Here we are, the ass-end of another year. I sat down yesterday to write about Salome and her veils.
Then I re-read 2016’s year-end post. Apparently I had the same idea last year.
Always ahead of myself, it would seem. And forever forgetting it.
I expected I would endeth the year in much the same way as I beganeth, but….I didn’t.
Oh, I am still angry, that much is true, but I am not blinded by my rage. I can see around my anger now, see through it. I’ve spent the last twelve months honing it and sharpening it. It is an asset I carry around with me, at all times. A talisman, an amulet I wear around my neck. A sharpened stick a la BtVS to slay demons, both within and without.
It seems strange to look backward at this year and think, how lucky we are to be alive right now, but it’s the truth. I feel more alive than I have for a long time. Sure, much of that prickly pins and needles feeling stems from sheer terror and jaw-dropping incredulity, and it is also true that in my oh-so cushioned life as a migrant I do not fear for my day-to-day existence. The shit-storm clouds gathering over the United States affect my sensibilities and my ideals, but they do not affect my day-to-day life. My whiteness, my bank account, my education levels and my opportunities protect me from the worst of it. For that I am both grateful, humbled, and very, very aware.
Geographically, I’m hobbled from putting my body in the line of fire. Congressionally I vote in one of the bluest states in the country. So I’ve spent the last year turning inward rather than outward, listening and reading, essays on race, on gender. I’ve spent the last year sitting in the messy, pants staining muck of my own discomfort, challenging myself to rise above it. Failing…and succeeding.
I am a better person for it.
So how lucky I am to be alive at a time when black American activists, writers and artists, leaders and voices are finally garnering the recognition they’ve always been due. How lucky I am to be alive at a time when all of that is there for the taking. My table runneth over with choice.
For women, 2017 was a year of validation. All the churning, gut-tingling knowledge which was systematically denied and suppressed and second-guessed finally blew the world apart in a hashtag. I won’t lie. The taste of public vindication is sweet. If 2016 was the year Salome’s last veil dropped, 2017 was the year women burned that fucker like so many bras.
As painful as it is to see stories spill out like steam rising from sewer grates, it is glorious as well. I rode out the back nine of 2017 on a wave of sisterhood unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Will this time be different? I hope so. We have almost reached critical mass, the moment when enough women are in leadership roles to affect real, lasting change. We are at the damn barricades. We just need to topple them.
How lucky I feel to be alive in a world which is finally acknowledging women, our experiences, valuing our contributions not just as a substitute for men, but for ourselves. A world where we are being looked to and asked to lead.
In 2017 I mourned the loss of a Clinton presidency. I may have been sorely disappointed, it’s true. But I will never know. What I do know is that a Trump presidency has issued in a political, social, and economic awareness unprecedented in my recollection. The safeguards many Americans assumed would protect them are failing–in some instances, rather spectacularly. For many Americans (raising hand), 2017 was the year we stopped taking democracy for granted. Stopped assuming it was something which we, as heirs to democracy with a capital “D” were entitled to. The reality of course is that the United States of America, just like any other country, must work to retain the ideals and principles it was based on.
As an American living abroad, I get a good glimpse into how those outside the US view America. If I could sum it up in one phrase it would be this: “fun, but arrogant as hell”.
May 2018 be the year more Americans check their global arrogance at the door.
2017 was the year my family started seriously contemplating a move back to the US. Each day I question whether it is an advisable one. Tuesdays it may be a yes, but by Wednesday morning, I’ve reversed my decision. But that is for another day’s discussion.
There were lowlights: a seemingly evergreen sadness at the never-ending news cycle of violence and death. Mass shootings in the United States, trucks wielded as weapons, suicide bombings that barely register in the headlines because they’re across the world. There were personal lowlights as well. Standing in my kitchen sobbing as I struggled to reconcile the vulnerability I felt with the fear of revealing it, the sheer cliff-face ahead of me raising two young boys, heirs to the very patriarchy I thought I’d be dismantling. Failure to secure a publisher for my novel, All the Spaces In Between.
There were highlights, like reading 1001 nights to an audience of writers at my first writing conference. It’s been a long time since I did something with only myself in mind, which benefitted only me. It was powerful, uplifting, and tremendously rewarding. Having strangers ask for a hug because your words affected them is a powerful and humbling experience.
There was Wonder Woman and the Women’s March. There were the moments my sons described me as a feminist writer to their own friends and teachers. There was a trip to Washington DC, in which I literally stood and touched the stone edifice of so many buildings and felt their solidity ground me.
And of course, there was Hamilton, the soundtrack of the second half of my year. How lucky we are to be alive right now, indeed.
So here I am, looking ahead at my pile of new notebooks, of schedulers and calendars. At organizers and color-coded things. I know most of them will still be sitting there come December 2018, filled with the ragged edges of torn out shopping lists and scribbled notes about bills to pay. But the possibility they contain excites me nevertheless. I will persist.
I’m about a third of the way through novel #2, young adult speculative fiction. I hope in 2018 I’m three thirds of the way through it.
I will continue to write about women, to speak out about women, to fight for women. My words are slowly reaching more people. Bust Magazine reached out to me and has published a few of my essays. A fellow writer and editor asked me to pen a craft essay, which I used to highlight how I use my sex to enhance my writing, not hinder it. A parenting site reached out to interview me about raising feminist boys. As I joked to my husband, if I keep going at this rate, in 30 years I’ll be famous.
