Good riddance to 2015, and its death, destruction and despair

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The dried-up Christmas trees have been tossed to the curb, and so has one craptastic year. I don’t know about you, but 2015 was just brutal. I have to dial back to 2001 to find a year with so much death and destruction.


In 2001, the horror was concentrated in one colossal event, and although I was as shocked and broken-hearted and terrified as all Americans were, I didn’t personally know anyone who was killed or harmed in the attacks. In 2015, however, it got personal, and rather than one massive horrifying calamity, 2015 meted out the misery in steady doses all year.

Three people were ripped from my life in 2015, decades too early. A heart attack claimed one. Healthy and playing golf one day, gone the next. Lung cancer claimed another, a happy, healthy swimmer and world traveler far too soon. And she didn’t even smoke. A third, a cherished mentor and beloved icon, was gunned down while walking his dog on a sunny Marin trail. All three, brutally, suddenly, cut down.

Then there was the destruction of places that offered comfort in times of stress and despair: Stebbins Cold Canyon, a wonderful escape into the natural world just minutes from home — turned to char in a moment by the Wragg fire. That fire, however, was a pipsqueak compared to the Valley fire, a moving wall of hellfire that gobbled down a swath of Lake County, including Harbin Hot Springs, a special, sacred place my husband and I would retreat to when life seemed too harsh to handle. Gone. Nothing left but ash and memories.

Harbin wasn’t just a place. It was the heart where all the veins of the Harbin community came together. That community has been scattered to the winds and rebuilding the premises will take years. But rebuilding the community? Will that happen or will the lure of profit transform funky old Harbin into just another swanky Napa-area resort for the idle wealthy class? Time will tell.

As for the environment … how can anyone rebuild that? The trees, the wildlife, the birds? How can mere humans rebuild what it took nature eons to create? Rebuilding and creation are not the same thing. Things will grow there and move in to the area, sure, just as they will at Stebbins Cold Canyon, but it will be different. People are builders. Mother Nature is an architect.

Even my workplace was destroyed in 2015. Seeing buildings I’d grown accustomed to just vanish bothered me more than I’d imagined.

When people ask how it’s going in the new office. I just shrug. There’s a lot more room for a lot more mess. Honestly, I miss our old spot. It was funky and imperfect, but familiar and comfortable, and that is soothing when everything else seems to be constantly tumbling. The new spot on Russell Street sometimes feels like a different world. This building is just … listless. I have no emotional connection to it. Maybe that will change, over time, with enough Friday the 13th parties. Maybe. It’s very odd, walking in here in the morning. I still feel like I belong somewhere else.

Another familiar thing that disappeared in 2015: my husband’s job. That was a shocker. That was a hook to the jaw. And just in time for the holidays, too. Thankfully, he will start a new one in a few days, but he’ll have to spend his weekdays in Petaluma, so we’re back to the old two-household grind again. Crazy as it may sound, we still prefer to spend time together. Yup. Weirdos.

Also in 2015, perpetual struggles with my health insurance company interrupted some ongoing therapy I was getting for pain management, and a person with whom I traded massage treatments fell ill and has been essentially disabled for months. Her life got turned upside-down, and on my end, all these things combined mean that I feel like I have a low-grade full-body headache most of the time — not enough to truly interfere with life, but enough to zap my energy.

Energy. I remember that; 2015 stole that too.

The common denominator of all these things is this: many of the “givens” in my life disappeared in 2015. People, places and things that were “go to” for love and laughter, calm and comfort — vanished.

All these losses combined with the much larger overall escalation of human-inflicted misery worldwide makes me want to curl into the fetal position. In particular, the ISIS attacks on Charlie Hebdo and Paris, and then on our own soil in San Bernardino, heaped onto the mountain of gun violence and mass shootings in the U.S. and beyond has become overwhelming. Moreover, it has become psychologically invasive.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has thought “it could happen” while on the way to a mall or theater. Just having that thought cross my mind at all is alarming and infuriating. Even the sanctity inside my own head has been stolen.

Overall, 2015’s hard lesson is that we can’t assume that anything — or anyone — will always be there. It — they — can disappear in a flash. Beyond the present moment, everything is transitory. Therefore, savor and cherish your moments with friends and family, take nothing and no one for granted, because there are no guarantees of future moments — only present ones. Hoard them like the gems that they are.

Heraclitus is credited with the quote, “The only thing constant is change,” which he observed around 500 B.C. It seems to contradict Solomon, who observed about 450 years earlier that “There is nothing new under the sun.” But maybe they’re actually in agreement, because if there’s one that’s not new under the sun, it’s change. Apparently 2015 felt the need to hammer that point home.

OK, I get it, 2015. Enough already. Put the sledgehammer away. The worm is beyond squished. Thank God 2016 is here to mop up the mess! I’ve had about all the change — and 2015 — I can stand.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at; read more of her work at and

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