May 9th, 2020

I listen

Twenty-three years ago is on my mind.

1997 was an often difficult year for me.

Today I got thinking about that year, and what happened to make it difficult. A day that spring that, I can tell looking back, was my single most stressful day up to that time in my life. Then, a break-up. Then, a death. And during this, dealing with the stress of finally getting and starting my first full-time, post-college job, and the uncertainties of moving to an area (the northeastern Oregon semi-desert, an area that still has ruts and graves from the Oregon Trail) I'd spent only a few days' total in before making it my new home.

Difficulties. Uncertainties. DIFFERENT DIFFICULTIES AND UNCERTAINTIES THAN RIGHT NOW, CERTAINLY, but difficulties and uncertainties. I thought about them. I talked to someone else about them. I found out a little bit about that person's difficulties, also in 1997.

Not my story to tell, but maybe a story I needed to hear. And a dose of perspective: I learned how to live with what happened to me that year. So did the person I talked to. Somehow I've managed that repeatedly, with difficulty after difficulty and uncertainty after uncertainty.

Tonight, I could have wallowed. I came close to wallowing. But I saw that I was about to, that I could have, and I consciously decided: Not now.

And I can think of the good that happened in 1997. The times that went well in my relationship, before it ended. How I communicated with people important to me. (And how, looking back, I, um, hadn't been nearly as good at that the year before, in 1996, which was a strange year for reasons I won't get into right now.) Getting into the groove at my job, writing and reporting for a weekly newspaper in a town and region I was learning to appreciate.

(And asserting myself when needed. For one of my first stories at the newspaper I spoke to people who were part of a church in town, and I realized that some of the people I was talking to were kind of pitching their church to me, hoping maybe I'd join. I was — and am — figuring out how I relate to that, but I knew me getting into church at that particular time in my life wasn't the right thing for me. Letting people down easily and gently: a skill I can always practice more.

(That's the first time in years I've thought of that. But that was the right thing for me to do then.)

Anyway, 1997 was a year of starting to get some serious practice at adulthood. Which I'm still working on, of course.

And now: what, during this period of difficulties and uncertainties, will I remember happily? What is, in fact, going well?