I am solid, finally grasping on to that quivering mass of rage-woman. I can actually grab a handful now. Actually much more than a handful, but again, I need to save something to write about next year, don’t I?
I know who I am. In fact, I’ve never been more sure of who I am.
How lucky we are to be alive right now, eh?
Bring it on, 2018.
22 Comments Add yours
Have a wonderful and positive New Year! Carry on being feisty and funny.
Happy New Year! Feisty. I like that!
Happy New year from a guy who sees the world (and the USA) very differently. Like my mother would say, If two people always agree, one of them is not necessary.
Happy New Year, Ray. I hope 2018 is a good one. For both of us!
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I agree that so much has happened, and a lot of great energy is rising because of it. Best wishes to all!
All that remains is where all that energy goes. Here’s to channeling it in the right direction. Happy New Year!
To all of which (having been listening to Dixieland music for the past couple of hours) I can only say, Bon Temps Rouler! Have a great 2018.
Have a wonderful New Year, and yes, may 2018 be a good one!
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Reblogged this on cabbagesandkings524 and commented:
WineAndCheeseDoodles says, “Bring it on, 2018.”
Thanks for capturing my ambivalence about the year — much positive and also so much not. The election in 2016 served as a catalyst, for sure. I do not know how this will play out, whether the flames will burn it all down or forge a stronger mettle.
You hit upon a big theme of mine for the last year, the idea of forging something stronger, walking through the fire and finding out what is on the other side. Part of that is where I am in my life generally, and another part is external. It’s both terrifying and exciting. Some days there’s not much difference between those two things to be honest. Happy New Year, Melanie. May it bring peace of mind.
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This is a great post! I couldn’t be happier to see this wretched year go into the history books! I love your perspective on it.
I am always delighted byyour blog, and I’ve nominated you for the Mystery Blogger Award! You can see your nomination here: http://www.thevalueofamoment.com/the-mystery-blogger-award/. Congratulations, and Happy New Year! 🥂
Thank you, that is very, very kind! Happy New Year to you and yours!
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Excellent end of the year post! Keep going! You’re already famous in my book. I’m following in your formidable footsteps. ❤️
Aw, thank you! You are MORE than holding your own! Happy New Year, Shanna. Keep persisting, keep writing, and keep pushing. x
Dina—Thanks for so perfectly putting into words what I’ve felt.
2017 was my first granddaughter’s first year of life. She put into bright focus why we can’t allow the bullshit that came out of the 2016 election to stand or gain traction. She and my LGBT students were the tipping points, on top of a life of being a feminist since the ‘70s, that led to an *extremely* uncomfortable 15-hour bus ride to DC. That I would ride with a busload of strangers to march in DC in January (I’m still thankful and amazed for the unseasonably warm temps) stunned my family. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. Will never forget it.
Upon return, I joined groups actively working to address women’s and LGBT issues, traveled to meetings, made financial contributions, and went to events to learn about race, religion, and immigration. I found my self writing postcards and emails and making phone calls almost daily after work. Long ago I held local office and was active politically, but I’d adopted a distanced and somewhat complacent stance the past decade. That changed.
Being thoroughly disgusted and pissed about what our country’s leadership has become and fearing the damage they can do has provided a kick in the ass. I don’t want my granddaughter to be in her fifties and marching with a sign that reads, I Can’t Believe I’m Still Protesting the Same Shit. I sat at my youngest son’s wedding reception in Oct. and heard their friends discussing issues in ways that were so encouraging to hear in the rural Midwest, but hated that politics were even a part of the day. My parents’ constant worries about social security and medical coverage being pulled out from under them angers me. But I refuse to just stew about it.
My students are being taught to not blindly believe what they see and hear, but to question and research. We took trips to a Holocaust museum and heard a survivor last spring and will repeat that again. They read, research, and talk about race, immigration, diversity, and history. My sponsorship of our school’s GSA continues and in the last 10 months the kids now have a community group to provide support beyond school. In July I plan to travel to Poland with a couple of Holocaust survivors to tour Auschwitz and other sites so I can learn more and develop lessons..
But the part that matters most is spending time with my grandchildren. Active engagement in their lives is our main focus and a joy. We don’t let time slip by without spending time with them. Between politics, my husband’s retirement, considering retirement myself, and my mother’s health issues, they’ve kept me sane. Reading them well-chosen books, traveling with them, attending a range of cultural events, and helping them to see the possibilities and choices that exist for their futures. Watching my sons and their spouses find their political and feminist voices and witnessing the exercising of them the is the best feeling a mom can have. They
would’ve done that even without the way the past year went, but they’ve flourished in the face of it.
That’s what we have to do: pay attention, get engaged, fight and flourish. But we also have to live our lives and enjoy those we love.
Well, I found my favorite “This was 2017” post! 😀
Happy New Year and let’s keep the momentum going
Some days it’s like a perpetual motion machine in my head. Other days….sloth :-).
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Look around, look around. I’ve been having many of the same reflections over the last year. So good to read your thoughts again after “being away” for so long.
You’re back! I did periodically check in to see if I was just missing your posts. Did you take a year off? How are you holding up? Welcome back!
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I’m really touched to know you thought of me. I didn’t make a conscious decision to take a year off – it was more just the consequences of dealing with a whole lot of crap that was so taxing I didn’t want to write for a long time. Recently I’ve felt there was a hole in that spot that used to be filled by the blogging world. It’s good to get back in touch!
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