2016: A Year of Goodbyes

All I seem able to write lately are non-fiction, personal essays or rants about perceived unfairness. Things I’ve always avoided writing before. I hope normal service will resume soon (poetry, book reviews, writerly stuff).

Goodbye, Mont Blanc!
Goodbye, Mont Blanc!

After an insane 2014, a stagnating cesspool of 2015 (I’m talking personal rather than global troubles here), I was looking forward to 2016. It was going to be a year of starting afresh, making changes, taking control. But 2016 has proved fierce, fearsome and unknowable so far. It has drained me more than it has energised.

It has robbed me of David Bowie and Prince, two of my childhood idols. It has robbed me of Alan Rickman and Victoria Wood, whom I got to know and love later. Of course, these are not people I knew personally, but we all feel we know celebrities, just like we feel we know ‘the culture of a country’.

In many ways, the greatest tragedy this year has been that it has robbed me of many of my illusions about and feelings for Britain. For me, it had always been a country that stood out as a beacon of civilisation and civility, fairness and even-handedness, where people talk to each other in moderate tones instead of breaking out into street fights. Over the past few weeks leading up to the referendum, I was beginning to recognise (from the media and the comments in the media) that Brexit had become a real possibility. It did not quite catch me by surprise, but it nevertheless hurt me. It’s not the vote in itself which makes me sad and scared, but the animal it has unleashed, how easily a country (and its people) can change beyond recognition. And yes, I know that there are still plenty of decent people there who are equally bewildered, shocked and hurt by what they see.

This reminds me of a divorce in far too many ways. Which is something else that 2016 is throwing my way, so bear with me as I work through this metaphor:

  1. It’s about emotion rather than rationality. After weighing the pros and cons for far too long, trying to be very rational and fact-based, there comes a time when you lose all common sense. You can only see the things you hate about the other, you cherry pick those arguments and behaviours which prove your point. In other words, you ultimately vote with your gut. And we all look foolish when we react in anger.
  2. There’s no such thing as a clean cut. Perhaps if you are a young couple who’ve been together for a very short while and have no children or joint property, it’s easier to separate. For the rest of us, there are a hundred links, some visible, many invisible, which need to be severed. It’s like cutting off a living organism with profound roots in foreign soil.
  3. You don’t know how much you might be damaging the future generation. Even if you have the best intentions in the world and the most unified approach to parenting, the children will struggle to understand and cope with a divorce. Just imagine what happens when the parents are warring with each other, no one has a clear plan for what happens next and you, the child, are blamed for some of the problems too!
  4. The fault never lies with just one side. It’s tempting to buy into just one side of the story, but the truth always lies somewhere in-between. A marriage seldom falls apart solely through the fault of (the other) person, even though it may be cathartic to believe that for a short while. However, if you continue to believe that, you will never learn from your mistakes and will be an impossible person to live with in your next relationship.
  5. You will feel guilty no matter what. If only I had listened more… If only I had spotted the warning signs earlier and done something about it… If only I could behave more like a grown-up now and not let these emotions get the better of me… If only these children weren’t judging me every day with their eyes…
  6. You will move on, survive and perhaps thrive. You fear for your relationship with your children, your finances, whether you will still have a roof over your head. You go through the motions every day, barely keeping up with the formalities you did not wish for, allowing balls to drop all the time because this kind of juggling isn’t what you wanted to do with your life.

It seems difficult to believe in a period of meltdown, but the hatred won’t last forever in its volatile state as an unstable isotope. You have a choice. You can either allow it to harden into an ice-cold little kernel which will prevent you from ever trusting anyone again. Or you can let it decay, evaporate, blow away like fine dust… and build a more stable isotope to take its place.

Here is a song that has helped me through these last few days in particular, but also for most of the year.

