Looking for the Light in a Very Dark Year

29 Dec

Charlottesville: “We replaced you.” (Photo credit: Casey Kilmartin)

So, let’s just get this out of the way: 2017 sucked.

As bad as 2016 was, 2017 was, in many ways, even worse.

We had a new President*, and he set the tone for the year. Trump used his bully pulpit to anger, frustrate, provoke, frighten, threaten, belittle, and mock ethnic groups, other world leaders, the press, and many others all year long in his tweets and unscripted remarks, and through his actions (or inaction). He undid as much of President Obama’s forward-thinking legacy as he could. And he displayed virtually no warmth, compassion, or leadership — just a lot of callous self-centeredness. As hard as you may have tried to avoid him, he — and the effect he had on everything — was inescapable.

There were events like those in Charlottesville, where newly emboldened hate groups took to the streets and a young resistance protester wound up dead. There were the shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, and no action taken to prevent others in the future. There were deadly and destructive hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico that left many without power, food, or necessary, essential supplies — even now, months later. There were multiple terror attacks in London and elsewhere. And there were all those revelations of sexual harassment and assault by those in Hollywood, the television media, and Congress, among other places.

The political scene and cultural moment this year forced us to do a lot of soul searching. To reckon with parts of ourselves and the country’s wounded psyche we don’t like to deal with, and to confront racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and unsavory acts from people we know, like, trust, and admire. It wasn’t easy, and it was often exhausting.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, we lost legends like Tom Petty and Mary Tyler Moore, among others. At the start of the year, two of my own friends passed away unexpectedly, and way too soon. Over the summer, Ari Schultz, the five-year-old son of two friends of mine, was taken from us. And other friends and colleagues lost family members, friends, and people close to them.

No, by any definition, 2017 was not a good year.

But now that we’ve covered all of that, can we move on? Yes? Good. Because while it’s true that 2017 was a shitty year …

On the Other Hand

Patriots parade. (Photo credit: Martin Lieberman)

2017 was also the year that Tiffany Haddish told one of the best stories of all time: the one about how she took Jada and Will Smith on a swamp tour, paid for with a Groupon. It was the year Carter got his nuggs, when his tweet became the most retweeted ever. It was the year a professor’s live interview on the BBC was interrupted when his kids came bounding into the room, and then his wife frantically came in to retrieve them. It was the year a Marta bus blocked a live shot of the Georgia Dome imploding. It was the year the Patriots came back from a late-game score of 28-3 and won the Super Bowl for the fifth time. It was the year Brad’s wife lost her job and #UberBae got her revenge. It was the year McDonald’s brought back Szechuan sauce, albeit briefly. And it was the year my nephew Marc was shushed in a movie theater for laughing too hard during Captain Underpants.

Yes, there was something to #resist or be angry or upset about just about every day. But there was also plenty of good stuff that happened this year — so much that you didn’t have to be Taylor Swift to just focus on that and not all the other mishegas.

Even in the midst of the stuff mentioned earlier, don’t forget there was hope. Lots of it: The strength of all those people who came forward to call attention to and stop the abuse and harassment they’d encountered. The huge Women’s Marches that took place around the world in January, and the multiple marches in response to Charlottesville over the summer. The elections won by people like Doug Jones and Danica Roem, who triumphed over openly racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, hateful candidates (not to mention, in the case of Jones, a pedophile) — and have inspired other candidates to throw their hats into the ring for future elections. The people who went way beyond “thoughts and prayers” following the hurricanes and shootings. The way the press stepped up and did excellent work all year long. The way NFL players continued to take a knee, despite some backlash. The infectious spirit of Ari Schultz — and the strength shown by his parents — despite his health problems. The Houston Astros’ winning of the World Series. The One Love Manchester concert. Robert Mueller’s investigation into the President*. And the way Barack Obama somehow always stayed on the high road and said the right thing, continuing to inspire and be worthy of admiration, despite all the President* said and did to insult and erase him.

Another positive side effect of the negativity in the air was an increased emphasis on community. People clung to those they felt comfortable with, for whatever reason. In many cases (though, admittedly, not all), that was a good thing. I experienced it personally in the way many people I know sought out more engagement and interaction on social media, and eschewed detached strategies like the use of automation — and as a result, created even stronger relationships. My own use of social media this year introduced me to some great people and allowed me to meet others — online and off — who I’d never have come in contact with otherwise. That was definitely a bright spot this year.

#2017BestNine (Photo credit: Martin Lieberman)

And actually, it was just one reason why I, personally, in spite of everything else going on, had a good year. From my trips to Austin, Chicago, and Nashville, to my fun time playing tourist in NYC during Memorial Day weekend, to the first-ever sleepover in my apartment with my niece and both my nephews, to finally seeing Hamilton, to good movies and good music, and so on, I found something to smile about each and every day.

In fact, I documented those positive things on my year-long “Happiness Project” blog post. Focusing on the good things that happened allowed me to focus on my own self-care and maintain a positive attitude, even when so much around me wasn’t worth celebrating. It’s not that I wasn’t aware or conscious of those other things, or that I ignored them or lived in a bubble. I just decided I wanted to pay more attention to the good stuff, minor that it may have been at times, and didn’t want the negative stuff to be what I remembered about each day — then and in the future. (To wit: On January 20, the day Trump was inaugurated, I said I was happy about Dunkin’ Donuts hot chocolate K-Cups.) The “Happiness Project” is so valuable and effective for me that as I write this blog post, I’m already planning to repeat it for a third time in 2018.

And that’s just one way I’m planning to make the next year a similarly good one — because, you know, if you look at the world, things don’t appear to be getting much better. So if we want 2018 to be a good year, we have to focus on making things better and continuing to celebrate the positive. And I already have much to look forward to: I have tickets to see the Killers in concert and Bruce Springsteen on Broadway, I’m going to San Antonio to speak at an event, I’m going on my first-ever cruise, there’s a new Jurassic Park movie coming and a new album from Jamie Cullum, my niece is turning 10, and I’m hopeful that I may actually get a new job. (I’m also hopeful that I’m finally going to get serious and work on some stuff I intended to tackle this year but never did. Stay tuned.)

And so, as we wrap up this otherwise dark year, I’m looking back on all the bright spots — ones I mentioned here and on my “Happiness Project” blog post, as well as those I don’t need to write down to remember — and hoping for many more in 2018.

Thank you to everyone who made my 2017 not just bearable, but a lot of fun. You were my light in the darkness.

Here’s to a happier new year. For all of us.

4 Responses to “Looking for the Light in a Very Dark Year”

  1. Terra Walker December 29, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    Thank you for sharing. This was a very rough end to the year for me, one that wasn’t going to terribly bad. As years go, besides all the hate flying around, it wasn’t the worst year I’ve had. That said, you’ve inspired my own happiness product. I’m going to join you in 2018.

    • Martin Lieberman December 29, 2017 at 8:58 am #

      That’s awesome! (About the Happiness Project, I mean.) I look forward to reading what’s making you smile every day in 2018.


  1. 2017 … No, Really. Where Did the Time Go? | Martin's Musings - December 30, 2017

    […] We’re all pretty much in agreement that 2017 was not a good year. […]

  2. The 2018 Happiness Project | Martin's Musings - January 2, 2018

    […] a successful experiment, with the theory proven both times — especially last year: Despite the dark and turbulent events, and plenty of things that made me and others unhappy, I was able to maintain a positive attitude […]

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