Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ten Things: Lessons of 2014

Life is a classroom that never closes. 

I remember our Geography textbooks in grade school (yes…they actually used to teach a subject called, “Geography,” where we learned, at the very least, that there WAS a wider world beyond American shores…)  At the end of every chapter was a review section, titled in bold script, “What Have You Learned?”  No doubt designed to get us to reflect upon and internalize the material covered in the chapter just completed.

As Chapter 2014 comes to an end, I feel the urge to review and reflect upon it. 

So.  What Have I Learned?  Let’s do this as a “Ten Things,” shall we? Just off the top of my head and in no particular order:

 1.)Marriage is a v-e-r-y long-term arrangement that grows and shrinks, flourishes and stagnates, sickens and recovers multiple times over the course of its lifetime.  And when it is sick, you don’t walk away. You just have to hang on to it until it quits convulsing. 

 2.)A faithful faith is not always a transcendent faith.  The Almighty hears and answers when we don’t think It is listening, perhaps when we don’t even know we are asking.  And the answer is NEVER to throw some hardship in our way in order to “teach” us something.    

 3.)When you give, know that you are giving.  Out of the goodness of your heart, as a conduit of the generosity of the Almighty.  If you expect any kind of reward, or even acknowledgment of your “sacrifice,” you will be disappointed. 

4.)I can live quite nicely without alcohol.  Since last February, I have consumed approximately one half glass of wine, and that at a luncheon honoring family from out of town.  I honestly can’t say I’ve missed it that much, though the resultant sugar cravings have added about ten pounds to my waist and hips…

5.)I am full of ideas, always, especially when it comes to the business.  And 75% of those ideas either never come to fruition or go down in major flames upon implementation.  Now I just need to learn to keep coming up with ideas despite that realization.  Check your failure ratio.  If you haven’t failed, you aren’t trying anything new.

6.)Cynicism is healthy.  And will save you money.  Time after time, while trying to renovate our building, I trusted the guy who talked the talk but never had any intention of walking the walk.  Threw or almost threw several thousand dollars (I did not have) down the toilet trusting people to be who they said they were or do what they said they would do.  Expensive lesson, but I think I’ve got it down, now…      

7.) The federal government of the United States is woefully broken.  And only promises to become more so in the next two years. One wonders how low it has to go before the pendulum will swing the other way, which I believe with all my heart will happen eventually.  It’s just so tough to watch the continued downward spiral.

8.)After saying a tearful and costly farewell to a beloved non-human family member, it has become apparent that choosing to share life with companion animals might at last come at too great a cost.  How could we bring another puppy into our home when, ten years from now, when it will be old and perhaps in need of expensive care, we ourselves will be too old and broke to provide it?  I’ll continue to house and protect any animal the Almighty chooses to bring into our lives.  But I cannot justify purposely going out and adopting an animal that we mightn’t be able to afford to keep well and comfortable in its old age.  And that is probably the saddest lesson I learned this year.

9.) The last decade of our non-retired lives is going to be lived under the dark cloud of never knowing what will happen, never being able to depend upon a job or an income, never knowing when the gravy train might jump the tracks, never to be restored.  Not a happy realization to have, but a necessary one, nonetheless.

10.)Twenty years ago, I didn’t think much about retirement, but I had a pretty clear idea of what it would look like.  Now that we are staring it in the face, I realize it looks nothing like I had imagined or hoped.  It is not looking like the “golden years” of rest and contentment, reward for a job well done.  It’s frightening and menacing, and smacks more of challenge than rest.  Perhaps the “challenge” aspect will ultimately be a blessing, keeping us vital and engaged.  Let us hope.

There they are.  Ten things, lessons of 2014. 

May 2015 bring us some a little less gloomy, a little more promising.

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