I’ve tried six times to write something to you today. Something about 2017. Something funny, maybe. Or something heartfelt. You know, all deep and hopeful and shit. But it all felt wrong.
Everything I wrote felt wrong—an infuriating feeling—when words simply cannot say a goddamn thing and it all feels forced and pathetic. The humor feels flat. The depth, fake.
Nothing but frustration. Nothing but irritation. Nothing but wanting to walk away.
Eventually, I did walk away, and went about my day, finally realizing hours later: “Confusion, Janelle. That’s what you feel. That’s why you can’t write about 2017. Because 2017 was a year of confusion. So of course you’re confused trying to write about it now.” Fucking confusion.
That was 2017 for me.
Mind-numbing, dizzying, whiplash days of utter confusion. It isn’t spectacular for the creative process, I’ll tell you that much. I try not to write unless I have something to say (weird, I know), but 2017 was characterized by a million attempts to contain the incomprehensible, by the feeling of “tomorrow, maybe tomorrow something will make sense,” only to find in tomorrow a bigger hit than today’s.
Back into the maelstrom of where the fuck am I?
2017 began for me with a tragedy that felt like the cruelest, most unnecessary slam against my family – like a kick straight to the jaw when you’re already bleeding on the ground.
I woke on January 1 to my husband standing in my bedroom doorway, saying, “Janelle! I went into Ava’s room and Laser is dead in there.” Our five-year-old Labrador died on New Year’s Eve during the night by suffocating in an insulated lunch bag that had a single candy wrapper in it.
A fucking lunch bag killed my dog.
Beyond the cruelty of the death of our pup was its timing. It happened six weeks after my grandmother was murdered by my cousin, which happened five weeks after the natural death of my grandfather.
My grandmother. Stabbed. Gone. She was old, but she wasn’t done.
Everything I thought I knew of my family, of safety, of living on earth, was gone. Between moments of terror and crushing grief, I felt confusion.
How? Why? HOW?
The year of confusion.
I spent the first day of 2017 pacing my house almost in a fugue, repeating the words, “Not our dog, too…not our dog, too…”
I knew then 2017 was going to be bullshit.
But I didn’t need the death of my pup to know that. I knew Trump was coming, and I knew it would be horrendous. And it was. It is.
Watching a man that evil run our country – a racist, misogynistic, ignorant, compulsively lying bully – but even worse, watching people support him. Watching the sycophantic GOP kiss his ass to make sure their tax scam passed, watching them fall in line through all his juvenile, dangerous, insane tweets and attacks of the free press – the sacred America institution of the motherfucking free press. His obvious guilt. His ignorance. His manipulation. His obvious racism and misogyny and threats to democracy.
He claims absolute right over our judicial system.
And they do nothing.
Money. Oligarchy. Here we are. I want to scream HOW DO YOU NOT SEE? WHY DON’T YOU CARE?
I get why the GOP doesn’t care, but what about everyday people? Family members. Trump supporters I know.
How do they not see?
Dizzying, mind-numbing, stunning confusion. How. Where. What. No.
I watch women and men fight and fight and kick and scream and call and write their representatives. Nothing. They don’t give a fuck. We have no power. We have no power. Why do we try.
I watch my hope dwindle. I watch it fade into damn near nothing. I wonder if I care anymore.
I read James Baldwin’s words on hope. I feel the weight of my own pathetic nature. I don’t even remember what he said. I only recall how his words made me feel.
White middle-class woman with healthcare in California. Oh, get over your fucking self, Janelle. Who are you to get all despondent? Who are you to lose hope?
But what do I do?
My words were gone.
And yet, they weren’t. I wrote a whole goddamn book in 2017. I wrote 320 pages of sentences. I wrote them one word at a time, for hours, weeks, months at a time. Rewrote them twenty times. Wrote them again. I wrote a book I had in me for eight years.
I’d rent a motel room for the weekend and write for 18 hours. That was how I did it. That was how I wrote. I left my family. I left it all. I hid out. It felt weird and wrong and wonderful. It was joy and excitement and creation.
