The older I get, the more appreciative I become of how complex something as seemingly simple as “time”.
As a kid, time was much less fluid than it is now that I am older. As a kid, Christmas morning came and went by incredibly fast, but yet any given day of the school year seemed to last a lifetime. As a decidedly mid-50’s adult, well, time just seems to move fast…and getting faster…all the time. It’s as if my life is rushing towards something (yes, to be frank, the end of it). That makes it all the more important to appreciate the here and now.
Part of appreciating the here and now rests with understand what has come before. When I think about 2019, what comes to mind is change. Probably more change, I will note, than many other years.
“I’m from Iowa; I only work in outer space”
(paraphrasing Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, responding to whether or not he was some kind of spaceman)
I started 2019 working for a company that took over the company that previously employed me. I went from working for the same company for nearly three decades to (now) three different companies in the span of three years. That’s a lot of change, and the fact that I’m here to write about it, having navigated that change, says something good about me.
Company number two in this time frame was just about the worst possible fit for me in terms of culture, business model and just about any other dimension imaginable. It was a place where I never would have sought employment myself. Yet as difficult as that situation was, and it was pretty difficult, I managed to bring it to something of a conclusion. Even in the difficulty of working for a “worst fit” organization, I was able to gain connections with some truly remarkable people. It also was a stark reminder to me of how deeply ingrained the notion of work is to me. A wise person told me that work is important because, oddly enough, I am comfortable in the environment. I’ve filed that in the category of “Feedback I don’t necessarily understand…but I will accept nevertheless”.
Company number three, where I am now, is something of a gift, being a kind of anti-matter equivalent of company number two. Where the former was enormously large, the latter is relatively small. Where I struggled to understand my value in the organization (in fact, feeling lost and devalued), now I know where I fit in and the value I provide. I owe a debt of gratitude to those who helped get me here, directly or through encouragement, and I’ll do my best to repay that over the years to come.
“I have met the enemy, and he is me”
There are no two ways around this: I haven’t done enough to take care of myself, and that’s gotten worse in 2019. After something of a frightening health experience last December, I’m left with the prospect of a colonoscopy every three years for the rest of my life. Granted that’s not terrible, but it is a stark reminder that the teenage years of almost super-human invulnerability to all manners of physical neglect and abuse to self are long, long gone. No, at this stage, things will, in fact, wear out, and what how I treat myself does matter.
There are, by the way, at least 876 reasons why I should take better care of myself. That’s a fact. What’s less factual is why I have allowed myself to get to this point in the first place. Part of it, I am sure, is a kind of general despair that comes from a horrible working environment (see above). Regardless, no manner of excuse is actually sufficient.
“And there’s someone on my head, but it’s not me”
(Pink Floyd, Brain Damage)
When I think about the 11+ years I’ve written this blog, one of the things that I am most proud of is the fact that I’ve allowed myself, modestly I will note, to be somewhat vulnerable in terms of self-expression. Now there are fits and spurts where this is more prominent, but I can honestly say that what’s here is pretty much me (all be it with hopefully spelling & grammar). I don’t know though that I’ve been fully transparent over this past year.
I have been troubled on the career front (see above, and some other postings), but pretty much kept the worst parts to myself. There are practical reasons for that (which I can’t disclose), but it’s hard to deny just how dark that drove my life for the first half of 2019. I still find myself digging out of the emotional toll-hole it has taken. The good news though is that A) I am making progress and B) I can at least now admit the problem existed.
Now I’m fully aware of all the learned advice about “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, but I’m calling B.S. on that concept, at least as it applied to the scenario above. I’m not stronger from that experience. I am, more correctly, feeling damaged, but at least recovering. For a person who is naturally wired to be very self-reflective and critical, this past employment experience was simply Hell.
I also think a lot about my late brother Chris. I had a very vivid dream a few weeks ago that he was in, where I told him how much I missed him. He said, “I know”. That was a remarkable bit of coherency for one of my dreams, by the way. Spiritual people would tell me that was some kind of message. I don’t know about that part. What I do know is that when I woke up, it didn’t offer much in the way of comfort. As difficult as the latter part of his life was, I still feel cheated by his passing.
“Cheat your landlord if you can – and must – but do not try to shortchange the Muse.”
(William S. Burroughs)
As something of a side effect to all the above, actually writing these postings has become more difficult for me. I normally (whatever “normally” means) get ideas for things and then just pretty much bang them out in an hour or two. Occasionally I start writing something and then come back to it later. Even rarer is a posting like this, that is written in parts, stitched together like some kind of written Frankenstein’s monster.
Anyway, it feels as if I’m almost trying to punish myself by not doing the things I enjoy. As if I need to be punished for a year that was quite punishing enough, thank you very much. It’s a good thing the sole, only intent of these postings…and it’s 2,000 siblings by the way…is my own enjoyment, as it’s been a disappointing year at NCFE.
“You and I have memories, longer than the road that stretches out ahead”
(Paul McCartney, Two of Us)
There’s a real danger, I think, in spending too much time in retrospect. As I used to tell my daughters, it’s like driving a car: If you spend too much time looking at the rear-view mirror, you’re not going to see what’s in front of you. Granted though that an occasional glance is actually prudent.
The task for me, at least as I see it now, is to pack all of what 2019 was (the good, the bad, and the very ugly…some of which is noted here, some of which is not) and put it away. We all have bad years, for sure, but they all come to an end as well. As is our annual ritual, I’m going up “to the cabins” for a few days of being unplugged from all manner of Internets and Social Medias, which creates something of a natural re-set button. There I’ll catch up on some quality reading, do some off-line writing, spend some time hiking and maybe take a few photographs, all surrounded by my wife and her family. It’s a kind of simple, gentle end to a year that was far from simple…or gentle.
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All the best to anyone reading this, and I hope your New Year is full of promise.