Year’s end. It’s that time again. Some years I hate the end of the year, other years I’m happy to look back over it.
This year seems to fall in the former category rather than the latter.
It’s not that anything particularly bad happened in my life this year, in fact I’d say that life didn’t really suck at all. So why have I felt so melancholy recently.
I finally felt settled in my career after finally achieving indeterminate status. Even though there is no such thing as true security in life, things feel about as secure as I could ever imagine they could be. It’s an odd feeling after so many years of grad school, contract teaching, self-employment, and term positions, to not be looking for work or worrying about when this work will end. It felt as if I could finally focus clearly on a job I love.
And things are great for Kirk too. His career has blossomed since leaving what was an increasingly toxic work environment; he is happy and fulfilled and has done fabulous things for his new employer, it’s a win-win.
But there was something else about this year that just sucked energy out of me.
I suppose a lot of it is what has been going on to the South, and in other parts of the world. We have entered what seems to be a time of selfishness, of willful ignorance, of rejection of expert opinion. Society has decided that they can spend five minutes on Google and be more knowledgable than those with decades of experience and expertise. Instant gratification rules, people are more about “me” and less for others. We shame those who disagree with us, or flame them for differing in their views, instead of trying to understand “why” they see things differently. Immediate rejection overrules knowledge and understanding, we reject the notion that we could be wrong, or that another could be more right.
I spent the last few months really feeling the loss of both of my parents, even though they died two and five years ago. For some reason it ate at me for the past few months and sucked a lot of happiness away, since September, since Mom’s birthday. Boxing Day was Dad’s birthday, so that now makes the holidays a bit poignant.
Gizmo had something like a mini-stroke, but seems fine now, maybe too fine, he’s happily screeching again whenever I do dishes…there has always been something about running water and activity that set him off.
The cats both have issues, and Loki has been a bit of a rollercoaster over the holidays, creating a knot in my stomach almost every day.
Frustration at students who cheated on the final exam. The exam hasn’t changed, the questions haven’t changed, the course material hasn’t changed. So the only thing left is that the students have changed, for the worse? Why?
Then it was just crazy busy, and that, combined with all of the above, dragged me down further.
I felt inadequate for not even getting Christmas cards out this year. And, because I didn’t manage to get any out, I still haven’t even opened any of the digital cards anyone has sent me.
It’s the littlest things that can tip you over, push you into the realm of overwhelmed.
I have been feeling fragile from all of the loss of the past few years. I’m usually tougher and can find a way to shrug things off, but sometimes sadness worms its way through and laughing it off becomes harder.
We all wallow a bit from time to time, it’s probably not unhealthy to do so, so long as you don’t stay mired in self pity.
I recently read a bit about how the internet has made us so much more unhappy, and not simply because we compare our lives with the seemingly perfect lives others put forward, and which really are just the glossy bits. We are all imperfect. In a typical day when we were young we were exposed to the emotional turmoil of only a few people in any given period. But now, with social media, we are faced with the social and emotional turmoil of so many, so much, and so often. We can’t help but be affected by the posts of others, and those posts make emotional demands of us. The angry person has their tantrums and rails against things that will eventually touch some chord and make us say “I agree!”. People make pleas for money, for love, for justice. Parts of our own brains can’t help but respond at some level. The problem is not empathizing, the problem is how much empathizing we are being tasked with. Our brains can only handle so much negative information before it begins to affect us. At some point, to preserve ourselves, we have to turn away from negativity and say ‘enough’.
But then I stop and take stock of life and the people in it. I am gifted with knowing so many wonderful people, for working with so many people so passionate in what they do, and for having good friends, friends that I know are still there even if I’ve turned off a little bit of late. Friends who still reach out and touch base even though I’ve been neglectful in doing the same.
I take a breath, and remember something from a friends Celebration of Life recently. Sally described John as always having had the attitude of ‘Yesterday is dead and gone, tomorrow is still unknown, so live for today and appreciate the gift that it is.’
We all need to do a bit more of that, and it’s good advice when one finds oneself in a bit of a hole, regardless of its origin.
Life is never simple nor easy, it has its ups and downs, and all we can do is deal with them as best we can. Sometimes we are resilient, and sometimes we are fragile. So as 2017 comes to a close, I am not unhappy to bid the year goodbye and look forward to 2018. I know we are all getting older and that there will be more heartaches to come, and I suppose that’s what makes it all the more important to hang on the importance of the moments of happiness, laughter, and joy. And so my friends, I wish you all happiness and health or, failing that, I wish for you that you can recognize your own imperfections and make peace with them, and find laughter in the darknesses you may face.
Focus on the good and let the bad fall away.
May you find beauty in places you normally might not think to look for it.
May I manage to do the same.