Friday, December 31, 2010

A not-so-fond farewell to 2010

The last few minutes of 2010 are running out, and after I finish writing this entry I am going to walk (no reason to drive tonight) over to a bar near my house and ring in the new year. I am looking forward to 2011. 2010 was simply not a very good year for me.

First of all, my marriage to Lori officially came to an end last April, as our divorce was finalized. The process actually began in the summer of 2009 - I alluded to some big changes that were underway in my life at the time - but due to the backlog of cases in Harris County's family courts (as well as the fact that I don't think either of our lawyers were in a particular hurry to bring our case to a swift conclusion), the process was not completed until earlier this year.

This might come as a shock to some of the readers of this blog because I never explicitly discussed it until now; I refused to write about the divorce while the proceedings were underway simply because it would have been counterproductive to do so. Nor was I going to tell any lurid tales, accusations or recriminations once it was over. There's no scandal to report: our relationship was not abusive, Lori and I were never unfaithful to one another, and we did not face financial difficulties that put so many other marriages under stress. We simply had our differences - a "discord of conflict and personalities," according to the wording of the law - that made our further togetherness untenable.

It's not something I'm particularly proud of - absent an extreme situation, such as an abusive relationship or serial infidelity, divorce is rarely the best solution for a troubled marriage because really is nothing more than an admission of failure of both husband and wife to effectively communicate, to reconcile one another's differences, to make compromises and to make the changes that need to be made to allow the family to continue to work - but Lori and I have worked to make the best of it. We are still on amicable terms and we cooperate in taking care of Kirby (we have joint custody).

Needless to say, that was the big event of the year. But things at my work were also unsettled, owing to the nation's overall economic condition, creating stress and uncertainty for me for much of the year. Shortly after the year started the budget for one project I was working on came to an abrupt halt. I then went to work on a couple of business development proposals, neither of which went anywhere. Left without any billable work, I volunteered to take several weeks of unpaid leave in May and June, while I dusted off my resumé and prepared myself to face the very real possibility that I could soon be standing in the unemployment line.

Fortunately, I never came to that. Some new work appeared in mid-June, and thankfully things are looking better for me as 2010 draws to a close. But it was a nevertheless disconcerting situation for me and I feel lucky that I managed to avoid being laid off.

In August of 2010 I was hospitalized for the very first time in my life. Fortunately it was nothing serious, but it wasn't much fun, either. It was also a reminder that I am getting older and that, going forward, maintaining my health is going to become more of a priority for me than it has been in the past.

My favorite time of the year is college football season and I thought that it would bring me some welcome diversion. The University of Houston Cougars, after all, were poised to have a great year with an improved defense and Heisman candidate Case Keenum at quarterback. Of course, Keenum's season ended in devastating fashion against UCLA, the UH defense showed no real improvement from the previous season, and the Cougars ended the year with a disappointing losing record. (The Texans also had a lousy year, but I don't care about them quite as much.)

There were other disappointments as well: There were fewer monarch caterpillars for me and Kirby to raise into butterflies. The hometown airline merged with a really lousy one. My favorite Vietnamese sandwich shop abruptly went out of business.

But perhaps the most personally-devastating event of 2010 was the sudden death of my friend Laura. Her death was, needless to say, a profound and horrifying shock. I'm still grappling with it many months later, and my heart continues to go out to her family, her boyfriend and her friends. Her death, of course, also reinforces the terrifying realization that life is fragile and ephemeral, and that the length of our lives as well as those that we love is never guaranteed.

To be sure, there were some bright spots to 2010: I took nice trips to Washington DC, South Padre Island, New Orleans, Colorado and Los Angeles (football game notwithstanding), and I even got to fly first class for the first time in my life. I watched the University of Houston basketball team go to the NCAA tournament for the first time in eighteen years and the football team had their best attendance in almost thirty years in spite of the disappointing season. I built an awesome Rokenbok layout for Kirby and me to play with. I finally got a much-needed new car.

But, on balance, 2010 was a decidedly dismal year for me, and one that I will definitely not look back upon with any sense of fond nostalgia. I am glad that it is over, and I look for 2011 to be a better year for me.

I wish everybody a happy and successful 2011.

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