Friday, December 31, 2021

Saying Goodbye (and Good Riddance) to 2021

I was working on my 2021 retrospective blog post this afternoon when I got the news that Betty White had died. She was nearly 100-- and so healthy that People magazine featured her on the cover with an article about her upcoming birthday. But she passed away in her sleep last night, totally unexpectedly. In some ways, that is just typical of how 2021 was-- just when you thought it was heading in one direction, it headed in another direction entirely.

Frankly, I won't be sorry to see 2021 go. Agreed, it had a few high points, like my 7th anniversary of being cancer-free. But over all, it was a year of frustration and disappointment for so many of us, beginning with the attempted insurrection on January 6th. I never expected to see anything like that in my lifetime. I never expected to see a violent mob try to undo the results of an election. I thought that happened in other countries, but not in ours.  And what made it worse was hearing some people, and some politicians, defend it. But there is no defense for what happened.  We've always had the peaceful transfer of power, whether "our guy" won or lost. Watching the events of January 6th unfold made me afraid for our democracy. It was not a good way to start the year.

I remember how hopeful I was when a vaccine for COVID became more widely available. Having spent most of 2020 indoors, the thought of actually (not virtually) seeing my friends and going out for ice cream with my husband was an encouraging thought. I got the vaccine as soon as it was available, and within a few weeks, I was able to see (and hug) my friend Meg and visit a bookstore and eat at a restaurant. Life seemed like it was returning to some version of normal.

And then it wasn't. There was a new variant, and COVID numbers began to rise again, and people worried that the vaccines wouldn't be able to protect us, and the promise of being free from COVID was postponed. Many schools returned to online classes (and so many of our students were already in a state of crisis, having lost family members to the virus); and everything that seemed so promising was suddenly back to being uncertain. As I said, it was that kind of year.

Congress spent much of 2021 being quarrelsome, although several major pieces of legislation did get passed-- including one that will, hopefully, improve broadband nationwide. It has always mystified me why a country like ours has been okay with such poor quality broadband service for so long -- some parts of the US don't even have access to it at all, which in 2021 is outrageous, especially in a world where so many students need it for school. Like him or hate him, Pres. Biden was able to get the infrastructure bill through, and I applaud him for doing so-- others before him tried, but they did not succeed. He did. And that will benefit a lot of folks. 

In addition to Betty White, we lost a number of good people in 2021-- too many to name, but among them, actor Norman Lloyd died at age 106 (I loved his work in "St. Elsewhere"); and Ed Asner who famously played Lou Grant, died at age 91. Willie Garson, who starred in "White Collar" and "Sex in the City," died way too young, from cancer, at 57; the music industry lost Michael Nesmith of the Monkees, Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers, Jay Black of Jay and the Americans, Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Dusty Hill of ZZ Top, and Don Everly of the Everly Brothers.  Radio lost the legendary music director Rosalie Trombley, and local Boston media lost Dean Johnson, a friend and colleague and one of the good guys in our industry.

In late 2021, my husband became severely ill with pneumonia; it was a very scary period of time, and now that he is well on his way to a full recovery, I thank God every day for good doctors (and for health insurance). It was another reminder that if you've got your health, you've got everything.    

In 2021, more and more people seemed to think it was okay to be angry and threatening when they disagreed with others: I saw a lot of this on social media, but some folks saw it in stores, on airplanes, and in restaurants. I miss the era when being courteous was the norm.  Meanwhile, schools (and teachers) became the object of outrage too, often unfairly ginned up by politicians. I've said it before and I'll say it again: while every profession has a few bad apples, the vast majority of teachers are hardworking, dedicated, and vastly underpaid. They do not deserve the scorn and insults that many of them received this year. Rather, they deserve our thanks for the work they do educating our kids, under often-difficult circumstances. 

And now, here we are at the end of 2021, and as I said, I won't miss it. I have no idea what 2022 will look like, but I do hope it will be more peaceful, more kind, and more tolerant than 2021 was. And I also hope it will be a year when we all return to good health. Thank you to everyone who read my blog in 2021. I hope I was reasonably interesting. I look forward to whatever 2022 holds, and I'll be here (God willing) to write about it. Wishing you a wonderful new year and sending much love. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Facing Down the Future Coming Fast

I was on a Rush Deep Dive webcast several days ago, and the song I was asked to analyze, from the "Hold Your Fire" album, was "Turn the Page." For those who read my blog, you may recall I mentioned it about a year ago, as I was commemorating the passing of Alto Reed, who played that haunting sax solo on Bob Seger's "Turn the Page"-- it's a very different song, but with the same name as the one by Rush. I have always liked them both: two different perspectives on how quickly things can change.

In the Bob Seger song, he sings about his life as a traveling musician, playing in city after city. "Here I am, on the road again, there I am up on the stage; here I go, playing star again, there I go, turn the page." Note how he is "playing" star-- it's not just a musical performance, but it's also a persona, the way he is expected to act. And then, it's time for the next city, and any ties to this one must be cut, and he's on to the next stage and the next performance.  

In the Rush song, Geddy Lee sings, "It's just the age, it's just a stage, we disengage, we turn the page." The stage-- referring, perhaps, to the venue where they play their music, or it could also refer to a stage of development in life.  Neil Peart's lyrics speak of how we are "racing down a river from the past," comparing our lives to "standing in a wind tunnel," or perhaps "standing in a time capsule," but in the end, we can't avoid "facing down the future coming fast." We try to outrun our past, but sooner or later, it catches up to us, and all we can do is either deal with it or try to disengage from it and "turn the page."

But it's not that easy, is it? On Thanksgiving day, my husband took seriously ill and I had to rush him to the hospital. He was diagnosed with pneumonia, and it took many days before he was well enough to come home. I didn't sleep much during that period of time, and no matter how I tried not to worry, I couldn't help feeling afraid. Of course, I tried to seem like I was in control-- I had courses to teach, and responsibilities at my job. So, I performed, as we all do when we have to; but inside, I was terrified.

On the 17th, it will be seven years since I had cancer surgery. I had wonderful doctors, and I am grateful to be alive. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't worry even now. I know logically that if the cancer hasn't come back by this point, it probably isn't going to. But I still lie awake at night sometimes, worrying about whether this story will have a happy ending. So far, it has-- I'm still here (much to the disappointment of my enemies). And so far, my husband's story looks much more promising than it did several weeks ago, and that too is good news. But the uncertainty about what lies ahead is sometimes difficult to avoid, and disengaging from it is hard to do.

On the other hand, I've found great comfort from the folks on social media who have reached out to me-- Rush fans, professional colleagues, educators, folks I knew in radio, friends who have stood by me for many years. Through my husband's illness, through my recovery from cancer, they were there for me. I don't know what the future will hold, but the compassion I've received has helped me to cope with the ups and the downs.  And in a world which at times seems dominated by the loudest voices and the folks who disagree, I find myself once again being thankful for those who brought me their friendship and their kindness-- gifts that matter now more than ever.