I had a post lined up for New Year's Eve, but pulled the plug on it at the last minute. It just didn't feel right. I was going to talk about how terrible 2016 was, personally, professionally, emotionally, politically, spiritually, and every other -ally that you can think of. I didn't finish it because on many levels complaining about my malaise just isn't fun. So I instead decided to put that horrible year to rest quietly, surround by my dogs and a nice glass of whiskey. It's done.
I've had a couple of long conversations with a friend over the past week centered around holding up a mirror to your life and trying to decide if you can accept what you see there. It's not an easy thing to do. More often than not, if you aren't ready to accept your faults you won't be able to see them, let alone change. I am starting to feel like I can see some of the faults. I see that I have a hard time accepting help or kind words, that I am developing a difficult stubborn and potentially destructive streak that I've been calling "self-reliance", that I cannot sit still anymore. I am certain that there are other issues that I have but have not been able to see yet. I am mostly ok with them, but have to be aware lest they shut me off from the rest of the world.
I decided that I was going to spend New Year's Eve and Day alone. That I was going to try to sit with my thoughts rather than throw myself into another odyssey, whether it be writing, trap-shooting, or a piece of furniture. It was not easy. I ended up going to bed at around 11:00p that night, ahead of the new year. It just did not feel right to stay up to celebrate. 2016 got what it deserved: nothing.
That night I ended up watching a documentary on Netflix about Eddie Hall, the British strongman competing to win the World's Strongest Man competition. It's the story of a man driven to prove himself the best at something, despite the deep tolls it takes on his body and family. He's driven in part by some grief and depression (there is that mirror again).
On the whole, being driven is not a bad thing. I have been fond of saying "that if it isn't hurting me or anyone else, and it makes me feel better, it's ok". The trouble is that eventually that drive is going to force some compromises. It may not be hurting today, but eventually the opportunity cost of pursuing a goal is going to become apparent. As an example, my table project more or less put my personal life on hold for the better part of a month. When I got back from Boston, I came to realize this in the sense of loneliness I felt from my dogs. Sure, I was with them every night, but I wasn't present the way I should have been.
New Year's Day therefore became a "dog day". We all spent the day together, on the couch and at the park. The afternoon and evening turned into an impromptu Paul Newman movie marathon. We watched Hud, The Hustler, and The Verdict together. Things carried over last night with The Color of Money. I realize that this is potentially a bit obsessive, a different form of a driven odyssey, but it is a small step toward normality for me. If I am going to sit and "do nothing" then I am going to do it with all my heart.
I don't know if everyone that experiences grief goes through a stage of obsessive behavior. It would make sense. My heart and mind are going in a thousand different directions, and rarely in the same direction at the same time. Having something to occupy my mind at least keeps it constant for a little while. I am trying to find structure among the ruins, each thing I can bring order to is an attempt to rebuild. Everything in its right place.
2017 is going to be a long and arduous year. That doesn't mean it has to be a bad year. We've already had one of those. As long as we are talking about doing things obsessively, how about we obsessively focus on what makes us happy and whole? The trick to the mirror is that we can control the reflection. Let's start there.