Most years at this time, I write a little piece in this space about the year gone and the year ahead. Call it a natural byproduct of the job; putting things into some kind of perspective—good, bad or otherwise—is what I do.
The problem today is that 2015 was just too big, too transformative, to distill into something appropriately compact. So I’d like, instead, to focus on a singular moment that I think was both the undeniable low point of the year and the point at which it all began to turn.
It was early March, and I’d gone to my regular appointment with my counselor, Jane, whom the world would lose just a few months later. The depths to which I’d sunk were evident on my face, and I brought along a dear friend as a witness, someone who could tell Jane that I really wasn’t as crazy as I felt.
Jane didn’t need any such affirmation. She took one look at me and said “This is a very big day for you.”
Indeed, it was. That afternoon, all the things we’d been working on together began to fall into place. I started to see how the boundaries I’d always eschewed could actually bring order to my life and funnel me toward the outcomes I valued. (For more on boundaries—what they are and how they work—allow me to commend to your attention this article by Mark Manson. It’s powerful stuff.) I learned how to speak up for the things I need, and how to keep from steamrolling other people and their boundaries. Some weeks later, when the better tools for living were firmly entrenched, I said to Jane, “How stupid am I that I couldn’t have figured this out on my own?” And she said something I’ll never forget: “Given what society demands of men, you couldn’t have possibly known until you were in your forties.” In other words, when I’d had the wreckage of a career and a marriage behind me and finally came around to the notion that maybe there’s a better way.
There’s something deeper, for all of us, than work and productivity and the overt roles that get imposed by social order. Jane helped me find that deeper something, and things rolled out from there. I stabilized my life. I found love again. I began to envision what I’d like to do in the days I have left, while leaving plenty of room for the vagaries of life that make it so interesting. I’m certainly not saying that I’ve found the secret to flawless living. Shit, no. I make a lot of mistakes. In the past year, I torpedoed some friendships as I tried to find my footing after divorce. I wish I hadn’t been so clumsy and stupid. But I also needed to be clumsy and stupid as I tried to find my way. It’s a hard thing to untangle.
Still, as I bid you a happy New Year, I’m tacking in the right direction. I see the road more clearly. I’m trying to live in gratitude and generosity.
Thanks for reading.