Good Riddance 2013

I haven’t blogged in a while. In fact I haven’t done much of anything that can be considered creative or original for quite a while which is kind of a problem when you write code for a living! I’ve been pondering this post’s possibility for a few months, and finally having been inspired by other bloggers and tweeters that have expressed similar sentiments, I’m going to finally get this done and get going on my new year.

2013 was the worst. How bad? So bad that the murder of two friends wasn’t even in the top three awful things that happened (though it’s a very bad idea to try to rank these types of things).

In February I lost my beloved grandmother. This wasn’t unexpected as she was 94 and had lived a long, long life but it still hits you pretty hard to you won’t hear her sweet voice again.  She had always been the gravitational center of our family, around which all holidays and birthdays rotated. She could have been a professional singer and did an amazing Barbara Streisand imitation. I loved listening to her stories of growing up on the farm with 11 brothers and sisters and her amazing cooking.

In April my friends Gary and Chloe Thoreson, along with Gary’s brother Dean, were murdered by what can only be called a madman. I met Gary and Chloe via mutual friends during an annual summer outing to American Player’s Theatre, where we’d eat and drink too much before the show, struggle to grok the Shakespearean English in Act I, and nod off by Act II. Gary started out as a pig farmer/breeder, but became a coder by automating the family operations; He’d come to the MadDotNet meetings and the Geek Lunches when he could, always with a smiling, good-to-meet-ya face and something to share.

My mother died next, in June, of pancreatic cancer. This is one nasty disease. Six months after her diagnosis she was gone. We’re still recovering a little each day but we’re not there yet. I shudder to think about how different my life would be, how worse it would be, if my dad hadn’t married this woman before it was too late to shape me.

In early July I lost my best friend, my exercise companion, and my snuggle buddy, my…you guessed it… dog. We inherited our golden retriever Pickles at 1 year old and he was my constant companion ever since. I used to bring him into work, him running alongside me while I rode my bike and then panting for the next hour at my feet so loudly that I was afraid to call a client lest they think something unbecoming was going on in the office. The bicycle runalongs worked well almost every time, but if there was a squirrel or bunny that would dash across the bike path and I didn’t let go of the leash in time I’d go tumbling. I still have a scar from the time I tried to rollerblade with him and couldn’t let go fast enough! Once when I took him to play lunchtime Ultimate he took no interest at all in the frisbees, instead chasing the geese halfway to Picnic Point. I was so worried he was going to snag his leash and not be able to come back, but eventually he lost interest in the angry birds intent on drowning him and returned to shore shaking from exhaustion. I was shaking from fear. The day we had to put him down from the aggressive Lyme’s disease he picked up in our twice daily walk through the woods was devastating.

This next one may seem minor but I gotta get it written down so I don’t forget it. In August the dentist removed my last remaining baby tooth. I had some genetic “specialness” that caused no adult tooth to come in on the bottom left, so the baby tooth just hung in there. Now that specialness is gone too, and I’ve yet to get that implant.

One more funeral in December for my great-Aunt Gertrude, who not only married my grandma’s (see above) brother, but was also my grandfather‘s niece AND she was born one day after my grandmother. This was the first funeral of the year where I wasn’t a pallbearer – and just when I was getting to be a pro at it!

As one might suspect, all of this loss affected me greatly and to the point where I had my first bout with depression. I did not like it. Listless, uninspired, grumpy, and that hopeless feeling! It sinks and sinks and it feels like there’s no way out! Fortunately mine was situational more than chemical and as time passes I am starting to see the light again but I’m not there yet.

I pine for what else I lost; Because of the depression I could not think and definitely could not code and basically just lost all motivation.  I lost a job working for a guy I really liked as well as a few of my clients.  Through a serendipitous stroke of fortune around the time my mother was diagnosed I was offered a regular job with the U.S. Courts, who had been my employer for 13 years between 1991 and 2005 and who reinstated all of my lost sick leave. I ended up needing a lot of it this year. I can’t imagine where I’d be without that job, and the clients who stuck with me as well with patience and understanding.

If you’ve heard the expression “The Downward Spiral” they are not kidding. Around Thanksgiving, appropriately, I began seeing Facebook posts of people expressing gratitude for their various things. It definitely helps to consider all the things there are to be thankful for. I’m still relatively healthy and I’ve still got my Dad (who took me to Hawai’i for two weeks in September) and my family. In the spring and summer my baseball team helped me to keep it together and we ended up putting together a very good season. All year round the pickup Ultimate (Frisbee) game has kept me moving in the sunshine and they’re always full of fun and laughs (if you’re looking for a welcoming sport for all skills I can’t recommend Ultimate highly enough).

I was chosen to speak at a few events this year, which forces you to focus and get something done because your reputation is absolutely on the line! Thanks to Southwest Fox conference and the SQL Saturdays and User Groups including my beloved MadFox (since 1995!), Geek Lunch, MadDotNet and MadPass.

Most of all thanks to the people that I’ve met through and they’re willingness to share their own professional and personal struggles with me has really helped. It seems like whatever you’re feeling, you’re definitely not alone in this world.

So on to 2014, the year I’ll get my groove back things will get a little better each day. No matter what kind of year 2013 was for you, I hope things get even better for you too.






One response to “Good Riddance 2013”

  1. Holly Avatar

    Eric, I’m so sorry for all the loses you went through in 2013. You definitely had a epically hard year. I’m glad you are starting to feel better.
    I know grief can be a really hard thing to go through and often even close friends and family don’t understand what you feel.
    But, there IS light at the end of that dark tunnel – I say that from experience.
    When I was 21 years old (I’m 46 now) my very best childhood friend, whom I’d grown up with and thought we’d one day be two old ladies with grey hair in rocking chairs on a porch) died after open heart surgery to replace a damaged heart valve. She was 3 months short of her 21st birthday.
    I was a junior in college and I was completely devastated by her death. I still don’t know how I got through finals (she died in june,just before end of the college year).
    The following year was the toughest of my life – I stupidly told myself that if I was still grieving a year later I’d get help. Mistake. I could have avoided so much extra internal pain if I’d talked with someone about what I was going through.
    By November I just wanted to die – the only thing that kept me alive was that I knew my parents would never understand what had happened. But even that was becoming thin. I used to go sit by her grave every day for an hour or two – just to know where she was and to feel close still to her. I was really messed up that year. I had a week that November that was so painful, I was so at the end of my rope, that afterwards I couldn’t fully remember or describe the pain – all I can say of that week was that it was the WORST.
    But after that – slowly things started to get better.
    By the next June I felt like I’d washed up on a grey, cold beach – I was alive still and I knew I was going to live. Life wasn’t exciting or colorful yest – but it would be. I was going to survive. Through it, only some stubborn kind of will or blind belief that some day, something will feel better, and my belief in God, had kept me going.
    Shortly after that I met the man who’d be my first husband, and life picked up and went on. There has been ups and downs since then, for sure (I’m now very happily married to my second husband). But 25 years later now, I look back on Elaine’s death and the grief I went through, and I know now that even that terrible thing had a reason, put me on the path to where I am (happy) now, and definitely helped me know how strong inside I actually am.
    That said, I hope now bright things and many new happy times are ahead for you, and the strength you’ve gained from your hard experiences will help you and help others too.

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