For a variety of reasons, not all of which I have discussed, this has been a tough year.
To be fair to others, I have only spoken of the positive reasons for my job change. The story is always more complicated and those complications took a great toll on me and my family. A job search is exhausting under the best of circumstances, let alone when you are dealing with some incredibly difficult personal issues. I have been touched directly by the spectre of mental illness that seems to be rife in the world of technology and only now is being more openly discussed. I am not prepared to share details though there are some broad topics I will discuss in a more personal way when I am ready. Suffice to say that everyone in my family is safe.
Almost everyone. We did have a loss, a beloved family pet. Losing our enormous and giant hearted canine boy was the last in a series of losses in my personal circle of friends and acquaintances this year. For a while, every week seemed to bring some news of a friend going through some new hardship or of a friend or friend of a friend being lost to us.
At times like these, I am amazed at the resilience of the human spirit. I tweeted a sentiment at one point, that my life had become a blues song that I didn’t yet have the skill to play. I don’t think I was exaggerating all that much. Somehow, despite that parade of woes, we all managed to soldier on, my family, my friends, and myself.
I usually sit right on the fence about taking this holiday to reflect publicly about the nature of gratitude. Like a lot of holidays observed in the US, Thanksgiving isn’t without its issues in terms of the tension between the history we want to believe and the history that actually happened. Most years I give it a pass or just use the opportunity to reflect on open source and free software projects for which I am grateful. Doing so has seemed safest.
After a year like this one, the temptation to expression ingratitude, or even anger, is great. Circumstances could have been different, allowing me easier choices. I could have been more patient, more mature, avoiding at least some of the difficulties I went through. The arbitrary losses–fuck cancer–almost beg for railing against, shouting down a seemingly cruel and uncaring universe.
That would feel good, momentarily, but ultimately wouldn’t lessen the difficulty. Anger and recriminations rarely do. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said,
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
When I have opened myself to the positive, whether that is simply relieving stress or trying to learn from adversity, or is the abiding love of those close to me, I appreciate the great truth in King’s words. Gratitude is a powerfully positive emotion, embracing it seems like the better call.
I am grateful for my family for their unconditional love and support. A lot of what happened in the latter half of this year was legitimately shocking. The surprise and confusion on sharing our troubles did not stem the tide of care and compassion in the slightest.
I am grateful for the friends who stuck with me through this year. Not all of them did, perhaps another tick mark in the ungrateful column. Those that did, just as with my family, reminded me not to take my closest relationships for granted.
I am grateful for the experiences that helped me understand that it is never too late to learn and to grow. Some of those experiences were entirely pleasant, like tackling the skill of guitar playing late in life. Some were a bit more trying, the various lumps I accrued through the job search that spurred me to try harder, to be more aware of what I could do, and to appreciate how I still needed to stretch and to grow. I am trying to be grateful even for my failures, whether anyone else considers them such, as prods for me to do better the next time, as a person and a professional.
I am grateful for my listeners and readers who despite my near fading away from writing and podcasting hung in there. Many shared very positive messages of support. I have tried to reply to each and every one. The feeling of being welcomed back with such warmth and enthusiasm is the best reason to spend more time thinking, listening, writing and sharing.
Whether you had a good year or a bad year, I hope that you can find something to be grateful for. Looking back at my modest list, maybe it is simplest to start with the things you take for granted. Despite your own hardships, slight or immense, for what can you admit some gratitude and in doing so, hopefully feel even some small measure of solace?