Despite It All: What I Loved Best About 2018

End-of-year lists. I love them. The “best of” ones, anyway. They’re like small-plate nostalgia buffets, filled with tidbits of all the stuff you loved, distillations of an entire year from the various points of view of clever writers, of which there are many. I’m not sure how clever Iam, but as I watched the last sunset of the year dip into darkness, I thought about making my own.

This would not be announcement-worthy except for the fact I’ve found myself damn near speechless this year, particularly in terms of political opining, quiescence brought on by a combination of outrage exhaustion, a sense of swimming in an overpopulated stream, and the fact that so much of what I think and feel is amply covered by the countless other writers op-edding on a daily basis—and for media sources with far higher profiles than my little blog (I still haven’t forgiven HuffPost for shutting down the contributors’ platform!).

Add to that the “churning machine of political horrors”—also known as the Trump Administration—which pumps out ceaseless vomit with such perpetuity one would have to write five articles a day to stay current, and I ain’t got it in me right now.

But as I got to retrospecting, I was reminded that though these last twelve months have been truly nuts on so many levels, they were also replete with tremendous progress, solid wins; the evolution of new voices, and hearty activism. Enough fabulous things happened, both personally and more expansively, that I became compelled to compile.

In no particular order, not listed by virtue of gravitas or merit, the select things, people, and events that helped make this year a wonderful one… despite it all:

What I Loved Best About 2018:

• The Women’s March, Los Angeles, January 21, 2018. We were almost a million strong (750,000) just in LA alone. The numbers worldwide were astonishing. And beyond the sheer power of that many people gathered to protest racism, sexism, corruption, and sexual assault, the event marked the first time in many years I gathered with all five of my sisters (we call ourselves “The Sixters”) to march together. With matching signs designed by our youngest sib, Grace, it was a phenomenal, empowering moment of familial and global solidarity. I do hope whatever pulls and tears have come into the Women’s March group from various quarters of late can be transcended in 2019 to keep the momentum going. We’ll see. But 2018’s event was unforgettable.

• We got a cat. That may sound silly but it’s not. I’ve watched this fuzzy little creature, who came to us from a shelter on January 5th, literally change the tenor of our habitat with her inexhaustible energy and character. I’ve watched a husband who deals with Post Concussion Syndrome become the warm landing spot for an animal who loves him, who follows him around like a puppy; engages with him in absurd games of fetch, and with whom conversation often ensues (on both sides, mind you!). She is a delightful little being who’s brought particular and unique joy to our home and has made walking in the door an event. No small thing. We call her Georgy Girl. She occasionally likes me too.

• The Parkland Kids: While caustic contrarians like Louis C.K. and Dana Loesch persist in using them as target practice for their bile, those of us who’ve been frustrated and horrified by stagnancy within the “gun reform” debate saw a group of high school students who’d survived a mass shooting take their rage, fear, and sorrow and turn it into one of the most powerful political movements of recent years. I don’t care what minor critiques are dragged up, I don’t care how young and occasionally callow they may be at times; I am not remotely interested in David Hogg’s SAT scores or Emma Gonzalez’s sexuality. There is NO ONE who has more quickly, cogently, and fearlessly dragged the convoluted issue of guns into the spotlight and onto the political stage than these kids. On top of that, they rallied thousands of young people to get registered and to the polls during the midterms, activism which contributed to record-breaking turnout, and they are continuing the movement forward from there. I do believe they will create real change… because no group has ever stood up to the corruption and callousness of the NRA with such earnest and passionate fervor.

• Attitudes about Climate Change & Conservation Continue to Evolve: Despite America having an idiot president who denies science, along with the other money-grubbers who can’t see the forest for the green (lining their pockets), short-sighted dismissal about the longterm assignment of saving the planet is becoming less and less acceptable, not unlike how attitudes about smoking or littering evolved. Reports detailing the dire circumstances that inexorably face our planet, horrific fires we’re told will become the norm, droughts, pestilence, and changing tides, all remind us that we’re a finite element in a grand universe that needs, demands, our immediate attention. And more people are paying attention. While Trump and his toadies temporarily regress America on this issue, this detailed breakdown from Quartz shows there is hope across the international stage. Please read it and do continue, however you do, to challenge and lessen your own carbon footprint.

