How Lucky We Are To Be Alive Right Now

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. 

Art by Rebecca Fish Ewan

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.

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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.

 

 

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Out With the Old and In With the New

Photo: neatorama.com
Photo: neatorama.com

In regard to yule and Jul and tidings of joy, I may resemble a younger and dare I say, more stylish, Ebenezer Scrooge, shuffling along with bah humbugs and clinking of coin.  But the idea of New Year and the promise it brings causes me to nearly wet my pants with excitement.  Oh, it’s not for the parties, or the confetti, or the fireworks.  It’s not for the midnight kiss or the anticipation of watching a giant disco ball drop in middle of Times Square.  It’s not even for the champagne, though I like a glass of fizz as much as the next girl.  No, I like New Year’s because it’s like the Queen Mother of make-overs.  A global mulligan.  A great, giant, universal do-over for those of us that have screwed up the previous year in ways big and small.

Who among us doesn’t relish the chance for a fresh start; the crisp, snapping sound of a new year whipping its youth and promise around the corner of a Cinderella evening?  Who among us does not get giddy with the notion of starting over, taking another shot, putting the past behind us and marching forward?  Only a fool would pass up the opportunity to have a moment in time to simultaneously reflect backward and look forward, to be given the opportunity to move forth with all that is positive while shedding the weight of the negative.  I may be a Grinch, but no fool am I.  Not as a general rule, anyway.

Ok, ok, I have a few quirks.  I like things squared off and even, neat and tidy and boxed with a bow.  I prefer even numbers.  I’ll take o’clocks over half-pasts and quarter tos.  I anticipate Mondays for their freshness and loathe Sundays for their retrospective-ness.  I am a Virgo.  I am prone to bouts of over-analytical anxiety.  I am slightly neurotic, slightly claustrophobic and to boot, I am a writer; I live for signs and symbols and coincidence.  Throw a little superstition in there, a little pagan ritual, a little fairy lore, and well, how can I not love the dawning of a new year?  The only thing that would be better was if it was a millennium year and it fell on a Monday (in my head, the week begins on Monday).  Midnight, new day, new week, new year.  It’s like a OCD neurotic’s wet dream.  Ahem…..

Photo: vintage.es
Photo: vintage.es

Yes, it is just another day.  But!  There is a freedom to the day that excites me.  It is a day for ushering out the old, the moldy, the withering.  It is a day for welcoming the fresh, the new, the promising.  In the small space between saying adieu, adieu to you and you and you, you are encouraged to be still and silent for a moment of contemplation.  There is nothing more appealing to me than a blank slate, a tabula rasa of symbolic possibility that the new year brings with it.  It is ripe with auspiciousness. It’s a brand new notebook just waiting to be filled with ideas. The possibilities are endless, the world is your oyster, shooting for the moon seems doable for those few moments.  Things will get DONE in the new year.

The last week or two (or three) of the year is a time meant for celebration.  Weeks of heavy-duty consumption, in all forms.  Weeks of excuses and putting off, of hanging out, and letting go, of sweeping chores and responsibility, day to day-ness under the rug for a while.  But with twelve strokes of the clock, it is time to start fresh; time to roll up those shirt sleeves, brush off the cobwebs, grab the world by the balls and make it happen.

I am too much of a symbol hound to pass up the opportunity.  There before me, in all its glorious obviousness,  is the chance to fill up my very own crisp notebook with ideas and thoughts and lists.  Though I never write out formal resolutions, there are usually a dozen or so floating around in my head, from the most mundane (must wear retainer more regularly) to the loftiest of lofty (must finish the novel).

Photo: thedailymail.co.uk
Photo: thedailymail.co.uk

If you are anything like me, knowing that moment of change is coming, you do your best to out eat, out drink, out lazy-slob yourself in the weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve, as if on that magical stroke of midnight all the chocolate and wine and processed snack food will disappear from your cupboards—and your waistline—with a poof of smoke.  So too much wine has been purchased and imbibed.  Too many bags of chips and cheese doodles, too many tins of Quality Street.  The crumb trail of snack food and chocolate wrappers is snaking across the house.  The best laid exercise plans were shelved and the lettuce passed wilting and is well on its way to rotting in the bottom of the crisper.

Despite my proclivity to veer toward a blue Christmas, we have had a lovely holiday season.  We have had family and friends and mild Danish winter weather.  We have had walks and parties and far too much food.  We have had even more wine and more parties and a few bottles of champagne for good measure.  And now I am ready to rock and roll.

Though they will be dragged kicking and screaming out of bed on Monday morning, the boys will head back to school, my husband to work, and I to normalcy.  I have indulged so much this holiday season that I am actually looking forwarding to starting a diet on Monday.  I am looking forward to putting on my performance sports pants and tramping through the Danish woodland with my fellow stompers for step ups and gossip.  I am looking forward to mopping my floors and straightening out my throw pillows, washing the duvet covers and starting clean.  Starting fresh.

It is after all, the dawning of a New Year and the possibilities are endless.   At least until March.

What do you look forward to most in the new year?