Wednesday, December 28, 2016

You Suck 2016

The flurry of celebrity deaths this year felt like repeated punches to the gut for a number of us. With the most recent, Carrie Fisher, a lot of people, especially in my age range (30s-50s) appear at the peak of frustration with this monster that we are calling 2016.

I've seen a lot of posts on social media, some made by people I respect, telling those of us feeling these frustrations to "get a grip". Lots of people have died this year, which is true and part of the beautiful tragedy that is life as a human being. In no way does public grief lessen the personal, private grief one feels with the loss of a close loved one.

But the celebrity deaths that struck us this year are more than just the passing of another human. I would venture to guess that 99% of us who feel this sadness and loss never met these humans in person. But that just doesn't matter. They were our heroes, and that is what makes 2016 and it's multitude of losses so hard to take.

So, for those telling us that we need to gain some perspective, here is some perspective for you.

Prince was one of the first people I saw who didn't give a fuck about what other people thought, and was solidly, 100% himself in the face of a society that still requires its youth to be cookie cutter perfection in order to feel loved. Prince was flashy, liquid sex, playing a guitar in a time when men with a pierced ear were still immediately pegged as gay. Prince's music was fun, more than a bit naughty and alive. Prince taught me that you can be a success while staying true to yourself.

I was too young to appreciate David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust phase when growing up, but his music brought happiness to a young girl who used music to escape the sadness of feeling alone, as she knew she was different from her classmates, but that required being isolated from the "norm". There was something magical about David Bowie I could feel and appreciate as a teen. As I grew older, I learned there was wisdom in that magic, and he was a true artist. There will never be another like him.

Leonard Cohen wrote songs that still, to this day, force me to pause and just listen to the graceful words and haunted melodies. These are glorious moments, escaping from this world that is very often hard and cold, and without song. This is the power of music, and some souls are gifted with the ability to weave such tapestries of song, they help the world to stop and take a breath.

Obviously, music was, and still is, very important to me, not for fun, but for survival. The idea that these beautiful souls will no longer be creating beauty deserves a mourning of sorts. The anger that one feels towards this loss is justified. But music heroes weren't the only ones we lost.

Carrie Fisher. This one hurt. Like most young women age, Princess Leia was the first female lead in a movie who was beautiful, yes, but a total badass. She took charge, took no crap, and easily put domineering men in their place with the weapon of words and a look. Yes, Princess Leia was a character construct, but Carrie Fisher brought her to life, and as we would find out, the fierceness of the Princess was a reflection of the woman who payed the role. Carrie Fisher continued to live her life with a fierceness, sharing her struggles with mental illness in a time when the stigma still continues to thrive, and refusing to take shit from anyone. I loved her for sharing her soul, hopefully knowing that she helped many struggling women know that they are not alone in their pain.

This is why 2016 sucks. It hurts to lose a hero. To be repeatedly pummeled by loss affects all but the most disconnected of us. Or it should. Maybe they weren't your heroes, and you can't understand. Maybe the world doesn't need you to understand. Maybe it just needs you to respect that other people you might call friends feel as if one too may stars have gone dark this year.

This list of four artists isn't meant to give any more power to one over the other, or to diminish the losses of so many others this year. But my world is different now. I need to continue to search for new heroes to give me strength when I am weak and find solace when my soul feels it is being pulled apart by darkness. But for this moment, allow me to grieve, without judgement and without condescension. As humans, that is one gift we should allow each other.