All Done 2016
(Er – Roadtrip Part Deux?)
I sat down yesterday to write a piece about Christmas ornaments. I started it. I really did.
Three hours later, I had four journal pages, one scary Vonnegut-esque doodle, and a complete rough draft of the introduction to a book I am collaborating on. Then I fixed myself a White Russian, did my nails, and watched Harry and the Hendersons.
This is in my list of TOP TEN favorite movies.
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This morning I tried again. By my second cup of coffee, I was well into our vacation photos and Quantum of Solace. Work simply can’t compete with holiday movies and vacation photos, especially when you’ve been lucky enough to travel somewhere amazing with a fabulous partner.
If you want to know whether another human being will make a good partner/mate for you, go on holiday with them. Mackula gave me this advice in college, and it has been a tried and trusted method of establishing the limits of both pain and patience thresholds for me and those who travel with me. While my mid-life crisis has many appropriate adjectives (we use them on a revolving basis) the main one we use is Adventure. I like this one best because it is 75% positive connotations. The other 25% is what happens on all adventures, all holidays, all road trips. Sometimes less, sometimes more, but like most math in my life, I am not concerned with how accurate these percentages actually are. They are close enough for me so I am sticking to them.
The destination is not the test, the journey to it is. Anyone can sit their ass on a white sandy beach with aquamarine waters, pina coladas and steel drums, but not everyone survives the 1-hour car ride, 5-hour flight, 2-hour layover, missing or broken luggage, rude (and often smelly) passengers, disturbing snacks, 2-hour airport shuttle, and 1-hour check-in that finally gets you to the damn beach with a shred of grace. There are all the small comforts of home that can never be exactly reconstructed while traveling – well not with my travel budget anyway.
And using this clumsy metaphor, I will state that 2016 has been quite the journey.
And for many, it has been the Worst Road Trip Ever.
It’s been a very interesting year for me, in large part because I am an Expat in a midlife crisis. So while I am thrilled to be tackling a lifelong goal and committed to ticking off ‘bucket list” items (a term I abhor) along the way, I am a woman removed from a homeland that has become embarrassing to me in many ways.
However, being exposed to a mere fraction of the political coverage that my friends and family in the US suffered through was a joy. I feel much less traumatized than they do, which for me is quite the role reversal, generally speaking.
Around Guy Fawkes Night (aka Bonfire Night,) I started having some very interesting politic conversations. The particular one was with some girlfriends – two British, one South African, one Mexican, two Sottish and one French, all of us currently living in Scotland. They were all terrified of DT being elected and, of course, wanted my opinion.
Growing up, it was bad manners to talk politics or religion at a party or as a guest in someone’s home. Here in Scotland (especially after the past two years of referendum and then Brexit) it’s as common a topic amongst strangers as the weather.
I have never been very comfortable talking politics, but I’ve have engaged in more political discourse this past year than my entire life prior. The Journey of 2016 started with serious turbulence.
Soon after we moved, HB2 indicated that the monkeys were running the circus in my home state. And since many of my friends are members of the LGBTQ community, not to mention drag and burlesque families, I became vocal in their defense. (In my way.)
And for some the 2016 Journey became increasingly frightening, even devastating.
You can bring all the iPod music and neck pillows you want, but the train will still shimmy, the plane will still hit turbulence, the taxi driver will make you white-knuckle the arm rest, and if the person you are traveling with bitches about the price of gas, the recycled airplane air, how weak the coffee is, how small the seats are, how disgusting the train toilets are, oh you get the picture… For many this year, the journey was way more than 25% negative.
And I get that. For some people, a break is necessary. I fully appreciate that sometimes we have to walk away from people that anger us beyond measure or make us feel unsafe. If the person you travel with has both nothing positive to say and the expectation that you will support their every complaint in some palpable way, then maybe you should break it off with them.
For the record, I also recommend breaking with them in the loudest and most dramatic way possible. These are the moments you should cause a scene with confidence, because revealing to the world your belief that someone who treats the stewardess rudely is an asshole is doing the world at large (or at least to the people in baggage claim) a public service. Like fire safety announcements about how best to flee the building.