• I found a publisher. This may not resonate widely, or with anyone who hasn’t pursued a creative career, but it was a game changer for me in ’18. As one who has pursued the arts from the time I was told I could sing or cobble a story together of some merit, I have largely been an indie artist “doing it for herself,” as Annie and Aretha might sing. I’ve had scads of people throughout my time—managers, producers, collaborators, agents, etc.—who pushed things in directions I wanted to go (and sometimes arrived), but despite tremendous wins and scores of incredible experiences, no part of my particular journey has been a slam-dunk. I wasn’t the actress plucked from a coffee shop, the singer pulled on stage by a rock star, the novelist garnering literati applause. I was that other one. The one making my own stage. Working with indie film and record producers, self-financed productions, self-published books.

So this year, when publisher Brooke Warner of She Writes Press, a small but innovative and emerging force in the publishing industry, said she wanted to publish my upcoming novel, The Alchemy of Noise, despite it being controversial, despite my independent resume, despite industry resistance to off-trend voices, I felt the embracing welcome of an opened door. I don’t know how it will go when the book’s finally out (April 9th)—I’m hopeful, they’re expert, early reader reviews (so far) are good—but just to have a group of experienced pros choose to work in tandem with me to achieve this goal is a balm.

• The Midterms: In all my life I have never been more concerned, more involved, or more invested in Midterm elections than I was this year. Anyone who knows me, reads me, converses with me, knows what I think about the current administration, so it’s no secret that I believed the outcome of this election truly was “life or death.” The urgency of implementing checks and balances into what has become a blatant flouting of rule-of-law and all manner of integrity felt tantamount to pulling a drowning society from a raging swamp. I spent hours, stamps, and handwritten agony (can anyone handwrite anymore??) sending out hundreds of campaign postcards for candidates around the country, and the unbelievable turnout, the overwhelming wins, the feeling that we now have a most amazingly diverse and capable group of adults stepping into the cult frenzy, is overwhelming. We did good. Let’s PLEASE make sure we do good for 2020. That’s a whole other article. But I think you know what I mean…

• Social Media Activism:  Say what you will about Twitter and Facebook (and there’s plenty to say), in 2018 both platforms became an even more powerful outlet for righteous anger and social activism, particularly on issues related to racism and white privilege. When New York lawyer Aaron Schlossberg bombarded a group of Spanish-speaking customers in a sandwich shop with his vile, racist nonsense, Twitter and Facebook outed him without mercy, and before long he was out of a job and had mariachi bands serenading his apartment building. When Barbecue Becky called the cops on a black family “committing the crime” of grilling in a park, Dr. Jennifer Schulte faced an onslaught of pushback that went all the up to her place of employment and had police considering her commitment. The list of perpetrators from every walk of life assaulting good men, women, and children of color is long, unfortunately, but there continues to be conscious, compassionate, and justifiably angry people with smart phones and social media platforms to take them on, giving activist citizens the empowerment of knowing silence is not an option when faced with hate and bigotry.

• Movies with/about music: I don’t mean musicals—thought I love musicals—I mean A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody. I mean movies that climb inside the life of singers, songwriters, and bands, and bring us with them to watch the music evolve, see the excitement and anxiety of the lifestyle unfold, feel the power of creativity. I’m not interested in critiquing these films—plenty of reviewers have done just that—but both the films mentioned had me energized, engaged, entertained, and moved throughout. That’s always an amazing moviegoing experience. And A Star Is Born, particularly, not only resonated with me for all sorts of expected reasons given my band singer history, but the telling of its story touched me deeply. Both stars are phenomenal, and though I have wearied of drug & alcohol related “Behind the Music” narratives, Bradley Cooper did an extraordinary job of bringing vulnerability and true sorrow to the inexorable trajectory his character experienced. It showed a side of addiction rarely seen. And Lady Gaga… well. What can I say: listening to the fragility and crack in her voice on “I’ll Never Love Again” before it transforms into a soaring power ballad wraps me in tears and goosebumps every time.

