2017 Year in Review

This is the least fulfilling year in review I’ve ever written. So many months have almost no entries because sadness filled my days. But I’m writing this so that when I write next year’s review I can look back and see how much things have (hopefully) improved.

Month by Month

January
– Took a long weekend in Nashville just to get away from everything for a few days. We needed that trip a lot. Basically we did nothing but eat a lot, drink a lot and read a lot.

February
– Got the kitchen floor replaced as part of Project Sell This House and Buy a Different One.
– My sister spent her birthday weekend with us, it was lovely.

March
– Travelled to Toronto for work. It’s very very cold in Toronto in March. I honestly didn’t mind it though. I just walked between the office and the hotel in frigid temperatures and enjoyed being away from all the grieving I was doing at home. I wouldn’t mind going to Toronto again this March. But don’t tell my boss in case I change my mind.
– Got the flu. Was sicker than I’ve ever been as an adult. I was sick for two weeks including one entire week off work.
– Paid off all our credit card debt.

April
– Bad month for grief.

May
– Had the exterior of the house painted as part of Project Sell This House and Buy a Different One.
– Mini family reunion at my cousin’s wedding.
– Some good things happened at work.

June
– Painted the basement as part of Project Sell This House and Buy a Different One.
– Started studying Python.

July
– Turned 41.
– Spent a really lovely weekend at my sister’s house. Drinking, laughing, lying in the sun reading books.

August
– Staycation that included visiting local museums, seeing movies and lots of naps.
– Frustration at not being able to find a house to buy.
– Almost adopted a senior dog but someone else adopted her before we took the leap.

September
– Read Torah on Yom Kippur.
– Super frustrated with house shopping.
– Insurance refused to cover a colon cancer screening because I’m too young for the procedure to be deemed medically necessary. When told my doctor wanted the test because my mother died of colorectal cancer insurance then decided I was too high risk for that test.

October
– We stopped actively looking for a house since we still hadn’t found anything we were interested in. In the meantime we’ve been saving money for the eventual new house. We’ll pick the search back up in January.
– Went to “Boo at the Zoo” with our nephew.

November
This was a month of pure grief for me. I didn’t write anything down in my monthly journal and I don’t have any recollection of things I did during the month other than work and play Assassin’s Creed.

December
– Work trip to SF. Those are always stressful for me but this trip I got to spend time with a lot of my favorite work people so it was well worth any travel stress.
– First holiday gathering with my mom’s side of the family since she died.
– I scheduled a colonoscopy.

Mourning

For three years in a row my year in review has had a “mourning” section. Last year in this section I said “please may 2017 be a year in which I don’t have a mourning section in my year in review.” But here we are. No one I was close to died in 2017 but the largest part of my energy in the year was spent on grieving. And as much I hate to say it I suspect 2018 is going to be the same.

I honestly wasn’t prepared for grief like this. I knew I’d be sad. I just didn’t know how all encompassing it would be. I didn’t know that a year later it would still be so bad.

Music Consumption

Spotify did a good year end roundup. According to it I listened to 94,978 minutes of music. Seems about right.

Top Artists
1. The Avett brothers
2. George Strait
3. Harry Styles
4. The xx
5. Nina Simone

Top Albums
1. True Sadness by The Avett Brothers
2. Harry Styles by Harry Styles
3. I See You by The xx
4. The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Top Tracks
1. Once by Maren Morris
2. Good to Be Back Home by Charles Bradley
3. Astral Plane by Valerie June
4. Love by Lana Del Rey
5. Trouble by Cage the Elephant

I still don’t have a good music discovery flow. The demise of Rdio really messed with music discovery for me. At the end of the year I’m listening to the KCRW best of 2017 playlists and am finding a lot of stuff I like. I wish KCRW put out more curated playlists more often.

Movies/TV

It was mostly an action movie year for me. The ones I enjoyed most were Thor: Ragnorok, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Atomic Blonde and Wonder Woman.

On the television front we fell hard for The Good Place. Other network comedies we still enjoy are Black-ish and Speechless. In terms of drama we basically just watched every single British crime show we could get through various streaming channels.

Video Games

I played video games a lot this year. It would probably be really shocking to tally up the total hours I spent playing. But playing helped me. It took my mind off grief and sadness. It was a blissful distraction.

By far the best game I played was Horizon Zero Dawn. It actually became my favorite video game ever. After completing it I turned right around and played it two more times all the way through. I took a month off and then played it through a fourth time. And just last month I played the first expansion pack.

My second favorite game of the year was Assassin’s Creed Origins. I’ve been a fan of this series for a long time and this was one of the series best installments.

Books

I read 53 books in 2017. I forced myself to read books from a variety of genres and motifs this year since in 2016 I mostly read dystopian fiction. The books I liked best:

1. Dinner At the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander
2. The Heirs by Susan Rieger
3. Moonglow by Michael Chabon
4. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
5. Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

Work

Next Friday will mark 3 years that I’ve worked at Slack. I’m still very proud to work there and I’m still proud of the actual work that I do. Slack has given me the opportunity to do the best work of my life. I try to take full advantage of that opportunity every day.

The Year Ahead

One of those end of year things came around asking what the best thing you did or the best thing that happened to you was. I couldn’t think of anything for either of those questions. That’s bullshit. I’m going to be better in 2018. I’m going to find some goals, find some new hobbies. Find something to make a mark in.

And I’m going to take some fucking vacations.

