I learned that if you start doing something you love and keep doing it over and over, saying “fuck it” and doing it again, you may find yourself making a living doing what you love. And it will feel as good as you imagined.
But I learned too there is no arrival, and even as you meet the moments you were sure were going to eliminate the fear – “As soon as [this one thing] happens, I will feel confident and know what I’m doing.” – fear simply morphs into a new version of itself. But you can write anyway. And you grow bored of the motherfucker.
Get a new game, fear.
I learned that I can love a political candidate and get super into the primaries (Oh, Birdie), and that I can feel actual sadness when my guy loses. I also learned that the primaries are way. way. WAY too fucking long. Why do we hate ourselves?
I learned that the moment you realize you have three years left with your oldest child is an incomprehensible one, and you feel robbed and delighted all the same, and wonder if you loved her toddler years completely, and hold on to the time like glittering diamonds.
I learned two-year-olds are still pretty annoying.
And potty training is bullshit.
And snot is an asshole.
But the way they run in quick little steps still takes my breath away.
I learned my children will surpass me with their strength.
I learned I will miss my husband’s beard.
I learned a mini-van is the vehicle of the gods.
I learned my country can betray me. I learned it can elect a man of hate and authoritarian idiocy, and that some people aren’t bothered by a President using Twitter to discuss foreign policy.
I learned we need to improve the American education system.
I learned you’ll feel a little better the day after your country elects a barely literate bullying demagogue if you go over to your best friends’ house and sing old folks songs of resistance while she plays piano and your kids run in circles around the living room.
I learned you’ll feel better until you realize the next morning that at the very moment you sang and cried, your grandmother was bleeding on a kitchen floor 50 miles away, killed by the hand of your cousin.
You will wonder if you cried perhaps for her that night.
I learned grief is a physical agony.
I learned children sometimes face evil too young.
I learned I cannot protect any of us from either.
I learned silence surrounding mental illness kills people. I learned it shatters families and massacres the dignity of life, and death. I learned one hundred human lives can cripple under agony, diminish forever, weep simultaneously for the rest of their breathing days because of the silence surrounding mental illness.
I learned of the dignity of death. I learned you can die beautifully. I learned you can die with your hands held to the heart of your wife of 67 years and the eyes of your daughters and grandchildren surrounding you through their tears, bathing you in the sunlight warmth of a lifetime together.
I learned we all deserve the right to die like that.
I learned once again that the only way through it is to move right to the center, to throw yourself into the flames, let them leap and pull and tear to make you new, turn you to ash, trusting for some godforsaken reason that the embers will burn enough to light your way to the other side.
I learned there is no other side.
I learned this is it. I learned my family is all I have (and that some family isn’t blood). I learned there is more love for all of us in our pain. I learned this isn’t bullshit mind candy. It is the ultimate reality I will always be seeking.
I learned if your grandmother is killed, all the irritation you once felt toward your own mother will wash away like a pebble pulled into the ocean – all the tiny bothers tumbling into the blue – and you will rest easy, and grateful for that, as you hold her hand to your heart and pray it’s enough.
I learned we are still here.
And with all my heart, I’m still, I’m still just happy to be here.
Daphne SheavesSaturday, 31 December, 2016 at 12:51
Christ, girl, you ruined my make-up again! Happy new year to you and yours. May 2017 bring you nothing but joy and happiness. (And Trump impeached.)
Lou TaylorSaturday, 31 December, 2016 at 12:58
GD it…..why do you always make me cry??? I guess my tear glands must need a good deep cleaning sometimes. Thank you for that. My favorite thing about 2016 is I stumbled over you and now can’t imagine a week without you in it. YOU. You did that. Also, you gave me the necessary tools to tame my laser eye glare at mothers with young children. That was a BIG one. My trips to the store are actually kind of enjoyable when I get to be a nice gal periodically. Thank you for opening my eyes to a multitude of truths. I was in a ditch and didn’t even know it. You and your pack rock. XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO
Stephanie JankowskiSaturday, 31 December, 2016 at 13:18
Here’s to a 2017 that will make us proud…
…please, baby Jesus, please.
