First of all, I need to say goodbye to those wonderful celebrities who left us last year, starting with the first one in January, David Bowie. He was dying for the whole year of 2015 from liver cancer, but I didn't know that when he made his last album, Blackstar. He had just released this disturbing video that made no sense to me but was very scary (don't watch it unless you know what to expect). I first saw it in January and watched it again last night and realize now he was saying goodbye. He was only 69 but certainly lived a good full life. He left behind a legacy like no other.
And then a few days later, Alan Rickman (Severus Snape to Harry Potter fans) died, also at 69. That began a year where we lost so very many wonderful people. Here's a list if you want to see every celebrity we lost in 2016. Many of them weren't very old, at least from my perspective. I don't think of being in your fifties and sixties as being quite ready to leave. The year ended with the unexpected deaths of Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, the very next day. I cried over the loss of both and will watch both Postcards from the Edge and Singin' in the Rain again sometime soon and will marvel once more at their talent.
Well! That was last year, and we are now at the beginning of a fresh start. Of course, dying is just the final act of our time on earth and comes to each and every one of us, but we've got some living to do between now and then. "Living the dash," as I like to think of it (the time between our birth and our death), and this new year is a symbolic moment to contemplate what we'd like to see happen in the near future. First of all, I'd like to acknowledge the enormous pile of gifts that I have received: friendships near and far, health, enough monthly income to pay the rent and buy good food, and a partner to share this life with me. If I end this year with those gifts still intact, it will have been a good one.
There has been a definite change in my ability to remember things, and I'm wondering if I would benefit from some sort of program to enhance my memory. Names have sometimes escaped me for awhile, but it's getting more pronounced. I walked yesterday with a dear friend, someone I've known for years, and I can see her face, know where she lives, and as we walked I realized I couldn't recall her name. Oh well, I thought, it will come to me. But it didn't, and last night I woke with her name almost in my mind, but it would flit away just as I got close. As I sit here right now, it's still missing.
Perhaps this is simply another aspect of aging, one that happens to all of us, but who knows? It's disconcerting, to say the least. I'm wondering if the ability to look up anything at the drop of a hat is making it worse, since I don't have to search around in my memory banks when I can just ask Professor Google for the answer. The truth of it is that I am afraid of losing my mental faculties. I have some online women friends who are caregivers for their husbands who have developed dementia, and they are no older than me. It would be impossible for me to develop early-onset dementia, since I'm already too old for that. So, I keep an eye on my day-to-day activities and try to remain positive about the future. What else can I do?
I just received an email from the leader of our annual New Years Day walk that it has been canceled this morning because of the ice and snow we received here last night. I'm relieved, because I wasn't at all looking forward to venturing out and finding out whether it's slippery. I'm such a coward when it comes to driving in bad conditions. When I lived in Colorado, I didn't mind much because I was accustomed to it, but it's been many years since I've had to deal with days and days of icy conditions, and it's only January. We've got the entire winter to navigate, and I intend to ride the bus whenever I can instead of driving. Today there are no buses, but my friend John, who has an enormous truck (and heart), has offered to pick me up to take me to the coffee shop this morning, and I'll certainly take him up on that. He's a good friend.
Do you make resolutions for the new year? I have done so many times in the past, but recently I've decided that it makes more sense to have a word or a phrase to take me through the year. The word that comes up first is "Willingness." Being willing to be open to what comes, and dealing with the trials and tribulations of life with humor and good will. Why not? It makes much more sense to be willing than it does to grudgingly face each day's challenges. Yes, that's it: willingness. It even makes me feel happy to think of it as my Word of the Year.
Looking forward, I see many different ways to deal with whatever comes next. And come it will. The one thing I know is that life is not static; it moves with each day, and we can rejoice together or grieve for what we can do nothing about. Let's choose love and light and happiness for as long as we can, and remember that whatever happens, we are not alone. I feel such love in my heart for all of you, my dear readers, as well as love for my gently sleeping partner, for my sisters and brother and their families, and for those dear friends who surround me every day. If I must choose between a frown and a smile, you know which one I'll choose. I read somewhere that smiling, even when you don't feel like it, makes you and everyone around you feel better. Plus it's easy: just tip up the corners of your mouth a tiny bit.
And with that, I'll leave you with a quote from Paramahansa Yogananda: "Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts." Who could ask for anything better? Love to all of you, and may we share a very happy new year in 2017.