When a blogger friend suggested that as this unusual year, 2016, comes to an end we reflect on our personal positive aspects of it, the idea appealed.
That’s a promise and a threat to me, really. The way I usually meet life, as a series of actions and reactions, causes and consequences needing to be considered before jumping headfirst. Finally, as being what I willfully choose to ignore when inevitably struck by a determination to get right in there.
Early in the year I promised myself that I would at last pull up the gumption and the wherewithal to shut my mouth and put paid to the business of selling my last home, in New Mexico, in favor of the more nomadic life of an apartment dweller, in California. That’s where daughter Jericha has been for some years. This inner discussion had occupied my stew pot of a mind for a long time.
So — we did it, and in 2016, to boot! Never would this have happened without a bit of help
from our friends. Two of them trekked from California to the middle of New Mexico where they labored in June heat loading a mountain of furniture, kitchen gear, clothing, wheelchairs, saved crutches and leg braces, books, bonsai and artwork into what had at first looked like a huge (or is that pronounced “yuge” of late?) U-Haul. Ha! Barely standing room for two humans remained after the truck was packed, floor to ceiling.
Part of my brain had been denying that this packing job would ever be completed.
There was personal sacrifice and faith involved in this move. Jericha gave up her comfortable apartment with same-age friends in order to share rented condo space with her mother and a middle aged teacher friend; none of us could afford Silicon Valley rental rates alone. I sold my sturdy, eleven year old Ford Ranger with its wheelchair lift since it no longer really served my needs. That left me for the first time in forty-six years with no wheels of my own. Flat scary. The trip in a rented Ford Taurus was uncomfortable in many ways, the motels pretty bad for wheelchair-bound me, and the timetable kept us on the road for more hours than my back chose to accept gracefully.
On the super plus side, Elf the Corgi and Opus the Dachs-Terr mix proved themselves to be good travelers, excited about exploring, accepting of their coupled leashes and hurried meals in motel rooms.
As time moved along in the beautiful Bay Area my views of how a life is lived adapted as they generally do. Some things got better — Jericha rediscovered a certain handsome friend whom she will be marrying in two weeks — while I finally decided that saving the proceeds of house selling (meager by California standards) would not make me as happy as getting a used wheelchair van. So I did that — staking out at least a modicum of independence going into a new life in yet another new location — Fresno.
And some things got no better. My post polio syndrome, for one. And I did not lose any of the extra pounds I’ve gained over the three years since my shoulders began acting up. A goal for the upcoming new location.
The significant decisions we made took place against the backdrop of the USA’s most horrible presidential election ever. What seemed a laughable candidacy by a yugely unqualified individual abruptly turned into his victory, so hotly contested by himself and unbelieved in by so many that it first stunned at least half the nation, then plunged large numbers into the kind of darkness that does not quickly ebb. There are still people shedding tears over what is happening to the country on a daily basis.
I admit to having sniffled steadily through election night and much of the following day, off and on for some time after that. Yet… the good in it at first came to me as something along the order of, “Well, at least now we have something wonderful to look forward to — the end of this particular period down the line.” Then, of course, hit the realization that this rise in favor that populism is experiencing is spreading around the world, that things are going to change for many others quite apart from the new regime in the US, the increasing cyber threats we seem quite unprepared for, among other things.
Also striking me, as the currently popular saying that “You don’t know what you don’t know” suggests, there are way more things we don’t know about one another and about our little planet with its complex systems of life than there are that we do understand.
Eventually the reflection swam into consciousness that what is happening represents undercurrents long present, yet not acted upon, bringing to attention long neglected injustices and darkness. There is no longer a way in which we can move forward as the human race without first facing up to certain things. Racism, sexism, human rights including women, LGBT, disabled; jobs lost to unstoppable globalisation; the changing climate; the lack of critical thinking skills that place us in jeopardy from threats we cannot begin to visualize otherwise about these issues, and others.
We look for so many demons now that we forget to look at the simpler things that bring people together, shared feelings and goals, courtesies, looking for the good in others, finding joy in learning about people we have never encountered before, joy in learning about the world, how things open up when we set aside preconceived ideas (little more than prejudices, often) on choose instead to open our minds.
For the USA — indeed, the world — to move forward into a more just, equitable era we must face the long festering issues, work them out — together. We also must remedy simmering resentments towards people who are unlike ourselves, whose lives do not resemble our own in the slightest, of whose life styles and orientations are opposite to our own.
Whoever we are, we need to learn to coexist with differences, to stop belittling, degrading those with whom we disagree. To speak up for what we believe to be just and fair, no matter if agents of the current government seem to be moving us steadily back into 1953 — to pull any old year out of a hat. That was the year when I met my first personal armageddon in the form of paralytic polio. It was also before leaders in the oil industry decided to deceive the public about the hazards posed to the planet by excessive burning of fossil fuels, before widespread deforestation, before civil rights became a front-and-center issue, before women began to speak out so frequently for themselves, with no husband or father standing beside them to explain their beliefs.
It was before excellent means of travel was nearly as well advanced as now, and there was no internet or cell phones in constant use. Before the US had a national highway system.
It was also well before the US, as a nation, lost the ingrained courtesy and respect for most people that made life far more pleasant and comfortable than it now is.
All of us need to inhabit the same world in a courteous manner, to handle differences with grace. Right now in our knock-‘em-when-they’re-down reality TV worldview such characteristics are scarce, indeed.
Someone noted the other day that conditions in the world at present are frighteningly similar to right before World War I broke out. Ah, thought I, that “last gentlemen’s war”. The “war to end all wars.” Right. Since the days of Albert Einstein it is, however, clear and evident that another world war can never be fought if we, and the planet, are to carry on with much semblance of life as we have long known it.
So now is the time when we learn to work our differences through in ways that don’t involve ignoring one another or plotting elimination of people who don’t fit into our ideas of the way our various countries should look. Or it is the time when we knock ourselves into global chaos, potentially involving oblivion.
Many people have commented on the number of special celebrities who died in the last twelve months, what shades of sadness those departures from the world stage have cast into their lives.
Well, I’m no different. I was stricken with the death of Alan Rickman early on, knocked over several times more as months marched by.
While I find his last album too dark I found myself listening to it again this last morning of 2016 — as the representation of the passing of a generation, a way of seeing the world, so familiar to me back in the 1960s folk scene. The song “Steer your way” provides some food for thought, so I include below a uTube of it.
By the time Princess Leia — Carrie Fisher — breathed her last I was all primed to bawl like an infant the moment I read about it. Selfishly I found myself wondering what right these entertainers had to leave us when we need more of their performances. Surely we’ll be seeing more of Professor Snape one day? A retrospective peek into his wizardly espionage career, perhaps? Plus I was touched by the possible last words of Debbie Reynolds, who was Fisher’s mother. “I want to be with Carrie,” she told her son. A tiny part of me understood that, since it wanted to be with at least some of the departed celebrities rather than facing what is beginning to unfold in our world.
So as the last couple of hours to 2016 tick away, here am I with this thought:
… When we consider outcomes in the world of existence, we find that peace and fellowship are factors of upbuilding and betterment, whereas war and strife are the causes of destruction and disintegration. All created things are expressions of the affinity and cohesion of elementary substances, and nonexistence is the absence of their attraction and agreement. Various elements unite harmoniously in composition, but when these elements become discordant, repelling each other, decomposition and nonexistence result. Everything partakes of this nature and is subject to this principle, for the creative foundation in all its degrees and kingdoms is an expression or outcome of love.