It feels safe to say we are all in agreeance that 2016 left a tad to be desired. It felt like we got sucker punched repeatedly this year. Things flew at us from nowhere, other things flew at us from rather predictable places (looking at you, 2016 Election Season).
My daughter suffered a concussion in early March, with complications lingering until late summer, causing her to miss a great deal of her third grade spring semester. In June, I mourned for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, a tragedy that struck me in my gut, as so many of my friends these days are LGBT. I had celebrated marriage equality the June prior with so many of my friends, smiling and cheering on the state house steps. This year we sat at a memorial on the levee holding each other and wiping away tears.
Then, early in July, police shot and killed Alton Sterling here in Baton Rouge, captured on video. I took part in demonstrations around town, some uneventful, some too eventful. Our city’s deep issues with race were suddenly very out in the open (I wrote a blog post about this that got some attention). I had hard conversations with my children about the privilege they were born with…privileges their brown skinned family members don’t have. I awakened to low flying police helicopters over our home the morning six police officers were shot, 3 fatally, a quarter mile from my front door. I stood with my children on the side of our streets to pay our respect to these officers and their families as their funeral processions rolled by.
And then…it started to rain.
I pulled people into boats, I played with soaking wet preschoolers who told me exciting stories about being rescued by helicopters from their rooftops, I held strangers’ hands while they sobbed into their knees. I waded into chest deep water, holding the hands of strangers. I was sent back to people’s homes before they’d seen the damage themselves, forced to recount what I’d seen, the bearer of the worst news I’d ever had to give to anyone. I spent weeks working the night shifts at the flood shelter set up at Celtic Studios and felt guilty when I could come home to my dry house, to take a hot shower, and cook my own food. I saw so much devastation I still can’t wrap my mind around it and I’ve developed a deep distrust of rain.
The waters receded, and I took my 9 year old daughter to vote for a woman we wanted to be president. I stayed up with her on election night and cried with her, because so many people were heartbroken and afraid and I couldn’t answer her questions.
2016 broke my heart, over and over.
But also in 2016, I stood under magnolia trees as a bridesmaid and watched two of my good friends get married. I danced with my husband at a Mardi Gras ball
with my beautiful best friend. We took our first “just the four of us” family vacation in May, our son’s first trip to Disney World. I watched my kids parade with Mardi Gras Indians at a community event in an often overlooked area of town. We celebrated new babies, birthdays, anniversaries, new jobs. I was part of an excellent panel put together by Red Stick Moms Blog to discuss our city’s issues with race. My family of four became a family of 6 for a couple months when we had the privilege of being a safe place for a set of twin baby girls, post flood. I witnessed a Hollywood movie studio become a mini city of flood survivors, showing the world how well it really can be done. We adopted a bulldog and named her Wrigley AND OMG THE CUBS WON THE WORLD SERIES, which I thought I might never see. I celebrated with friends at Baton Rouge’s mayor-elect’s victory party. I was honored to receive a community service award from the Metropolitan Community Church here for my work here in Baton Rouge.
2016 was an emotional roller coaster.
I got a tattoo last month to sum up 2016 for me. Some of my close friends here and I joked that “2016 was the year shit went down and we all got tattooed”, because really, it did and we did.
Hallelujah. Usually a burst of praise…but sometimes our hallelujah is not a joyous shout, not an exclamation of joy, but rather a broken cry. This year more than ever before I learned the real power of those broken hallelujahs. The ones that are almost nothing more than an exhale, a sigh of relief. Sounds of grace, sounds of exhaustion, a desperate cry for help and thanksgiving in one. A sound of life. We’re alive. We’re still here.
2016. I’m not sorry to see it go, because it was anything but easy, but I am hopeful we have grown. 2016 forced us to confront the darkness, to tackle it head on, to find the opening for the light. We had to find the silver linings. We had to ask for help. We had to lean on each other. We had to pick each other up and stand behind each other.
We found our beauty in the broken mess that was so much of 2016.
Grace. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Extended hands. Plates of food. Hugs. Smiles. Laughter.
So much love.
So here’s to 2016 for being the teacher we didn’t know we all needed and to putting our newfound strength, our voices, our resilience to WORK in 2017.