2017 was a horrible, horrible year for a lot of people.
But on the flip side we still have Betty White…
If you remember back to 2016 it became the year of the celebrity death as a long list of well-known and beloved actors and sports icons and writers died during the year including David Bowie, George Michael, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Harper Lee and Muhammad Ali. They seemed to be falling thick and fast and when December 27th knocked us with the death of Carrie Fisher who was the iconic Princess Leia and the following day saw her mother Debbie Reynolds die, the whole world seemed to start counting down the days to 2017…
There seemed to be a whole movement getting around Betty White and willing her on as the one celebrity we refused to give up to 2016. And make it she did. In fact to see Stan Lee [the Marvel guy] trending yesterday and realise it’s because he has just turned 95, you can see that 2017 has been a different year in that regard.
But back to 2017 which seemed to be a really hard and painful and struggly year for so many people i know [were you one of them? Raise your hand in the comments and tell us why!]
i have to be honest though and say that my hard year has to be seen through the lens of the privileged life i find myself in – so it was hard in my context, but when i think of how more than half of South Africa lives [under the poverty line] and how millions of people around the world live [war, oppression, trafficking, abuse, lack of access to food, clean water and education] i have to acknowledge that i still had a better year than most.
But i do live in my context and so i think it is okay, for a moment, to reflect on what has been a tough year for me. But not to wallow in it, because… other people!
Doing a quick relook over my blog posts of this year i stumbled upon one written at the end of 2016 hoping for a better year in 2017 [oh dear!] and seems like i have forgotten that the previous year was not so easy as well. Also there were a list of goals i had for 2017 and i see that some of them i did really well while others i missed completely and so it is a helpful hint to have your goals displayed somewhere in front of you so that you can be reminded what you are aiming at. This is something i hope to do better next year.
So, yes, in the bigger picture of things, i am doing a LOT better than most. But when i stand in front of my own mirror and peer into it and evaluate this year just in terms of me and mine it has not been an easy one. The majority of that has been being unemployed from the part-time work i have been doing for the last three years [which, to be fair, i was enjoying less and less as the company i was freelancing for messed us around more and more] and the identity, purpose, value stuff that is wrapped up in having a job and providing money to pay the bills.
In my life the next thing has pretty much shown up fairly easily and so this is the first time i have come face to face with not knowing what to do, how to find something to do and the likelihood and possibility that i might end up doing something that i don’t particularly enjoy or feel fits in strongly with my values and purpose in life [you know, like millions of other people around the world] and that has been a difficult one to face. i think it has been good though, because so many other people – especially in South Africa – face this and so much worse, and so having even the smallest understanding or experience of what it is like has been good, if not fun.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
As hard as 2017 was for me though, there were still so many really great things about it.
One of my biggest struggles has been with this blog actually – since moving from FREE WordPress to Paid For Website my blog has looked a whole lot better and i think my writing or presenting of other people’s writing has been so much better and yet the unsolvably mystery has been how the views on my blog have not reflected this. My Free blog that i have not written on for two years still regularly gets more traffic than this one [unless i am sharing thoughts on the Passion Worship Event or an Angus Buchan call to prayer or some kind of political white people march or of course the old south african flag will do it].
So that sucks quite a bit – whether it’s Facebook algorithms or Google page searched or what – have had some WordPress working people look at it with no luck – but have had some posts do really really well [made it on to talk radio twice in relation to two posts i wrote] and yet the general day to day seems to be lower than i was used to… guess i will just have to more consistently write better posts then…
But even just looking back over a year of blog posts i see some pretty amazing things have happened and been reported on or experienced – like some new additions to the most popular [and my favourite] section of my blog, that of Taboo Topics, where i ask people to share stories about rarely spoken of topics, such as some shares from people struggling with Mental Health issues, parents of children with special needs, parents of young children when it hasn’t been all that easy, and when marriage is hard. [click on any of those to be taken to the powerful stories which let other people facing similar things know that you are not alone!].
i shared glimpes into organisations that are doing incredible things in some of the seemingly forgotten or despised areas of our country, such as the BottomUp crew who are spearheading educational programs in the Cape Flats, or the uJamaa guerilla gardening crew who are behind free food gardens springing up in the townships; i shared a number of posts from the first ever Justice Conference in South Africa which my wife tbV and an incredibly diverse crew of visionaries prepared for, created and ran and which is still being spoken of and actioned from [keep the weekend in October 2018 free!].
We continued to see incredible connection times of seeing each other and really experiencing empathy and heart change as we hosted some Deep Dive Dinner Conversations across South Africa with an especially significant time in the KZN area at a number of places with now friends and family. i started putting some of the blog conversations into video form with my Race with me series which later largely switched to Facebook Live video chats every Monday and i look forward to resuming those in 2018.
