I can’t sleep. I think I went to bed some time around 2. I’m up around 6am.
You can say it was because I napped far too long yesterday, but it’s really all part of a bigger picture. The majority of 2016 has been swept away in sleepless nights.
I also listen to enough John Tesh to know that if you fill your brain with the pesky, blue, back-lit light of your cell phone before bed, your more likely to take longer to fall asleep and you’re less likely to get a full night’s, restful sleep.
But I digress.
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and in a week, it’ll be New Years.
I’ve grown accustomed to posting a photo on New Year’s Day where I hold up a sign saying: “Today is the first blank page in your 365 Day Book.” I appreciate the sentiment; I like the romanticism of that phrase. But I, among many of you, are eager to close the 2016 chapter of my life.
2016, to sum, was about balance – at least for me. With the good, came the bad. With the bad, came the ugly. Another gushy, favourite phrase of mine I like to use is something along the lines of “you have survived 100% of your bad days”. I think we should update that to: “you survived 2016. You got this.”
It started off with a bang – literally. To delve into the pages of the year, I can simply pull out my Instagram – a snapshot catalog of exactly what happened week by week; month by month. And indeed, we rang in the new year by popping the cork on the champagne bottle in top-shelf fashion; namely hosing the entire front row of Dallas nightclub. We were unstoppable. New Year. New Us. We’d done it. We’d finished 2015. We were like they say in Star Wars. We’d found a new hope. And I did it in 3 inch heels, dressed as Marilyn Monroe.
Admittedly, the “good feelings” vibe didn’t end there. I was off to the races on a new show we’d been developing for Rogers TV. Producer Matt and I had designed the concept, rolled out the pitch and it was time to launch Music Tonight; an in-studio face-lift to I On Music. We’d spent nearly 5 years scaling the community for artists and musicians alike to interview in various clubs and venues. We aligned ourselves with festivals, charity shows, large concerts, intimate listening shows. We interviewed whomever we could get our hands on. And now it was time to feature them in a whole new way – out of the venues, into the studio. Live performances. Interviews. New couch. New set. New co-host. New plan. 2016 was going right. So very, very right.
We weren’t two weeks in 2016 when Bowie died. I think I can afford to be that frank about it. I can be that blunt. The death of the Goblin King, the mere idea that Major Tom had shaken his mortal coil, shook me to the core.
The news tore through me. Waves in the ocean and all of that. This was David Bowie, after all. I walked into the board room at work wearing this make up. I wore it to my show later that night as we honoured him. If there was anything I could say for sure and certain about Bowie’s death, it was that we were touched by mortality that day. 2016 was not fucking around. I don’t have to reiterate that the reaper himself pwned 2016. He won. We didn’t have a prayer.
Amid the churning chaos brought on by celebrity death and fanfare, working in radio you become more acutely aware of the role popular culture plays on the fabric of society. And while we didn’t know it yet, the Bowie effect of 2016 had begun.
For me, the work/life balance had hit its stride in early January. By this time, I had whittled the gig and the Mama life to coincide in equal parts. Mondays were the long day. Tuesday – Thursday were the short days. Friday’s were Dallas. Saturday mornings were an extra-large double double in the dimmest of morning lights before flipping the mic button to “on”. I was on. I was so, so on. And more than that, I was ready.
When you’re a little kid, the most infamous question is “what are you going to be when you grow up?”. And while many of my friends were playing “house”, I was playing “apartment”. I had my keys, my cheque book and I had a big career. A big one. No kids. No husband.
By February, I had the career. And I did have the kids. But my first glimpse into a new single Mom life was beginning to rise. Slowly, steadily, it was there. It was like looking down the tracks to see if the train is coming and realizing it’s going mach 90 and headed right for you. Do you jump, or do you stand frozen in fear? I’d find out soon enough that my answer was both.
While I wrestled with the dull, achy, do-I-stay-or-do-I-go mentality that had finally boiled over at home, April dropped a twisted yarn into my lap at work. There was a new cowboy at the rodeo.
I knew this guy. I even had his autograph. I’d interviewed him. I’d waited patiently in line to see him perform. And now he was here as a comrade. And together, we were somehow going to make radio happen.
What I learned in the four short weeks I had with Jason McCoy was to toss all of your inhibitions out the window of the side-cab. If you have an idea – for better or for worse – you run with it. Always say yes. Don’t be afraid to screw up. Laugh. Innovate. Invest. Create. Those few weeks seem like a light year away. But, as I continue to reflect on the highs of 2016 – this, this was a highlight. Thank you, Jason.
I’ve heard that people despise the phrase “everything happens for a reason”. But they do. While I forged ahead in my career alongside one of Canada’s best-recognized country stars, my home life was rapidly falling apart.
Where do we get our strength? Where does that deep buried will to go on manifest itself that it’s capable of bubbling to the surface when you need it the most?
At the Everest peak of my time in April, 2016 was rearing its ugly face. While we struggled on Music Tonight to come to grips with the death of Prince (Candace and I were inconsolable both on and off air), from home I got the call. Another death, of sorts. The end of my six-year-run with my best friend; my other half. He was taking everything out of the closets, a couple of pillows, pictures, his last name and my heart.
