Cheers to the year ahead | ParkRecord.com

Cheers to the year ahead

Sunday in the Park

By Teri Orr
Park Record columnist

Personally, I would never wish an entire year away. So many good and great things happened in small ways this year in my life that I don't want to anger the gods by not acknowledging them. That seems foolhardy.

For the first time, in oh so many years, my lilac bushes really bloomed, blossomed, the tricolor bush was exceedingly stunning in white and lavender and, well, lilac.

I traveled to Canada twice and saw some of the most beautiful scenery that exists on the planet. I saw whales with my 15-year-old granddaughter in the San Juan Islands. And I walked on a red-dirt trail on the bottom of the Escalante River with my 12-year-old grandson. I read a bunch of great books. And saw a handful of amazing films and some films of lesser gods. I reconnected with an old friend from a past life and my little house withstood another winter of deep snow and subzero temperatures.

I ate and drank with friends in multiple states and states of mind. The best of those days are always being with my TED tribe, wicked smart people from the world over who are doing good work and who know laughter is the original universal language. We stay in touch between conferences and we lose no ground when we are together for a week of discovery.

My sadness of loss this year, for a change, didn’t come from anyone I was related to by blood or choice

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I have work I love and friends and family I love more.

My sadness of loss this year, for a change, didn't come from anyone I was related to by blood or choice. Instead the loss was global or at least more widespread with the death of entertainers, especially those who shaped how I learned about music and how I learned to laugh deeply… at my own life.

The election, in which people voted overwhelmingly as individuals to elect the first woman president, was a disappointment because we were stuck, instead, with an arcane electoral system that when it was created valued slaves at two thirds of other men. And yes, it was only the men who voted in those days. The popular vote did not elect this president-elect.

And I am sad in anticipation of losing the smartest president of my lifetime, the most educated, most humane, the most forward thinking and acting. A man we watched be a loving husband and father and defender of women and their rights. A brave man who stood his ground/our ground and took out our most dreaded enemy. Who took us out of a recession that no one wanted to call a depression but it was. Who secured gay rights, and sacred open space with equal reverence. A man who wasn't afraid of popular culture but embraced it. A president who was respected globally for all his thoughtful actions. When you live in a red state with a blue heart you feel the loss deeply deeper.

The losses in the musical world and world of actors were significant and shocking because we have been lulled into thinking we really knew these people through their high-profile jobs. But we didn't. We didn't know about the cancer or weak hearts. We may have suspected the drug use.

Locally we lost our innocence as a community when we lost two innocent young children we acknowledged had died from an opiate overdose. We were forced then to acknowledge many, many, many more students were/are in crisis and maybe a dozen young adults had already died from heroin overdoses gone unreported here in the last three to five years. And we saw young people attempt suicide and two adults take their own lives. It has been a dizzying year in Our Town. And incredibly sad.

And while we like to make sweeping pronouncements of how all that happened, does happen, I was brought back to a quote by Tolstoy:

"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

We do not know the path someone else has walked/ is walking and in a town this small. We need to not only make room on the trail, but as Charlie likes to say, take time for 10 seconds of kindness. Step aside, or say hello, or pet the dog, or giggle with the child. Ten seconds can be just enough time to reshape a day.

We will wake this Sunday and just like that it will be a new year. Blank pages on the "old school" calendar. At least a reset on the Apple watch and the Google doc. How we spend our time is the real measure of what we value. We can't say certain people or experiences matter and then ignore them in our contagious busyness. Aging brings a certain clarity to all: Time passes quickly, do-overs are rare but possible, what is precious isn't purchased. Being of service is the greatest gift. That loving and being loved is the sum of a life. Did we/do we love well?

I am sad for those who are living this holiday season with pain and loss. I had so many holidays I cried through. So many years where I undervalued the measure and variety and really abundance of love. I try now to acknowledge it, create spaces for it to grow. Take joy in the ways it can take wings.

So I won't say good riddance to 2016, because although there were moments of loss and sadness, there were great gains. And laughter. And love. So much love. I look forward to the unknown gifts of 2017. And I welcome them to start this very Sunday in the Park…

Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.