Monday, December 13, 2010

A Hell of a Year

This year I wrote.

Four simple, short words that help me look back on 2010 with something less than loathing. That’s saying quite a lot. For this has been A Hell of a Year. Everyone has them from time to time – doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, although I only know about the former’s happening from hearsay, mind you. This year we capitalize the phrase because of its nearly epic scope as it applies to 2010.

To understand exactly what it means to have A Hell of a Year, you first have to get the body language right. You have to say it with your head slightly bowed and shaking slowly from side to side: “We’ve had A Hell of a Year.” But not too bowed; A Hell of a Year can bend you but not break you. If you’re broken, no one cares what kind of a year you’ve had. That’s why you should always remain optimistic as long as you’ve still got someone who will listen to you bitch.

More people experience A Hell of a Year when there’s an economic turndown. That’s because, while love of money may be the root of all evil, lack of money just sucks. It sucks if you can’t afford food or shelter – I’m not in that situation, and I thank God for that, and my heart goes out to those who are. Even if you’ve had A Hell of a Year, you have to keep things in perspective and realize that you – yes, you - are better off than others. But it also sucks if you’re gainfully employed and watching your pennies and you still struggle to keep afloat. Because costs rise and income doesn’t, because there’s just enough to service debt but never quite enough to vanquish it, because unexpected expenses pop up like targets in a video game when you’re out of power-ups.

Even if you personally don’t experience deprivation, a tanking (and, so far, never recovering) economy takes its toll. In 2010 I watched firsthand as a 40-year-old company crashed and burned, first shedding ballast, then dumping fuel, and finally falling into the precipice and ceasing to exist. A new company rose from its ashes, and I was fortunate enough to be a part of it, only to realize after a few months that I couldn’t afford to be part of its ascent. A Hell of a Year, indeed.

But it takes more than economics and its fickle favors to make or break a year. What can money do when a cherished friend announces the end of a 20-year marriage? Or when someone you love gets overwhelmed by the stress of raising teenagers? You can’t buy a tool to chip away at a wall of anger and resentment between two people; you can’t download an app to secure your family’s future. Sometimes you can’t even convince an insurance company that it really was the other guy’s fault. If I had a million dollars, I could make all these things a little easier to take. But I couldn’t stop them from happening.

Things happen. Good things, bad things, things that just are. And sometimes the bad things have the decency to happen at neatly-spaced intervals or under relatively favorable circumstances. Every once in a while, a bunch of good things will drop all at once in a pile at your feet. That’s when we have A Heck of a Year, which is only one word different, but a whole world away in attitude, from A Hell of a Year. But the law of averages dictates that there will be times that try our souls, and trials that test our mettle. There is, as the kids say, Fail. I’m about ready to leave 2010 behind and write it off as a year of Epic Fail.

On the other hand, this year I wrote. I wrote these little old blog entries, and a few people actually took the time to read them, which fills my heart with gratitude and joy. I wrote a short story that I actually entered in a national competition (didn’t win, didn’t even place, didn’t matter). I even wrote some fun listings to sell off pieces of my vintage clothing collection on eBay. Other than selling a few dresses, I didn’t make a dime. I didn’t solve any of the world’s problems – or my own. It was still A Hell of a Year. But I did this thing that I love, and it helped. And if you were there for any of it, you helped, too. I hope I can return the favor some time.

So thanks - to my words and to those who read them - and here’s to A Heck of a Year in 2011.

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