And that changed everything.
Spring finally challenged Winter to a duel, and in came a rushing calm over the coldness of a long-drawn out season. Weather-wise, it was shaping up to become a warm step-up toward summer. And like the Byrds once chanted, “to everything turn, turn, turn. There is a season.”
Can we really have it all? Or are we only permitted to have part of it, and the rest you take in stride? On Mother’s Day, I received a call from the station. I was moving to full-time, evenings. I cried. The kids cried. We were going to be okay. In those shaky, unknown days and weeks after he left, finally, something concrete. We were down a man, but we had scotch-taped the pieces back together the best we knew how, and we could move forward. We captioned this photo: “Ya, we tough.”
By May, the weather was hot enough to open the pools. To gobble up the sunshine. For tee-shirts and shorts. Summer was arriving quickly.
And just as we thought we’d make it safely to the other side of the year relatively unscathed, a press release. Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip was diagnosed with cancer. Brain cancer. The inoperable kind. The fatal kind. As a fan, a Hip-fan, a Canadian – as someone who loves music and humanity in equal parts – the news ripped through the nation like a sword on silk. I won’t forget that day. Nor will I forget hearing the Hip was headed out on their final tour. ‘Finality’ seemed to run in sync circles with 2016.
My birthday is in the middle of the year. Just about smack dab in the middle, in fact. So in June, still broken, still feeling like half a person, I called in the troops. A cluster of friends congregated with me for dinner to celebrate. A new leaf, a new me. 2016 wasn’t going to win the entire battle. I’d had more to give, to offer. The kids and I were settled into our new routines. We were nearly done the school year. Summer was on the brink and it was high time we adjusted. We were nearing two months on our own. And we were doing okay.
As June began to give-way to the start of summer vacation, life took off in warp speed. Our station moved. It was festival season. Pride. St. Agatha Strawberry Fest. Summer Lights Festival. The Multicultural Festival. The Much Music Video Awards. Father’s Day.
But goddammit 2016 – the month couldn’t clean up nice and be taken out for dinner. 2016 had plans of its own.
On four hours of sleep, between festivals, as I was seducing a nap before a long shoot, the phone call – Paul MacLeod had died. I can’t jazz up that phone call with adjectives. I can’t describe that feeling. It’s like … you know when you swallow a pill without water and it feels “stuck”? Twisted and churning, burning and forcing it’s way towards your belly until you can’t fight your senses any longer? Your eyes well up. You clutch your stomach. You choke until you’re physically sick. And then when you’ve recovered, you think back and go through the motions again. I didn’t think I could possibly, retrospectively hate 2016 anymore than I did. But when it took Paul from us – because he belonged to us, you know – it passed forgivable, logic or reason. Oh Paul.
By July and August, I had accepted my fate. I took the steps – the legal separation steps. I had changed my name. I had divulged what was going on to my wider network. I had scrapped my old Facebook account for a new one under my maiden name.
And I bought a car. My very own.
My career took an upswing mid-July when I was added to the Rogers network across the country, and I found myself serving 7 markets in the evening time slot. I found a way to get to Dover during the day and that became the mantra – the beach, the pool, the SUNSHINE ☀ before the show(s). I learned how to travel alone.I met new people. I made new friends. I learned to like my own company. I saw the Hip. I even got a little brave, and tried a few breakfast dates. Because in your 30s, you can appreciate a strong coffee and a side of Eggs Benny with a dash of conversation.
I was so determined to have a date for my friends’ wedding in August. And I found one. A kind-hearted, old soul with a pair of daughters so adorable you wanted to squeeze them until they begged you for mercy. And for all intents and purposes, thank you 2016 for lending him to me for those few weeks where I needed him the most.
In September, Music Tonight returned from hiatus. I went back to Conestoga College as a Computerized Note Taker with Accessibility Services. I took on work with the Waterloo Region Tourism Board.
I put away the kiddie pool. The patio set. The volleyball net. I gave back the pushmower. I grappled with getting the kids into the swing of heading back to class. But we did it.
I went to Paul’s memorial at the Starlight.
I lost weight.
Trump was elected. (I’ll end that sentence like that, because this reflection is long enough.)
And these past three months have been – primarily – a blur. We’re on hiatus again from Music Tonight until January. I’m off from the college until the students return next month. And, in fact, I’m on holidays from the station until next week.
It’s the day before Christmas Eve. It’s nearly 9:30. I have been reflecting for three hours. I’ve been reflecting for 12 months.
2016 was about balance. The good with the bad. The bad with the ugly. The year rolled out and rolled me over, and then backed up over me again. But I kept getting up. If I were to metaphorically describe the last year, it would be like staring an angry bull, dead set in the eyes. Behind it, all you wanted. All you were willing to fight for.
Were you willing to get beaten down, pummeled? Scarred? What was on the other side that was worth fighting for?
If scars are just tattoos with better stories, then I’ll be reflecting back on 2016 for a long, long time.