Though I never intend to do it, I find myself spontaneously becoming reflective as each year draws to a close. I don’t really place any significance upon the transition from one calendar year to the next, and generally see it as just a useful though somewhat arbitrary construct. If it were left to me our years would begin at the Spring Equinox, but nothing of real importance has been or ever will be left to me. Nor should anything of real importance be left to me, mainly because I don’t understand humans worth a damn.
Unlike most of the people I know, I can tell you with an accuracy of ±2 feet where I was at the Unix epoch, 1 January 1970 00:00:00GMT. Not that I knew it as the Unix epoch, as no one did. There was no Unix yet. At that precise moment I was sitting on my bed in the house where I grew up, not knowing why I was mourning the end of the decade of the 1960’s. I had a feeling that something more than the decade of my birth was ending, but I had no idea what that something more that was ending might be. Time would answer that question for me as we would all come to know what was meant by “the 60’s”. My perspective is a bit different from most, of course, as it always is. I don’t see the 1960’s as a period of great social change, with the exceptions being the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the creation of Medicare in 1965. Those were real changes, while most of the rest was just temporary disturbance: The Age Of Aquarius was only worth having if, like college tuition, mommy and daddy would pay for it.
You can’t legitimately claim that there was some kind of progressive social change in an era that elected and then re-elected Richard Nixon, granted Jimmy Carter only one term, and then gave rise to the neo-conservative movement. The largest voting block in the nation in the past 30 years has been the Boomers whose beloved Sixties were ostensibly a time of great social change, and the representatives they elected brought us the Reagan Revolution and the neocons, the architects of the Great Recession and the state of perpetual war — only 27% of the population was opposed to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 before it happened, and after it began 79% thought the war justified. Some large percentage of that 79% had to be Boomers who believed that the Sixties were an era of progressive social change.
I spent my 18th birthday being very reflective. There wasn’t much else to do, as I spent the day in the cab of a Kenworth watching it rain on a parking lot somewhere in Oregon, outside of some small coastal town I’d never heard of before and whose name I cannot now recall, waiting for Monday to come so we could load out with cedar shake bound for Los Angeles. Sitting there watching it rain while my father slept the slumber of the just (just plain drunk), it occurred to me that attaining the age of majority made me a slave rather than a free man. Since midnight my parents had the legal right to put me out with nothing, and I predicted as I watched the rain fall in the light of the security lamps of the dark and empty parking lot that my parents would remind me of this repeatedly. They did not disappoint. One year later I was in Air Force basic training — it was my only way out.
Things didn’t work out the way I had them planned. 😀
As the 20th century drew to a close I was far more than reflective. I had a full blown midlife crisis, but not in the classical, stereotypical sense. There were no sports cars or young women involved. Instead it was a period of deep spirituality and reflection, and I relished it as an unexpected opportunity that should be allowed to play out of its own accord and not be subjected to expectations. I knew it would pass, but I hoped for the miracle of remaining in that state for the rest of my life. I felt very peaceful, and found my commitment to my core tenets deepened and strengthened. I also decided for the very first time that my own humble life had intrinsic value, value that I’d sacrificed to others for far too long. It turned out to be a very powerful thing, that simple and obvious decision.
I sometimes wonder if that period ended, or if it just diminished a bit and I became accustomed to it.
Though I didn’t set out with any kind of a plan, over the course of the next ten years I would end up eliminating all of the toxic relationships in my life, every last soul sucking one of them. That’s a powerful thing indeed, and something that seems to be pretty rare. I wish now that I’d planned it, as it would have been much faster, easier, and cheaper, but as a colleague of mine likes to say, all’s well that ends.
Wandering through life I often hear some variant of “What’cha gonna do? He (or she) is family”. What’cha gonna do? What I did was to take responsibility for my own happiness and burn every damned bridge that would lead me to misery. The only one who can prevent my suffering of abuse is me. That makes it my obligation to do so. When my mother-in-law heard that I’d abandoned my parents forever, she was shocked. “But they’re your parents!”. I pointed out to her that they’d abused her daughter, too, who was sitting there with us and suffering PTSD and PSVT (Paroxysmal Supra-Ventricular Tachycardia). MIL still doesn’t get it. In her eyes I’m some kind of evil prick, I suppose. I broke the honor thy progenitors commandment, at least, and she probably feared that I’d convince her daughter to do the same. Ironically, she’s the one who convinced her daughter to do the same. They still speak, but not often — MIL doesn’t like that she can’t push her daughter’s buttons any more, and that her daughter lost the habit of biting her tongue. Amethyst doesn’t like that her mother still forces her into situations in which she has to call her mother out on her bullshit.
What’cha gonna do? I recommend honoring and respecting the one life you’ve got and valuing it as the precious gift that it is or at least can be and should be. I’ve got no toxic relationships in my life today, not even in my business relationships. It’s wonderful. I didn’t suspect that it was even possible given how dense the world is with assholes but here it is, my life, asshole free. It’s going to stay that way.
2013 had a few challenges, but overall it was an outstanding year. Contented, peaceful, and fun. Generally nothing to talk about. Just a nice, asshole-free existence with my sweet Amethyst, Awesome Cat, nice clients, and few nasty surprises aside from having to get Amethyst’s heart hacked on again. But that’s done now and she’s right as rain with no ongoing conditions or problems. So I had to abandon almost every familial relationship to get here… My only regret is that I didn’t sever those ties 35 years ago.
Time for a glass of wine. Cheers, friend and neighbors!