I am thrilled to give 2017 a great, big kick in the ass goodbye. It was not a fun one. 2016 was a difficult year for me—in addition to a bunch of small blows, the deaths of some personal heroes, and the election of a nightmare, I experienced significant personal loss in a number of ways. But in many ways 2017 has been worse. The company my Smartner loved working for closed its doors just as the current horrific POTUS and administration took over. Our personal security and comfort crashed to the surface just as the security and comfort of the country I thought I knew crashed and burned. And burned. And burned. This year has been blow after blow after blow after blow. I made the mistake of thinking it would stop getting worse early on, but it kept getting worse. The progress of this landslide of horror hasn’t slowed at all.
The past year has felt like we’re living in a dystopian novel. It feels like Margaret Atwood and George Orwell and Ray Bradbury and Octavia Butler all collaborated to write 2017, and while they certainly saw this coming… most of the rest of us feel rather shell-shocked. Reality has become unreal.
With this dystopian reality has come a boom in dystopian media, and while I’ve read all the books, I’ve been consuming the rest of it, too. From Black Mirror to Mr. Robot to The Leftovers to The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s all felt just a little too close to home. We’re reaching for these realities, whether unwittingly or not, and one or all of them will be coming to pass if we’re not careful. Too many of them already have.
Because of this, we’ve turned a critical eye to our actions in our own little home. Our consumption of media, our growing screen addictions, our inability to figure out what to do with ourselves when faced with 20 minutes and no screen to rely on. We need to work on ourselves. It’s frightening how lost we feel in our own home when the power goes out. So, we’re making an effort to step back. To rejoin the real world. To come back to the touchable.
A few weeks before Christmas, our cable/internet went out for hours one evening, so we turned on music (we had to access old digital archives rather than use Spotify as we normally do) and wrapped gifts, then sat and talked. It was so novel—to just sit and talk to each other as a couple like we used to—that it felt indulgent and surprisingly intimate. We tried to recreate that experience with our kids multiple times over the winter break, and we noticed that we were arguing less. Enjoying each other more. Working on just being together.
This was something we’d marveled at over the summer, too, when we went camping for 3 days with some beloved friends in the last dregs of summer break. Everyone felt free. The kids ran wild, but safe, with their friends in the woods. We played and hiked and chatted and laughed while gathered by the river. We huddled around campfires and talked and sang. We cooked community meals for each other. We took care of each other. My phone stayed in my purse inside the car the entire 3 days. I didn’t even look at it. And I didn't want to. It shouldn’t have felt as revolutionary as it did. But it did.
This New Year’s Eve, we spent the evening at home as a family. And we didn't even skip screens altogether. We watched a movie all snuggled and bunched together on the couch, and then we counted down for east coast’s midnight with the kids—a benefit of living on the west coast. After the countdown, we turned off the TV and danced and toasted the end of a year together before we snuggled our kids into bed. Normally, after we'd tucked the kids in, we’d watch a show or turn on a movie and sit next to each other waiting out the rest of the night. That was what I expected to happen.
Instead, Smartner disappeared into the bedroom after the kids were settled, and he re-emerged fully decked out in a suit. He refilled my champagne, lit candles, turned on some music, and asked me to dance. I was floored.
As we danced and talked together by candlelight, I was struck again by the simplicity of this simple action. To just BE together. It was so beautiful, so easy, and so exactly what we needed. We spent the whole night that way and, as midnight approached, we stepped out onto the deck and I looked up to see the nearly full moon gazing down on us. We watched as paper lanterns floated into the night from the hill across the water, carrying with them someone’s New Year wishes, and we kissed as fireworks lit up the Space Needle.
It’s funny how living in a dystopia can amplify a beautiful simple night. How, in all the complicated misery of the last year (or two), the desire to simplify and be together has shone through.
So, I’m approaching 2018 with caution, but with the feeling that with effort and care and love and humor and then a little more effort… we can make 2018 begin to upswing. We won’t be able to fix it all—we have a lot to do, after all—but if we can focus on each other, on the humanity we seem to be intent on losing, we can work hard enough to fix some of it together.
There will be changes here at Smarty Mommies, too. Both Christina and I will be working this year and Kirsten, heading up Rattle & Pen, is still working hard as ever. And, of course, we’re all focused on being with our families and, whenever possible, with each other. As such, we’re simplifying a bit here. Christina's taking a hiatus, while Kirsten and I will continue to write here, though perhaps not as frequently as last year. We’re not entirely sure what 2018 will look like here at Smarty Mommies yet, so stay tuned. Just know that we’re here, like you, and we’re ready to keep moving forward. To swing up. Together.