2017 in Review.
It’s February, and thus I’m late to the ‘2017 year in review’ content that plastered the internet for a while.
And yet, here I am. Reviewing 2017.
It’s been a stressful time. Probably not the best time to quit using e-cigarettes. Did I mention I fell off the wagon? More like vaulted off into the loving arms of my nicotine mistress. She was totes waiting for me.
I almost made it a year. I was about a week shy. We’ll talk about that later. Not in this post, because it’s going to be long enough.
There has been a lot of change, and I’ve learned that’s the way life is. Change. There is simply no way to prevent it.
If I were to sum up 2017 in just a few words, they would be: Change, Depression, and Triumph.
Thoughts of Death
Let’s start off nice and light, shall we?
This year, I’ve come closer to death than ever before. For all the crazy shit that has happened in my life, this is one area where I have little experience. The closest person to me who died was my best friends mother.
Death has always been a number one fear for me. The thought of it caused late-night panic attacks that would keep me from sleep. I dance around the topic, afraid that to speak of it will only invite it in.
But that’s what I’ve had to do. Invite it in. Understand that it is inevitable, and fully accept it. Daily.
My cat, who I love more than I love most people, is on his way out. Today was a particularly bad scare–I found him at the bottom of the basement stairs, unable to walk and covered in feces–but the vet assures me that with fluids and some rest overnight, he’ll be back to normal soon.
((EDIT: The vet called the next morning, the night after I wrote this post. Wednesday morning at 11:25, we made the call to put him down. Memorial post to follow.))
Yet, Max has a new normal. He moves, looks like, and yells at us like a crotchety old man. His gait is stiff and a little disjointed. He sleeps far more than he used to. Simply put, the cat is dying.
He’s been with me since I was thirteen. I’ll honestly be surprised if he makes it another year.
I’m terrified of losing him, and yet I see its inevitability. Death has been invited in. I understand that it lives with us now, and it always has. I’ve just been too afraid to acknowledge it.
The State of the Union
There’s no simple way to encapsulate everything that has been going on in this country and around the world. This is, hands down, the worst presidency I’ve ever experienced. I thought Bush Jr. was the worst I’d ever see, and boy was I wrong.
Of all the things that can be done, keeping yourself from burning out is one of the main things to concentrate on. Remain vigilant. Remain effective. Vote.
I cannot stress that last one enough–VOTE.
Nothing angers me more than people who will complain about the state of the U.S., yet they’re not participating in local or national elections. I admit I’m not as on top of local politics as I should be, and I am oftentimes ashamed of what Missouri representatives get up to, yet each time I get one of those postcards in the mail telling me about a new election, I Google the shit out of it and figure out what’s going on.
At the very, very least, you can do the same. For all the collective hours and days that we’ve spent watching “funniest animal video” compilations, you can take 2-4 hours out of a week to check into the pros and cons of a new bill.
Aside from that little spiel, there’s this: I am not, in any way, proud of this country.
I’ve never been particularly patriotic. In a perfect world, there would be no borders and no squabbles between different cultures that could result in nuclear annihilation. Yeah, I’m talking Star Trek again. If you’re going to dream, dream big.
Working for one of the Big Health Insurance Companies put me face to face with the profit-over-people mentality that has taken over our government like a virus. Or maybe not even our government, but our entire world. It has always been there, hasn’t it? But the 24-hour news cycle and social media bring it into sharp focus.
The whole political mess is… difficult to encapsulate in a year-in-review. Overall, this country and this world need drastic change. While, culturally, I feel we’re moving in the right direction, it seems that most of our political rulers are looking backward and trying to reignite the age of empires and nationalism that almost ruined our planet.
I’m not alone in the depression, the anger, and the fear. It colored the year.
The fight isn’t even close to over.
The years’ battles
Speaking of depression, who-boy has this year been a big one for that. With the health insurance came the psychiatrist visits, and one type of medication and adjustment after another.
I’m trying to find the balance between accepting that I have clinical depression, and not blaming it for everything.
The holidays were particularly tough. I realized as we rounded past Thanksgiving that this would be my first holiday season without kiddos around in… well, in almost ever. With the breakup between my mother and I, there came the loss of a family. That sucked. Hardcore. There was much in the way of comfort food.
We hosted Friendsmas because I needed folks around, and we’re not the only people in this kind of position. It was a lovely time, and I hope to extend the tradition for many years to come.
There’s not much else to say on the subject aside from… wow. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to find the right equilibrium of therapy, medication, and gumption. The balance between being upfront and honest about what you’re dealing with, and yet not coming off as a whiny bastard is a difficult one. But it’s a problem I’m happy to have because I’m finally getting the help I’ve needed for years.
I need to come clean
Knowing how people talk about you when they think you can’t see is one of the worst, yet enlightening things you can ever know.
I have a confession to make: for months at the beginning of the year, I had access to my mothers’ Facebook account. I ended up changing her password so that I could rid myself of the temptation to look at the endless messages and posts.
This does have a little bit of a backstory. My mother didn’t know how to set a security setting on FB, and so I went in (with her permission) and changed the setting for her. I was using my Samsung phone to do so, and it remembered her login info. Whenever Facebook updated or rebooted, it asked which account I’d like to sign in under.
