End Of Year Reflection

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!

12 thoughts on “End Of Year Reflection

  1. erikamsteele

    When I look back, 2013 was more good than it was bad. It may have been really boring, but I did go through a lot of personal growth. This year I haven’t had time to reflect. I am too busy freaking out about graduating. LOL.

    1. happierheathen Post author

      More good than bad is good by definition, eh? 🙂

      You make your boring appear anything but. Between your interesting experiences and Master John’s adventurous undertakings it all seems pretty wondrous to me. If we were neighbors I’d want to borrow your son for walks in the woods for the opportunity to see the world anew.

      I might have been inattentive, and I’m certainly ignorant of the world of academia, so I’ll just ask: What’s the part of graduation that induces freaking? Being an autodidact, the college experience fascinates me far more than my experience with recent graduates over the years does. (The autodidact always wonders what was missed, and worries a bit that maybe the self directed education has left out some key component without which said education is inadequate.) Hoping to be forgiven for asking, whaddascoop?

      1. erikamsteele

        LOL. Graduating makes me officially and official grown up. Granted, that happened the second my dissertation was accepted and all of the paperwork was complete. Walking across the stage is this giant ceremonious celebration of the end of my extended childhood.

        Maybe I should rephrase, my married life and interaction with other adults is boring. I need more adults in my real life with whom to interact. John will always be awesome.

        1. happierheathen Post author

          Ya know, if you should stay in academia (in a teaching/research gig) you’ll never have to grow up. 😉

          It’s not all that easy to find interesting adults. I’ve known a few, but most know only what’s on television or their favorite web sites.

            1. happierheathen Post author

              Here in our town of about 2,000 I know Amethyst and three others I consider interesting. But then it’s a community where most folks think the Tea Party is not conservative enough, and to get there one must be incapable of rational thought.

  2. whyzat

    I think that most of us, when we are young (say, before 20 years), don’t really know what’s going on and aren’t aware of what happened before us. We can have our hippie days, and our love-ins, and think everything is groovy; then, when have had more time to see the world, we realize it can’t be all Woodstock and tie-dye for us anymore.
    Some good policy and social changes came out of the ’60’s, like pollution control and the burst of activity in the conservation movement, which, for awhile, improved things. It’s today’s adults, our children, who don’t remember when there were no eagles in the midwest and smog was choking the life out of the cities. I worry about what they are doing and will do. They don’t remember polio and measles, so they think they don’t need to vaccinate. I don’t have children, so I don’t really care what happens after I’m dead, but i fear for the generation of your grand-children and their children.
    Well, that rant belonged in my own blog. I’m glad that you have found your good spot in the universe.

    1. happierheathen Post author

      I can’t help but agree that some good environmental regulations came about in the tail end of “the movement”, and up through the 1980 passage of Superfund. I just don’t see much in the way of social change having come from the actions of the mostly white, mostly middle class youth who believe they made a big difference.

      Today’s young people are disappointingly uninvolved. I’ve been hoping for a long time now that they’d get uppity, and I was really hopeful that Occupy would get their shit together. Oh well.

  3. digitalgranny

    2013 has been a year of trials and growth-growing stronger for walking through the trials.
    This has been the year of endings and new beginnings.
    We shall see as 2014 dawns whether the new changes in govt that is going to affect us all is a benefit, or just be another kick in the butt.

    1. happierheathen Post author

      I’m expecting 2014 to be an interesting year, interesting in the sense of that fictional Chinese curse “may you live in an interesting era”.

      I hope you’re both well!

  4. Roadkill Spatula

    During last week’s trip to Medellín, my wife and I broke off ties with my niece, whom we had set up with an apartment on a previous visit with the understanding that we would subsidize the rent and stay there when we visit. My wife arrived in Colombia several weeks before I did, and my niece was rude to her every single day in a wide variety of ways. When we talked with her about it, she was defiant, dismissive, and sarcastic.So my wife said, “I’m writing you out of my life as of this point.” (She’s considerably better at that sort of thing than I am.) We found another place to stay and to store our stuff.

    This year I’ve made it a point to communicate with my ex only in writing. It keeps me from having my buttons pushed or being manipulated, and gives me time to think about how to respond. I should have done it years before. Once child support and the lake house are over with, I will have no reason to communicate with her again.

    1. happierheathen Post author

      I find it has helped me considerably to just keep in mind that, in the short form of it, “I’m a nice guy but only as nice as I’m allowed to be”. If someone pushes beyond my limits they’re forcing my hand, so it’s not my doing and there’s no reason to feel badly about an appropriate response.

      There’s a lot to be said for ending communication with a hostile ex! 🙂


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