RI Blog #18: Good Riddance 2008

Good Riddance 2008

January 14, 2009

2008 was an interesting year. Interesting in the sense of, you don’t want too many “interesting” years in your life. As the ancient Chinese curse states: May you live in interesting times.

In 2007, I had lost my brother (well, November of 06) and my father (September 07), and then my marriage ended a few days before Christmas. Without question, it was the worst year of my life. By January 2008, I was out of the house and living in a room at a B&B in the South End of Boston. I have never been more lost, lonely, or full of despair and hopelessness. I’m glad I still HAVE my life after all that. I made it my goal to try to “find myself” in 2008. But I didn’t really know what that meant. Who really can “find themselves?” I think it’s a life-long process. All I know is that I was completely stripped to my core, and I wasn’t just starting a new chapter in my life, I was starting a new volume. Volume I was over, and the book was shut forever. Volume II had begun.

As always, rowing was important to my existence. Rowing has given me hope, strength, friends, and support, not to mention the all-important physical and emotional outlets that are so vital for all of us. While I kept my personal issues close to the vest – I had a very small “circle of trust” that I relied on during the most brutal period from January through March – I still had my small circle of close rowing friends from Riverside Boat Club. These are guys I’ve had dinner with almost every week for the past five years. We have been through it all with each other, and we still get together and talk about rowing. And life. And women. And relationships. And everything. One of these friends lost his fiancé in 2008 to a brain tumor. She was a young, beautiful, brilliant, and very sweet friend to all of us. On the day she died, I found out that my cousin’s wife, one of my favorite people in our extended family, was in Mass General being treated for the exact same kind of brain tumor. SIGH. However, her will to live, without ever complaining about her condition, and his devotion to her (he never left her side for over a year), remain among the most inspiring examples for me. On a positive note, we’re all going to be in the wedding of another of our group – something that shows the circle of life…new beginnings. It’s awesome.

Death teaches us about life. It’s easy to say, you only go around once; you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. Life is short. Blah blah freakin’ blah. But until you see your friend or loved one’s body, or your brother’s, or held your father’s in your arms an hour after he died, you don’t know just how short life really is. My brother dropped dead at 53, with no warning, from an aneurism in his aorta. I’m still in shock about it. I never got to say goodbye. But on the other hand, it was his time. No one has control over these things. I expect to live another 50 years and row the whole damn time, but even if I do, I know it will speed by in a flash. That’s why I don’t get stressed about things like work, or even a Harvard launch going through the wrong arch. A CRI or BC launch maybe… (kidding). My divorce will be painful for the rest of my life, but I have accepted that fact and I don’t let it rule me today. I feel relatively grounded and self-assured, but I am awed by the larger forces in this world over which we have no control. I love my apartment – it’s all mine, and I have made it my own. I love the location in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA. I have a great relationship with my kids. My ex and I get along at a wonderfully superficial level, which is how it should be. But I have realized over this past year that really figuring out relationships, my place in the world, and finding true peace and spirituality deep within myself is a journey, not a goal. It’s not something you ever achieve, just something you strive for.

There are some specific goals I’d like to achieve this year…  getting Top 10 in the Head of the Charles in October 09; winning a few smaller races during the rowing season; finally having a decent race at Green Mountain in Vermont; traveling to some away regattas for fun – like maybe Oklahoma City or, if I can put together some speed, maybe Nationals. And of course, going back to Italy to try and repeat my performance of last November, if not improve on it. (I could write several blogs about my trip to Italy, and maybe I will – it was the greatest race I’ve ever been to in my life, and I got a silver in my age group to make it all the better.) I am really, really looking forward to finalizing a long, agonizing divorce. Of course, I’d love to make VP at work, but I’m not going to worry about that one…

As for relationships, I want to be realistic. I don’t feel I need to be in a relationship, but there’s nothing wrong with dating. However, to get into something really deep requires more progress. I’m still trying to get my bearings.

Like training for a race, I feel that the process of living your life is as much, if not much more, worthy than specific achievements. You go at it every day. Some days you kick ass and crush your opponents. Some days you give it your all and barely beat someone you never thought you’d be close to. Some days you give everything you have and come up short, but you still feel good because you gave it your all. And other days, you feel like shit…you’re tired and weak. So you just head home and rest up and hope that things improve the next time.

Life is about progress, not perfection. And the only way I know is to take it a day at a time.

Thanks to all who have read my blogs and given me some great feedback. Thanks to my good friend Sean who started this site and worked his ass off to get it up and running. I really love contributing to it, and it has helped me immensely.

So… back to the grind for 2009. Peace, happiness, and above all, FUN. There’s no enjoyment without some good laughs in this world. Let’s row our asses off but have a great time doing it.

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