A glance back

As another year comes to a close it offers a perfect time for reflection and reassessment of your current plans. It is an annual checkpoint our society uses to turn the microscope inwards, from corporate budgets to personal health. We should probably be doing this a lot more often, maintaining and re-arranging a to-do list based on life’s changes. The best productivity gurus from the David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” guide to Covey’s seven habits suggest reprioritizing and reviewing weekly, and it likely is the best way to handle life’s objectives.

Yet, it takes discipline to be that consistent. It is not easy and it is not the norm. It is also not where I am, but an area I am working on. Like so many things it is a process of building a habit. While I believe most people probably naturally do this, we don’t write it down and we get distracted only to find ourselves out of time, out of energy, and out of budget. The year end offers a nice reassessment point, so give yourself a moment to look back.

2018

For me, 2018 was a lot of seeing this prioritizing effort in action. As I suspected at the end of 2017, this was a year of big changes. A new position, an adjusted career path, a new house and major shifts in how I spent my time. The purchase of the house stretched my organizational abilities as well as provided an opportunity to learn something new. For me, it also represented a physical representation of a rebuild of my life. Something I may get into more in the future but it is enough to say that it was significant for me.

The year came with its share of ups and downs, for me these were standard struggles for life and for that I am grateful. I have been thrown curve balls and had to adjust. It required me to focus and grow. There are many areas I wish, looking back, that I had done better. Knowing that, seeing that allows me to learn. Yet, I cannot dwell on just that. I can also see where I did things well, where I enjoyed myself, and new dreams I now ponder.

Every day I would do at least one thing to “build” the house.

My biggest adjustment was the purchase of a new home, something that in 2017 I did not think was going to be possible. Yet, it was not an easy ride and at one point I almost threw in the towel. The new house it required a lot of work to make it a livable space for me and the boys. It quickly became the priority. Following the purchase in June I made one commitment to myself: Every day I would do at least one thing to “build” the house. Sometimes it involved hanging curtains, sometimes drywalling but I worked hard to always be doing something. Maintaining an ongoing list was extremely helpful. It was a list that only seemed to grow, but a list that has kept me focused. The truth was that after a couple months, the tasks became too big, other life events crept in but the mantra of “every day” kept me focused.

In the end, I closed out the year with a place I was happy to welcome my sister and her family to for a visit. A perfect way to cap off the year.

I have a lot of growth still to come, that is clear. And I am still working on my adjusted objectives for 2019, but for the moment I am not looking forward. I am taking a moment to gaze at the path I have travelled. I am proud of where I am and how I have grown … I have moved forward. That makes all the difference.

2018 Gratitude List

  • I continue to be grateful for my boys. They are my struggle, they are my passion.
  • Grateful for my family and friends who are always available to lend me a hand.
  • Grateful to my brother-in-law who jumped in following the kitchen sink backup during Christmas dinner to help.
  • Grateful to my team at the office for supporting and bearing the struggle as I work the ropes of my new role.
  • To my neighbors who have welcomed our family into their little corner of this world with open arms.
  • Grateful to have been able to afford a new vehicle at the end of 2017, it has been an enjoyable ride over the year.
  • I always find it a blessing that I have food in the fridge and cool air blowing from the vents. Not everyone does, I know that.
  • That my commute is not lost time as I have learned and been entertained by some excellent authors and podcasters throughout the year.
  • That my struggles continue mold me as I grow.
  • A personal life that seems to have re-kindled with someone that is accepted by my friends, family, and my boys. Not always perfect, but perfectly wonderful.
  • QUICK EDITOR BONUS UPDATE: I appreciate the patience and care of those special people that have provided me editorial support and feedback over the year. You are wonderful, thank you!

What are you grateful for in 2018?

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The Season

Sunshine Skyway bridge

Above is the Sunshine Skyway, spanning 21, 877 feet and rising 430 feet in the air, connecting St Petersburg, FL with Pinellas county. It is both majestic and frightening with its thin lines and elegant style.

