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Your Year-End Scoresheet
By Chris Colcord
Fort Wayne Reader
2016 was an amalgamation of so many loathsome acts and events that you don't have to go into great detail to remember everything that happened — just a single word can bring back all those memories instantly: Zika, Trump, Aleppo, Orlando, Brexit, Bowie, Prince, Pence, Dallas, Brussels, Putin, EgyptAir, Harambe. It was the kind of year where you started to dread every "Breaking News" banner that would work its way across the screens of every major news broadcast. Even the hyper-connected would feel like taking a break from the endlessly negative news cycles and unplug for a while. That kind of year.
Of course, your personal score for 2016 was probably irreflective of the world's tally for the year. The election probably kept you up nights and the Syrian crisis probably shook your belief in humanity but I'm still betting the world didn't intrude too much into your personal fortunes. This isn't a criticism or a cynical observation, by the way; just a tacit acknowledgment that we all tend to keep our eyes on our own world before looking at the larger landscape. As that noted social historian Chrissie Hynde once famously said — as long as you don't try dragging my bay or dropping the bomb on my street, we're cool.
My personal 2016 was pretty good, if a little boring. The year seemed to pass in an agreeable sort of haze, with only a few events jarring the needle in one direction or the other. I'm the parent of two young daughters and their relative health and happiness is most of my focus; when it comes time to catch up with friends, I have precious little news of myself to report. It's mostly tedious little stories about my girls' incremental progress. I try to keep these stories to a minimum, for I know how deadly dull they are, but I really don't have anything else to say. I'm quite removed from most of the exclamation-mark, headline-news story of my personal life (Marriage! Job! Kids! Break-up! New Home! New Arrest!) and am now in a comfortable and relatively anonymous existence. I have few complaints and am generally pretty happy. The one thing I'll report as newsworthy is that having young kids has helped keep my middle-aged self somewhat healthy; not just the running around, but the laughing. I never realized how much I laugh when I'm around my kids. And it's not the cooing, aren't-they-cute laughter, but anarchic, absurdist laughter. Kids are walking non sequitirs and that appeals to my satirical nature. And I know that genuine laughter is a real health tonic.
It's a little odd for me to be engaging in this year-end "summing up" exercise, for I've always been dead-set against that kind of thinking, but I'm changing. I've discovered that it's sort of appealing to revive some holiday traditions that I've never really considered. At Thanksgiving, for instance, I actually insisted that we do that dorky "what are you thankful for?" speechifying before the meal. It was weird, for everybody was unsure how to go at this unironically, but eventually we all settled in and answered with sincerity. At Christmas, too, I've just lately established (with my wife) some holiday traditions that I'm hoping will last a number of decades. Why this sudden change of heart about holiday traditions, I can't really explain — for most of my adult life, I've been somewhat irreverent about Christmas and, well, everything else — but now I actively enjoy the notion of having a ritualized schedule of holiday activities to adhere to. And I can't blame the kids for this, though I do enjoy the way they look forward to the holiday. But this is all me. For some reason.
And while I won't be making any resolutions on New Year's Eve, I will certainly drink a toast to the year that passed and do a little more reflecting. I did a bunch of this already, in November, when I met some friends for our annual trip to see the Breeder's Cup horse races. Every year we get together for this — we've been doing it for 25 years — and it becomes sort of a defacto New Year's Eve for all of us. Invariably we do a lot of reflecting that weekend, and to be honest, it's not always a pleasant thing. It's great to see your closest friends once a year, of course, but it's also a little loaded — your friends will always unwittingly offer up a mirror for you to gaze into.
One year I remember talking at length about the book I was working on, about the nuances of the story, about the great hopes I had for it and what kind of "statement " it would be and of course my friends were enthusiastic and supportive of my endeavors. And the following year, after a couple of drinks, they asked me about the progress of the book and of course my stomach iced over. Haltingly I admitted that the progress hadn't been swift, that I had written about, oh, let's see, about um, well 6 pages. It got quiet but then they were supportive again, saying, Hey, it will happen, but I felt embarrassed and a little ashamed. And I started thinking about all those other abandoned projects I had tossed aside, and how I wondered if I'd ever finish anything again, and and and. . . And all this from an innocent question asked by people who love me. It didn't put a damper on the weekend, and it didn't make me want to avoid my friends' eyes, but it was definitely a moment that forced met to take a pretty hard look at myself.
So it's never easy, to take a deep long look inside, but well, that's what the New Year is all about, isn't it? It's a tradition, after all, and traditions are made to be obeyed. So I'll do a little more uncomfortable soul searching on that day, and then I'll have a huge glass of champagne and a nice bowl of Hoppin' John. And I'll send the simplest and sincerest plea into the great Unknown out there, that 2017 will be a happy and healthy year for everyone. And that maybe I'll actually get another 6 pages done in my book.