2016 Year In Review

I’m editing this just after I heard that news that George Michael has died. I think we can all agree that his death is a bookend to a year that has been completely horrendous. I know people die every year and horrible things happen every year but 2016 has been the worst year of my life personally. And I think objective historians will look back on 2016 and say “Holy shit what an awful year.”

I’ve been keeping my “month by month” journal for years now. I’m usually pretty diligent about it. But for this year most of the months only have an entry or two and almost all are about my mom’s very rapid progression from cancer diagnosis to dying.

In a way it feels wrong to do this review. Because in addition to my “month by month” stuff I usually talk about the music I listened to over the year and the books I read and the movies I watched. How can it be right to talk about those trivial things when my mother just died? The truth is they aren’t trivial. Video games, action movies and British crime shows were the things that allowed me to not lose my shit completely during this year. They helped turn the hurting in my brain down a few notches, at least temporarily.

Month by Month

January
– Had my wisdom teeth taken out. The recovery was brutal.

February
– I got a promotion at work.
– My grandmother died.
– My mother had surgery for a tumor on her sacrum.
– She was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer.

March
– Mom started chemo and radiation.

April
– Mom started suffering from “chemo brain.”

May
– Visited Los Angeles and while it was wonderful trip I managed to have a serious tonsil/throat illness and my mom was hospitalized for an infection while our plane was leaving Louisville. But I got to see some of my very favorite people in the world so the trip was worth the worry, endless boxes of lozenges and the trip to urgent care in a weird ass neighborhood somewhere between Long Beach and Los Angeles.
– We decided we want to sell our house and buy a one story house. That severally limits our neighborhood selection in Louisville.

June
– Mom decided that she would not continue chemo.
– The sadness became so overwhelming. I had to start taking meds to help sleep.
– Began “lets get this house ready to sell” project to give me something else to focus on besides being sad all the time.

July
– Turned 40
– Had a birthday lunch with my mom, Belinda and my aunts. It was the last time we were all together when my mom was awake and lucid.
– My siblings (who don’t have the same mother as I do) came to visit for my birthday and suffered through Star Trek and video games. They’re good siblings.

August
– Doctors told mom that at best she had 6 months to live.
– Could honest-to-god barely get out of bed most days.
– Mom bought Belinda and I a lot of jewelry and gifts because she knew she wouldn’t be here to give us gifts in the future. You try keeping your composure when your mother tells you that.

September
– Traveled to San Francisco for work. The trip included an “off site” in Sonoma. It was lovely to spend time with coworkers and do some work things. I still love working from home most of all though. The hotel in Sonoma had the best smelling shampoo I’ve ever used in my life. When I got home I was going to order a bottle of it but it was $50 for 8 ounces.
– Dixie Chicks concert

October
– My mom entered home hospice

November
– The Wednesday before Thanksgiving my mom went to sleep and for the next week there were only hand a handful of moments in which she was awake and never truly lucid. We sat vigil at her bedside for a week. She died at about 9PM on November 30.

Belinda was home in Louisville at the time but somehow she got there shortly after my mom died and then she got me home. It’s weird that I only have a few memories of that night after my mom died. I don’t remember the funeral home people getting there, I don’t remember leaving my mom’s house, I don’t remember arriving back home in Louisville. There are just gaps of time completely missing from my memory.

December
– My mother’s funeral and cremation

Mourning

For two years in a row my year in review has had a “mourning” section. That could explain why my soul feels so tired all the time these days. I’m writing about grieving my mother in individual posts so I won’t rehash that here. I’ll just say please, please may 2017 be a year in which I don’t have a mourning section in my year in review.

Music Consumption

Spotify did not compile a “year in review” for individuals this year. They just have the 2016 global roundup and “Your Top Played Songs of 2016.” That’s very disappointing and I guess for 2017 I’m going to have to go old school and setup some last.fm scrobbling or something. And of course Lemonade never made it to Spotify so their data isn’t a true reflection of my listening for the year.

So here’s what I can pull together from my top played songs lists and my memory.