And that, too, was confusing. Because here I am in hell living my goddamn dream. Here I am in hell with a pocket of heaven carved out just for me. A book? Fuck. Nah, not me. Not my life.
And yet, there I was. Here I am. All at the same damn time.
But a book is different from a blog. I got lost in my book, in the story, in the sentences fading to the next, in the tinkering of the grammar, the arc of the narrative, the woven themes and the problems I just cannot figure out. I could hide there. I could forget I was even on earth.
But the blog? Shit. That’s a conversation. That’s what’s going on right now, each day, and all I had for that was confusion.
And I still don’t have anything funny to say, anything profound or helpful about 2017. It was a bullshit year, but I learned some things.
I learned I can write through unimaginable pain. I learned meaning is not “found,” it is created. It doesn’t drop from the cosmos in one glorious bubble. It is sculpted and molded with our hands, maybe because we’ll die if we don’t make something out of the seemingly meaningless pain of our lives.
I suppose, too, what I learned is that there are times in life when your footing is removed, when the path is obliterated, when your feet can hardly see where to land at all – and shit gets weird there. It gets tense and terrifying and exhausting, but goddamnit it gets wild, it gets creative, it gets resistant and pissed off and somehow, through the din of the lies and basest nature of humanity, rises the sound of a few million people making meaning, looking to tomorrow, refusing to accept the confusion is for nothing.
So Happy Fucking New Year, friends. Good Riddance, you piece of shit, 2017, and while the pain may be our confusion, it will never be our undoing.
And that’s something almost like hope.
Maureen WanketSunday, 31 December, 2017 at 18:07
Beautiful, perfect, true. Thank you.
KelleyWednesday, 17 January, 2018 at 2:14
Wow this really hit home. My son is the exact way but he had ADD. His test scores are amazing in school and he retains EVERYTHING he is taught but could careless about homework. It is a constant fight where I usual end up crying and saying fine don’t do it. I am so afraid that I am going to get in trouble with the school and that they will think I am not a good parent. Sometimes you have to choose your battles. He get so worked up and defiant so instead of fighting with him he simple doesn’t do it. He is super smart and knows what he is suppose to do but could honestly not give two shit’s. Honestly o was the same way and rarely did my homework in school. I just don’t know what to do! Your article really helped me more than you can imagine. Knowing I’m not alone!! ????
ChelseaSunday, 31 December, 2017 at 18:32
I’ve been feeling so despondent all day. Everyone around me wants 2017 to be the end of ‘it’ whatever we the fuck ‘It’ was. I want that too, but Im not that hopeful. I’m the lady who’s like, ‘ I’m sorry folks, this ain’t over just yet.’ I want to be all optimistic and shit, but I just don’t feel it. Thank you so much for giving me permission to just be here, feel this. It’s your gift.
TabSunday, 31 December, 2017 at 19:50
I fucking love you. That is all.
jnlSunday, 31 December, 2017 at 22:35
you dont get it….
this year is really not that much different than any other year.
im totally being serious.
yes, trump is an evil dick. but really, all your politicians for a really really long time (maybe always?) have been evil dicks too. they were just better at speaking, and were classier. no one fixed anything. no one really helped the poor or middle class. they just were better at letting you guys keep your heads in the sand. they all were out murdering civilians for money, claiming freedom. they all were taking your rights away. pushing your wages down. letting you get sick and stressed and more and more pathetic. until enough of the worlds population has become mentally weak enough to welcome and cheer for their oppressors.
politically, personally, every way. 2017 is not much different than any other year. it seems like it is. but it always seems like that.
us sheep, we’re not living, we’re just killing time
my hope is that maybe one day we storm the bastille and make real change. wouldnt that be exciting. but im not holding my breath. i think the waves will wash over us before we turn off the tv and get off our asses to storm the bastille.
at least your life is looking pretty good right now. thats what you should be taking from 2017. and if you cant see how awesome your year was, you are blinded by the oppressing weight of the world. which is exactly what your dear leaders want from you. so they won with you too.
jnlSunday, 31 December, 2017 at 22:46
also, i have no answers. i dont think anyone does. so just focus on and enjoy the good shit. including the hilarious tantrums your toddler throws that you will really miss a lot sooner than you think.
and dont stop fighting. but dont let that shit get you down or the fuckers win.