I have not de-friended anyone on Facebook. I have engaged (to both my pride and shame) in a handful of healthy conversations there (also via email and Skype). I would be lying if I said that my opinion of a few people hasn’t changed quite a bit during 2016. Especially when it comes to the rights of the disenfranchised, ideas of feminism and equity, and the voices against tolerance and kindness.
I will not throw you out of the car on this road trip if you voted for Trump. But I will slam on the brakes if you belittle me because I didn’t.
And I will leave you stranded in a place with no cell service for the snakes to eat you if you tell me that you think that women should be subservient to men (especially the ones that pass legislation about their bodies), that transpeople are dangerous deviants who don’t deserve human rights, as are refugees, or that the Jews should just get over it already and stop complaining about the Holocaust. Then you and I are traveling on very different roads, and I hope yours is full of sink-holes, interminable construction delays, and ends in a rock painted like a tunnel.
I am also blessed with a Fabulous Traveling Companion. This is not to say that Hubby and I agree on everything. We absolutely do not. But we have discussions about how we see the world, and how we want it to change, and the fears and hopes we have for our country.
The trick it not to bitch about the state of affairs more than you talk about what can be done about it.
Admittedly, it’s a challenge to talk about hope when Princess Leia and her mom die within 48 hours of one another. But let’s stop blaming 2016 for their deaths.
Cocaine (and other drugs) were much bigger culprits that “stole” David Bowie, Prince, Carrie, Merle Haggard, Gary Shandling, George Michel, and Alan Thicke from us. And possibly Patty Duke. Cancer took Alan Rickman. Parkinson’s took Mohammed Ali. A freak accident claimed Anton Yelchin.
Zsa Zsa Gabor was 99.
When you look at those we’ve lost (and this is a shortened list) many of them lived long and full lives.
Harper Lee was 89. Gordie Howe was 88. Umberto Eco was 84. Elie Wiesel was 87. Billy Paul was 80. Morley Saffer was 84. Nancy Reagan was 94. Kenny Baker (played R2D2) was 81. Fyvush Finkel was 93. Gene Wilder was 83. Abe Vigoda was 94.
John Glenn was 95. Edward Albee was 88. Arnold Palmer was 88. King Bhumibol Adulyadej was 88. Janet Reno was 78. Leonard Cohen was 82. Florence Henderson 82. Fidel Castro was 90. China Machado was 87.
Greta Zimmer Friedman (age 92), the woman in an iconic photo shown kissing an ecstatic sailor celebrating the end of World War II by smooching a nurse in Times Square, died in September.
E.R. Braithwaite (age 104), the Guyanese author, educator and diplomat whose years teaching in the slums of London’s East End inspired the international best-seller “To Sir, With Love” and the movie of the same name, died in December.
But some who died were Middle Aged. They make us uncomfortable and scared because they are closer to our own ages. We lost two trans-pioneers, Lady Chablis (59) and Eva Destruction (Alexis Arquette) who was only 47. Sharon Jones, like Carrie Fischer, was only 60.
And Miss Cleo was only 53.
Remember her? The woman who would tell you who your baby daddy was.
Because you just weren’t sure…
So while I wouldn’t really be shocked if 2016 “claimed” a Kardashian, I suggest that we circle our wagons, find our voices, and focus on kindness in 2017.
I have every intention of seeing Rogue One in theatres before 2017, and I will be sure to share it with friends and loved one close to me. While I dressed as Princess Leia for countless Halloweens, my memories are precious to me because of the friends and family that populate them, those who filled my days with love and laughter, not an obsession with The Force. The everyday people who meant the most to me – and still do. The same is probably true for you too.
Shane Tomlinson (33) and Jonathon Vega (25)
Murdered by fear and ignorance and hatred in an Orlando night club
along with 47 others.
These are the faces seared into my 2016 memory. Not politicians, not rock stars. These beautiful faces.
Because they remind me that progress stumbles. Every road has obstacles. Every journey has the potential for peril. The important thing is to learn, to listen, to love.
I am not without fear. But I am filled with hope that dark hours can be healed with light.
The greater the storm, the brighter the rainbow.
Put 2016 in the books and take a moment to enjoy one of the greatest songs, by two of the greatest artists, who I imagine are enjoying new amazing collaborations in the afterlife.