Sia: Unstoppable


Goodbye for today, from your Porsche with no brakes and, despite everything, no fear of speaking her mind…

48 thoughts on “2016: A Year of Goodbyes”

  1. I’m so sorry you’re going through such a bad patch, Marina – all I can say is, I feel for you. 2016 is a horrible year for me as well, different problems than yours but, meanwhile, the same feelings about the UK, Bowie, Prince etc. It seems the stars are all wrong. The whole world seems to be in a mess, apart from our petty little problems, it’s difficult to feel optimistic. It’s hard to keep thinking there’s many people worse off than you, and focus on your blessings: healthy children, food on the table etc. And books, and writing… Hugs!

    1. Thank you for your wise words – yes, I keep thinking that my problems are so small in magnitude compared to other people’s, and try to regain some perspective that way. However, that has also meant that I’ve put up with some intolerable things for too long…

  2. I made that decision….left alone in a strange country, but it was the best thing I did. Take care, be strong.

    1. Thank you for your kind words and concern. Would have done it ages ago, but for the children. Have started over, in different countries many times. Not so sure it will be that easy for the UK though…

      1. I’m a novice when it comes to poetry, but sometimes the poets know just what to say. The last stanza of ‘North’ are words I’d like to say to you…but Seamus Heaney did it better:
        ” Keep your eye clear
        as the bleb of the icicle,
        trust the feel of what nubbed treasure
        your hands have known.”

    1. Of course I forgot the most important element (in both Brexit and divorce): there’s no going back. Even if Article 50 is not triggered, even if there is a massive U-turn, I don’t think a normal relationship (or trust) with the EU would be possible anymore. The damage can’t be undone.

      1. Perhaps, although as a committed internationalist, I have to believe we can find a way to work together, whether Britain stays in the EU or not. Possibly wishful thinking, but perhaps not impossible – after all, although it’s not the norm, I do know some divorced couples who have managed to salvage a friendship. Thinking of you as you face this difficult time.

  3. I could understand the feeling of a Brit vicariously. Tough decisions hurt us a lot but remain focused, feel strong and take care. Hope things will remain benign and pave way for the betterment.

  4. Eloquent and heartfelt post as ever… you capture and convey so much, so well. So sorry to hear your news and wishing you and your family well with your next chapter xx

    1. Thank you, Poppy. It never rains but it pours, as they say… But someday there will be a rainbow, hopefully for everyone I’m referring to here. Right?

  5. Crisis and turning points are always scary, we need to remove the “perhaps” from number six and make it our intention, no matter the roller coaster that precedes it.

    To me Brexit is actually the end of a second marriage, I remember when the UK abandoned its commonwealth trade arrangements to join the EU, that stirred a lot of similar sentiment for those of us who were being abandoned then, the gloss, allure and proximity of Europe more inviting than the years of loyalty between our nations.

    Seeing it happen again is intriguing on the one hand and sad on the other as it not only creates that separation but divides within. Ultimately everyone will just have to move on and make the best of it, hopefully tending to the problems that were its cause, although they’ll be so occupied with establishing a new relationship, those problems and disenchantments may well be even more ignored in this new scenario than they were before.

    Sorry for the tough period you’re going through Marina, stay true to yourself and do fun things with your children, be their refuge and know all will be well. Take good care of yourself too.

    1. Yes, you are right, it seems that lessons were not learnt, the underlying causes not studied and dealt with, so things just bumble on from one failed relationship to another… Let’s hope there will be more analysis this time!
      Thank you for your good wishes. I fear the storms are still to come in my personal life, but I’m ready to weather them.

  6. Sending my best wishes across the oceans. I hope the old adage – that life only throws at you what you can bare – proves true and that the second half of the year is sunnier than the first, metaphorically as well as literally.

  7. ‘Eloquent and heartfelt’ indeed, Marina. You’ve expressed how many of us feel about Brexit beautifully and your personal circumstances make it all the more poignant. We’ll all be thinking of you, I’m sure. x

  8. Very sorry to hear about all that you’re going through, Marina Sofia. Wishing you strength and peace, so that you can make it through this time and come out the other side. I think you’re incredibly wise to resolve to move on, without rancor, to whatever life has next for you. Thinking of you…

    1. The two years preceding this have probably been the hardest, although I know that from now on it won’t be a picnic or a walk in the park either (or whatever metaphor we choose to use). Thank you for your kind thoughts!

