I, like most people living and breathing in America, had my plans smashed into 3,000 and then some pieces when COVID-19 hit me with its deadly fist this winter.
2020 was set up to be my year of wild momentum. After countless rejections, re-structuring, and pivoting, my debut book was to be released into the wild on May 19th. And while my book was, indeed, released into the wild on May 19th, it was an entirely different experience than I had dutifully planned on having.
For starters, I’d been planning a fabulous, very New York book launch party. There would be a live performance, champagne, press — all the bougie belles and whistles you’re entitled to if you are to survive the spiritual and emotional shit-storm of publishing a book. And then, I’d travel around the country doing readings at bookstores, promoting my book in the flesh. I had a whole trip to LA booked in which I was scheduled to do a slew of exciting podcasts and radio interviews. I was blindly convinced that in 2020, all of my years of pounding on the keyboard, day after day, publishing article after article, feverishly editing, and staring at the static screen so long my eyes would start dripping blood would pay off. I’d finally be able to take my work on the road and interact with readers face to face, not sit strapped down to a chair in an office every single day. This would be the year I saw the world as opposed to just writing about it.
And because I like to make elaborate plans in the ever-spinning universe that lives inside of my ever-vibrating brain, I firmly decided that at the end of this year, I would get pregnant. In hindsight, I see how delusional the idea of getting pregnant JUST LIKE THAT is, but I’ve always had an alarmingly positive outlook on the future (“toxic positivity” is the hot new buzzword, though if your relentless positivity is always met with the dark, crushing, weight of depression, is it really that toxic to our fragile internet culture?).
I dreamed of announcing my pregnancy to my family on Christmas Eve. We’re Jewish, but like all good New York Jews, we like to dress up and drink champagne on Christmas Eve. I even imagined what I’d say to everyone when they asked why I’m not drinking. I’m a notorious wine-slugger, so there would have to be a big reason in order for it to be believable. The ol’ “I’m on antibiotics!” song and dance wouldn’t cut it for a seasoned party girl like me. I would have to say I was fresh out of rehab, or better yet, I’d accept the drink, toss the yellow-gold crushed liquid grapes into the grass when no one was looking and refill my globe of wine with — I don’t know — juice? Once everyone was good and buzzed, Meghan and I would grab the cheese knife and clank it against our hors d’oeuvre plates. I’d be wearing something loose and boho, definitely floor-length and definitely designer (at this point I’d be able to afford to buy designer clothes, not merely borrow them from “Rent The Runway” as I’ve done religiously for the past two years). Meghan would make the speech in her humorous, crass, Bronx way. I’d stand next to her and glow like a heavenly angel. Everyone would be so happy. I’d be so happy.
I mean, what a soulful end to a life-changing year.
We’re now in the thick of August, and let me tell you, my plans to have a child have been — um — postponed, to say the least. The best and worst thing about being gay is that your pregnancies are extremely planned. If I was in a heterosexual relationship, I would have probably found myself “knocked up,” as the straight folks like to say, by now. I’d be stressed about having a child in the age of COVID-19, but at this point in my life, I would embrace it with epic heart and enthusiasm. I’d be thrilled that life haphazardly tossed me into motherhood. I know this about myself.
But because I’m not in a straight relationship — I’m in a queer as fuck relationship — lots of planning must go into conception. And right now, while my book is doing great and I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported me as a writer, all the plans I’d so elaborately illustrated on the canvas of my brain have been set on fire. And I don’t know when it’s going to be possible for all that’s burned into the ground to rebuild itself. The castle I call home has crumbled. Now it’s time to be an architect and start laying down new bricks.
At first, I was sad. I cried a lot. I worried even more. When the hell is the right time to bring a child into this world? What about money? What about security? What if number 45 gets re-elected? What if the Virus never goes away? I grieved the takedown of my plans. It’s very important to give yourself space to grieve, even if it’s the loss of something you never had to begin with. I know we should all be grateful, but you can’t just gloss over your sadness. No amount of gratitude lists will eradicate the pain you feel. The only way to eradicate the pain is to feel the pain — then you count your blessings.
But in this journey of the unknown, I’ve come to realize that I’m in a very powerful place. I’m experiencing the beauty of the breakdown. What I mean is, when things don’t go according to plan — when life as you know it unexpectedly shifts in a vastly different direction, when everything you thought you wanted is suddenly snatched away from you — you’re free to rethink everything. You’re working from a point of nothing, so you don’t owe anyone anything — not even your former self.
Okay, so there won’t be a live book-tour for me in the near future. That sucks. But at the same time, it’s forcing me to think outside of my comfort zone and let my ambitions wander into the great unknown. If a book-tour is off-limits for now, what else can I do to feed my spirit and make money? Maybe it’s time to start my own business? Or merge my love of fashion with my love of words? Maybe it’s time to just be wide open and let new opportunities I would’ve normally scoffed at into my orbit. Maybe it’s time to rethink my writing and my messaging and find really creative new ways to reach my audience.
And maybe now isn’t the time for me to have a child! If there is one thing I’ve experienced during COVID-19, it’s deep fucking reflection. I’ve been staring into the cold, stone gun barrel of the past more than ever. All the shit I rely on that distracts me from old traumas I haven’t quite worked through is gone. There is no cocktail hour with the girls after work. There is no staring at strangers on the train. There are no live workout classes that allow me to sweat through whatever rage is tucked away deep inside of me. I have to face the root of the rage. I’m a raw nerve right now. There is no more hiding; I’m stuck with myself. And I’m starting to see that I have a few things I’d like to resolve before bringing a child into the world.
Which leads me to the greatest fear of all fears: What if I miss the moment? Realistically, my eggs will only be good for another five years. I don’t have the money to freeze them. (Who does have the money to freeze them besides Tinsley Mortimer, a trust-funder socialite?) What if in five years the world is still reeling from this virus? What if I don’t feel ready then either? What if it’s too late for me?
I’ve come to realize that sitting in this wildly uncomfortable sofa of uncertainty is actually making me grow. It’s expanding my world, and I didn’t even realize it. When was the last time I had no idea what was going to happen to me? When I had a painful breakup and moved to New York with no backup plan — that’s when. It was the first time in my life I was open to absolutely anything. And it was scary, but it was so exciting. And the more I stretched my arms open wide and kept my eyes to the sky, the more easily I was able to catch amazing, unexpected opportunities that the universe threw at me. Those opportunities led me this place, and I liked this place. But now, this place doesn’t exist in the same way that it did six months ago.
And just like a breakup, it’s brutal — but it’s beautiful. I feel ready to stop writing the damn script and trust that life will write the script for me. I’m ready to stop controlling the story and instead live inside of it. I don’t know the ending, and for once, I don’t care about the ending; I care about living. I’m starting to see that you’re not really living when you’re obsessed with writing and editing and perfecting every word of the script.