• Political transcendence: Allowing a corrupt and amoral conman like Donald Trump into the White House has been one of the most egregious errors in American history. I fought with everything I had—my activism, my voice, my articles, my vote—to keep that from happening, but the power of corruption, the short-sightedness of one-issue voting, the collusion and involvement of foreign adversaries, the willingness of too many to ignore blatant bigotry, lack of intellect, and a classless, corrosive worldview, toppled the good sense of an entire nation. We have paid, and will continue to pay, a very high price for that folly. Yet, while the carnage of Trump has shaken us to the core (and when I say “us” I mean anyone who cares more for humanity than stock prices, who believes all people are created equal, who respects and embraces science; who leads with compassion, empathy, consideration, and love), it has also awakened American consciousness in ways we might not have expected. It struck me that my upcoming novel is called The Alchemy of Noise, a narrative exploring the notion of pulling the good, the gold, out of the very darkest of situations, and I do believe America is finding its own alchemy in this era of Trump. (Read this piece: The halfway point: What have two years of Trump’s wrecking ball done to America?. It is quite brilliant and hopeful… I love the line, “democratic renaissance.”) 2018 has been a “democratic renaissance.” That will only continue to evolve. I have faith in that. Don’t you?

• My circle, real and virtual: As I traverse life on a day-to-day basis, whether meeting friends for lunch, gathering with family; singing songs for my mother in hope of shaking her fog, or spending time in virtual conversations with the many incredible people with whom I engage on social media, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have such evolved, conscious, caring, active people in my global circle. The list is long, you know who you are, and though I would need another blog to name each of you, please know how grateful I am for your hearts and minds, your anger and activism, your humor and good-will, your pictures and silly videos, your articles and reviews, your generosity in helping me with my work, writing me blurbs, commenting on my articles, or simply sharing your own thoughtful perspectives either privately or on my pages. It all means something. You have helped me endure the insanity of our times; you’ve made me laugh, shared cakes I want to eat, brought brilliant art to my attention, and appreciated mine. Thank you. Let’s keep doing it all of that. It brings joy.

Photo by Cristina Cerda

• The power of love: That may sound treacly, but I don’t mean it that way. I mean it in the most transcendental, soulful, joy-empowering way. This year I had the pleasure of, once again, performing music with my brother, Tom, who I adore, and three other people I adore as well: Ben (his son/my nephew; Jeff, and Erik), and the love shared and experienced in putting our Sixth & Third shows together could light the grid for years. I also spent about six weeks putting a milestone birthday video together for my beloved husband, and, in the process, was reminded of every moment of our lives together, filling my heart beyond words. The family, the friends, the projects, the labors of love, our children, our pets, our closest friends… it was an overwhelming 18-minute blast of love, and it reminded me to remind myself to always remember and never forget… you know what I mean?

There are more, but these are the highlights, the things that made this year resonate and stand up to the opposite side of this list. I don’t want to enumerate the opposite side; I don’t need to. I only need to keep moving forward wrapped in the power and solidarity of the good side, the “renaissancing” side! I have faith in us. I have hope for us. I know love will drive us. Which is good, because, like Todd Rundgren, I do believe love is the answer.

Happy New Year, my friends! And welcome, 2019. Let’s make some history together.

All photos, except where attributed, by LDW.


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Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, has an April 2019 pub date, with pre-orders currently available at Amazon. Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s other books, music, photography, and articles.

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Identity Politics: How Ageism Became An Accepted Form of Discrimination

Is it fear of death, of our inexorable mortal demise? A whistling past the graveyard of diminished youthful appeal? An irrational aversion to oldness akin to the indefensible mechanics of race hate? What is it, exactly, that makes the process and consequence of aging so terrifying to the bulk of society that they’d malign, dismiss, and denigrate a person just for the fact of being older?

I was forced to ponder this (again) after reading the onslaught of ugly, sexist, ageist pejoratives flung in response to the California Democrats’ refusal to endorse Sen. Dianne Feinstein this past week. While that happenstance deserves its own weighty conversation, the issue at hand is the undeniable playing of the “age card” as people spouted their glee at her rejection.

Original photo by Hubert Chaland on Unsplash

Regardless of any tangible, defensible arguments against her politics, her votes; her views on salient topics, the prevailing strain of trollery showered over this longtime public servant was the simple fact of her age: 84-years-old. 84-freakin’-years-old, dammit! How dare she.

Snarling denunciations of, “this tired, old hag,” came with shouts of, “TimesUP,” and insults to her longevity, her dyed hair, and her aging face. You’d have thought the woman ate small children instead of devoted her life in service to the welfare of Americans, including pushing her resistant colleagues to release the Fusion GPS transcripts, and, just this week, introducing legislation to “bring the rules for AR-15 sales in line with handguns,” an addendum to the Federal Assault Weapons Ban she wrote in 1994. Nothing irrelevant about any of that.