  9. Hey, MS, I’m so sorry to hear things are so grim for you. Splitting is hell in the short term, but (unlike the case with Brexit) it’s only the short term. Wishing you strength.

    1. I’m squirming a bit now with all the kind words and encouragement I’m receiving. Does that make sense? Because I was more focused on the political aspect than my own personal one, but the personal one is what seems to have made the most impression… But thank you for your words – and let’s hope that Brexit is only bad in the short term.

  10. My thoughts are with you in this difficult time. Remember that kids suffer when parents are unhappy, so (as airlines are fond to say) take care of your own well-being before worrying about theirs.

  11. 2016 has been a foul year, but I’m sorry that you’re having your fair share of foulness and sorry also about your news. I hope the move goes well for you and I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed and sending you positive vibes. x

  12. Oh this year is such a difficult one. So sorry to hear about your personal circumstances and I hope good things come from this in the end. Xx

      1. Yes and while they might be the smallest in comparison to world events, it doesn’t feel like that when you’re at the centre of them. If you need anything…x

      1. I don’t mean to sound dismissive, but I consider divorce one of the good things of this modern age. Why spend life with someone who makes you unhappy?

  13. I’m glad you posted it, however tough it is for you. The analogy works so well (sadly). Brexit’s Britain is not the Britain of Hercule Poirot. The bubble has burst, and it’s all too easy for the rest of Europe to consider the 52% only, saying “well if you don’t like us, we don’t see why we’d like you back”. Hopefully this is really a jolt for a lot of people to change – towards a better direction. Take one day at a time, with lots of good music!

    1. It’s like a farce turned tragedy, all the political infighting and lack of plan which is going on. Reminds me of a child at school bluffing and threatening – and then, when they get their own way, they don’t quite know what to do with the result they should be jubilating about. And yes, the analogy continues to hold true with marriage too: you threaten and coerce the other person until they give up and set you free… and then you aren’t happy about that either.

  14. Aahh Marina, it must be so bloody hard to go through this. Your writing about it is eloquent, beautiful, and incredibly balanced – so there’s something.

  15. I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this, Marina, but as others have said you’ll get to the other side in time. Wishing you better times ahead.

    Re Brexit, I’m not sure Britain has changed fundamentally. The divisions have always been there, as has racism – the politicians just allowed/encouraged them to get out of control. Hopefully once the febrile atmosphere calms, a new set of politicians will do better. And remember that London voted Remain in large numbers… just don’t go to live oop north… unless you go all the way up to Scotland… 😉

    1. If I tell you that I will be living in the constituency of one of the candidates for the leadership of the Tory party… Not deliberately, of course. It just so happens that the old house and all the friends are there. Ah, well!

  16. 38 years after splitting up with my first husband (we were together about 10 years), I can still remember the pain although it was an amicable divorce and we had no children and I was seguewaying into my relationship with my current husband. So I feel for you so much and I am optimistic that you and all of your family will be fine in the long run.

    I actually think having children in this case is a benefit because it forges a connection between you and after so many years together, you do have a connection.

  17. Sending you hugs and best wishes from here as you go through so much this year, MarinaSofia. It sucks, and I’m sorry things are so hard.

  18. Best of luck in Britain. You have your children and friends, all good.
    The political situation there, not so good.

    I always remember the song that was the anthem of young women in my college days, which is still celebrated by women of all generations. That title says it all: “I will survive!”

  19. Absolutely! And I’ll add another anthem of women here of all ages and communities: Aretha Franklin’s “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” which applies to all situationns.

  20. I’m sorry it is being a difficult 2016 for you, Marina. Things aren’t easy at this side of the screen either, but all the reading and the blogging community are definitely helping a lot. I hope we keep helping each other, and reminding the world that no matter what frontiers they want to put between us, we will remain together 🙂

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