Top Artists
1. Beyoncé
2. Adele
3. Nathaniel Ratliff and the Night Sweats (horrible band name)
4. Chris Stapleton
5. Nina Simone

Top Albums
1. Lemonade by Beyoncé
2. 25 by Adele
3. Changes by Charles Bradley
4. This is Where I Live by William Bell
5. Traveller by Chris Stapleton

Top Tracks
1. All Night by Beyoncé
2. Hold Up by Beyoncé
3. Reaper by Sia
4. Fire Away by Chris Stapleton
5. All Your Stories by William Bell

Again, I don’t have strong data on my listening habits but it will surprise no one that I listened to a great deal of sad music during 2016. So while the above lists represent a lot of my music listening in 2016 it’s not a complete picture.

Songs that break my heart but I listen to a lot anyway
1. The White Trash Period of My Life by Josh Rouse
2. When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die by Moby
3. My Father’s Gun by Elton John
4. Six O’Clock News by Kathleen Edwards
5. Talking in Code by Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s
6. Everything Trying by Damien Jurado
7. September When It Comes by Rosanne Cash
8. Hope She’ll Be Happier by Bill Withers
9. Falling Awake by Gary Jules
10. Not Dark Yet by Bob Dylan

As an aside, the older I get the harder it is for me to find new music that I like. Part of that is Spotify’s fault I think. Its audience seems to skew much younger than Rdio’s did. No matter what I listen to on Spotify it is always trying to get me to listen to what the kids are listening to these days. I’m too old for most of that.

Garden & Gun and The Bitter Southerner were probably the places I got the best music recommendations from this year. Toward the end of the year I started streaming KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” and found some good stuff there. So I guess I should listen to KCRW more in 2017.

In September we saw the Dixie Chicks live. I had gotten some bonus money at work so we splurged and got second row seats. It was worth every penny. It was an absolutely amazing show. And they even covered a Beyoncé song!

Movies/TV

We saw a few more movies in theaters than we did in years past. Part of that relates to the trend of awesome, giant recliners in movie theaters. Comfortable seats, less crowded environments makes theater going much more pleasant for me. Part of it relates to me needing as much distraction as possible. That being said we still watched the vast majority of our movies at home.

In 2015 we watched all of the Bond films. In 2016 we watched all of the Star Trek movies. All of them, even though some were really bad. I say that as someone who really loves the Star Trek universe. We also watched almost all of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” movies, I think. It’s hard to keep track of all those.

Basically it was an escapism action movie year by and large. However my favorite movie of the year, without question, was a delight from New Zealand called “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.”

If you watch this movie and don’t love it don’t tell me. We won’t be able to sustain a friendship with such a crack in the very foundation of our relationship. I watched it the night after we picked out the casket for the funeral and urn for my mother’s ashes after her cremation. It let me stop crying for at least a little while.

In terms of TV I enjoyed Luke Cake and Westworld a great deal. The fourth series of DCI Banks and the second series of Happy Valley were very good. On the comedy front Black-ish continued to be excellent and we’ve been delighted by Speechless.

Books

I stepped up my reading game in 2016 and finished the year having read 50 books. In the year that my mother was dying I read a lot of dystopian fiction, that’s something I should talk about with a therapist, probably. In any case here are some of the books I really loved this year:

The Door by Magda Szabo
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
The Fifth Season by N.K Jemisin
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Work

The first week of January will mark two years that I’ve been working at Slack. Since I wrote about it last year Slack has grown tremendously (I think we have something like 600 employees now, there were less than 100 when I started). I’m still extremely proud to work at Slack. I’m proud of both the product that we make and the values we embody as a company.

My mom was very proud that I work at Slack. She loved the animals commercial and was super excited when one of my cousins told her that she uses Slack at work. I’m really glad my mom got to see me in such a good place professionally. I think she was proud but also happy that I was happy. A few years ago, after a lifetime of doing something she didn’t love, she got into real estate. Got her license, was a serious realtor, the whole deal. She absolutely loved it. It breaks my fucking heart that she only got to do it for such a short time. So I like to think that it pleased her to see me do work that I enjoy and find meaningful.

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