Here’s the thing about years…
We, as human beings, like to sort things. It’s more than liking, really. We need to sort things, to order them, to think we understand events and our ever-evolving relationships with them. It is human — that need to name why we felt a thing, who made us feel it and when.
It is human to need to know when we felt was a reaction to what was, and when it became, for better or worse, part of some frustratingly non linear experience of grief and healing. Or conversely, to identify an era in which things changed for the better, or when we lived out some beautiful period of joy or transformation.
So, in 2016, we have named the year as our enemy. It honestly feels quite strange to me that there is an actual social media backlash against “blaming a damn year,” but I get it. I get all of it. I understand putting a spent calendar in a box, and leaving it by the side of the road, cursing it as you drive away, and I also get why some might find that silly. It is a little silly, but in these times, I am increasingly unabashed about the silly things that help sustain me.
No, the natural, illness-oriented and politically wicked forces that wreaked havoc in 2016 will not vanish at midnight on New Year’s Eve, but we will start a new session of sorting our troubles. We will have fresh pages to write under a new heading. Like a birthday, January 1 will mark no immediate transition, and no separation with the forces that governed the previous year, but it is nonetheless a mark of having survived — and may carry with it the hope that this particular lap around the sun might play out better than the last.
Perhaps it won’t be any better. Amid climate change, the rise of Trump and the existence of Lena Dunham, it’s possible that humanity has truly joined the dark side, and that the rebel resistance will come to no good end. But I’ve always been a little silly, and I believe in rebellions. I attach myself, unapologetically, to fantastic narratives of hope and while I am fully aware of the shadow side of human potential, I also believe in the creativity and courage of oppressed peoples. So I am holding out hope, with great discipline, on the cusp of a new year that admittedly appears ready to explode.
But whether the coming year is rigged with explosives or not, I will move forward thinking of all that we can do to save ourselves, and each other, and to create beautiful moments, unique to their parcel of time — moments that sustain us amid the rest of it.
So are we silly to blame a year? Sure. This is the internet. We say lots of silly things. I could be wrong, but I don’t think “blaming 2016” is making anyone less aware of the illnesses that have killed our faves, or the political, environmental or economic tumult we face. While awareness of those things might not be as high as we would prefer, it’s not as though we were on track to be fully aware, and were derailed by a goofy coping mechanism. Not everything can be a doom and gloom analysis. The internet has a lot of that too. I read a great deal of it. And sometimes we need a break.
We need gifs from our favorite sitcoms, memes that express our annoyance and sometimes, we need to scapegoat an entire year. It may be absurd, but so is being human and feeling the world, such as it is. One of the reasons I cherished Carrie Fisher, who the world lost on Tuesday, was that she understood that, sometimes, you need to know how to laugh at what’s trying to kill you. I read Fisher’s novel “Postcards From the Edge” over a decade ago, as I tried to stave off the nausea of heroin withdrawal, in a Chicago psych ward. Laughing as much as I could, without becoming physically ill, while twitching, kicking and whining in my bed, didn’t make me any less aware of my situation. It meant I was surviving it. And cursing 2016 for taking Fisher didn’t mean that I thought the calendar year, rather than cardiac arrest, had killed her. Sometimes, you just need something to shake your fist at, even if that fist shaking is nothing but the punchline of a sad joke.
Sometimes life feels like a sad joke, and there’s nothing wrong with expressing that.
As people surviving a society that’s actually destroying the planet it inhabits, I think we need to know when to allow for the absurd. In fact, I think there comes a point where critiquing the absurd becomes an even sillier act than the one being called into question. But such is the spiral of angst in a shitty year.
I blame 2016.