Today’s the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice (this part written yesterday). Today’s the day with more darkness than any other day of the year. Yet, today I’m feeling incredibly light.
This time of year, I like to reflect on the year that’s winding down. I usually start the process by pulling out my list of intentions for the year, to see how I did. I’ll also go back and peruse a sampling of stories through the year – a great way to look back and see where I’ve been, since much of what I’ve experienced through the year got reflected in stories here, as I experienced it. That’s one of the many things I love about this place.
What’s been especially fun, and revealing for me, as I’ve begun this process, is rereading some of the many comments made on my stories. This reminds me of what an amazingly supportive community this is. This, in turn, brought on a powerful sense of gratitude. This place still rocks, better than any other storytelling or writing place I know of. You guys rock – I am such a lucky guy to have you all in my life. I just had to say that.
Speaking of storytelling places, I have discovered another place that’s kind of cool. It’s a place that I originally heard about from Rain (Ray Neighbor), who told me about AllPoetry, and mentioned that they had a storytelling component.
While I do occasionally hang out at AllPoetry, whenever my muse gets a bug up her butt and wants me to string together some lines in verse, I was on that site for over a year before I discovered its little known, well-hidden sister site called “StoryWrite”, which I later learned was actually the original site, the one that Rain had alluded to.
Apparently, AllPoetry eventually sprang from StoryWrite, and wound up going viral, so to speak, completely obscuring the original site. I guess more people were into poetry than storytelling – I don’t get that, but it seems to be the case there, anyway.
Rain’s presence is still strong on StoryWrite. A lot of the people there knew him, which is cool, and his stories are still there. It has some fabulous storytellers on it. It has this weird connection with AllPoetry that I still haven’t completely figured out – but I kind of like the mystery of it all. But, I digress.
Year in review. 2015 – oh, man, what a year. I think I’m still too close to it, too “still in it” to really be able to capture it righteously, but this is what I do, so here goes.
It’s definitely been a transitional year. I said goodbye to softball – sort of. Definitely goodbye to playing it at the level that I’ve been playing it for the past 11 years. I almost got away clean, but late in the last game I was ever going to play, these guys that I played with earlier in the year, who became my favorite team to play on, showed up for the late games, after my games.
I found myself reconsidering – maybe I’ll just play with those guys, 20 games plus the playoffs, instead of the usual 80 – 100 games I’ve played each year for the past 8 or 9 years, playing on 3 or 4 different teams each year. This will allow me to keep doing what I love to do, without it dominating so much of my year, allowing me more time to pursue other interests that have sprung out of my reduced playing time this year.
I still haven’t decided, for sure, which way I’m going with that decision. That’ll be one to sort out in 2016. Something to look forward to in the new year.
Health issues kind of dominated the landscape of 2015 for me. I began the year with a 3 a.m. ambulance ride to the emergency room, brought on by severe chest pains, that turned out to be nothing serious. But, looking back, it may well have been a harbinger of more serious things to come. Extremely rare brain tumors. Crippling bouts of vertigo. Hearing loss. Concerns about losing facial function. Sleep dysfunction issues. Man, getting old’s a bitch, definitely not for sissies! So, I conceded a few things to age this year, but eventually said, “F**k this sh*t, while I may concede, I will not go down with this ship”. I decided I was too young to get that old!
So, I bailed on the vessel of self-pity and martyrdom, and climbed aboard a lifeboat of hope and freedom of spirit, got my mojo back, and began to enjoy life again.
I say this like I figured it out and just did it, but we all know - it was not like that, not at all. Life just led me to the right people who helped me to see there are more than one way to look at things, and I was looking at it all wrong. I was missing the opportunities that were being presented to me, so deeply was I wallowing in the “poor-me’s” and bathing in the sympathy of all those who felt badly for me.
I got a new attitude, a new perspective, thanks largely to two individuals who showed me the way – a guy who’d had a brain tumor removed, and a guy who’d just got done with a vicious life-and-death struggle with cancer. Each in their own way scooped me up out of the swirling waters of self-pity, made room on their life raft for me, and led me back to the land of the living. I’m deeply indebted to both of those individuals. What a difference their impact made on me this year!
We lost a lady who has had a significant impact on my life for the past 31 years, my mother-in-law. We had an unusual relationship – she inspired a couple of pieces of writing in me that came out of frustration and anger that were quite memorable. One, many years ago, was forever after referred to as, simply, The Letter.
The other was a piece I wrote, in a self-righteous rage over things she said to her daughter, my wife, that just tapped into a place I rarely allow anything to tap into. I reread that piece the other day – whew! That was some writing, some anger, some rage – I couldn’t believe it was me who wrote it. But, it was.
Writing it really helped me to get past all of that, to be able to see the real gift she had brought to my life, all these years. I wrote a piece about that a few days later, and, shockingly (to me), that piece became the eulogy I was asked to read at her memorial service, just days later. Much as she was a pain in my rear, much of the time, I do miss her, and miss the lessons that she taught, the integrity that she represented. The privilege of being able to help another person who needed it, and who appreciated it, even if she didn’t always show it. Yes, I do miss that. It made me a better person.
This year, I feel like I finally reached the destination that I had been seeking since I first began to feel the urge to get back into 12 Step work five years ago. Ironically, after searching far and wide for where I was supposed to go, and what I was supposed to do, it turned out to be right here in my own back yard - where it was all along. I just had to complete my own journey in order to be able to see it, clearly. That’s a whole other story in itself, which I will eventually tell, but suffice it to say, it is wonderful to be back home, where I belong.
Work was quite interesting this year. I got selected for a senior executive position early in May, but had to wait until November to finally be able to move into it. It’s certainly a step much higher than I ever expected to take, professionally.
The long wait made the actual step somewhat anti-climactic. Then, I nearly freaked out when I realized what the expectations of me at this new level were. Then, I was certain that I’d made a mistake, and felt trapped.
Then, I breathed. Then, I realized I am right where I’m supposed to be, and it will all eventually make sense. For now, I continue on a very steep learning curve, and do the best I can to bring myself to the job, and to lead in a way that I know how to lead. I am just beginning to grow into the position, and it will be a process. Whatever else I bring to it, I will bring myself, and be myself, and that will be just enough. It will be just right. It’s certainly good to breathe again!
So, that’s the year that was (and still is, for another week or so). Quite a year, that’s for sure. It’s been a great privilege and honor to share it with all of you, and to continue to be a part of all of your journeys and discoveries as you go.
I miss those whose journeys have taken them away from here – but, I do understand how that works. Some will return, while some will find what their looking for elsewhere.
When it comes to a place to write whatever the hell I feel like writing about, knowing that an understanding and supportive community will read it, appreciate it, provide the occasional feedback, and always, always be there – Cowbird is still my true home for writing.
I greatly enjoyed the writing course at University of Iowa’s Fiction Writing MOOC that I took in October and November. I learned a ton. But, I also learned – I’m not quite there yet. I know I can do it – I’m just not ready to commit that amount of my time and energy to getting something published. I’m still having too much fun just writing daily. The rest will come, in its good time. Maybe when I grow up. For now, I just want to have fun. Is that a sin? I think not.
Write on, my dear fellow Cowbirders. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Hannukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Ramadan, Happy Eid al-Fitr, Happy Saturnalia, and, of course, Happy Festivus for the rest of us. Whatever you do, just try to have some fun doing it, and remember, above all else, to be kind to your fellows. Kindness is Awesome.
Images by: wyman H, Dyaa Eldin, Tiago Muraro, and Jasper van der Meij, respectively, c/o Unsplash.com