“He’s a crook or he’s crazy, so the story goes,
But the diamond is real and only one man knows,
And if I say, ‘I love you,’
Do you want to buy a diamond for a dime?”
Today is my birthday. It must be; the Wikipedia entry on me says so. The occasion crept up on me, but I’ve spent the day thinking back over the last year. It seems a much more appropriate time to do so than New Years, which, as often as not, I don’t observe. The question is: Am I where I want to be? I’ve been adding up both sides of the ledger, and trying to decide how to summarize the last twelve months.
On the black ink side, I got out of debt in the last year. I’ve developed a modest reputation as a journalist. More importantly, journalism engages me and brings me into contact with the brilliant and famous, many of whom remember my name and know that I can be trusted to do what I say. Despite being called a moron by one reader, I seem to be considered at least well-meaning by far more.
Also, I’ve developed my contacts to the point where I now make as much money as I ever did as a communications and marketing consultant. The risk of having to work in an office again has receded for the foreseeable future.
After months of knee injuries, I’ve found an exercise regime that lets me burn a thousand calories a day, and I’m getting fitter all the time. Spending as much time as I do in front of the computer screen, I need heavy exercise to balance my life.
On the red ink side, despite some progress, I’m still spending less time on fiction writing than I should. I don’t get out of the house as often as I should. I wasted a lot of time trying to befriend people I knew in high school.
I still have enemies (not of my making) who would do their best to harry me, if they could do so without much effort on their part. One new person this year no longer thinks of me as a friend, although I will always think of them as one. I am still distant and suspicious with people, automatically distrusting their motives after the trauma of nine years ago.
Then there are the realities for which I’m not responsible, but should go on the losses side because of their effect on me. My wife and partner is still chronically ill and getting worse, and I can’t do very much to help. My mother-in-law and her sister died.
So how do I reduce these intangibles into something I can tally? I can’t, of course. But my impression is that I’ve edged closer to my potential professionally and found a few emotional niches in the social ecosystem while still neglecting my interactions with people too much. In fact, if I believed in reincarnation, I’d say that this life is supposed to be about how I relate to people – and that, the way I’m going, I’ll be coming back for another round.
Not that being alone is completely undesirable. As Anthony Storr points out in Solitude, it is often a creative necessity. But the trick is to be in a position to pick and choose it.
All in all, I’ve had many worse years. At least I can see some movement in several directions. Yet, on the whole, I’d sum up this last year the way that George Macdonald Fraser says that his grandmother summed up a mediocre first nine holes of golf. That is (stripped of dialect): This and better will do; this and worse will never do.