One of my favourite quotes of all time if from King Lear, it is delivered by Edgar in Act 5 scene 3, “The weight of this sad time we must obey. Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.”
Since the very first moment I read it, almost 20 years ago, this quote has stayed in my head. There is something wonderfully true and sincere and just downright, well…right. And given the last few years, it seems that there is no time more apt.
The thing is that, when you get to the end of the year, the world of blogging is full of earnest blogs, by good people telling you how much they’ve achieved, how blessed they are and how much they’ve contributed.
I’m in awe, you’re all clearly amazing, you make me proud.
So, let me tell you my story…..this year hasn’t been amazing. But, compared to that of many people, it hasn’t been awful.
Like a lot of you, I’ve spent the year trying not to drown. Now admittedly, my water is shallower than most, but you can drown in an inch of water. Most of the UK, most of the world has been trying just to cope, and I admit to being no different to them. I haven’t changed the world, I haven’t added value, I haven’t had an amazing insight. I’ve survived. And in a way, I’m extremely proud to say so.
This year, I’ve let people down, I’ve not been at my kid’s special occasions, the concerts, the plays, the sports days as much as I would have liked. I’ve not been able to see my friends and I’ve pulled out of things at the last moment. I’ve been more of a traditional male than I would ever have thought, relying on my wife to keep things going when I couldn’t.
I’ve not looked after my health in the way that I should have done. I haven’t checked out those niggling health problems, I’ve drunk too much and I haven’t exercised when I could have done. I feel sleep deprived beyond compare.
At work, I’ve been secretive because I’ve had to be. I’ve not been able to include people in things that I’m doing for understandable reasons. Regardless, this has contradicted with everything that I believe and hold dear and has struck hard into my moral fibre and my personal resolve.
This year, I’ve felt more out of control than I have done for decades, I’ve depended on my survival instincts and my reflexes to keep me going. This hasn’t been a “roller coaster” of a year, it has been a “black ice drive” of a year. I’ve got through, that is all I can tell you.
I’m indebted to the loved ones that surround me, many of whom I have let down. The people who have accepted my indifference, my moods, my unreliable behaviour. I’m indebted to my teams who have been beyond compare in their loyalty and endeavour.
I’m indebted and apologetic to my family, the people I hold most closest and whose love I have abused. The times when I haven’t been present, the moments that I will never get to live again, the kisses that I never offered and the hugs that I didn’t feel I deserved.
I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m not looking for excuses. I’m just saying how it’s been, both for me and for a whole lot of people out there. When we are honest about how things are, then we can start to truly support one another.
Life isn’t a competition to demonstrate who is the happiest, it is a journey best accompanied by a dose of reality. That way, you truly enjoy the special moments when they come….however few and far between.
A powerful tale, wonderfully written. You of course know so much better than anyone its accuracy, and I would please take issue with you on one point. You have added value.
Have a good Christmas and here’s to a few more ups and downs and a few less out of control skids.
Thanks Doug….you’re referring to the time I picked up the bill?
This is such a powerful post Neil. And I agree: in many ways, it seems that people’s incessant problems or complaints that aggrieved them in February, March, June, September, all seem to magically disappear as we kick back for Christmas and gaze lovingly back ‘at another year’ through rose-tinted spectacles. As you say, life is ‘real’: we all have our triumphs and we all have our shortcomings. As we approach Christmas, it’s natural to look back on positive things and feel that we have ‘achieved’ in the year. But the truth is, we have our struggles as well as our triumphs – and you’re right to put this into balance. But in doing so, we remember that the year’s shortcomings AND triumphs, have nearly always been accompanied by loving family, friends, peers and colleagues. Whether we’ve laughed or cried in 2012, doing so with loved ones is what we should really all reflect upon this year.
Yes Callum, you’re right…it is about balance. I wrote this, not because I’m not aware of the good things, but because sometimes I think people need to see both sides.
Now I can turn a trip to the phone box into a “party for 2” and am renowned for my optimism, excitable energy and enthused approach to even the most awkward situation. I’ve also done loads of the same things that you have eloquently put here Neil. I don’t put on a masquerade, I am genuinely as energised and positive as it seems but I don’t like in munchkin land where unicorns roam…real life is where I too operate. I just have a smiley slant to how I live.
But I have learned loads this year – after a year when I came to a number of realisations and dropped some clangers. I too let people down more than I thought myself capable of and had to rethink a lot of my philosophies of life and my values. I’m still not there yet and I face up to myself in this “new” me everyday. I said it before somewhere, please don’t mistake my positivity for naïveté – I wonder sometimes whether people do think this but I don’t let that change my philosophy on life. I have struggles, doubts, issues. I just don’t show them which has always been my way.
I do though still care deeply about my chosen professional path, believe in something we can do to pull things around using the spirit and intelligence in people and want to make a mark on the world of work. That more than ever spurs me on to survive 2012 and make 2013 better, different or another survival story.
You have put this across in a compelling way here, lots of honesty leaping from sentences. You have always struck me as a switched on, challenging sort with a rich back story and kudos. Overall though, this piece shows your humanity, realism and vulnerability and I think people who know you a little like me see you in a new light. Appreciate your openness here. Well done and hope for more survival in 2013.
Thanks Perry…..you do have a munchkin like quality about you though…….which is one of the reasons I like you!
Beautifully raw and sincere post. “Black ice drive” – a powerful image of non-stop fear, tension, and relief you’ve made it this far coupled with sense of luck about to run out. All journeys have bad patches. Here’s hoping the future is filled with more than the bittersweet relief of having kept it out of the ditches.
Thanks for commenting Broc. Yes there is good and bad, but we should never fail to acknowledge both.
Resonance. Quotations. Prosaic in parts. Like a lot.
Prosaic in parts.
Not happy clappy, self help based blogroll.
So good you said it twice…..
The trouble with “saying what you feel” is there are times when it pays to tactful/diplomatic/etc. If people always said what they felt then the world could become very unpleasant indeed. For example if I said what I feel about some professions/people/etc then I wouldn’t be very popular.
Isn’t it more about how you convey what you feel?
Wow, this was my first visit to your blog, and what a powerful first post to read. Fantastic quote that I hadn’t encountered before, but one which for better or worse I adhere to more often that I probably should.
All the very best for the new year, and yes the health checks and fitness are something I have to attend to also.
Thanks for visiting and commenting Frank. And good luck with the health.
Moving. but I think you may be being a bit hard on yourself.
Someone has to be.