But, while she’s had an astonishing career that demands far better than the ignorance of internet trolls, I’m not here to argue the merits of Sen. Feinstein’s tenure. I’m here to use her recent trollery as a launchpad to discuss why we think, why we’ve accepted, and why we behave as if age is a worthy weapon to devalue, determine relevance, or disallow continuing contribution. Why it’s become an accepted form of discrimination. Why we choose to prioritize age over the wisdom of good ideas, the depth of experience, or the courage of actions taken.

In the political arena (let’s face it, all arenas), society too often gives in to its crass impulse to judge participants, particularly women, on the basis of the year they were born, or cruel assessments of their physical attributes… that ugly nexus of sexism and ageism. You don’t typically hear trolls bark about Bernie Sander’s grumpy face or advanced age (76), Donald Trump’s septuagenarian bloat and blunder (he’s 71), or Ronald Reagan’s descent into dementia before his second term ended at 77-years-old. Democrats applaud the prospect of Joe Biden (75) or John Kerry (74) throwing in for 2020, yet there was endless carping about Hillary Clinton’s advanced age (jeez, only 70!). Effective leaders around the world operate vibrantly and vigorously at ages far older than Ms. Feinstein—the Queen is 91, the Pope 90—and their constituents love them still.

But here in America, land of the free, home of the brave, bubbling cauldron of isms of every kind, the population likes its leaders, its celebrities, its artists, its influencers, particularly its women, young and pretty, evidenced by some of the comments during this recent Feinstein imbroglio:

• “She’s had her chance. Now it’s time for younger people to have theirs. Buh bye!”
• “People get stale when they’ve been somewhere too long. Get rid of them all.”
• “Their time is up and their season is over.”
• “No one cares what old people think. They’re done. Young minds are what’s happening.”
• “They need to get off the stage and let younger people take over.”
• “Old people are clueless. Too much change has happened for them to be relevant.”
• “People want hip. People want now. Old people are then and they’re definitely not hip.”
• “What’s with her picture? Bad dye job and she hasn’t looked that young in decades.”

And on and on. Sigh.

But here’s the strange and self-sabotaging fact that younger people maligning older people either ignore or refuse to consider: THEY will be old some day… and sooner than they think. And when they get there; when they look in the mirror and see a version of themselves they can’t possibly imagine at this moment, it will suddenly dawn on them that they don’t feel irrelevant; they don’t feel useless and used up; they, instead, feel as potent, effective, and purposeful as they do now.

And they will suddenly face that era’s sneering trolls echoing their own words of today. They’ll feel the sting of the same age discrimination they’re wielding so blithely at this moment. It will hurt and they will be inherently responsible for it all.

Because, as they currently dismiss older people as obsolete and expendable across systems, professions, social demographics, and cultural paradigms, they are setting up their own futures. They are building—brick by brick, word by word, tweet by tweet, insult by insult—a world in which they too will become obsolete. In which their accomplishments, experience, wisdom, and capabilities will be dismissed, devalued, and ignored. And what they will discover at that pivotal point, as Dianne Feinstein knows, as Jane Goodall knows, as the damn Queen knows, is that age has NOTHING to do with any of it.

What does?

A mind, heart, and soul still creating, exploring, learning, and contributing; a person willing to innovate, experiment, and share their knowledge. That happens—or doesn’t happen—at any age.

Making age, without a doubt, a most unworthy arbiter.

Here’s the point I’d like younger people to take away: If right now, today, while you’re young and on the cusp of your youthful bloom, you build a world in which every person, regardless of age, is judged, chosen, elected, or rewarded commensurate with their accomplishments and their contemporary willingness to evolve, you will have that world waiting for you when you are that older person. Think of it as an investment in your future.

And however you judge Dianne Feinstein, refuse to let age, gender, or the color of her hair be part of the equation. If anything’s irrelevant, it’s all that.

Original Photo by Hubert Chaland on Unsplash

Related posts:

Age Is Not The Arbiter Of Relevance. See ‘Sneaky’ Dianne Feinstein

The Geeze and Me: Honoring and Illuminating Age Through the Wit and Wisdom of Musical Theater

What Young People Get Wrong About Aging and How It’s Going To Hurt Them

Pass the Mantle? Thanks, But I’m Still Wearing Mine

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.