Last week, my husband and I got into a spat. Revelation one of this blog: I am a massive pain in the ass to live with. This particular tiff was, naturally, not about the catalyst–in this case, tortillas (don’t ask, I don’t even know). What erupted was the resentment over the fact that I am impossible to please. I’m thrilled over achievements and good fortune for a brief, tiny, top-of-the-roller coaster moment, until I tumble back into focus, obsession and eventually listlessness over whatever it is I want next.
I am trying my damnedest not to make a cultural reference here. Nevertheless, it’s true. I’m never satisfied.
It happens with things at home, like getting new couches. Sure, they’re fantastic. For a minute. Then I see the ugly carpeting that needs a coordinating rug, the shabby Home Goods pillows that need replacement, our naked walls and their lack of Bed, Bath and Beyond mass-produced objet d’arts.
This is the manifestation that my husband sees and suffers under. What I tried to unsuccessfully explain at the time is that I feel this way about everything. I’m a ridiculous perfectionist people-pleaser. A firstborn overachiever. It’s not borne of ungratefulness, though I understand how it appears that way. It’s a deep-seeded inability to live in the moment and accept the “moment” and “journey.” It’s resentment for my inability to leap into the next thing using arbitrary time-tables and yardsticks that I whittle for myself.
It’s an admitted psychosis.
One that flares substantially during this retrospective season, when LitSocMed is loaded with Best Of lists, congratulations and those ubiquitous Pushcart nominations. In the deluge of announcements and countdowns, I lose all of the truth of my year. My writer self slips.
This year has been tremendous, both in its achievements and disappointments. I have much to be proud of and to simply, fully appreciate: the wonderful friends I made this year at AWP and Tin House (as a crasher) and readings around town. Strangers who were under no obligation to read my crap but did so anyway. People I’ve admired who enjoyed my work. If I get out of my head long enough to step back and look, I can marvel at what I thought I’d never achieve truly coming to pass. When a younger version of yourself would be impressed with Future You, what else can you wish for?
ALL THE THINGS.
I wonder, if I really did anything worthwhile this year, why didn’t it garner a nomination? Am I putting out garbage that’s being pity-published? Is pity-publishing a thing? Is everyone going to notice that I’m a glaring imposter, not living up to the tribe? Are they going to kick me out? I feel bad seeing top book lists WHEN I DON’T EVEN HAVE A BOOK OUT FOR CONSIDERATION, because if I wasn’t a useless hack I’d have released one.
My deepest fear, from a place of practically unshakable insecurity, is that I’ll disappoint those people I appreciate and admire. And I don’t say that or any of this because I’m looking for reassurance that it isn’t true (I know it isn’t) or a cure (because there isn’t one), but because I know I’m not the only one who gets down in December. I know that achievements, no matter how bright, can sometimes only seem to illuminate the million things you haven’t done.
Just you wait.
Because January is coming. The confetti will clear, and we can go back to the work. Not with perfect, always fulfilled hearts set in the right perspective. But with a little less noise. A bunch more months to chase our dreams before being forced to take stock of three hundred sixty five days in a bullshit, unproductive manner.
So. Here is my holiday wish for all writers in my life, no matter what 2015 brought you. To see past this year into a writing life, one that can be so much richer when we can check our impatience. To accept that we’re not always going to be able to remember that, and to keep pushing each other forward when our spirits give out.
To Tweet Less. Smile More.