. I used to want to overcome envy and anxiety and self-loathing, or, failing that, at least not think about that too much. And I for various periods of time this year succeeded in repressing those feelings, only for them to come back as terrible jaw tension that would cause throbbing pain in my ears and teeth. Finally I was like screw it, negative feelings are here to stay! Now I don’t know what my aim is when it comes to these negative emotions. I hate feeling angry, envious, mistreated, and now that I’m out as trans, I hate the niggling worry that people see me differently or read my stories differently–the feeling of subtle, creeping bias that can neither be proven nor disproven, and, with it, a concomitant loss of belief in my self and my own abilities. I just want to write! I am so tired of living in this psychodrama, where I compare myself to other writers who I don’t even know and who don’t know me! It’s exhausting! But I fear that envy is here to stay.
I can’t even feel genuinely mistreated, because my life is so good. In terms of my circumstances and daily life, I could not ask for anything better. But that only goes so far, and I’m tired too of criticizing myself for feeling these feelings, because even that self-criticism is simply another turn of the screw.
For much of this year, including most of the past three months, I’ve been pretty happy! Oddly enough, the pandemic / motherhood means I’m seeing much more of my wife than I did before, and I really like her. She’s good to spend time with! I’ll miss her when she goes back to working 7 AM to 8 PM every weekday (10 AM to 5 PM on Saturdays and Sundays). Baby-having has proven not to be the enemy of happiness that I was told it would be. I’d even say that having a baby is a net positive, at least so far.
I’ve been productive. I’ve written new things, new types of things. I’ve also redoubled my commitment to not fronting. I don’t believe in blunt ‘pull no punches’ honesty. I pull lots of punches! But I’m not gonna say things I don’t believe to be true. And I’m not gonna convey an impression of my life that I think is false. There’s considerable pressure to do that: I was reading a book about prominent intellectuals, and almost all of them really massaged their own histories and their habits. I’m not gonna do that. I look online, and all I see is people saying stuff that’s…well…it’s just not accurate. Whether it’s the agent saying, “Write your heart and the market will find a place for it!” or the author saying, “You have to be patient, don’t worry overmuch about publication” when everyone knows they’re financially supported by their spouse, I just literally wonder how people are able to say this stuff. What’s the point of being a writer / being in publishing if not to tell the truth?
Of course probably there are people out there who think I’m not forthright either. I certainly don’t spell everything out for you in soundbite form (don’t need the trouble of all the internet sleuths who’re out to misrepresent and demonize you), but I think if you pay attention, you can get a fairly good understanding of my circumstances, of my ups and downs, and of my various successes and failures.
Which is to say: I think for a long time I thought that someday I’d be a well-known author and THEN I could tell the truth. But now I just have no idea whether that’ll ever happen, and I don’t want to spend my life self-censoring on behalf of a God that might not even notice.
With that having been said, I don’t know if I’ll post again in 2020, but this is definitely my final wrap-up. See you next year, friends!