Gratitude for the debacle of 2016

Quite the year, eh?

If you’ve been anywhere on social media recently, you’ve most certainly been inundated with “F*** You, 2016” posts. When I see them, I laugh. It reminds me how similar we all are. It was challenging, when Debbie Reynolds died a day after Carrie Fisher, two days after George Michael, in the same year that we lost Prince, David Bowie, and countless others, not to want to cuss out 2016.



But I want to take a different approach today. As we look forward to this new year, when so many of us are feeling anxious about the state of the world, I want to talk about the many reasons I am grateful for the shitshow that was 2016, and, moreover, why I’m elated about the opportunities presented by 2017.

  1. Boy, this year has sure gotten me in touch with my anger! For much of my life, I have suffered from depression. My reaction to the election of Donald Trump has been all over the map: acceptance, buying lotsa stuff, depression, sadness. But most recently, it has made me feel almost unbearably angry. I don’t recall any time in my life that my anger has bubbled up so much, so obviously. I have experienced car rage like I never have before. A few times when drivers have been thoughtless on the road, I have found myself wanting to kill them. Chuck has had to slow me down a couple times. I have written and deleted probably 20 Facebook posts in the last 50 days. That’s what happens when I feel a level of anger to which I am not accustomed. I write them, I feel momentarily better, and then I realize that’s not who I want to be, that’s not what I want to put out in the world. I see this as a real improvement, believe it or not. If depression is anger turned inward, then what I am feeling is anti-depression!
  2. Likewise, this year has given me a great opportunity to examine my feelings about my fellow humans. I have actually always been a people lover. I have at times, in fact,  given strangers more credit than they deserve, and been kinder to them than I have been to myself. This year allowed me to come into contact with hatred. I have felt such utter revulsion at strangers, and I’ve never felt that before! This isn’t where I want to be, but I do think I needed to get here in order to get back to being the loving, kind person I wish to be. Taking people off the pedestal I’ve put them on has allowed me to see how I might lift them up again, but in a more realistic way. I want to treat others well. I want to see the humanity in my fellow travelers, even those who I disagree with vehemently. But I do think that this shift will allow me to hold others accountable for their actions better, while still loving them.
  3. One of the best things in my life that I’m seeing this year has been a move toward befriending people who “have what I want.” In particular, I’m referring to an author and a pastor. In both cases, I saw the qualities that I have been trying to grow in myself: kindness, generosity of spirit, a desire to make the world a better place, great integrity and compassion. I feel really good about these burgeoning friendships. These people have responded with such openness to getting to know me, and I’m so grateful for that. I want people in my life who can show me how to be in this world as I mature. I want friendships with people who bring me life. Along those lines, I’ve noticed that I’ve been working on being more consistent with friends this year. I like that. Friendship builds over time, and the more I work at it constantly, the more connection I feel to people.
  4. It has become clear to me that I am battling a significant internet/social media addiction. Thanks to incredible posts like this essay by Andrew Sullivan, I recognize that I’m not alone. I have become so comfortable turning to the easy stimulation of social media that it begins to feel as if I’m living my life around Facebook. I don’t want that. I don’t know if I can quit it. I’ve threatened to do so multiple times. But admitting I have a problem is the first step. I’m a writer. I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to become the type of author whose words outlast me. To achieve that, however, I need to really focus on my craft. Spending hours each day on Facebook does nothing to help me become that person. While I don’t expect to fully give it up, I must find a way to disconnect enough so that I can put my focus where it belongs: work, family, friendship. Facebook is fun, but it is none of those things.
  5. Speaking of addictions, there’s the whole food thing. I have been all over the place with food in 2016. I nearly died when my gallbladder became gangrenous in February, and that seemed to be a wakeup call. I lost 26lbs. Then I forgot, and went back to eating everything I wanted, and some of the weight came back. All this, despite the fact that my health is truly not great. I have borderline diabetes, stage three kidney disease, and a fatty liver. These may not seem like things to be grateful for, but they are an opportunity to look at how I take care of myself, or how I don’t. I hope to make more consistent progress in 2017. I pray that I have the opportunity to do so before it is too late.
  6. My family. Oh man. This has been a good year in our house. It may be true that we all had surgery (Buford and Mabel both got bit, Chuck got his Achilles heel fixed, I got my gallbladder removed), but that really gave me the chance to understand who these beings are to me. I don’t want anyone or anything else. I want to be here. And I want to live long enough to enjoy my family fully.

So yes, I’m grateful for the challenges of the past year. And even more so for the good fortune that has come my way, and for the love of family and friends.

My hope for the world is that we begin to find more compassion for each other. And my knowledge is that this shift must begin at home, with me.

Happy New Year!