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.