Good Year or Bad Year?
The 10 Things that Happen Each Year
Nothing creates emotional amplitude quite like the holidays.
Especially this year. Social upheaval, global mistrust, selfishness, and behavioral unaccountability hardly mix a wonderful soufflé.
Noise and uncertainty create disruption, as do mortality and circumstantial happenstance. Good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, and neither of those seems fair. But how we see the world—our perception of the holidays—often depends upon our stage in life.
I was playing casual verbal ping-pong yesterday with a friend I’ve known for many years. We talked in general terms about 2017. Reflecting back on its pluses and minuses, we both drew the same conclusion: 2017 was a year of too much noise, too much tragedy. It was a “thumbs down” year.
Causes were many but involved the usual suspects. Loved ones died, work was erratic and bumpy, opioids shackled the offspring of friends, and a drunk driver—a multiple offender at the age of 28—killed a mutual friend, a father of five beautiful girls. Pals are dealing with difficult divorces and medical torpedoes from which they may or may not escape.
But all was not shrouded in gloom. Great achievements by other friends gave us much to cheer about. Gratitude, it seems, was important to keep in this year’s happiness arsenal. Funny how life and gratitude mix: When we look for the good, you we the good. If we dwell on bad, that’s all we see.
My pal and I then talked about life stages, and the strong correlation between life stages and “good year/bad year” decision-making. He and his dad used to talk about it from time to time and I thought the gist of the concept was worth sharing.
“When you’re growing up,” he said, “and ten things happen, eight are good. Then you get older and reach a point where five are good, five not so good. Near the end, it swings the other way.”
The reasons for this “goody year/bad year” experiential life math are many. As kids we are shielded from noise by parents and guardians who protect our bubble of innocence. They enable the good and block out the bad.
In mid-life, once we’re out on our own, things like mortality, reality, and career or financial hiccups pop us on the snout and the pendulum swings from a happiness bubble to the yin and yang of good and bad. Life is still in front of us and all things are possible, so we weather storms, learn a bit, and soldier on. But our good thing/bad thing ratio is tarnished compared to our early days of innocence.
Later in life, when careers end or crumble and friends start falling, we realize that the majority of our glory days are in the rearview mirror and not around the bend. We have been more places, seen more things, weathered far more life experiences, and accumulated friends across a longer life trajectory.
Since so much more exists in our world that possibly can go wrong, more somehow seems to. Once again, the good things/bad things pendulum swings.
This pendulum swing—the ebb and flow of life—has a logistical inevitability to it, so we might as well embrace it.
The holiday lesson, of course, is to cherish the day and grab hold of the good things while keeping the sad ones at arm’s length. If good things seem scarce, find joy in smaller things and take the time to create joy for others. Lord knows enough people out there will benefit from an injection of unexpected happiness.
Remember that a year is nothing more than a collection of days strung together for reference and convenience.
Years aren’t bad—but the math sometimes is—so hug the good things tightly. There is comfort radiating from them. Absorb it willingly and pass some on to others.
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