The Third Post About Grieving

It’s harder now than it was a month ago. I can’t explain why. But everything reminds me of my Momma now. And then I remember I don’t have a Momma anymore and I break into tears. I’ve cried in bed, in my car, at my desk, at the grocery store, while doing dishes, while doing laundry, while walking the dog, while paying bills, while watching tv, while adding a new key cover to my house key, while writing this, while listening to voicemails. Oh and every time I have to listen to a voicemail I also listen to voicemails from my mom that I’ve saved. And guess what happens then? That’s right, more crying.

It’s been a busy, exciting time where I work and that’s been good for me. Work keeps me focused and distracted from the sadness. But before and after work (and if I’m honest, sometimes even at work) I’m always thisclose to tears. I didn’t anticipate that grief would rise and fall like waves. I thought with every day that passed it would be better and better. And so I had a false since of “making progress” in early January. I felt better than I had in December and thought I was on the right path. Then January progressed. It was like I’d hit a peak in healing and then started sliding back down the hill. I’m still on that slide.

The grief alone would be enough but the full weight of guilt has hit me now too. Though she never said it I know I must have disappointed and failed her and hurt her in so many ways. I don’t know how to get past the guilt for that. So for now, I’m just stuck. I don’t know how to move forward.

The Second Post About Grieving

Cremated remains are a lot heavier and more dense than I expected. In “feel good” movies where someone has died they are often used for comic relief. You know what I’m talking about: someone is spreading the cremains (god, what a portmanteau) of someone they love and inevitably the wind picks up and the cremains get blown back onto the person. After handling my mother’s cremains I’m calling bullshit on all those scenes. It would take a big fucking wind to throw up cremains that easily or a really fucking stupid person to throw all the ashes at one time.

It’s been one week since we spread some of my mother’s ashes at her parents’ gravesite. Her ashes are going multiple places so we spread just a little bit at the cemetery. It was a brutally cold day. I took my gloves off, put my hand in the box and sprinkled the only physical component of that which was my mother’s body onto the ground.

Afterwards I didn’t know what to do with my hand. What could I do that would be respectful? I couldn’t put my glove back on. I couldn’t wipe my hand on my pants. I just stared at it for a really long time.

My mother’s funeral was really just a visitation at a funeral home and there wasn’t really a ceremony at the cemetery when we were spreading her cremains. I didn’t write a eulogy to read. I should have. My aunt read from Ecclesiastes but I should have said something.

I wasn’t ready to say anything but I regret not writing something, I regret not saying something.

I haven’t cried every day this week. That’s an improvement over the previous week. But when I do cry, when the pain hits, it’s just as sharp.

I’m not good at this mourning thing. I’m following the rituals I’m supposed to but they feel performative. Like I’m just doing them for people to see me doing them. I guess that’s the heart of the expression “fake it until you make it?” I don’t really know. I’m also not good at letting people help me. People ask “how are you” and I think that’s a dumb question. My mother has been dead for less than 3 weeks I’m awful. But when I thought about calling my stepfather I couldn’t think of what I’d say to him other than “how are you?” and now I know I’m a jerk for not just translating it in my head to what people mean: “I’m sorry your mom died, I don’t know how to help but I care about you.”

Thank you to the people who care about me, I’m sorry I’m not better at this.

The First Post About Grieving

My mother died last week after being diagnosed with cancer in February. She outlived her father by one year and two months. She outlived her mother by 9 months. She was 59. And now she’s gone.

Like many children of divorce who grew up in the 80s the relationship I have with my parents is complicated. For reasons, it was sometimes very complicated and messy with my mother. But I loved her. Fiercely.

My mother was beautiful. I suspect most daughters think that about their mothers but I’m telling you, objectively, my mother was very beautiful. It’s actually kind of hard to have a beautiful mother. Your awkward and gawky years are even more awkward and gawky when compared to her beauty. But then again you kind of swell with pride when people notice that your mother is beautiful. At least I did, as you can see for yourself.

My mother was funny and she had a great laugh. Her sense of humor was a little dark, a little twisted. Of all the gifts I ever gave her I think her favorite was a pair of earrings in which (wooden) human legs were dangling from a shark’s mouth, the head and torso ostensibly having already been consumed. She’d jingle the legs and laugh hysterically.

My mother loved dogs. At the time of her death she had three, all rescues, who are very good dogs Brent. They are just the latest in a long line of rescues and strays who found the best home they could ever imagine with her.

When I was little my mom took me to see The Fox and the Hound and forever after anytime a hound dog was mentioned she’d say “I’m a hound dog” like so:

Her favorite movies were It’s a Wonderful Life, Overboard and Romancing the Stone. I had a fantasy of renting out an entire theater just for a screening of Overboard for her. She didn’t go out to the movies much but she would have loved that. I honestly thought I’d do that for her one day. See, for as much as I’m a pessimist and expect bad things to happen I never expected my mother to die young. I assumed we’d be old women together (she’s only 19 years older than me after all) and that I’d be able to afford the grand gesture someday.

Some days I make it hours before I remember that my mother is really gone. Other days, from the instant I wake up until the moment I fall asleep, it’s all I can think of. To be honest I’m not sure how to do this whole grieving thing. I’ve had loved ones die before but never quite like this. And of course I have Jewish mourning rituals to follow. But I’m finding grief to be very powerful, very odd and very unpredictable. So I guess I’m just going to have to figure this out as I go along.