Like many of you, I was devastated by Donald Trump’s surprising upset victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As I write this article on Inauguration Day (January 20, 2017), I can’t help but feel extremely apprehensive about what the next four years will bring.
One thing that’s certain is that it will be full of surprises. Sadly, I suspect that there will be far more unpleasant surprises than pleasant ones. We are now in uncharted territory.
But life goes on. You and I can choose whether we will be happy or stressed, depressed, and miserable for the next four years. I choose happy.
[Advance notice/warning: This is a personal post about my annual goals and accomplishments. If you’re not interested, which is understandable and highly likely, feel free to move on to my next post.]
The election of Donald Trump as President notwithstanding, 2016 was a good year. I played a lot of music (I’m in three jazz ensembles and a wind symphony), did a lot of writing (although not enough), and married a lot of people (100 couples).
Jeff and I enjoyed our annual all-gay, all-inclusive week at the Hard Rock Hotel in Puerto Vallarta, and we took an enjoyable five-day trip to Santa Fe, NM, which was the first visit for both of us and an item accomplished on my travel bucket list.
More specifically, how did I do against my measurable 2016 goals?
A lot of my friends are distraught over all of the celebrity deaths that have occurred during the closing days of 2016 – and throughout the year, for that matter. Maybe you’re one of them.
Many of my friends are posting on Facebook that they can’t wait for 2016 to be over – often in much more colorful language than that.
It does seem as though there have been more notable deaths than usual lately. But I suspect that the obsessive attention being paid to this topic is partially attributable to social media (especially Facebook) and the overabundance of 24-hour news/entertainment/gossip websites that are hungry for more clicks (read: revenue).
In other words, the deaths of famous and semi-famous people are being communicated farther and wider and with lightning speed, and many people are amplifying the message by re-posting, re-tweeting, and piling on their own wailing and gnashing of teeth. In the past, a death was mentioned in the local newspaper the next day or on the 6:00 news. Then, lacking a means to chime in and spread the news, we moved on to the next topic.
People may or may not be dying more these days, but it seems like they are because we are hearing a lot more about it in our hyper-connected world.
I refuse to buy into it. I refuse to allow myself to become depressed by participating in the echo chamber of death and despair over people I don’t even know.
Last weekend, on Friday night at about 9:45, Jeff and I were walking several blocks back to our car after enjoying an evening of theatre in downtown Phoenix.
It was a pleasant evening, only slightly hot. There were only a few other people on the street, but the two people who drew our attention were a pair of young men, probably in their 20s, who were walking twenty feet or so ahead of us holding hands.
My first thought was, “how sweet!” It’s always nice to see two people in love. Of course, I have no way of knowing if they were still in the giddy throes of a new relationship or if they have been a couple for one year or five. But I admired how they felt comfortable enough with each other and with their surroundings to hold hands.
My second thought was, “how brave.” Granted, we were in a pretty safe neighborhood. For those who are not familiar with Phoenix, the blocks just north of the downtown area are rapidly being gentrified with attractive new apartments and condos. But it was after dark, and there are still plenty of homeless people in the area as well as some rougher neighborhoods not too far away.
Today is February 2. 2016 is already 8% over! Although I have thought about it a lot, I haven’t committed my goals for 2016 to paper (or bytes) yet, so here goes.
2016 is going to be a pivotal year for two of the activities which consume a lot of my time: my retirement lifestyle planning website, Retire Fabulously!, and my wedding officiant business, Ceremonies by Dave. By the end of 2016, I will determine whether or not I want to continue with these endeavors, although for different reasons and with different criteria.
Today I sold a souvenir from my past; something that represented a turning point in my life regarding coming to terms with myself and discovering who I really am.
Jeff and I are in the process of downsizing our possessions. You can read more about that here.
We are not planning to move to a smaller house anytime soon, but we are finally divesting ourselves of possessions we have been retaining for many years, even though we have not had any need for them in years.
2015 Was a Good Year
Last year, I decided to take a more structured approach at evaluating each year as it comes to a close, as well as setting some more purposeful and measurable goals for the coming year. (I’ll write about that next.)
Here’s my look back at 2015. Overall, I was very happy with this year. I had some good successes, some wonderful experiences, and I am surrounded by a wonderful husband, a nice home, many good friends, and I have enjoyable, rewarding activities to participate in.
I didn’t accomplish everything I set out to do – not by a long shot. Maybe the goals I set for this year were too ambitious. But I accomplished a lot, and most important, I enjoyed my life.
The Supreme Court decision on June 26, 2015, which made same-sex marriage legal everywhere in the United States, was a huge, monumental win for fairness and equality. The decision made it clear that same-sex couples would be legally married anywhere they live or travel in the U.S., and it put an end to court cases and appeals that were still in process.
By the beginning of 2015, marriage equality had already come to 36 states, the District of Columbia, and numerous Indian reservations, covering roughly three-fourths of the population. That means that in all these jurisdictions, couples have already had anywhere from six months to ten years in which to get legally married. Many have, but many have not.
Marriage equality arrived in my home state of Arizona over eight months ago, on October 17, 2014. Shortly after that, I became an ordained minister and went into business as a wedding officiant. As of this date (June 28), I have officiated 54 weddings; 49 of which were for same-sex couples.
Yet, I’m surprised by how many long-term couples in my network of friends and acquaintances have not yet legalized their union, and apparently have no plans to do so.
I am a wedding officiant. I’ve only been doing this for about half a year, but I’ve married about 40 couples so far and I have 15 scheduled in the coming months.
It’s immensely rewarding. It’s wonderful to be part of one of the most significant moments of a couple’s life and see them smile and get overtaken with emotion as they say their vows.
Most of the couples I’ve been marrying are same-sex couples who, in most cases, have waited many years to finally be able to get married. Some of them didn’t think that day would ever come in their lifetime. For couples who have already been together for 10, 20, 30, and even 44 years (my record to date), there’s little doubt that their marriage will work out just fine.
It’s fun to observe the special dynamic that exists between the two partners. It’s a little different for each couple, but it’s there. I can see it in the way they joke with each other, make decisions with each other, and even gently push each other’s buttons. In every couple I’ve been privileged to marry so far, I’ve had no doubt whatsoever that they belong together.
But recently, I have encountered a situation that has forced me to ask myself a difficult question: are there any circumstances under which I should refuse to marry a couple?
Yesterday, I received this 13-page diatribe from some right-wing religious fanatic in Canoga Park, CA. In barely-literate scrawl which I imagine is typical of letters of this nature, he warned me that if I continue to marry same-sex couples, I could receive possible punishments of “cancer, sickness, uneasiness, depress, out of control, always angry, car accidents, physical injury, loss income, law suits, bad health, always in danger, family deaths, and worst, your future death.”
These were photocopied forms, with blanks throughout the pages for my name and my city. This tells me that he is sending this love packet to many officiants. I’m now listed on five LGBT-oriented wedding resource web sites, including GayWeddings.com, which is a subsidiary domain of WeddingWire.com. Of course, he could have just found me using a search engine. I have no way of knowing how he found me, but it doesn’t really matter.
At first, I laughed this off, and mused on Facebook, “How kind of him to spend time writing my name and city into blanks on photocopied forms and spend almost $1.50 in postage to rescue me!”