This went unnoticed by me for a time until somewhere around late January or February, when my FB app updated. And then I got hooked.
It was like watching a train wreck. Or those pimple-popping videos on YouTube (don’t do it. Don’t fucking do it, seriously).
I ran the emotional gambit of nauseous, furious, massively depressed, and outraged.
I saw her target my friends. I read messages between her and her friends. Around the time that my blog post came out, everything kind of exploded.
I realized who my true friends were at this point.
I didn’t want to talk about this at first or mention it in any way, but it was an integral part of my year.
All the revelations about how she, my mother, truly saw me, and how some people I considered allies saw me, made me do a lot of soul-searching. At first, I wasn’t sure if I had made the right judgment call. And then I wondered if I really were a terrible person, and then I got angry and felt justified all over again in my actions.
It all kind of clicked into place a few months ago.
I’ve done some fucked up shit in my life. I’ve lied. I’ve stolen. I’ve said things, and done things, that I’m ashamed to admit to. I tried to run away when I was fifteen and rope several friends into doing the same. I stole expensive jewelry from my grandmother to fund the expedition.
I’ve pushed my way around at parties and amongst friends to get my way. I’ve bullied and berated. I’ve manipulated and cheated.
And so has almost everyone else on the planet.
I’m not happy at all with some of the decisions I made in life, but I’ve tried every fucking day to get better, to be better, than the person I was before.
The large portion of my misdeeds occurred when I was in my mid to late teens, and then I spent a good chunk of my twenties trying to justify those actions. I wanted to analyze every moment and point the finger of blame at anything or anyone other than myself. I wanted to unpack my childhood, unspool the whole tangled mess, and go after it line by line until I could understand how victimized I had been.
Recently, I read the book Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. In it, the main character deals with a type of OCD that makes her look at everything through the lens of her disease and her own inner thought spirals. It hit a bit close to home, especially when her best friend calls her out on her selfishness.
Some fucked up shit happened around and to me.
But I own my reaction to it. I own that, though at some points I may have been hurt, lashing out, and blind to the consequences of my actions, that it was still me who committed those acts.
It’s hard to see yourself as a Bad Guy. We all want to wear the white hat. To be the hero of our own story. Overall, I think we fall somewhere in the middle.
The title of this blog is A Human in Progress. That’s how I see myself. Ever changing, ever learning, and ever growing. If I can’t look at my misdeeds, own up to them, and talk about them, then I’m going to stifle that growth.
This had to come off my chest. As much as I value the counsel of my trusted friends and family, I needed to say something instead of nothing. I have to live my life honest and open.
The Good News
We’ve lingered a while on all the bad parts of the year. There were many. Again, it was a stressful one. But with all the bad, and the hard change, and the new lessons learned, there came a wealth of happiness.
On Friday, October the 13th, Larson and I got married. Technically married. We’re not really having a wedding until April or May, and we just plan to have a potluck get-together style thing. We plan to keep 10/13 as the anniversary because that was pretty cool, but the ceremony is upcoming.
Years ago I would have balked at such an expedient courtship turned partnership, but second marriages are more likely to last. We both knew what we wanted out of a partner.
Yeah, we argue sometimes. Who doesn’t? There is certainly more good to outweigh any bad (and typically we just argue about chores).
I’m so happy to be with someone who doesn’t see me as a conquest or an object. Who shares the same values as I–intelligence, honesty, respect, creativity, communication, empathy… the list goes on.
We’ve made a lot of decisions together in the last year. Where we want to move to. What kind of careers we want to have. When we want to start a family. The future–despite the ever-present fear of nuclear annihilation–is looking good.
The reason we only needed a year to know that we were solid was because we back each others’ plays. We are stronger together than we are apart.
We are free. I do not own him or his time. He does not own mine. I don’t feel an obligation to stop working on my artwork or a story because he arrived home. We’re open about who we’re talking to, or we say it’s none of the other person’s business–because we trust each other.
We do have an open relationship, which requires an ass-ton of communication. It also gives us both a freedom and autonomy that we’ve both felt lacking in “traditional” monogamous relationships.
In more good news, I’ve started an art business called Car Tattoo Designs. It is still in its infancy, but by the end of this year, it is my goal to not only have custom hand-drawn designs available but vinyl decals that can be ordered and shipped nationwide–maybe even worldwide.
Larson was integral to the business idea. He came up with the original concept and name and badgered me about it while I hemmed and hawed over the logistics.
I’ve also got some amazing friends who are helping me with the website and marketing strategies. It’s a bit like leading an idiot around by the hand because I’m awful at selling stuff, but I’m getting there.
Last but not least… there were all the little things.
Watching the sunset. Listening to the birds. Laughing until your sides hurt. Meeting a new friend. Breathing. Thinking deep thoughts, and then talking about them with amazing people. Reading a good book. Writing. Creating art. Planning, and then saying fuck it and going for a drive in the country. Exploring abandoned structures. Taking photographs. Learning a new skill. Listening to an amazingly talented friend sing and play the guitar.
Every day is a new opportunity.
The bad tends to stick out, but by far there was more good. Life is looking up, and so is 2018.
Be well, my friends.