SuzanneMonday, 1 January, 2018 at 2:08
Keep writing, keep those sentences coming, keep telling the stories of your life. Happy 2018 and I hope with all my heart that it’s not a sinkhole like the year we just got rid of. Hugs…Suzanne
Peggy MillerMonday, 1 January, 2018 at 8:59
Hello. I think you nailed it: confusion. WTF? A pocketful of heaven while you’re walking through hell. My mom’s been in the hospital or in skilled nursing facilities for six months; I’m finishing a clinical doctorate. My life is great, but the world is scary and sad. So we keep walking forward.
Also, I’m sorry about Laser. That is brutal. We lost our Rosie-dog in November. It just fucking sucks.
I just wanted to mention, because I’ve been thinking about it: Tom Petty. The part of 2017 that crystallized how much we still have left to lose, and how much the universe does not care was Tom Petty’s death.
This may be my own cocktail of depression and morbidity talking: I don’t think 2018 will be better.
KatieTuesday, 2 January, 2018 at 12:35
There are some unfortunate, disheartening parallels between our 2017s…which I know from being a consistent reader. This is what I wrote about it: “2017 was, undoubtedly, the hardest year of my life. In the midst of some tough days, a good friend asked me ‘who I was becoming’ out of the pain and difficulty I’d experienced. It was an important juncture to pause and ponder this. Often, we wish for the past, for the moments before we lost or were changed. We cannot have it back, but we can move forward with deeper empathy, intentional evolution and gratitude for every good moment, as often as possible, in the midst of it, not only in hindsight. I’m glad this year is ending. And as we move into 2018, I’m working on continually, ‘becoming…’ ”
I can’t wait to read your book – and wish you the best in moving forward as you move through. What else can we do? Thanks, as always, for your candor. It makes the world a little less lonely.
MaryElWednesday, 3 January, 2018 at 5:09
My holiday letter this year is five breezy sentences. That’s all I could manage that wouldn’t be fatalistic and depressing. So many nights this past year I have fallen into bed exhausted and sad (I didn’t write THAT in the holiday letter). But it’s where I am in life, fifties, trying to keep it together and be present for kids, hubby, parent, friends who have way more on their plate than I, and of course my job. The sorrow and anger of the broader world doesn’t help at all, but as another commenter already wrote, that has always been there. (By the way I haven’t actually gotten around to mailing the holiday letter and cards, just to be clear.)
But please, everyone, keep speaking up, asking day care centers to give raises to employees, naming creeps who leer and grope, teach our kids to say when someone in authority does something they aren’t comfortable with. Mention how lucky you are to have health care, if you have it. Notice how many people are relying on food banks, and inform your congressperson if you think it’s a problem (which I hope you do). And so on. Janelle, thank you again for your words!
AnetFriday, 5 January, 2018 at 7:45
At 61 years of age I have lived through a lot of pain and a lot of joy. But nothing like trump winning the election has change my point of view about American people. I always thought we were caring and intelligent people and that we are progressing into a more enlightened population. Then Trump wins the election and white supremacist started feeling they could just say whatever they wanted just like regular white people say whatever they want when minorities are around. This year broke my heart but it also strengthen my resolve to reach out to others with similar mindsets and to work toward bringing back into government the kind of people who actually care about other people. I don’t believe all politicians are crooked or corrupt. That’s a copout for people who just want to work here that cynical, smarter than you, individual who Is graded pointing out problems but not so great at working on solutions. Your year was her Renda’s but I’m sure that in the mist of it there are moments of joy. 2018 I get to retire, and I hope I live to see June when I can actually say ‘I am retired!’ It also will be time for the November elections when the decent people of this country take back America, not the cynical, capitalistic, profit minded America but the one where we welcome strangers into our country, have tolerance and even affection for different religions and cultures, And become again a leader in the world.
AnetFriday, 5 January, 2018 at 7:46
Please forgive all the typos. I really should’ve proofread that and not trusted auto correct????