Planes and trains and automobiles

Right now, everywhere, writers like me are gearing up to publish their “Auld Lang Syne” chapters in their blogs, their columns, their social media. I have been caught up in reminiscence, contemplating the events that shaped 2017 and culminated in loud pronouncements of “2017 can suckit” and “Goodbye, 2017….don’t let the door hit you in the ass”. There have also been quiet, weary statements like “I am so glad this year is over.”

I used to be one such person, uttering either the former or the latter. I have had some pretty awful years in the 50 I have inhabited this planet. There were the years of struggle and years of poverty. There were years of drama and chaos. There were years of physical exhaustion and mental anguish. “Freight trains”, I called the constant upheavals that barreled through and obliviated anything that seemed normal. My life; indeed, my family’s and quite a few of my friends’, seemed to resemble more of a train depot, where the trains would roar through, dropping bombs that detonated, charged with misfortune and the bad choices that resulted, leaving behind casualties of pain and sorrow. Sometimes, the trains would briefly stop and leave parcels of discontenting scenarios and bad options, and we had no choice but to make the best of what we were left with. There are no returns in this life. You get what you get and you either deal with it or you step onto the tracks as the next train sounds its warning whistle. There were times when it seemed like we had just recovered from a freight train when the ground would begin to shake and the windows would vibrate and you could hear the rumble that signaled that the next one was nearly upon us.

In the past couple of years, I have noticed that the trains have been diverted from this stop. They don’t pass through nearly as much as they used to, and while I am grateful to no longer be “on the line” I also know that the Big Railroad called Life could add a stop at any time. There could be a runaway train. I would love to shut down the depot but I can’t seem to board it up. I keep listening for the whistle and putting my ear to the ground. I stop, frequently, to feel the tracks for that vibrating hum that signifies an arrival coming soon. I have never liked surprises, even happy ones, and freight trains that cause upheaval are never bringers of happiness.

This diversion, while most likely temporary, has given me time to think about things. When I did my “review of 2017” it dawned on me that 2017 was really a continuation of 2016, when the big trains stopped coming. Oh, we had a few smaller ones, but nothing that decimated anything. The thing that I noticed was that these trains, while unexpected, had come through before, dropping off parcels filled with warning signs and preludes to unfortunate events. None of the bad stuff was happenstance; the writing had been on the wall. It seemed that, because I had been armed with the ability to sort of forecast the next arrival of a train, it was no longer as soul-crushing or decimating as it might have been, had I not been paying attention.

That, there, is my philosophical way of saying that bad shit just happens and what you do with the bad shit influences your ability to either deal with more bad shit or to shut the door and say, “None shall pass.” I could have just said that, but I liked weaving the whole “freight train” analogy. It’s more creative and wordy, and I am a goddamned writer, for fuck’s sake.

2017 wasn’t bad. Many wonderful things happened. I left a job I hated so much, walking through a pit of snakes barefoot would have been a preferable option to taking the shit I took daily. Some people can navigate the world of retail and be successful at it. Some people are impermeable to the optimism-crushing business practices of a big box conglomeration of corporate ineptitude and utter bullshit. None of those people work at Wal….errrrrr, Voldemort. Look at their faces. Talk to them a bit. There is blackness, weariness, and utter contempt brewing just underneath the surface of their “Happy to Help” smiles and false brightness in their voices. The job beats you down, and if the job doesn’t beat you down, the corporate selfishness and inexplicable cruelty to its employees will in short order.

I thought I was entering the field I wanted to be in when I took off the blue vest horror and burned it and shot holes in the happy face swag, but my health had other ideas. Instead, I found a job that was made for me, utilizing the skills I possess and combining them with the added bonus of not having to leave my house to do it. For an anxiety-ridden, OCD-laden, depressive disorder-maligned train wreck (*wink*) such as me, this was a Godsend.

Oh yeah, that. 2017 was the year I threw off the cloak of invisibility that allowed me to walk amongst the religious without drawing attention to the fact that I was not one of them. And had never been. Lying to the world I knew had become so normal that it suddenly was abnormal. I couldn’t do it anymore. So I. Just. Stopped.

Okay, let’s call 2017 The Year I Dumped the Koolaid. So much bad koolaid. Grape. I hate grape.

I mean it.

In 2017, I found my happy place, by the ocean. I went to concerts. I also successfully spoke to (and hugged! SQUEEEE!) celebrities I admired. This here was a BIG deal, because the possibility that I would have taken one look at any one of them, made an awkward face, yelped something like “Ghouuuulerrrrpemeritus!” and then run to hide behind the husband was actually a pretty good bet.

I got more tattoos. I shaved the side of my head. I put in all my piercings. I wore what the hell I wanted and made my face up in garish fashion when it suited me. I presented myself to the public as utterly WHO I AM. I refused to capitulate to the idea that 50 is old and it’s time to embrace the old lady hair and start knitting socks. I like socks, but I can’t knit, only crochet. I have little patience for it, and socks are easier to buy. Plus, you can get so many different varieties on Amazon!

Most of that was just embracing my inner and outer self and allowing myself to be unapologetically whatever-the-fuck I feel like being every day. If it needs to be said, I say it. If the day can best be attacked from the comfort of the couch, I allow it. I listen to my body and don’t push it beyond the warnings it gives me. Most of the time. I accept that I am a massively flawed human being and that means that when I am not fun to be around, I should just retreat until I can be. I don’t love that. In fact, I hate it. But I have made an uneasy pact with who I am and my limitations and if it keeps the trains away, then it’s all good.

Bad things happened. This was a very tough year for a lot of people I love and if I could have diverted the trains out of their way, I would have. Those things did not happen to me, but the feelings of helplessness and the frustration of not being able to “fix” things were the emotional burdens I chose to carry. Some days, it was a lot and I had to wonder if this life was just some sort of big “Pnk’d” episode.

I know it’s expected, but I won’t do it. I won’t GO OFF about the shit show that is playing itself out in this country. I will not rant about the DUMPSTER FIRE that is the White House. I will not LOSE MY SHIT over the complete and utter idiot who has taken a MASSIVE CRAP on the Office he holds. Nope. Won’t even say the name. I am not known for my restraint, but this time, I will abstain.

It rhymes with “Dump”, though.

No, it was not a bad year. It was a continuation of this thing called Life. If you’re just humming along, one can bleed into the next. If you aren’t paying attention, or only listening for the freight trains, you might not see the little deliveries of bliss, contentment, and just plain ol’ happiness that make their way to you by truck, by car, by plane, or on foot. What I mean to say is that there aren’t train tracks everywhere. Certainly, you need to look both ways before crossing them. Just don’t be so preoccupied by the possibility that you miss the other deliveries. Those are the stuff.

On to 2018!

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