Friday, December 30, 2016
The Year that Was
I had so many plans for this week between Christmas and New Year's. I have manuscripts due back to clients, and a research project I'm really enjoying, and I would like to bill a few more hours before the year closes — but I am unfocused, adrift, and overwhelmed by a sense of dread that feels more rational than usual.
2016, everybody says. This terrible year. We'll be glad to see the end of it. And I nod and say, "God, yes," as if I too had a terrible year.
And then I stop myself, because I actually didn't.
The world might be going to hell in a handbasket, but my own truth is that I had a pretty good year. No, that's not right: in many ways, I had a great year.
My year started in Niagara Falls with the brilliant and hilarious Lisa Lutz. In February, I got back to Maine to see my friends Beth and Cory get married, and catch up with my old trivia team and people I haven't seen since 2013. March was the Virginia Festival of the Book, where Sarah Weinman let me share her hotel room and my sisters came up to hang out with Sarah and Lisa and me. April ended with the Edgars dinner, which I attended with the lovely Northern Irish author Paul Charles and still don't believe I get to go to (actually, anybody can: http://theedgars.com/banquet.html), and Malice Domestic, in my own back yard.
May 12 was Max Scherzer's 20-strikeout game, which I wound up attending by myself (and in the process, discovered that I love going to baseball games alone). In June I went to Virginia Beach for one niece's baby shower, the first of two nieces who had babies this year; to Baltimore for a fantastic evening of books and steak with friends; and to New York for more books and more friends and more dinners. July was Juliet & Paul's wedding, one of the all-time greats, and more baseball, in both DC and Baltimore.
And August was the trip of a lifetime, through the generosity of my friend Megan Hills, who invited me to help celebrate a milestone birthday in Edinburgh. I'd never been to Scotland. Now I've been to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and I can tell the difference between highland and lowland malts (I prefer the lowland). I've been to the Edinburgh Tattoo, which everybody ought to do if they can. I went to Dublin, where I'd also never been, for a weekend with Claire and Zach, and made a visit to Belfast in the company of John Connolly and the legendary Joe Long. I got to go to yet another wedding in Dublin, celebrating Bob & Leon's long relationship, and had more dinners with dear friends I hadn't seen in much too long.
September was Bouchercon in New Orleans, with the mighty Judy Bobalik; Virginia Beach for my father's 75th birthday; and Fall for the Book at George Mason. October was a week at Rehoboth with Claire and Zach and friends and board games, and yet another trip to New York. November was a Thanksgiving with Chris and Claire and Zach and the Beas, all together under one roof for the first time in a couple of years, and December included a trip to Raleigh for yet another wedding celebration, with Jen and Lek.
My personal tally for 2016 is four weddings, two new babies in the family, and no funerals. The friends who went through cancer treatments this year are all still here, for which I fervently thank them. I saw a lot of good baseball, some great theater and music, and some so-so basketball, most of it in the company of friends, and much of it through their generosity. I read some excellent books and had some very good meals. I had clients who paid me to do fascinating work. I am profoundly grateful for all of these things, and the world's sorrows shouldn't overshadow that.
2016 was a hard year for a lot of the world, and for many of my friends. 2017 may be harder, and I will not be surprised if it's a lot harder for me. But for now I am trying not to feel guilty about being the ploughman in Brueghel's Icarus. It's enough that I'm aware of it, and that I look for ways to pay it forward.
My resolutions for the new year are to pay more attention to the good things, to hold my friends and family close, and not to let externalities distract me from the things I value most. Oh, and to get my reading totals back up above 100 books. I spent way too much time in front of screens in 2016. We might all be better off getting back to analog next year.