I wake up to 2017 in an unsurprisingly reflective mood. I don’t bother anymore to try to stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve. Sleep is a rare commodity in my life and history has taught me that my neighbor’s merriment will inevitably wake me close to midnight and that I will have my chance to silently greet the new year’s arrival while bidding goodbye to the old.
New Year’s Eve rituals have always seemed inscrutable to me. It seems largely an excuse to drink to excess with an equally inebriated crowd, trying to stave off feelings of isolation and fear of the darkness. I have never understood the significance of watching a giant ball drop in New York City when it has already been the new year for many hours in other countries. Perhaps it is American arrogance, this idea that what happens here is more significant that what has already happened elsewhere. Or perhaps it is simply a reluctance to give up a tired ritual, despite the internet proving to me nightly that boundaries between countries, between people, are irrelevant at 3 am when I am trading words with Yassy in Mumbai or Charles in Nigeria. As my sleep has become more and more irregular, I am increasingly grateful that there is almost always someone up somewhere who is willing to engage.
2016 scraped me raw. I feel like significant pieces of my teens and early 20’s were torn from me with the deaths of Prince, George Michael and David Bowie. Ironic in the year I turned 50 and was already so deeply mourning the loss of my youth. I mourned the passing of Alan Rickman and Carrie Fisher fiercely as I did Anton Yelchin and Christina Grimmie, youthful symbols of artistic brilliance, of hope. The list of our dead has felt endless this year.
I feel like a part of my innocence, of my belief in the goodness of human nature was stolen in 2016. The massacre at the Pulse nightclub, the profane amount of shootings of unarmed brown people by law enforcement and genocide in Aleppo have weighed heavily on my soul. The election of Donald Trump as president is still stunning to me in its absurdity and apocalyptic potential and as each new member of his cabinet has been announced I find myself increasingly avoiding the newspaper and the nightly news because to quote my new favorite meme, 2016 is the year I ran out of f*cks.
2016 has also been a year that I have felt some nights that I am quite literally battling for my sanity. Depression and I are old friends but he had not been to visit with the vengeance he has in 2016 in over 12 years and the damage he has inflicted this year has been breathtaking. Not only has he vastly overstayed his welcome, he unexpectedly brought a new friend named cyclothymia, who has been more than happy to join in the trashing of the hotel room of my psyche. I am not someone who readily admits when I am hurting. I generally find it excruciating to ask for help, to admit to any weakness or vulnerability, no matter how much pain I am in. In 2016 I had to get over that as my very survival has depended on me reaching out. This is humbling and unsettling to me still.
A friend recently mentioned that he could feel the anguish in my writing. This word has stuck with me and I have been turning it over and over in my mind. Yes, anguish is not an inappropriate word some days for the crazy chemical combustions that have been going on in my neurons coupled with years of repressed loss and unresolved baggage that I am generally a master at keeping under tight lock and key. Multiple Pandora’s boxes have sprung open this year and I feel like my issues are strewn around like the wreckage in a frat house on a Sunday morning after a Saturday night rave. The floor is sticky with beer and bodily fluids, things are tossed everywhere and half-dressed memories are snoring on every available surface, having refused, or been unable, to go home the night before. I know I need to go in there with cleaning supplies and garbage bags but I am still overwhelmed and don’t quite know where to start the tidying up.
2016 brought me gifts as well. I had no choice earlier this year but to accept that I was bleeding to death metaphorically on the floor and that I could let inertia finish the job or I could attempt to resurrect myself. Thoughts of my kids and a stronger-than-I-realized- survival instinct kicked in and I chose resurrection. If you have never been through resurrection, take my word for it when I say that you emerge with broken ribs, burns on the skin of your chest, chipped teeth from the intubation tube, bloody, bruised and disoriented. But breathing.
The most unexpected piece of 2016 was allowing a group of Mount Holyoke alums, some that I knew personally, some that I didn’t, to convince me that I had written things in 2016 that other people should read. I had no idea on October 8th how dramatically my life would change by deciding “what the hell?” about putting up a WordPress site. It has been nothing short of revolutionary.
It is a daily revelation to discover that I have a voice that other people find valuable, worthy of their time. The idea that I can actually touch someone else emotionally with my words is breathtaking and challenges my lifelong beliefs that I am unworthy, that I cannot have impact on the world.
So, I write and I write because I will suffocate, drown, if I don’t write and somewhere along the way I am no longer just some middle age woman who writes—I become a writer. And this identity has a feeling of rightness, of being at home in my skin and my soul that very little else has in 2016. I suddenly realize that other people have decided that I am a writer—perhaps even before I did- and invite me into a wondrous world I didn’t even knew existed. I have connected with brilliant, exciting writers from all over the world who I still cannot believe think that I am worthy to be mentioned in the same sentence with them. I am still like a fangirl at Com-Con.
I have instantly fallen in love with the writing and the souls of some of these writers. Others have felt like missing parts of my soul that I am so grateful to have found in the ether. Many have stunned me with their kindness and their mentorship and their generosity. I feel truly accepted for my darkness and my light, welcome on my good days and my bad and realize what a privilege it is not only to walk among their talent and passion but their pure human decency and their shining souls.
So I will bid goodbye to 2016 but not without some ambivalence. There has been much darkness in the world and in my life but there has also been light and hope and true communion. I am filled with incredible gratitude for my family, my friends, my alumna community and especially my extended WordPress community.
Let us hold on to each other tightly as we enter 2017. We are wary, filled with understandable fear and trepidation at what lies ahead. Let us continue to bolster each other and offer each other our unconditional support. I cannot thank you enough for what you have gave me in 2016—friendship, love, support, mentorship, hope and a sense of belonging to just the right band of rascals, vagabonds, and misfits (forgive me Nick Osborne.) You are truly a gift.