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Hindsight: 2016 in Review

I last did this publicly back in 2012. I write a lot of things for me, in my journal, that don't see the rest of the world, but I find myself wanting to talk about 2016 for a little while with all of you. Remember, when I say "a little while" what I typically mean is I'm about to write several thousand words, this is your warning that this will get long before I'm done. This year will be long remembered for wrecking the childhood of any of us who spent many of our formative years in the 1980s. Natalie Cole died on the first day of the year, and it only got worse from there. January also took David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Glenn Frey. For many of us, that month was miserable. Alan Rickman was responsible for some of my favorite movie moments ever. "Locksley," he once screamed. "I'm gonna cut your heart out with a spoon!" David Bowie gave me music so great and varied that I can't even begin, but Dancing in the Street and Let's Dance seem like good places to start admiring him. Glenn Frey was the lead singer for many of my favorite Eagles tunes, including Take It Easy and Lyin' Eyes. 2016 didn't start well, and it only seemed to get worse for celebrities, and memories of our childhood. Harper Lee and Richard Adams have left the world with two fewer amazing authors.

Nancy Reagan, Shimon Peres, and Janet Reno took history with them, things we may never know, and left vacancies in the land of statesmen and leaders. Maurice White, Lennie Baker, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, and Leonard Cohen left the world with their music, but their continued creation of new music will be missed. Morley Safer and Gwen Ifil made us a smarter America, or at least tried to at one point. As we descend into the web of click-bait crap I hope they are pushing a new generation of journalists to seek the truth, and to tell the truth. Prince, Merle Haggard, George Michael...what to say? They were icons in life, and icons in death .

Muhammed Ali, the greatest who ever lived. He's floating and stinging somewhere else now. Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds left us only a day apart. Daughter first at 60, an outspoken feminist icon, and mother the next day at 84. I wish I could tell Billie Lourd how deep my sympathy for her is. I can not imagine anything more painful than to lose your mother and your grandmother a day apart from one another. May they both rest in peace, and may you find peace somewhere Billie, I wish I had it to offer. Over the last few days of this year people have talked about how many of these deaths were self-inflicted, they've spoken of substance abuse, of drugs, of lives lived less well than they should have been. It's deplorable to speak of lost memories, and lost loves, like this. The stigmatization of mental health is deplorable, and while we might be making ever so slight steps in the right direction, we're not getting far enough, and we're not getting their fast enough. To those we lost who left something great behind for us to look at and remember them, I say thank you. Non Election Politics America descended into a type of semi-controlled chaos this year that I have found sickening. The right continues to attack science, education, and teachers, attacks I find deplorable for the long-term danger they bring to every single American. Do we want a country where education is looked down upon? Do we want to be ruled by a Confederacy of Dunces? At the same time the left has attacked, quite literally, the police who have sworn to protect us. Are they perfect? No, neither are the teachers. Are most of them doing the best they can in a hard job that gets more difficult every year? Yes. They are. This year 138 officers died in the line of duty, 62 of them from gunfire. Every day I'm thankful that my brother was not among them, but 138 families lost husbands and fathers, wives and mothers, sons and daughters, in this undeclared war that mars the safety of American streets. It is time for this to stop, and I pray that 2017 brings an end to this senseless violence that destroys families. The Games of the XXXI Summer Olympiad The United States had a truly spectacular year at the Olympics, winning 121 medals, an amazing 51 more than second place China. In the pool the American men set an Olympic Record in the 4x100 medley, powered by Ryan Murphy's World Record in the 100 backstroke section of the race. Katie Ledecky became the darling of the games by setting World Records in the 400 and 800 freestyle. The Election I supported Secretary Clinton early, and continued to support her throughout the cycle, but without the same excitement I experienced during both of the President Obama campaigns. I couldn't find excitement over Bernie's message, and the only Republican I would have voted for hung on for a long time but never had a chance. The political discourse of this country is a shit-show right now. There is no interest from either party about governing in a fashion that is right for the greatest number of people. Both parties are guilty of pigeon-holing and lying in order to advance agendas. Both parties are guilty of gerrymandering, click-baiting, and stretching the facts until the point they break. I find the President-Elect to be a disgusting human being. I believe him to the most narcissistic human being to ever occupy the Oval Office, and we've let some real miserable people into that office. I find his messaging about immigration to be deplorable. I find his beliefs on the economy to be deplorable. After pretending to be a man of the people he has populated his cabinet (maybe, they're not confirmed yet) with the least qualified group of people ever. I find myself afraid for the first time that I can ever remember. While I didn’t agree with either President Bush I never thought of them as evil, and even thinking that we may have elected a truly evil human being frightens me. There is nothing he says that leads me to believe we are in for a bright four years. Yet, I can not wish ill towards him. This is my country, and I love it, so I will pray that he finds a path to moderation, and barring that, that brave Senators and Congresspeople from his own party will stand up to him. My Personal Life I went to the doctor a few weeks ago for a biopsy (routine, and I'm fine, I know that word is scary) to discover that this year I lost 37 pounds. I am 37 pounds lighter today than I was on 6 JAN, the only day I went to the doctor in 2016 with an illness. Back in June I gave up smoking. I've cheated three times since then, once when I was drunk alone, once when I was angry at myself for something dumb, and once when I was overwhelmingly freaking stressed out. I never really set out to quit, I set out to not smoke a pack every two days. I'll call this a success. This year saw me switch from soda to canned sparkling water (Dasani's Raspberry Lemonade and La Croix's Pineapple Kiwi are the favorites), and from coffee to chai. I wasn't sure that the coffee to chai switch would stick, but cutting back on my caffeine intake between those two changes has had several decent benefits. I suspect that it has contributed to my weight loss, and I'm reasonably confident that cutting that much caffeine from my life is why I sleep nights now. :) You know what 2016 brought me? Happiness. Contentment. I started writing again. My journal became four or five days a week rather than two or three. I got out stationary and wrote real letters this year. I hand delivered a thank you note to someone who deserved it. I began to send regular messages longer than “hey” to someone I find fascinating, whose very presence makes me happy. I fell in love with words again. I started writing fiction again. I read more fiction this year than I probably had in several years. I was introduced, and fell in love with, Brandon Sanderson's work in the Cosmere. Despite the horrors of 2016 I find myself happy. I have friends I love. I have a family I love. I got to travel some this year, not as much as I'd like, but some, and that's good, because I go crazy when I don't go other places. Things are good professionally. Things are good personally. I hope that is true for all the people reading this as well. To 2017... Let's see what it holds!

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