I was glued to my TV last Thursday when Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. I found her sympathetic and credible, and her testimony has had me thinking about memory. It’s strange that those attacking her credibility seem to think that either you wholly remember something or you don’t remember it at all. But if you look to your own memories, you’ll see how untrue that theory is. How you remember some things so clearly and others not at all. For example, I remember the code for my high school locker’s combination lock, but I don’t remember my much-anticipated last day of school at all. I remember exactly how the very unappetizing turkey sandwich the nurse brought me after my son was born tasted, but I can’t remember the first thing I said to him. Then, of course, there are those moments that are shelved in your mind for clear and precise recall at any time. Those moments where fate’s powerful hand nudged your life in one direction or another. You can step back into those memories and, for better or worse, live them over and over and over again.
For me 2016 was full of those moments, and as a result 2016 has become one of those before/after years in my memory. 2016 marked a new era for me. To name just a few reasons, my mother died unexpectedly, my three-year-old was on the cusp of transitioning from teeny toddler to full-fledged kiddo, and we were about to enter a horrifying new era of American politics. Basically, all of my assumptions about the world and my experience of it were being challenged in that year. And it was uncomfortable in so many excruciating ways.
Though it’s cliche to say, these challenges made me a stronger person. I coped with my first really personal experience with grief. I learned how to sit with that grief, to carry it around with me, and not let it destroy me. And, without my mother to lean on and to seek validation from, I believe that my core became stronger. I learned to trust myself more. I had to.
As my son grew into a loquacious, headstrong, inquisitive force, I grew too. I was challenged by his willfulness and charmed by his developing mind. I felt amazed that I had this small friend, that I could watch him grow, and that he loved me and wanted to be around me.
Politically, I found that all of the assumptions I had made about a common good and shared humanity and right versus wrong were . . . wrong. Which made me more vocal and steadfast in my beliefs. No, I don’t need to apologize for my beliefs. Yes, I think you’re a bad person for your lack of empathy. No, I won’t apologize for judging you. And so it goes. Since I’ve spent much of my life feeling the need to appear soft spoken and apologetic, I’d say this has been a positive turn.
I find myself thinking about this as the seasons are changing here in Seattle, with the return of some misty rain and clouds and cooler temperatures. As the November elections and all the vitriol leading up to them fester in our culture. As I prepare for the arrival of a new baby and watch my fiery, sensitive, independent son negotiate the challenges of the “real world” (AKA kindergarten).
So, it seems that, for me at least, 2018 could be another before/after year. A jumping off point. A line of demarcation. And where once I might have stubbornly resisted these changes and seen them as a loss of the way things were, I am now able to find something beautiful, something almost miraculous, in those changes. Life is anything but static, after all.
In the immortal words of David Bowie, “Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes.” Head on, I say. Let’s go.