Once Upon a time (365 days ago to be precise) we all stood together on the precipice of a new year. We sipped champagne and shared midnight kisses, cheered and threw confetti, talked excitedly about future plans and resolutions.
I’m not sure 2016 turned out the way any of us anticipated, and it’s likely to go down as a year many would like to forget. 2016 is the Voldemort of years- the one of which we shall never speak again. When someone attempts to begin a sentence, “Do you remember back in 2016 when-” we will all shush their mouths as quickly and gently as possible.
I’m turning 45 in 2017. I’ve seen some years. I have never seen a year like this one. Between democalypse 2016 (we miss you, Jon Stewart), increases in race-related conflict, police brutality and police under attack, increases in hate crimes, reduction of interpersonal civility, global unrest, terrorism, and humanitarian crises, this year was already a stinker. Add in a larger than normal amount of iconic celebrity deaths and it was a cesspool of ugly.
But it wasn’t just that stuff that made this year so hard. I lost 2 people significant to me and to people I care about to cancer this year. I attended the funeral of my friend Jason on a Saturday and 6 days later I was comforting my sister and her children over the unexpected passing of her long time significant other John, my nephew Luke’s father.
All year the people I love struggled through loss and grief of various types, fought to keep their heads above water, as one said to me, “I’m operating in 15 minute increments, putting one foot in front of the other.”
This year was just plain hard. Was it harder than other years? Can we statistically prove that? Who knows, but that doesn’t really matter. With a few exceptions, most of my friends and family are ready to be done with 2016.
However, it’s not in me to leave it there. The Pollyanna in me wants to know that there was beauty in the pain, lessons learned, strength gained.
So, in order to not let this shitastrophic year get the best of me, here, in no particular order, are the joyful moments that in some way managed to redeem the rest:
In January I went on a three week Facebook fast, which I will be repeating this year . I started a Bible study on gratitude and spent every day looking for beauty around me. I focused on my family, my writing, my spiritual development. I had lunch dates and coffee dates and was present in my life. I connected with those I love.
In March I was able to celebrate my sister Shannon’s 50th birthday with her by going to visit our sister Colleen In Southern Cal. We sat on the beach in Laguna and talked and laughed. We surprised my niece as she performed for the last time at her high school cheerleading expo. We went out to Palm Springs and sat by the pool and connected.
In an effort to simplify, I let go of some of my “have-to’s” and focused instead on my “want-to’s.” Turned out I didn’t have to do most of my have-to’s, they were simply burdens I needlessly placed on myself. Holidays had less pressure, and I was able to just be with my people, and we connected.
We spent our spring break at beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene. We rode four wheelers and got dirty and explored and we connected.
Parker rode on a camel at the fair, Zoe played a dwarf in her school production of “Shrek,” and an unusually warm spring meant lots of days enjoying Lake Washington and the stunning place we live.
Sydney and I sung together for the mother’s day tea, Parker bet on the ponies at Emerald Downs, We celebrated Papa Ted’s 90th birthday, and my birthday surprise was a giant poster Parker unfurled at the school concert.
Jeff and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary in St Pete Beach, Florida and missed the hurricane by 12 hours.
Nathan graduated from high school and became a freshman at Washington State University.
Zoe, Parker and I went to Harrison Hot Springs, Canada to go in search of Bigfoot
(We didn’t find him)
We saw Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie in concert, Zoe got to go to Disneyland, Nathan took a graduation road trip with his friends and we spent much of the summer on the sidelines of a soccer field.
In the fall Jeff and I got to celebrate our friend and neighbor Brian’s 50th birthday in Las Vegas and then just a few days later I was making the rounds in Socal, seeing my sister and her family, old friends, newer friends and spending time with my extended family at our reunion.
In all of these moments the priority was connection.
Zoe added volleyball to her schedule which, as an indoor sport, is a nice change. Nathan leaving for college was hard, but watching him thrive on his own is amazing.
Birthday week was a 6 day extravaganza of celebrating Zoe’s 13th, Parker’s 11th and Sydney’s 22nd.
We spent Thanksgiving with Shannon and her family in Spokane, celebrated the holidays with friends and family at various events, culminating in Christmukkah at our house.
And now, as I sit here typing this, my kids are gathered ’round the table. It’s snowing outside. And we are connecting.
So as it turns out, the reason 2016 can’t beat us is because we are stronger together than anything it tried to send our way. In the midst of pain was blessing. In the midst of struggle was joy and growth.
I’m not sorry to see this year come to an end, there’s no doubt. However, the reason I’m most looking forward to 2017 is not because 2016 didn’t have its moments. It’s because this year Sydney will embark on a new career path. It’s because Parker will finish elementary school and enter middle school. It’s because Nathan is making plans for moving into an apartment with his friends for his sophomore year of college, one step closer to the rest of his life. It’s because Zoe will have my calendar filled with activities as she lives each moment to its fullest.
Jeff and I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage this year. This is our 24th New Year’s Eve together, and we have all sorts of plans for the future.
Even if none of those plans come to fruition, there’s one thing that will matter in 2017… how we connect. If I have a resolution, it’s to be better at connecting, to be in the moment, to find the beauty in simplicity of sitting face to face with someone in our shared humanity.
So here’s to fresh starts… and real connection. Like the quote above says, we can’t always choose the music life plays for us, but we can choose how we dance to it. May 2017 be a year of dancing.
(I picked this photo to end my last post of 2016 because somehow an Alan Alda quote with a typo superimposed over a dolphin seemed to fit exactly right. )