This is one of those fascinating posts (to me) where I navel gaze for approximately ninety minutes on what the past year has done to me or for me or what my actions in said year have resulted or not resulted in. In short, I’m about to ramble on in a semi-coherent manner about what I did last year. If you’re not intimately involved in all things “me” where that me doesn’t refer to “you” much at all, feel free to wait for my famous New Years Resolutions and Goals which is a post all about what I’m hoping to do and achieve next year to become the better person I never have been. Wait, maybe you better hold off on both those posts and hope I start writing about economics again soon.
We’ll hit the highlights first.
K and I split up Might as well start with the big stuff, right? No sense easing into things. She left in May, we’re still in the process of finalizing things which is just our style. It’s been as amicable as such things can be which is a blessing and a curse because it’s always easier mentally to divorce something you have a dire, hardcore hate for. Divorcing a friend is easier physically (and by easier I mean, “climbing Mt. Rainer instead of Mt. Everest” easier, it’s still a damn large mountain). Mentally though, it’s like wandering around the Sahara for a week or so without your trusty zinc oxide and then signing up for a chemical peel done by a pants on head retarded Taiwanese woman with a penchant for torturing small animals. Sorry for the understatement there but I can’t quite find the words to accurately describe it. Consider it a failing of my authorial talents. Needless to say (but I’m saying it anyway because this would be an awfully short post if I didn’t), divorcing someone you consider a good friend lies somewhere on the fun list between self circumcision and a Dick Cheney waterboarding event.
If you Google “divorce stress”, you get 62 million websites explaining a variety of ways in which divorce is stressful. Let me just say, from a personal stand point, most of them are right. When you’ve been with someone 8-10 years and suddenly they aren’t “there”, things change in an ominous way that makes Edgar Allen Poe the narrator of your life. Lots of ravens and Nevermores start popping up all the time and you find it hard to focus on anything but the constant tapping at the window which you’re sure is either Death or possibly your own impending madness. Couple that with a few of the other things down the list and you have the basis for a slightly worse than normal year in the grand scheme of things.
I quit my job Sometime before Mr. Poe had taken over the narrating duties for my life, K and I had decided that I should quit a job I hated and focus on other things, like my writing and learning Ruby and Rails. So on June 1st, I became voluntarily unemployed. I called it a sabbatical. My grandmother probably called it insane. On the list of stressful things, not having a job is probably high up there though typically that involves losing your job through no actions of your own. I had the luxury of having chosen this path but without sounding like I’m making excuses, it wasn’t all peaches and cream when you combined it with waking up each morning alone. The first two months were almost a complete waste as best as I can tell. I did learn a lot of Ruby during that time but my writing was mostly stagnant. I read a lot (see bullet points farther down the list) and started playing the piano again but over all, June and July weren’t as fantastic as I’d hoped.
August got a lot better. I produced a couple of web sites, started writing consistently on my sports website and generally felt semi-human. The original plan was to start job hunting in September but that bled into October and then I thought I’d write a novel in November which I half finished so as of today, January 3rd, I’m still unemployed but probably won’t be for long. My general gauge of taking six months off (if you do the math, that’s seven months but December was special or at least different) is an embarrassingly small list of creative things that came out of it. It’s hard for me to tease out the causes for this. My ego would like to think it’s largely caused because there are three really large stressful things that happened this year which directly and indirectly affected my ability to do things. On the other hand, my rational mind says I’m just not suited for the kind of self directed difficult work required to be either self-employed or an author. I try not to think about those six months because it’s acutely painful what came out of them, both from a productive physical view and a mental, emotional view. Yes, I produced more than what I would have otherwise but still, the romantic idea of throwing oneself into one’s work to avoid the mental stress of other aspects of life didn’t quite pan out. That makes me slightly mentally nauseous and since I can’t throw up in my head, I just try not to think about it. Perhaps a different coping mechanism is in order.
My grandfather died While it’s not fun to think about it, he’d really been dead for quite awhile and just finally physically gave up. He barely recognized me at the end and couldn’t talk much. He wasn’t “there” in the sense you wish your grandfather might be “there”. Still, not a particularly great moment in the year of 2011, a year I started mentally referring to as the “Year of a bunch of not great things.” The funeral was in August. I did get to see him two weeks before he passed and I’m glad for that. Combine his death with a major golf tournament as well as my twentieth high school reunion in that month and it’s rather surprising August was my most productive month. But then September brought things back down to the average.
Miracle, my 18 year old cat died in September Where by “died” I mean we (K and I, I’m eternally and impossibly grateful she went with me) took her to the vet and had them give her a sedative and then stick a needle full of sodium pentobarbital in her heart. Don’t get me wrong, it was probably overdue by a month or two but then when do you ever wake up and think “Yup, today’s the day I want to put my cat to sleep?” She had been sick and getting worse all summer which frankly was probably almost as stressful as the divorce in many ways. Then one day I woke up in September and didn’t have her or K and you can maybe start to see why September and October were pretty much completely worthless. I’m not going to go into it because it’s personal beyond words and also hard to type in this sudden dust storm that’s blown up in my study. Suffice it to say, September sucked and October was marginally better only in the sense nothing that was horrifyingly stressful happened.
I wrote half a novel in November And by half, I mean twenty five thousand or so words strung together in a highly narrative, non resolving string. For several years, I’ve toyed with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where “toyed” means signed up and then never spent any time doing it. This year, with a ton of free time on my hands, I decided to dedicate myself to it. This worked really well for 15-20 days. Unfortunately, it’s not the National Novel Writing Fortnight. Eventually, I ran out of steam. One day I just stared at the manuscript and decided it was at a total dead end. This isn’t probably true but I convinced myself it was. However, 25,000 words is about 23,000 more than I’ve ever written on one thing. So while I’m disappointed in the result, I’m happy with the effort.
I went on a mega road trip in December Which is detailed in excruciating fashion on these pages in other locations. If you managed to miss those at the time of writing, feel free to peruse them now.
Random other things that happened not worth their own section I watched 5 movies (Up, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Ocean’s Eleven (the original), Only Angels Have Wings and Charlie Wilson’s War). 5 movies is probably about average for a year. I read 11 books (Wise Blood, Roads, When The Cheering Stopped, John Wesley Hardin, The Blind Side, The Great Cholesterol Con, 1984, The Broom of the System, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again and American Terroir). This is the most books I’ve read in a year since high school. I enjoyed that productivity immensely and am hoping to carry that forward. I wrote 33 articles on this blog. I wrote a bunch more on You Need More Sports. Overall, from a writing perspective, I was pretty productive this year and that’s something to carry forward as momentum. I have more friends and potential friends than I started 2011 with mostly thanks to Ruby and the local Ruby community. That’s a large positive in an otherwise mostly negative year.
I don’t have any huge insights from this year. It was a hugely stressful year personally but when I think about what other people deal with all the time, I have to be thankful for the opportunities and events in my life overall. I’m hoping that 2012 lands firmly on the more positive side than 2011 did. Even if the Mayans are right and the days run out next December.