Thankful Thursday, 2015

I have been thinking, lately, that for all my frequent moments of despair, the past five years have been a decent run, for me.

On this formal Thanksgiving without any of the usual activities (having held those early this year), it feels like a worthwhile time to attempt some sort of exploration of this idea.

There’s definitely reason to believe that the preceding five years of my life, roughly 2005-2010, were an era to make a lot look good in comparison. I was fired. My father died, in most of the ways you don’t want someone to exit: early, of multiple debilitating diseases, in a non-luxury nursing home, and agonizingly slowly. Let’s see, the occasional, diagnosis-proof failings of my horrible Pontiac finally reached the point of a realistic danger to my safety, and then I got to discover the joy of used-car shopping without any help for the first time, while under a lot of pressure and still effectively locked out of full-time employment because being fired does that to you. The work I found consisted of temporary contract jobs which, while they had their good points, involved long, nerve-wracking commutes and on two occasions a micromanaging sociopath boss even more deranged than all those who’d preceded him. I also made a failed, first attempt at earning a living from my own clients, wrecked by a combination of overconfidence and an ill-timed global economic crash.

All of this, meanwhile and to very modest surprise in retrospect, eventually produced two years or so of serious, relentless physical tension that screwed up my body to the point of an extended period of plain agony. Having to quit any regular running near the beginning of this period, due to innately substandard joint design, hadn’t helped at all. Nor did much of the medical advice I got, some of which eventually triggered a whole additional gastrointestinal condition on top of things.

Yeah. Politically, 2005-2010 was rather more encouraging, but personally that didn’t help so much because my own life was kind of crap during that period. (The Thankful is coming.)

Obviously, there are few if any clean divisions in life. I first went overseas in 2008, and that whirlwind tour of London was a fine experience even if I was in pain much of the time. Since 2010, life has by no means been worry-free. Aside from plumbing a new depth of political hopelessness, I’ve experienced more loss, lost a large long-time client, been driven by disruptive neighbors to moving twice in the span of several months, and developed a vaguely understood, non-curable inflammatory condition which, if now pretty much under control, has required banishing a couple of favored food/drink substances from my life and introducing in their stead a lot of pills that are really expensive thanks to America’s still shambolic healthcare/pharmaceutical models.

But seriously, I do mean it, even with all of this I have to confess that the past five years have been a decent run.

I’ve seen London for a second time, and I’ve seen France for the first, and while I can’t complete the traditional couplet I have also seen Japan and I think that’s far more exciting.

I have begun a second go at living on my own freelance clients, and even after one of the larger of those clients bailed out, I’m still here so far.

I got a laptop (a more or less modern one, which I can use for contemporary practical applications, i.e., not an antique toy), and that’s cool. I also ended up, after pinballing around, in a pretty decent apartment which features a shady balcony. In warm weather, the combination of these things with wifi almost has to be experienced to be believed.

I feel more “at home” in my surroundings than since… college? For all its problems, I still appreciate the life that exists here in Lakewood, whatever may come of it. From days of one-hour each-way commutes, I’ve reached a point where I might go a week without even starting my car. Plus, in the past year this town has even begun to feel a bit like a community with which I have connections, rather than just a pleasant setting for an anonymous standalone life. I’m honestly not jumping up and down about that, and indeed caring has its downsides, but it’s… interesting.

I began a blog of my own at the very end of 2009, and in the years that followed, it led me to undertake a number of interesting projects. One of the most rewarding was probably the nano-famous Superman’s Cleveland map, which has been published in print by a local comic shop and was included in an exhibit at Cleveland Public Library in 2013!

I have also, perhaps most remarkably from my own perspective, researched, written and self-published two well-reviewed books, which complete strangers have actually bought. Neither has quite lived up to my fondest imaginings, no, and it will be a long time before the whole project makes even one cent of profit. But strangers buy and, presumably, read my books, and retail stores have stocked them, and I’ve twice spoken about them at invitation and one time even received money for doing so! (Even better, I got to park in a rock star “reserved for speaker” space complete with its own sign.) Perhaps best of all, these projects have been incredibly satisfying work, and I’m currently nearing completion of a very, very early draft of a third.

Speaking of books, I also began this modest but growing Sherlock Holmes collection as a hobby, and that’s worked out in that it’s inexpensive and I’m not at all bored with it yet. Likewise I’ve had some fun with my first-ever modern video game console.

I am even, in many senses, in pretty good health as I set upon my late-30s, even with the aforementioned inflammatory condition. After I lost so much hair early, the years have been relatively kind to my appearance, I think. I have few gray hairs (and wouldn’t care that much anyway, really), “spare tire” is so far just something in the trunk of my car, and I’ve even been able to reintroduce a little running indoors this year. No cavities yet, either.

Plus, well, there is the fact that even with all this I’m still really, really discouraged at times… Yet, I sort of have to conclude from the apparent prevalence of mood meds among my generation that the fact I’m not taking them, and haven’t so far, implies that in some way I’m not even doing notably poor in terms of mental health.

Which, given how fundamentally tired I am some times, and how much of a blank I draw about where I’m going from here, is probably more reason for concern about society than reason for congratulating me.

But I’m trying. I don’t count on seeing that far shore, but I am still afloat for the time being.

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