2019 and 2020

I first remember being aware of the year 2020 back when I was six, thanks to the TV show, Terrahawks.

Anyone else remember that one? Gerry Anderson’s other puppet show, aside from Thunderbirds, Stingray, Fireball XL5, Joe 90 and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons?

Terrahawks, set in the year 2020 (so the voiceover at the start of the first episode declared), was always my favourite (possibly because it was contemporary to me); I loved the aircraft / spaceship designs AND Windsor Davies as Sergeant Major Zero. My parents even got me Kate Kestrel’s “SOS” as a single.

I loved and still love the sound of the year. Not “Two Thousand and Twenty;” no, “Twenty Twenty.” with all those lovely T sounds, it’s almost geared for action and big things.

But I also remember thinking, “Where will I be in 2020? But that time, I’ll be forty-three.”

Now, here I am; a little over seven months away from forty-three, looking back on a year gone and wondering who and what I’m going to be in 2020.

Battlehawk, you have a Ten-Fifty, by Chrisofedf

2019: Expect the unexpected.

Since around 2015, Vickie and I would tell each other when we talked about her health issues, “Surely the next year will be better.”

As you probably know, after battling with various illnesses for several years, a combination of factors allowed a viral infection to reach Vickie’s already troubled liver. She had a simple operation on Monday, April the 8th to install a semi-permanent catheter for administering medication but never fully regained consciousness, and on Wednesday, April the 10th, Vickie died, leaving behind five kids, twelve grandkids and one great grandchild – and, of course, me and our dog, Sookie.

Since then, I’ve been trying to work out what life is without her, and the best answer I’ve been able to come up with so far is that it continues.

Folks often talk about how they will sometimes forget that someone they’ve spent a lot of time with is gone; they’ll think of something that the other person would be interested in and go to speak with them, then remember the other isn’t there any more.

It’s odd for me that I’ve always been aware that Vickie is gone. Yet, life without her… is. I can’t thin of a better way to put it. I miss Vickie (slowly less so now, though I still have moments, and I think no matter what I always will miss her) but our house is just mine and Sookie’s now. It’s not good or bad, it just… is what it is.

On top of that, I wound up doing a few days of jury service at the beginning of December. I’ve been summonsed in the past but this was the first time I was actually empanelled.

I was always of the opinion that if I ever wound up in front of a jury, I would want to have the trust that at least one person on it had shouldered the burden from choice rather than not having had good excuse; in retrospect, maybe telling the judge I had just lost my wife this year would have been a better move.

Say what you will about the process and how curious and complex it is, you and eleven other people must make a decision that is going to directly affect the lives of at least two other human beings. It’s a criminal trial and someone, either by the doing of a crime or a false accusation of one, is hurt. You wind up finding a lot out about yourself and human nature, and a lot of that isn’t pleasant.

I’ve also been learning a lot about my highs and lows, and how both can hurt not just myself but also the people I care about. Tied in with that is learning that some things need not just patience and care-taking, but privacy, and will leave that there for now.

I remember seeing a Facebook video where a lecturer was explaining to a group of students how holding onto even the lightest thing over a long period of time can hurt and exhaust you, and we need to set the things that we hold onto in our heads and hearts down sometimes.

But how do you set a thing down when it’s your head and heart holding onto it instead of your hand?

Stuh-roll on!

Balls of Steel, by Chrisofedf on DeviantArt

It’s a kind of bitter irony that I now have a lot more free time on my hands. I’ve spent more time with family and friends, got back into my hobby and met new friends through that, started learning how to tend to a house and a yard largely on my own and sporadically worked on exercising and learning how to cook for myself.

And, yes, I resumed working on this web log. It’s been good to produce something on a weekly basis where I can bring more of myself out, rather than just other folks (as I did on The Paid to Play Podcast).

From the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy…

Kevin Flynn, Tron

Trying the tabletop roleplaying game hobby again has been great. Making a conscious decision to commit to it, particularly, has been a big help. In the past my over-thinking, control-freaking, low mood brain has driven me away from good groups and good friends when an element of the characters and world we created didn’t make sense or fit together properly.

Choosing to stick with it has made me sit down and think of solutions to the problems facing me, resulting in some good, solid results that have entertained both my friends and I.

I’ve also made sure I get time as both a game master and a player; experiencing game sessions from the other side of the GM screen has been very instructive about what entertains a player.

One particular highlight is that, thanks to a new friend in the States, I’ve also had the chance to play a Glitter Boy for the first time since I encountered the massive, shining suit of powered armour and its huge, deafness-inducing cannon in the RIFTS main rulebook in 1991.

Yeah I know it wasn’t in Terrahawks but I can’t not post this. Thank you again, Kevins Long and Siembieda.

