Tuesday, 27 December 2016
2016. So much to answer for.
A Facebook meme just turned up on a friend’s post: “Guess who’s still alive in 2016? Keith f****ing Richards.” I fought the temptation to comment: “There are still four days left.”
It’s not the expected losses that hurt, though.
When David Bowie died in January, the shock left my generation reeling, and set the tone for the rest of the year. But it wasn’t just about celebrities. There have been many deaths this year among my peer group: friends of friends, people I used to know, people I know through social media… through accidents, through illness and (more than once) through suicide.
And that’s before you get to politics and the wider world. I’m not much into metaphysics but if I could believe a year could be malevolent it would be this one.
And when, late on Christmas day, I heard the news about George Michael, the world felt a very bleak place. I wasn’t particularly a fan (not quite young enough) but that’s not the point.
Two years ago I wrote a New Year’s blog post that felt optimistic. Today, I don’t know if I’ll dare to feel that way again.
For the last year or two, life had been going along OK. It wasn’t perfect, but I thought I knew who I was and where I was up to. I’d had my share of grief over the years. I’d survived death and divorce. Then something happened that felt like both of those things wrapped up in one: an estrangement I didn’t see coming.
It turned my world upside down and most of this year has been an attempt at finding some equilibrium. This has probably been the worst year of my life, and the closest I’ve come to going under. I’ve got to the point now where I can say: Shit happens; you survive. It might not sound like much, but it's better than the alternative.
Today, 27th December, is the day we used to have our family get-together for Christmas. Just because it’s the first day the trains are back on and people can travel to get there. One year, I ended up stuck at a railway station for three hours because someone had thrown themselves under a train. I felt sorry that they’d had to wait two days to do it.
This year, the family do isn’t happening, but I haven’t felt much like Christmas anyway. And I know it’s like that for a lot of people, whatever the ads would have us believe.
The year my sister died, I went to church with my mother on Christmas Eve and felt angry when the vicar talked about people who had “lost loved ones” during the year. He was right to acknowledge it, but he made it sound so glib. I think the words “of course” were in there somewhere.
But it is an “of course”, of course. People lose people, of course. Shit happens, of course. And life is always going to be light and dark, of course.
I posted this song on Facebook on Christmas Eve instead of the usual jollity, because I wanted to believe in the light. Today, I watched Brendan Cox’s alternative Christmas message, and wished I was as brave.
I’m not, but I still know how to hope. And all I can hope for is that 2017 will be different. For all of us.