We continued to tackle race with a series looking at the so-called better black/coloured/indian and the feeling that so many people who are not white in South Africa feel like in certain places around white people they have to change how they speak or dress or behave to fit in better. We added challenges to men to continue the extension of #NotOnOurWatch by holding how men act and speak and behave under the microscope with a few posts on How to be a Real Man.
On a more personal level
Despite the frustration of not having regular work, i sought to better myself by returning to study and did a one year certificate course called Leadership in Urban Theology through the University of Pretoria, which was semi-distance, semi-together learning and we have one week left in January to submit our final presentation and receive our final assignment.
In October my wife, tbV, declared it healthy eating and exercise month and we changed our diet up and had a better system of regular meals and snacks, cut out a lot of carbs and started walking more regularly together, as well as using it as an alternative to hang out with friends. i also started a program called Insanity Max with Sean T alongside my mate Mahlatse and some of his friends [with whatsapp photo accountability]. i lost close to 5 kgs by the end of the year and will start up again this coming week and hopefully make it the next three kgs to my target weight. But also hopefully gained some much needed fitness for the hockey field where this year i finally made the move to Masters [over 35 yr olds] and scored a semi decent amount of goals.
Finally i am about to finish up a year of drinking no alcohol and decided that for 2018 i am going to be giving up chips and invite you to join me either in giving up something or in this list of other opportunities i compiled to seek out a new normal for 2018.
Heck, as awful as i have felt this year has been, i even discovered a whole list of Christmas songs that were not so bad and so had to retire my Christmas Grinch or at least banish him to the traditional Christmas songs corner.
i dyed my hair blue again…
i got to hang out with this lady a whole bunch…
i made some new friends and got to go deep and spend a lot more time with some friends we already had. And it feels like a huge success for me that at the end of 2017 if you put all my favourite people in a room together it would look a whole lot more like it represented South Africa than even a year ago. This makes me feel good on so many levels and largely because there is not a hint of tokenism in it or trying to be diverse or anything like that. Strange thing that as we started to seek a deeper understanding of the story of our country and started to have more conversations that mattered about race and poverty and the church and more, that those friendships just naturally happened. And we have only gained so much.
i wrestled a lot with my faith in 2017 and concluded that the ‘Love God, love People’ way of Jesus and the Bible is just so much greater than anything else i have seen elsewhere. The idea of Loving your neighbour as you love yourself and that everyone is your neighbour and just in case you don’t get that to remember the command to love your enemy and pray for good things for them is something i can live for. i like to think it’s something i would die for. i hang out largely with the folks at St Johns anglican church in Wynberg and have some great friends from there but i also recently started an online community for people who love Jesus but are struggling in different ways with the idea of church and i look forward to more wrestling and inspiring and encouraging with these family people of mine in 2018.
There was Improv and Board Games and movie watching [outside with blankets at Kirstenbosch being the best] and food experimenting [including the first ever Decadent Christmas Dessert Experiment which may become an annual tradition – year one included fudge and meringue and chocolate and crushed smarties and zoo biscuits] and a ton more of stuff…
For a bad year, it seems like looking back i did okay.
But that doesn’t make it any less hard.
And i know for a LOT of people this has seemed like a crappy hard year that many people are ready to put behind them and move on from.
To all of you, i want to say this:
We sometimes need to look back to mourn and to find closure and to work on healing wounds we may have helped create… but we cannot get stuck there.
i loved this cartoon i found when heading into 2017 after what i see now was a tough year for me in 2016 [but not as tough as this one i don’t think] and if you change the date on it to 2018 i hope you will find the inspiration in this for yourself regardless of how 2017 has looked for you, but especially if it has felt like a tough one.
Those of us doing race work can easily get discouraged, those of us trying to see a difference in the way men treat woman can feel like losing hope, those working in situation of poverty or struggling education can feel overwhelmed by the problems we face…
But while we continue to get out there and refuse to back down or shy away or be silent or take risks or aim at #NotOnOurWatch or step away from the mic or help create a platform for the voice of someone on the outside or step towards or build a bridge or reach out or just see or listen to or try to understand or learn from or read about…
There is hope. That 2018 is the one where we will see a bigger shift. Where greater pockets of change will come. Where walls will be torn down and new creative, imagination-inspired villages will be raised.
Despite everything in 2017 and all the news and weather and chaos around us, i have hope.
How about you? How was 2017 for you? Good, bad or ugly? Or shades of all three? Leave us a story in the comments…