I’ve been doing a lot more reading. I lucked into a copy of Robyn Skinner and John Cleese’s Life and How to Survive It at the Mount Sheridan Plaza book swap a few months ago and then recently splurged on Mark Manson’s books, the Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck and Everything is Fucked: A Book About Hope at the beginning of December. I polished all three off and appreciate having two different takes on what’s essentially the same subject.

Finally, I’ve started asking for more help. The Queensland court system offer a juror support service which includes some counselling sessions, and lately I’ve started to feel as though I need someone who’s studied human behaviour to give me a mental health check up.

Securing an appointment has been a bit tricky; the venue of the first one I tried to attend was shut and locked when I got there ten minutes ahead of time. I had a word with the company who organised it afterward, so hopefully the next one (early next year) will work out.

All of these experiences have been teaching me about the real value of patience; that as much as I may want to rush toward something good, anything worth having is ultimately worth waiting for. When I find myself over-thinking, I take several deep breaths and remember that the best thing I can do is relax and wait, and be confident in myself in the meantime. It isn’t perfect, and some over-thoughts just won’t stop over-thinking themselves for a while, but it’s a good start and consistent practice is, I believe, having a good effect on me.

2020: Stay on this channel. This is an emergency!

While I can review my past and learn from it, one thing I’ve grown sick of doing is trying to second guess the decisions I can’t change. And I think that’s one of the main things I want to take into 2020, that may give me the courage to start falling forward toward the big unknowns that I want to explore more.

On that note, here are some general aims for this coming year:

Keep falling.

Robin and John’s discussion of walking was one of the loveliest parts of Life and How to Survive It; I’m sure I’ve heard/read this point before, but when Robin asked John about how you start walking, and John responded with the oft-heard phrase of putting one foot in front of the other, Robin’s correction was wonderful:

You fall.

Robin Skynner, Life and How to Survive It

The fact that to start moving, we have to put ourselves not just off-balance but also in gravity’s hands, heading toward the ground, is something we tend to forget. It’s that ultimate act of trust, that not only will we get our feet under us to prevent us hitting, but that what we’re putting ourselves off-balance toward is worth the instability and, sometimes, fear.

It also ties in with Mark Manson’s admonition that a worthwhile life isn’t about avoiding pain, it’s about choosing your pains and going all in on them. Pain is not just unavoidable, it’s also the prime indicator that I’m changing and growing, so I need to learn to accept and appreciate it and make sure I’m growing into being a better person – and prepared for the pain of growing into the next phase of better beyond that, even if I have no idea from my current state what that looks, sounds or feels like.

One thing I want to be mindful of, though, is that while falling toward things and ideas is nice, it’s people who embody them and help you make them real, so they’re what (well, whom) I most need to be falling toward.

Love everyone, myself included.

A while back, I wrote a Twitter thread on alignments in Dungeons & Dragons (which went nowhere) and wound up codifying my take on love by wrapping it around the alignment system’s definition of “good”. To me, love is equal first – everyone matters, including me.

This idea of accepting everyone as they are, strengths and weaknesses, generosity and cruelty, in the only truly real moment – right now – and loving them anyway is another of Manson’s biggest challenges to the reader of his books.

Cleese and Skynner talk about this too, how unhealthy individuals project the traits in themselves that they can’t accept onto others and hate those others for exhibiting the repressed traits. The more healthy I become, the more I can take life as it is.

This really is a tough one, and requires me to untangle a lot of bad wiring that has connected itself in my head for years. Fears of my inadequacy, of not measuring up to impossible standards set not just by others, but by myself. Feeling weird, disconnected, shut out.

That’s why I’m glad of both my old friends and the new ones I’ve made recently; they’ve helped give me the space and reassurance I need to start accepting myself as I am and not what I’d like to be.

Ask for help.

Speaking of impossible standards, we people of the cultures I’ve lived in tend to expect much from the individual; our school system is entrenched in this idea of individual achievement with teamwork sometimes considered a way of taking advantage of others’ skills.

I mentioned above that I’ve engaged the services of a counsellor – the last time I did so was back in Sydney, when work and life had me confused and upset, through a workplace’s Employee Assistance Programme – and I’m seriously thinking of engaging one ongoing, after the juror service period expires. The late Robin Skynner of Life and How to Survive It was himself a therapist and through the book painted a very positive picture of the value a therapist provides. People I trust have also advocated seeing a therapist to improve their sanity and mental resilience.

I also need to engage others more often in the other areas of my life that I want to improve. I welcomed the assistance of a good friend in learning how to cook after Vickie dies, but most of what she told me in the one session we had has rather gone out the door; I’m warming to the idea of trying to organise something more regular, with more people and more hands-on learning. I wonder if anyone local does anything like that?