At the Closing of the Year: 2016 edition

A lot of people have said that this has been a terrible year. And in many ways, it has. For many people, it has. However, coming off 2015 which was arguably the worst year of my entire life (at least in the top five worst years), I’ve been thrilled with all 2016 has brought with it. At the end of the year, I like to write a reflection of the previous twelve months. I enjoy going back, comparing notes, and seeing how far I’ve come. At the end of a bad year, it’s comforting to know that things change, time is fluid, circumstances are rarely permanent. But at the end of a good year, I sorta want to think that things can stay the same for just a little bit longer. I don’t want to see the good times end so my “New Year’s Resolution” is simply for more of the same. Usually, at my birthday, I write a post about my goals for the upcoming year. Didn’t bother with that this birthday.

Now, in no particular order, I will reflect upon what this past year has looked like for me, how it’s made me feel, and why it’s been such a great period in my life.

*Health: I’m very fortunate to have my health. Dear friends around me have suffered devastating illnesses and this only makes me more thankful. In 2015, I ended up in a wheel chair but in the first half of 2016, I improved dramatically from my back injury. For instance, in the first show I did, I had to wear flats but by the fall, when I was in a second show, I was able to maneuver around stage in heels with barely any discomfort. I was also never sick, with the exception of a stomach virus in January and a small cold after Thanksgiving. Additionally, exercise was able to become a part of my daily routine again and by the summer, I was back to doing my online dance workouts. Since the fall, I’ve been adding small hand weights as well and working on rebuilding the strength I lost last year.

*Art: I painted, drew, decoupaged, visualized and made come to life several pieces of art work. I’ve always seen myself as a potential artist but I felt like I couldn’t put brush to canvas without knowing what I was doing first. This year, I learned I must not wait on classes or teachers. I must just create and the experience would teach me better techniques. Each piece has meant something important to me. One was therapeutic beyond measure. I created it knowing I was going to cover it up… which I did. I did cover it up with an empowering message but I know what is underneath that feminist piece hanging in my kitchen and something about that secret makes it that much more special to me. For 2016, I have a few ideas for pieces in mind but basically I just hope to make more art, no matter what that looks like! In 2016, I completed four canvases that I kept and one I gifted. Maybe I’ll set a goal of covering 10 this year!

*New Hair/New Clothes: This year, I invested in cute new clothes. Dresses mostly. And they are delightful. I started rocking a haircut I used to only wish I could have but, fearing repercussions at home, I never went for it. Now I just do what I want to do and I don’t worry what anyone else might think. I also played around with henna tattoos and at times I had all kinds of things written up and down my arms and that was okay. It was what made me feel better at the time.

*Fangirling: Being a fangirl is always one of my favorite parts of any year. 2016 was filled with wonderful opportunities to be a fangirl extraordinaire. Early in the year, I had the privilege of seeing my favorite band of all time, The B-52s, in concert along with the Nashville Symphony. It was cold that night and I was still just able to walk again. My husband was so sweet to drive me right up to the building and pick me back up again. I went with a dear friend and her sister. It was the perfect night. Later on, close to my birthday, I went with the same friend and a new friend to see Pet Shop Boys, an item on the top of my bucket list. It was as amazing as I dreamed it would be. So much color, so much happy. Then, of course, there was the opportunity to grow closer to my online Kate Pierson friends. We all worked together to send a special gift to Kate for her birthday. My contribution was something I wish I could go back and tell 13 year old Mandy about… I had the courage to send Kate a copy of the poem I wrote for her back then. It was called “The Blue Rose”. With it, I included a needlefelted blue rose that I made for her. The thank you I received on social media is a memory I’ll treasure forever. In the fall, I discovered a reality show I’d somehow missed for a LOT of years called RuPaul’s Drag Race. My daughter and I had a great deal of fun catching up on a few seasons and I personally fell in love with a few queens in particular. So I spent a lot of time fangirling over Jinkx Monsoon and Sharon Needles and Adore Delano and Alaska Thunderf*ck. Not to mention, the treat we Gilmore Girls fans received at Thanksgiving when a new season landed on Netflix and we got to visit Stars Hallow all over again. Finally, here at the end of the year, I have enjoyed going to Twin Peaks again, but this time, I had my kids with me.

Birthday Week: Last year I swore that if I was well for my birthday this year, I’d do it up right. And boy did I! I celebrated my birthday in several different ways (Drag Brunch, Gilmore Girls marathon, another delicious brunch, dinner and Opryland Hotel with friends,  drinks at the Green Dragon) with several different people and it made me feel so amazing about turning 39. I highly recommend making a big deal about your own birthday to anyone. It’s an excellent path to self-care.

Homeschool: In 2015, I felt like I failed miserably as a homeschool mom. I realize that most of us in this career have off years so I wasn’t too hard on myself about it. But I can’t help but be proud to report that in 2016, I did a great job. Letting myself off the hook by signing up for an online school this fall, I was better able to devote time to extra activities and studies while the online school took care of the core needs. This year we studied graphic design, sewing, and civil rights. The kids took fun field trips, raised and released butterflies, lived and learned at the theater, attended wonderful summer camps, and experienced a few specialized programs at the Wilderness Station and through an organization called Girls to the Moon that I found to be valuable and I’d repeat them.

Theater: Guys, my year in theater was magnificent. First of all, I saw a crap-ton of amazing shows featuring and starring some of my favorite people in the world. But I also got to do theater myself… breathe life into characters, make people laugh, get nominated for a local acting award, experience the anxiety of waiting for that first theater review and the relief of seeing, not only did you get a mention but, holy crap, it’s a good review. A generous, kind, wonderful review which gives you the confidence to keep auditioning. The best parts of doing theater this year, though, was having a chance to bring my husband into that aspect of my life, kiss and punch him repeatedly on stage, and, last but not least, make new friends. My family has expanded dramatically this year and the theater has a lot to do with that.

A few other things worth mentioning about my year are:

-helping plan the first ever BoroPride event and becoming connected to more members of the LGBT+ community, a step I’ve needed to take for a lot of years and, now that I finally have, man, do I feel good about it.

-seeing my baby cousin for the first time in way too many years.

-getting plugged in as a volunteer, alongside my kid, for Leukemia Lymphoma Society.

-Pokemon Go!

-writing and connecting with a local poetry group.

-good food, good music, podcasts, and being able to focus again

-removing negativity, being able to say, “No, you won’t treat me that way. I won’t allow it.”

-vinyl… I finally organized my records, honoring the collection the way I should have a long time ago.

So, as you can see, there is very little I need to change or add. However, I do have this play I’ve been writing for a long time hanging over my head and I need to follow-through and finally write it. I also want to get those 10 art pieces created and have enough completed pieces for the poetry book I’m working on: 40 Poems Before I’m 40.  Rather than resolutions, I’ll just make a point of intentionally working toward those goals and, this time next year, hopefully I’ll be typing up a post about how 2017 was just as amazing as 2016 because it would be hard to beat!