Dizzy trees - Peri Pakroo, Author and Coach
Photo by Peri Pakroo.

I don’t tend to think about progress in terms of calendar years, so year-end recaps and the like usually feel false and unnatural to me. But this year feels a bit different, and I’m not totally sure why but I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that a new Congress with a Democrat-controlled House of Reps will be sworn in in almost exactly 72 hours, so it does truly feel like a definitive new chapter is about to begin. I have in fact been finding myself reflecting on this crazy year, so what the heck, I figure it’s a ripe time for a catch-up here.

Truth is, the impending New Year does feel like more than just a page in a calendar or a shiny new “January 1” to prompt new goals and resolutions. To me it feels like a precipice moment that’s both exhilarating and a bit nauseating, as I continue to digest the hugeness of recent political developments and the dizzying, mind-bending unknown of what is yet to come. The political year left me with a case of vertigo, and the ride’s not over (not by a long shot). More on politics in just a bit.

2018 also steered me and my family into some choppy personal waters, with my daughter having what seems to have been a flare-up of the autoimmune dysfunction that caused her bone marrow failure in 2013. She had a sudden drop in blood counts in May, plus liver inflammation, and it seemed like a nightmare scenario of an aplastic anemia relapse. Thankfully, that didn’t turn out to be happening and we seem to be on the other side of this scare. Huge exhale. A quick course of steroids and putting her back on immunosuppressant meds (cyclosporine) quickly stopped whatever was going on, and a marrow biopsy in July showed her stem cells to be healthy. What an enormous relief. She’s almost weaned off the cyclosporine and doing great. And I survived the anxiety. So did she.

Photo by Peri Pakroo.

The reality is that this flare-up (if that’s even the right thing to call it) is a step backwards for her and for us, in the sense that we thought perhaps that chapter was going to be behind us for good, and it’s just plain not. Where prior to May we had “graduated” to quarterly blood tests, we’re back to monthly. We had to travel to Cincinnati for a bone marrow biopsy when we had hoped this would be the first summer no biopsy (our annual “medical road trip”) would be needed. She’s back on the meds I had hoped she’d never have to take again; the wean process for cyclosporine is slow, so it’ll be spring before she’s med-free again. Bottom line is we’ll just need to accept a longer timeframe where we will have to monitor her condition, which means anxiety will continue to lurk. But I’m doing well and feel strong and balanced. I have largely vanquished catastrophic thinking patterns (thanks, therapy!) and continue to dig in to radical acceptance, love and presence as my formula for mental wellness.

With family stuff and political activism and managing our AirBnB and self-care taking up a bunch of my bandwidth, I had a relatively light year with my coaching and business writing work. That said, I did update three of my four books for new editions — but I wasn’t able to do any significant promotion as my daughter’s medical stuff hit us just as the books were coming back from the printer. 🙁 (I’ll really try to do some sort of promo and event early in 2019, so stay tuned.) In March I moved into a beautiful new office space that I absolutely adore (and likewise adore my officemates, Kendra and Austin of JAK Media), and I have some amazing new small biz and nonprofit clients who I love working with, so I have no complaints there. My main mea culpa is (once again) failing to get my Self-Employment 101 online course over the finish line. Sigh. I have some production help lined up so I’m hoping to get it done and crank out regular webinars, podcasts, etc. in 2019.

A super excellent big part of 2018 was joining one of my favorite bands (Bellemah), fronted by one of my very favorite musicians (Billy Bellmont), as bass player. It only took till age 49 to play in my first rock band! Thanks to Stue for suggesting me, and to Billy, Ben and Roger for being so awesome. And I’m still playing with Peri & the FAQs and continue to feel incredibly lucky to be playing with Ben Jones, best blue fiddle guy there is, bar none.

Oh and earlier this month, I turned 50. I celebrated with a trip to see my magical friend Eva and we had an epic party together and all told it was pretty amazing.

I guess it has been a full year.

Throughout all the various work and family stuff in 2018, my constant soundtrack was angst over politics. In the months leading up to the midterms I really didn’t know how it would turn out, and the thought that a “blue wave” might fail to materialize was absolutely terrifying.

I took the lessons I learned in handling anxiety over my daughter’s health situation and used them to fight anxiety over fascism taking over the United States. As my angst mounted I aimed to channel my worry into useful action — volunteering, networking, donating my office space to grassroots groups, attending protests, spreading the word about political action events, etc. — and I strove mightily not to fixate on the outcome.

Thankfully, the outcome was a good one. Ever since November 6 I have been infinitely more optimistic about our political future than before those insanely stressful elections. I now have renewed faith that there are enough sane Americans paying attention and voting and becoming involved in the political process, that we are not necessarily doomed. I can watch this SNL skit now and actually laugh a real laugh, not a nervous, bug-eyed, crazy-person cackle.

Spot. Fucking. On.

Nonetheless I can’t shake at least a bit of dread at what will undoubtedly be some really ugly times as the Trump administration and family faces their ultimate demise. Watching the legal walls close in on a mentally unstable man-child in control of our country’s nuclear codes is nauseatingly scary. Seeing the rage and hatred unleashed from a newly exposed (but not at all new) segment of white supremacist Americans is beyond chilling.

2018 was a battle year with these forces and it was tiring and bruising for everybody, observers and activists alike. The (mostly) amazing results of the midterms were an orgasmic relief moment — but I feel I’ve been holding my breath since then until the new Congress gets sworn in.

Canvassing with my kids for Xochitl Torres Small was one of my fave experiences of 2018. Go Xoch! Photo by Peri Pakroo.

Don’t get me wrong, I know things aren’t going to just magically change once Dems take over the house. Folks who care about American democracy and who aren’t cool with white supremacist fascists taking power in the US will need to keep up the pressure and stay engaged. I plan to stay involved and keep learning from more experienced organizers about the most effective political actions; keep educating myself about history and policy; keep doing my best to amplify marginalized perspectives; and keep sharing what I learn. I plan to keep posting political stuff both here and on my social media channels (mostly Facebook, for better or worse, but also an increasing amount on Twitter).

My biggest hope right now for fixing our politicial crisis is that enough people — including those of you reading this — recognize how close we have been (and still are) to fascist disaster, and how the humble actions of millions of people have steered us away from the rocks. Simple things like talking to your neighbors about mayoral candidates, and calling family members to remind them to vote, and calling your reps to express your opinions on things like the evil of family separations or the importance of protecting health care coverage for pre-existing conditions — these small actions undertaken by millions of people add up to massive political power.

This power pushed through a life-saving blue wave on November 6, 2018. January 3, 2019 can’t come soon enough, but let’s make sure to stay engaged well beyond.

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