Today I drive this bridge almost daily on my way to and from the office. With sun shining and no traffic it stands as a highlight along the route. Though gorgeous in sunshine, when windy or raining it can be harrowing. Years ago I can recall crossing as we raced home before on oncoming storm. The moment sticks with me as any drive though a blizzard in years past.

While the sleek lines or visually appealing for the photographer in each of us, they also bring tight shoulders and cramped spaces. Not only is there no shoulder on the bridge, but there is no sidewalk, no place of refuge. In fact, this last spring was the first time since the 1987 the bridge was opened to foot traffic, a 10k run for charity. Otherwise, no pedestrians or bicycles are allowed on the bridge and stopping for any non-emergency reason is forbidden.

Thus, when a car is left empty at the top of the skyway in otherwise working condition it leads to a single depressing conclusion by us passing motorists. Suicide attempts from the bridge are high, with over 207 suicides recorded between 1987 and 2009. 34 additional attempts were made, but these individuals survived. While 24 hr monitoring and and crisis hotline is available, it does not seem to deter so many.

Throughout the year as I pass over the bridge typically on my way home, but sometimes in the early morning light, I will find an abandoned car often accompanied by an emergency vehicle. In those moments, as you watch heads peer over the edge and shake, your heart sinks. Last night was one of those times, and last week there was another.

I did not notice it the first year I made the daily crossing, but then I started seeing them. The cars, sitting solemnly to the side of the road as if waiting for their owners to return. Once I started seeing them you start taking notice. And it seems that at this time of year it happens more frequently.

I cannot pretend to understand. Each of us have our own demons and our own problems. Debt, drugs, or loss of a loved one. While I can sit here and say “there is always a way back”, for some they just don’t see it. Yet, it is not only for them my heart sinks. It is for the friends and family they leave behind.

It is almost ironic that at this time of year. At time which is often pronounced the be the “most wonderful time of the year”, is often that time filled with the most depression and despair. We put on so many masks hiding the pain, bottling it up and hoping for a better outcome in the new year. We smile for the cameras and sing christmas carols with coworkers and avoid looking past the ugly sweaters to see the person hiding underneath.

I know over the next few weeks I will cross paths with several more cars no longer with drivers. With each one there is a story. A story now lost to the waves below. A story of friends and family that did not see the suffering, or did not understand the depth of the pain. A story of inner turmoil.

I know I don’t understand. Yet, I do know that telling your story, even just to the empty pages of a small notebook, can help put them in context. Telling them to someone who can understand will help. This season, please tell us your story.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

1-800-273-8255

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Taking the day off

rock wallIt is difficult being a single parent. Stressful to deal with with school schedules, extracurricular activities, and then attempting to manage your own life. So, co-parenting to lend a break in the schedule and allow you time to focus on you. Extended breaks due to vacations and holidays can be nice to, giving a parent that day-off to focus on themselves can be incredibly powerful. Christmas is more difficult emotionally, it is culturally defined as family time so when you are not with your family it can be incredibly hard.

Last year was just one of those years where I saw less of my kids over the Christmas break. It is how the parenting plan worked out. So when I got a call that I had the opportunity to take my boys while my wife had to work I jumped at the chance. This meant that I had to take the day off, something that is not typically in my nature. Yet, after not getting much of a holiday with them it was just “what was going to happen”. There was no question in my mind.

My past is littered with cases where I chose work over family. Vacations were spent with me checking emails, coordinating from my phone, or actually working the code remotely. At home I would often work into the evenings, be late or completely miss family events, and neglect the need and desire for both a father and a husband. I am now paying for many of those choices.

Today work remains important to me, but it no longer defines who I am. I define who I am – I do that through my actions. That action, was to take the day off and enjoy it with my boys. It was just a few hours, but it is about quality over quantity – it is about the experience.

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