Lou TaylorSunday, 1 January, 2017 at 16:07
JulesSaturday, 31 December, 2016 at 14:07
Reading this moved me to tears. This has been a year of great highs for me (graduating college that I started in 1991!), and the lowest of lows ( diagnosis of an extremely rare neuromuscular disorder that will give me another 10 years AT MOST). I’ve learned that as much of a dumpster fire that 2016 has been, and 2017 might be worse, but in my own little universe of my family and friends my love can be the gravity or cosmic pull that holds us all together.
I am not the praying type, but my thoughts are with you and your family for healing and calm, and I hope that your 2017 brings more little sparks of brightness and light to you and yours. ❤️
Melissa SengerSaturday, 31 December, 2016 at 14:32
This moved me greatly. Rarely does something both bring me so much sorrow and peace as this blog entry just did. I’m so sorry for your loss, truly. I know a lot about loss and trauma. But you are also so correct. This is it. It’s all we’ve got, even when things are truly madly deeply fucked up, and as mothers, we have no choice but to keep fighting the riptides in hope there is some calm to be found if we do.
I don’t know you but I am sending you love, calm, and healing vibes on this New Years Eve. I hope the New Year will grant you some distance from this year’s hurts and that you keep pursuing your dreams.
JoelleSaturday, 31 December, 2016 at 15:03
Beautiful. Just beautiful.
dboSaturday, 31 December, 2016 at 15:27
I may not know you, but I’m comfortable saying that you’re a super-kick-ass human being. You’ve both broken my heart and then made it soar again just within the moments it took me to read this passage. Sending all the love your way.
kellySaturday, 31 December, 2016 at 18:09
That is the most beautiful thing I’ve read in so long. And so much of it resonates with me personally. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Sharon ChrismanSaturday, 31 December, 2016 at 19:56
What a tragic year you’ve had! For that, I am sorry. May 2017 be a gentle breeze through your soul. Keep writing.
PeggySunday, 1 January, 2017 at 4:22
Thank you ,dear.
EvieSunday, 1 January, 2017 at 8:27
Just beautiful. Thank you.
CheneySunday, 1 January, 2017 at 8:40
I hope 2017 is better for all of us. Thank you for writing so real and being an inspiration for so many of us. Hugs to you, girl!
RachaelSunday, 1 January, 2017 at 10:20
Beautiful and true. I’m sad you have been through so much this year, but grateful that you have used your strength and talent to pull something out of those experiences, and have the generosity to share them with the rest of us. Thank you.
ReneeTuesday, 3 January, 2017 at 8:29
You have had a hell of a year Janelle. We have all grieved you through your painful times and soared with you through the good ones. For that, we will be forever grateful. Your experiences have either taught us a valuable lesson or reminded us precious times gone by. As you have grown, so have we. Janelle, I pray that you have a wonderful 2017 filled with love and understanding for everyone in your life. God knows that you deserve a good one………..
Susan ashleyTuesday, 3 January, 2017 at 20:46
You are amazing!
JenniferWednesday, 4 January, 2017 at 6:47
And in spite of all the pain and agony of life, I would much rather do this sober so I can feel the joy and the gratitude and the love that goes with it all. Without my previous Hell, I would not know Heaven.
CourtneyWednesday, 4 January, 2017 at 8:01
Laughter through tears is definitely my favorite emotion. Thank you, Janelle. Much much love to you and yours.
Rachael McIntoshThursday, 5 January, 2017 at 15:17
Saw this and thought of you: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/dec/22/the-grief-of-losing-a-pet-is-traumatic-and-universal-so-why-dont-we-talk-about-it
All the best for an easier year ahead. x
AutumnFriday, 13 January, 2017 at 12:58
The rawness with which you write is a wonder. Thank you for being unafraid to say what you know and who you are and what your experience is. It’s clear you inspire a great number of people and as a new mother who also finds some solace in writing, being able to come to your blog and let a little of myself go is the kind of self care that makes the biggest difference. You’ve a beautiful way with language and a fearlessness that I can only hope to attain at some point in my life. I hope you have as much insight and inspiration in 2017, and I look forward to reading all about it.
CharmingSunday, 22 January, 2017 at 20:38
Thank you for this. And everything else you write. Really just thank you. ????