An Optimist on 2016 – A Year in Review…It Sucked. Bring on 2017.

An Optimist on 2016 – A Year in Review…It Sucked. Bring on 2017.

Posted by on Dec 31, 2016 in #2016, #2017, #ValerieDouglasBooks, News | 0 comments

An Optimist on 2016 – A Year in Review…It Sucked. Bring on 2017.

As an optimistic realist (yes, you can be both), I’ve always preferred the view out of the windshield to the one in the rearview mirror. To be honest, though, on a personal and political level 2016 set new depths of suckage.


⇐⇐⇐Yeah, it was like that.

I’m so glad it’s behind us now.

2016 started out okay. I had and have a great marriage and was working my way through a new story after a dry spell. Yay me!

I’d been typing a lot – often with a cat in my lap – so the lower back pain when I took my husband to the airport for a business trip wasn’t a surprise…until it didn’t go away.
*laughing* It wasn’t the kidney stone that did me in (it was hardly my first time at bat there) it was the pain medication. The bottle said ‘may cause dizziness’. Dizziness, my eye. It took the knees right out from under me. Which wouldn’t have been as much of a problem if I hadn’t been carrying a basket of laundry down the stairs when it did. Poor Skeledog ⇒
broke my fall, and died yet again. (No, he’s not real, and my husband fixed him. Skeledog lives again!)
I was bruised from knees to shoulders so badly I was almost unable to move. Weirdly, stuff like that always happens when my husband is away. But I survived.

Somehow, though, I had lost connection with the story, but kept plugging.

Then came the shocker.

My brother died. I was stunned.

I knew he suffered from what I’ve come to call the ‘family disease’ – NASH, NAFLD. Liver disease. (I’m Stage IV.)

Our family isn’t close.

Like many if not most families we were a bit to more than a bit dysfunctional. With my brother even more so. The funny kid who always wanted to become a police officer and achieved his dream transformed into the kind of person I wasn’t sure I liked. As I said, I’m an optimist, and a bit liberal. He wasn’t either. We no longer had much in common and had stopped talking.

So I hadn’t known was how sick he was or that he’d developed liver cancer as a result of NASH.

Did I mention he’s my younger brother? (I do have to say that I heard he wasn’t sticking to his diet, the only way to control the disease.) He left a wife and daughter.

I kept trying to get back to the story I’d been writing, but just couldn’t. It wasn’t that the story wasn’t good, or that I didn’t want to write, it just wasn’t right.

The election was weirder than I thought it could ever be. And it kept getting worse. A level of nastiness that was astonishing – filled with anger, racism, bigotry and misogyny. Even more strange was the lack of thought, research and the profusion of lies. It was mind-boggling.

Like everyone else, I got caught up in it. In the interests of full disclosure, though, I have to admit I’ve always been political. If you doubt me, I have a couple of books for you to read.

Two weeks before my birthday I learned through a cousin that my mother was very ill, but there was nothing direct. I’d heard that my youngest brother, who’d been estranged from the family for years, had moved in with her to help, but there were no details.

Under the best of circumstances, my parents and I never got along – I was too smart, too cheerful, too independent. Too much a dreamer.

More so with my mother, who never really knew what to do with me.

The reverse was true, too. I didn’t know what to do with her.

My mother had always suffered from an inferiority complex. She never met a person she wouldn’t bad mouth, including or especially family.  She would take experiences that happened to others as her own or make up things from whole cloth. Over time she’d alienated me, my twin, as well as almost every friend and neighbor. Everything to her was a trauma – often of her own making. You were never really sure what was real and what wasn’t. And often it was just a way of getting attention. (She’d once claimed to be having a stroke, but drove home to drop off the dog first.)

So when I heard third-hand that she was ill, I wasn’t sure whether it was real or not. I expected some kind of contact from my brother if it was serious. Nothing. Until a phone call from my uncle that she was failing. I called my brother for confirmation.

She passed even as my husband and I were getting in the car to see her for what I thought was likely the last time.

Per her wishes, according to my brother, there was no service. No opportunity to say goodbye.

There are some who probably think I was a bit cold or distant about my losses, but I’m not big on sharing that kind of thing. First, who needs to hear it? Most have their own grief and pain to deal with, why add mine? The people closest to me know.

And in reality, death is another part of life.

On top of everything else, I broke my leg in one of the sillier things I’ve ever done – breaking up a fight between my existing cats and the new indoor/outdoor kitten.

The break was pretty creative I must say. It put me on crutches for two and a half months, unable to drive or move around easily. For someone like me, being restricted like that was incredibly frustrating. The simplest things were difficult, if not impossible.

Just before the holidays, I lost a cousin who’d been incredibly supportive of my writing in ways my own immediate family had never been.

I have to admit that I have a problem with the fascination so many people have over the death of some celebrities. To a certain extent, it did seem a lot, but how much of that was thanks to social media? After a certain age, or when suffering from disease, every day you live well and to the best of your ability is a blessing.
Zsa Zsa Gabor’s death at 99 after being on life support for years wasn’t unexpected and might have been a relief.
One the other hand, the loss of Anton Yelchin was truly tragic, he was only 27 and just proving his talent.
My mother had been ill for years, so her death wasn’t entirely unexpected. My brother died too young. He was old enough to have retired from police work, had a grown daughter but he never got the chance to truly enjoy his retirement and he’ll never dandle his grandchildren on his knee. That is truly sad. In the process, I lost half my family.

(By the way, have I said thank you, honey, for sharing your love and life with me?)

Sometimes I wonder if some of that grief is in response to the decisions we made as a nation.

A contentious election turned into one of the biggest shockers of all time by anyone’s standards and a good portion of the country mourned.

Then came Thanksgiving and with it the reminders of what had been, as well as the same kind of stresses everyone has to deal with, coupled with trying to fit in with my new family and trying to figure out the relationships. Anxiety, an old friend despite being an optimist, was a nearly constant companion. I was constantly having to navigate new waters while missing those childhood moments that were now gone forever.

Like Christmas Eve. My husband agreed to marry me on that day, on the same day my grandparents had married and my family got together for the holidays. Now I have something else to celebrate. And while I wasn’t looking, found a new family with his.

That’s what carries us all through coming good times and bad – love and family.

Add to everything else I suffered another loss between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a cousin who’d been incredibly supportive of my writing in ways my own immediate family had never been.

Did I say I’m an optimist?

So, 2016 sucked. Royally, and in so many ways. (I’m an optimist, but c’mon, let’s be realistic here…)

An old curse says ‘May you live in interesting times’.

I have the feeling that 2017 is going to be very interesting.

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