1984 (And Other Bad Years)

I’m thinking of all the shitty things that have happened already in 2011. The 9-year-old girl getting killed along with several others at Congresswoman Gifford’s event. Death, unrest and oppression in Egypt. Nothing ever changes, does it?

Mood music:

You always hear people talking about what a bad year they’ve had. Marriages falling apart. Loved ones dying. Jobs lost. Surely the new year will bring better things, we think. Then we find that the new year is pretty much the same as the old one.

It’s that losing game of high expectations. The more we get our hopes up, the more devastated we are when things don’t go according to plan.

My head has been in that place too many times to count.

The most glaring example was 1984. I was 13 and thought 1983 was a rough year. I remember being scared to death over world events like the bombing of Marine barracks in Lebanon and that movie “The Day After.” Three years into my parents’ divorce, there was still a lot of venom in the air. I was in my first year of junior high and hating every second of it. And in October, my brother had a horrific asthma attack that was nearly the end of him.

Less than three months later, another attack would be the end of him.

But 1984 dawned full of promise in my young eyes. A bad year was behind me, and better things were surely ahead.

The first few days were good ones. Then came Jan. 7, when my brother finally succumbed to his disease. The year didn’t get better from there. I remember getting sick a lot and missing a ton of school. I hated school so I should have been happy. But I knew I’d have to make up all that school work or end up repeating 7th grade. I had already been kept back in 1st grade, so I didn’t welcome that prospect.

I was sent to stay with my maternal grandparents in Florida for two weeks because my parents thought it would do me good. I was a miserable prick the entire time, and looking back on it I feel bad for my grandparents.

I was also deep in the grip of puberty and I was getting fatter by the day. Prednisone had swollen my face to the point where my head looked like the bottom half of Jabba the Hutt. Since I was just starting to care about girls, that didn’t bode well for me.

I would have other bad years: 1996, when my best friend killed himself and my fear and anxiety had the better of me; 1997, where the pain of what happened the year before was almost too much to take and I started eating and smoking heavily, and much of the time between 2001 and 2007, when I finally started coming unglued and realized I could do something about it or let everything go down in flames.

But a lot of wonderful things happened in those years. 

I became friends with Sean Marley. I discovered heavy metal. I met Erin. We got married and had two precious children. I found God and started to fight back hard against my demons, which has taken me to a much better place today.

So when I look back on it, maybe all those years weren’t so terrible. Bad things happened, but I’ve learned that a good life is in how you deal with the bad as well as the good.

I’ve also learned to lower my expectations.

When your expectations are low, you can’t help but be pleasantly surprised by the direction life takes you in.

Sure, sometimes I still get my hopes up about things. But I’d like to think I’m more rooted in reality now.

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10 thoughts on “1984 (And Other Bad Years)

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  9. I think hope at the beginning of a new year is both good and important–as long as it’s realistic hope. Beginnings and endings matter to human beings. Getting a new start, whether it’s a new day, week, year, whatever beginning is important to you, can produce an energy to change things. The problem, at least in the US, is that we think that everything will magically change with the turn of a calendar page. It doesn’t work that way.

    Change takes time. It takes a plan to get there. It takes two types of energy to reach your goal/make that change. The first type of energy is the one that gets you excited to get started, like the love in a new romance. It gets you going, moves you from one direction to the next.

    The second type of energy is like the love of a mature romance. It keeps you going, even though the newness has worn off; it reminds you why you are doing it though the going is hard. This is where most New Year’s Resolutions and other changes die. We don’t recognize that a change in energy, in attitude, is needed, that a stick-to-it energy is wanted over the shiny-new-object energy that got you started.

    If what we hope for is for world peace to magically appear on Jan. 1, our diets to succeed by Jan. 31, or for pain to suddenly go away, we’re hoping for the wrong things. If we hope we can find a way to be a little nicer to a grouchy neighbor, we can stick to a new food plan for the year by sticking to it for one day, or for us to find a way to deal a little better with pain, day by day, then we’ve got a better shot to getting our hopes.

    The ultimate hope is in Jesus. When we give over to Him, letting go and trusting, we do more than hope, we begin to make a change within that will change the world around us.

    Hope is good, as long as it’s based in reality and we accept what God gives us.

    “Rejoice that your uncertainty is God’s will and His grace toward you and that *that* is beautiful, and part of a great certainty…Be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it.” –Paul Harding, “Tinkers”

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