Doubling Down On A New year

So many times so many people talk in December on how they had such a bad 12 months and they can’t wait to start the new year. I have never logically understood how the turn of a calendar page magically brings about a fresh start. Yet I feel it too. And this year I am doubling down on a fresh start.

My life is OK (not the ideal description of one’s living status) but I am in a major funk. A funk is stronger than a rut and harder to pull out of.

At work, I continue the career path I began 32 years ago. Today there is not nearly enough change and far too few fascinating moments.  Worklife contains some good moments; meetings with my more interesting clients, thinking original thoughts and “getting it” sooner than my competitors and colleges, and teaching the “kids” new things — helping them grow. Yet there are far too many hassles. I am doing things that I learned to do 20 years ago and would be passed down to others if I had the right people with the right skills and attitudes. There are administrative hassles that suck the life force from me. I am a concept guy, a principles guy, a substance over form guy. I hate bad process that I cannot fix and that takes hours away from doing good and doing well.

At home, for as long as I can remember I have been too tired from work to experience great joy enough time away from it.  Within Homelife I am in a rut. I bike, I watch too much TV and spend far too quality time with my wife and grown son. (Too much of the time we are more like roommates than family.) There is the occasional play, some times with friends,  a trip to the health club but too many weekend days I am in a daze or zonked out on the couch.

Health-wise, all is good at 30,000 feet but that masks the aches and pains, hearing loss and forgetfulness. I know that some of this is normal for a 57 year old but I want better. Part of the doubling down is a health thing but let me come back to that.

Outside of the overall funk, 2013 contained a combination of the very good and the tragically sad. My wife and I had two too fun vacations, one in Florida in March and one in Yellowstone and the Tetons in August. My son graduated from college, has a job and is living with use for awhile. Admittedly I was concerned about that arrangement working well but it has succeeded my highest hopes mostly because of him. Between Davide being Davide and whatever influences my wife and I had on him he has grown up (as grown up as any 22 year old can be) into a young man that is at ease around others, a willing participant in keeping up the home in which he lives, hard working and he has developed a great group of friends. He is someone you want to be around.

Additional life positives include more frequent outings with friends, a strong summer of biking –including my 4th Century ride in the past 6 years, and a feeling as though I was able to help a couple of friends through some tough times. Being a good friend is a not insignificant portion of how I value my self worth.

The tragedy of the year was the death of my younger sister in October. Her illness was discovered late. There were a mere eight days between the time we first heard about her cancer and her death. Too much, too quickly, devastatingly sad. I was a guardian of this autistic woman who was unable to fend for herself. Intellectually I know that there was little more that I could have done for her. Her condition made medical tests requiring her to be still all but impossible. And yet I will carry the feeling that I let her and my Mom down by not doing more. Several friends have told me that I was a good brother to her. I am taking them at their word though how is one visit a month plus a few holidays enough? While this pain will carry into 2014 it is one reason that I will be glad to see 2013 end.

So what does all of this do with doubling down on a new year? Excellent question. I had almost forgotten the theme of this piece.

I will make no dramatic new year’s resolutions on how I am going to change what I do not like about my current life. I know myself too well to think that I can keep those promises. First, I lack the discipline. Second, I have contemplated my situation for years and if I had easy answers my life would be different by now. So I will start with baby steps.

Baby Step One. On Christmas Eve morning I had surgery on both feet. (yes 1000 people told me that both feet at the same time was risky. What if something went wrong and neither could bear weight? My response is that I lack time, including time off work, to heal so it was both now or never). If all goes well I will no longer feel a jolt of pain with every step I take, a condition that I have tolerated for years. I may even be able to run again. Part of the baby step is the surgery but the more important facet is no longer tolerating being OK with pain.

Baby Step Two. I am coming back to writing. When people ask me what I would do if I were not practicing my profession of 32 years the answer is always journalism, combining wrtiting, photography and travel. I believe that I have a somewhat unique view of the world. I have a love of faces and stories told through words or pictures. I am only committing to writing but will add photography classes as I can. The travel just requires time and money.

Baby Step Three. I am trusting a new investment advisor, my third after two failures. I would be much closer to being financially ready to leap from consulting to journalism if I had been a close to average investor over the course of my adult life. Not even close. Of course timing being what it is the transition and past bad practice puts too much of my portfolio in cash at a time that stock prices are at an all time high and bond prices are falling. It will take more than a few years for this to work out but at least I believe I will be getting better advice. Can’t be worse than myself or my last two well paid advisors.

Other than that I am working on being more conscious of how I spend my time and the words I say. Bring on 2014. I am as ready as I can be. Baby Steps.