Okay, uh, 2020 was hard. I was isolated, set apart, and miserable, and then Covid-19 happened. Yeah, the other stuff had already taken place before Covid-19 burst onto the scene. I lost a friendship and my compass, as I realized I have had more conflict with women as a woman in six years than I had with women as a man in 60 years. I won’t write any more about that right now. You’ll have to wait for my memoir to come out in June. I definitely wrote about it there.
Before Covid hit full force I squeezed in one last speaking engagement. I spoke for a conference at Rutgers University on March 7. The conference was packed with students who didn’t seem to have a care in the world. The speakers felt otherwise. We were all antsy, and more than a bit uncomfortable with the meet and greets scheduled after each session. One of the other speakers was the editor of the Onion. It seemed ironic, since everything happening felt like an article in the Onion. Another speaker was an elderly Holocaust survivor. I felt so badly for him as students crowded around to express their admiration. It was obvious he would have appreciated more adoration from a distance.
When I flew home from NYC the next day, a flight attendant on my flight out of Charlotte refused to fly until the crew was given cleaning wipes with over 67 percent alcohol content. There were exactly 15 American Airlines personnel in the jetway mediating the dispute as we all sat on the crowded plane waiting to fly to Denver. The flight was an omen of the chaos to come. I have not flown since that CLT-DEN leg on March 8.
Within a week, all of my live speaking engagements for the remainder of the year had cancelled. Then I was pulled from the preaching team of our church, which left me sitting at home alone trying not to catch a virus that might well kill me. Which turned out to not be a bad thing, because I also had to write a memoir, which it turns out is about as fun as eight months of daily root canal procedures. I do not recommend writing a memoir when you are not currently in therapy. I kept having to schedule one-off sessions with Naomi, my New York therapist for 28 years. Dredging up your past in the middle of a pandemic while you are also in the saddest and most troubling work experience of your life (which in my case is saying a lot) is not something I would necessarily recommend.
Then after a few months I found myself a co-pastor again, working with people I adore. That was nice, and redemptive, and the church is thriving. Then all of these corporate conference departments realized if they didn’t use their budgets they were going to lose them, and I started doing one keynote after another after another, all from my living room. I earned more in two months than I did in my first four years as Paula. And about 1,200 people a week watched our worship services from John Gaddis’s front porch, including people from New Zealand and Australia and British Columbia and Mexico and Brazil and Ireland and England. Which was all kind of cool. And then writing the book didn’t suck so much for a while, until it did again.
Writing about gender inequity (two chapters) and the unfortunate realities of evangelicals and their rejection of LGBTQ people (another two chapters) and a chapter about the differences between male and female sexuality and spirituality were all enjoyable. Then my editor said I had to get real and talk about the things I didn’t want to talk about when it comes to my own journey from Paul to Paula and what happened at church, and suddenly writing sucked again and I wanted to give back my advance and throw out the whole book.
Then my editor reminded me that I had told her I didn’t want to write a good book. I wanted to write a great book and if I wanted to do that, I had to get down and dirty about the stuff I didn’t want to write about and I knew she was right, and I did write about it. I wrote for about 10 hours a day for three weeks and finished the manuscript before Christmas. It still has to go through copy edits – but it’s mostly done, and I don’t hate it. I’m not sure if its great or not, or if it will sell, or if the folks at Simon and Schuster will hang their heads and say, “Why did we offer that contract?” and I’ll never get a contract to write ever again, which happens way more often than you might think. But getting nervous about that can wait for the second half of 2021. That I was able to write at all during the pandemic is an accomplishment in and of itself, right?
Cathy and I got together on New Year’s Eve and ordered in a nice meal and talked about getting married 48 years ago when we were only 12 and 10 and how things have turned out so far. Then she went home, and I went to bed and it was well before midnight.
All of 2020 felt like this post – disjointed and without a thread running through it, other than random chaos, which is a thread of sorts, I suppose. And I haven’t said a word yet about the man who will still be president for another two and a half weeks, which in Trump world is time enough to start a war or two, pardon everyone who has ever been to Mar-a-Lago, and search for still more heart-stopping ways to destroy our democracy.
Here’s to 2021. It’s gotta be better, right?