2016: A year of political and personal upheavals


That 2016 was a terrible year has become something of a litany now. There was the relentless roll call of celebrity deaths – from Bowie and Prince, to Rickman and Wogan, Cohen, Ali, Wilder, Harper Lee, and, more recently, Fisher, Michael and Reynolds – all era-defining, often self-deprecating, wildly charismatic artists, whose songs, films, books and TV shows punctuated our lives, and whose deaths – nearly always too early – seemed also to close the door on a different and somehow better world.

Then there were the political maelstroms of Brexit and Trump, the resurgence of strongman leaders like Modi and Duterte, the raging conflict in Syria, continued IS atrocities, shocking assassinations, terrible plane crashes – news that always verged on hyperbole, if not outright catastrophe; the sense that the world as we knew it was teetering on its axis. I thought 2011, when I was producing news videos, with its literal and numerous political tsunamis, was a singularly dramatic year, but it had nothing on this one.

In the midst of all of this, I discovered – on International Women’s Day, no less – that I was pregnant; as luck would have it, just when I had embraced the likelihood that I would most likely spend my life childfree. Neither something I had planned for nor expected, I spent much of the year grappling with the enormity of this fact – when I allowed myself to believe it was happening at all. You hear a lot about postnatal depression but there is also, I discovered, something called prenatal depression – a dreadful malaise fuelled by rioting hormones, all-pervasive nausea, and an absolute terror of what the new future holds.

As it happened, I was incredibly fortunate. I had a supportive partner (now husband), family and boss, wonderful friends and colleagues, and a complication-free pregnancy – something of a miracle, given my age – which resulted in the birth of my son Noah in October. Both pregnancy and motherhood are, unsurprisingly, emotional rollercoasters and I will write more about them later. Suffice to say that I have neither cried nor laughed more than I have in the past eleven months, while my friendships and relationships have nearly all deepened. Most of all, perhaps, I have been forced to come to terms with my vulnerability, after years of touting my strength and independence. Becoming a parent opens your heart in a way that nothing prepares you for.

So while 2016 was a difficult year for me in many ways, it was also an extraordinary one. I learned many things last year – that you should avoid complacency at all costs, since life has a way of coming and biting you in the butt when you least expect it – both personally and politically. I learned, more than ever, to take things one day at a time and to trust my instincts, and I learned that we are stronger than we think – both physically and emotionally. I learned too that the human spirit is extraordinarily resilient – the only reason why, perhaps, we have survived for as long as we have.

For all of these reasons and more, I stay open to the belief that the good in us outweighs the bad, that life is cyclical – as history teaches us – and that this bleak landscape will eventually give way to something better. In the meantime, I wish you all a joyful and positive 2017. May it lack some of the more unwelcome drama of last year but still be sufficiently challenging – in a nice way – and filled with enough good and wondrous things to keep you happy, healthy and fulfilled. And in the words of Neil Gaiman:

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

22 thoughts on “2016: A year of political and personal upheavals

  1. Congratulations on the birth of your Noah! In a few years’ time, may that be the only big headline for you from 2016. My best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful 2017, too.

  2. Thanks for sharing your commentary on the past year! I don’t want to dismiss the problems that 2017 had but merely put them in perspective. I think its always worth reminding ourselves that even with the hardships we have, if we were alive 100 years prior we would have lived through a World War (a war that resulted in more that 22 million deaths between 1914 and 1918). Occasionally I hear someone say something like “I don’t know where this world is coming to.” At such occasions, I find it helpful to remind myself that we have the privilege of living in a time that is more peaceful than any other time in the world’s history. This is not to say that we don’t have problems (clearly violence still exists), but it may helpful to put our challenges in perspective. Thanks for the post, commenting on it has given me some ideas for my next blog entry, happy 2017!

    • Thanks for this – and a happy 2017 to you too. I agree very much that life – and history – are cyclical and I’m sure there have been worse years – it just didn’t always feel like that last year : ) All best and take care.

  3. thank you sunnyrap, I’m new to blogging, and am curious to see how folks do it. I like your words. Always glad to find a Neil Gaiman fan… Happy New Year, and thanks- Brad
    ps Howz life with the new family?

    • Brad – welcome to the blogosphere – you write beautifully! loved your first post – I agree completely. Happy blogging and 2017 to you too. My new little family is great though i’m missing a full night’s sleep 🙂

      • I’ve part of a large community of young, and not so young folks. Many of them are surprised to find themselves in a similar spiritual opportunity. 🙂 Baby people are so wonderful and soooo everything!

      • lol – baby people are definitely a lovely new world unto themselves – i’m enjoying getting to know the little fella, it has to be said.. : )

  4. First of all, you write beautifully so no matter what the future holds, it won’t be that bad. Congratulations
    on the birth of your child. I had a child later than I thought possible, too, and have thanked God every day since then. She’s now 16 and I can’t imagine life without her. So, I agree with your 2016 recap, but keep thinking that it is only from chaos that real change happens. When things are status quo, the world goes on, but in the quagmire of uncertainty, a new way is found. I’m hoping for a new and bright 2017. As long as we have Neil Gaiman still writing books, it can’t possibly be all that bad!

    • I agree – it’s all part of the cycle of life – chaos and then calm – hopefully! Thank you so much for this – you write beautifully too. Your letter to Trump is still resonating – one of the best things I’ve read in ages – such wonderfully vivid prose. Let’s hope 2017 is amazing – all best and take care : )

  5. Great post 🙂 I really admire the way that you write.. I am a writer (struggling, unpublished, cliched), and am still working on ‘finding my voice,’ something which I read an article about recently and now cannot stop thinking about. I think you write very clearly and very cleanly.. and always leave me wanting to read more! Anyway, thanks again for sharing, and I hope that 2017 is a good year for you. Congratulations on becoming a mum 🙂

    • Alex – thank you so much for all your kind comments and I’m sorry this is so late – motherhood gets in the way sometimes : ) I think your blog looks terrific and it’s wonderfully diverse – and you’re doing much better on the writing front than me – I still need to get into a routine, which is even harder now! Good luck with it all anyway – I’m sure you’re going to get that book out soon.. x

      • Ah thank you so much for your kind words. I’m very pleased with the appearance of the blog now, the content is getting there I guess! Routine is key, definitely. I don’t feel like I have enough time to do all that I want to do, I have no idea how you manage with a little one to look after as well! But thank you, I’m hoping the more I write the better my writing will become; and then I can use this blog as a marketing platform when my book is published.. dream big right?! Take care! xx

      • Thank you Alex! I’ve been sleep deprived lately which has kept me away for a bit – definitely a challenge to do this with the little one. It will all work out in the end – take care of you too 🙂 x

  6. Pingback: 2016: A year of political and personal upheavals — Black coffee and cigarettes – ytandonblogpostcom

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