Worst. Year. Ever.

What the hell is up with 2010? And will it ever end?

This has been the worst year of my life. I guess those who were there to see the trainwreck that was 1988 might argue that it was marginally worse, but the point is that this year has sucked from the outset. It began with the collapse of my marriage. Which led, as you might expect, to extraordinary amounts of depression, self-recrimination, loneliness, etc. Then it kind of kept getting worse.

But it’s not just me. I look at the lives of the people close to me, and extreme stress is an all-too-dominant theme. For instance:

  • A close friend who happens to be one of the brightest guys I know got fired from his job last year. He recently hit the one-year-on-the-beach mark without anything that looks like a realistic prospect. He has a special-needs child and you can imagine the financial and insurance implications associated with that here in the Land of Plenty®. If this guy is having trouble finding a gig, I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is on the 99% of unemployed Americans who aren’t as talented as he is.
  • Another good friend has been out of work for awhile, too. Completely different field, but he’s hard-working and off-the-charts smart. Literally. Oh, yeah – he’s recently been battling a worsening case of diabetes.
  • A woman I know has, after too many years of simply not being happy, finally left her marriage. Her family, unfortunately, has been unsupportive to the point of hostility, making you wonder how they got to be so passionately invested in the continued misery of their loved one.
  • A guy I’ve known since the LBJ administration has recently discovered that his wife has been having an affair. For several years. He’s as good-hearted a guy as you’re likely to meet and this is brutally hard on him.
  • Someone very close to me has recently had the wheels fall off. Much of it is self-inflicted, I suppose, but she comes from a family with a strong history of alcoholism on both sides of the tree. Her marriage (with kids) is now in jeopardy and as I type she’s in a rehab facility trying desperately to get control of her demons.
  • Not long ago I had a friend in the throes of severe personal crisis explain the previous weekend, spent with a revolver against her head trying to decide whether to pull the trigger.
  • Some others in my general circle are confronting mental illness and significant family problems. Career issues and financial crises are the rule, not the exception.

Of course, we’ve all noticed that the economy is in something of a swoon, and I’m sure we’ve all seen the unemployment numbers. It’s also true that any number of emotional and psychological issues can be triggered or exacerbated by stress, and a down economy can be a robust source of that.

Further, I’m hardly dealing with a representative sample. This is just a handful of people, and while it might seem like everybody from the vantage point of a guy who cares about them (and whose perspective is probably colored by his own turmoil), in truth maybe 2010 is no worse than any other year.

You tell me. All I know is that I’m busting my ass working toward a healthy, happy, and hopefully better me. And a lot of great people I know are trying to dig out of holes that are far deeper than anything I’ve ever tripped into.

I wish them the best. After the 2010 they’ve had, they’re due a world-beating 2011.

12 replies »

  1. I think it has been a bad year.

    I once had a shrink tell me that our emotional capacity was like a tea cup, and once it got full, another drop, no matter how small, would make it slosh over the side. So maybe some of your friends’ tea cups were already bad and this economy was the drop that caused the slosh.

    But it also seems like these things come in bunches. This year I’ve had three friends die, including one who was forty years old and went to the hospital to have a sinoplasty, only what was stuffing up his nose was a tumor growing out of his brain, and two weeks later he was dead and his two young children fatherless. How is that right? I’m 57, my kids are grown and I’ve had a great life. If the universe were a fair place, I’d be ahead of Phil on the list.

    Sometimes it just sucks. And it sucks even more that there’s nothing you can do about most of the shitty things that happen to your friends and family.

    Having said that, at least when a poet writes a depressing post like that, it reads well. 🙂

    Best. S.

  2. Maybe, but I’m not a good enough poet to make 2010 work for anybody.

    I can at least say that I haven’t had to face up to the kind of tragedy that you did with the friend dying. 40. Gods, that is just way too young….

  3. In my circle we started year with one friend losing her son just before his due date. Several friends have lost parents this year (and we’re talking parents in their 60s here, not exactly old). Add in the numerous cancer diagnoses and I’m starting to get nervous every time my phone rings or I log on to my social networking sites.

    Is 2010 over yet?

  4. I thought about this all night. At the end of the night, I ended up very far from where your blogpost started, and instead got on a track about how people break out of it when they are in a bad place. I blogged my own experience, which seems a little shallow compared to the conversation above, but nonetheless….

  5. And I thought about this all day, and where I ended up was in thinking about how troubles bring with them some unexpected blessings. Here are some disparate thoughts I’ve had about this as I’ve ruminated throughout the day:

    Before I had a child with a terminal illness and special needs, I had no awareness of some of the absolutely incredible people who work tirelessly and selflessly to help folks who need it. And I had no idea of the programs that taxpayers and legislators have put into place over the years to help the needy people of our society. It’s beyond unfortunate that my daughters are suffering, but the lessons I’ve learned and the people I’ve met have been amazing.

    Horace said, “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.” I know that I am a better artist because of my suffering and a better friend because of my pain. If you could see the work I’ve produced, superimposed upon a timeline of my high and low points, you would see that my best work has always come out of my afflictions.

    In this past year, I have made two new friends, both of whom are on your list (if you include yourself). In both cases, their trials indirectly brought them to me, and my life has been made much richer because of them.

    When I think back on my life, the things I remember the most are the things I had to work hardest for, against opposition. The times that were toughest are the ones that had the biggest role in making me who I am.

    So yeah, 2010 has sucked, but I’m certainly a better person because of it.

  6. There’s no doubt that trials can make us tougher and better in many ways. But it’s also true that everybody has a breaking point, and I worry that life is loading us up with more and more, and that at some point good, strong people begin breaking.

    I don’t exactly have a solution to any of this, but I worry. There are people in my life who have already borne more than I’d have any hope of enduring, and while tribulation may be in endless supply, I’m not sure perseverance is.

  7. Yes, and an ill child is the tribulation of all tribulations. I simply cannot imagine how bad that must hurt, Christy. I wish you the best.

  8. 2010 just won’t stop. I just learned that the husband of a good friend (and someone who has been critical to my development as a poet through the years) died of a stroke this morning. She’s roughly my age and I assume he is, as well.

    Whatever karma you have to spare, please channel it toward Jennie – she’s an incredible person and deserves so much more out of life than it has handed her today.