My theme for 2020

I don’t like to dwell on it here, but the last three years have been incredibly difficult for my family. We’ve faced one crushing challenge after another.

The first of each year I think of a word, a theme, that represents the growth I want to achieve that year. My themes for the past two years have reflected a desire to get out on top of these difficulties. In 2018, I was going to build stability for my family. In 2019, I would seek renewal in my faith, my career, and my health. I was going to regain control of my life!

Yeah, that didn’t happen. At all. 2019 was the hardest of the last three years. I’ve written about the structural failure at a rental house we owned (here) and us eventually selling it as is (here), and how intensely stressful that was. I mentioned the death of my mother-in-law. I’ve not written, and won’t, about some of the serious life challenges some of our adult children have faced. Three of them live with us right now while they sort their lives. Meanwhile, both my wife and I started new jobs twice in 2019. I told the stories of mine here and here. The first came after being fired in 2018; the second came out of the blue. While it was a terrific career move, new jobs are always very stressful while you learn the ropes.

Clearly, I lack control. It’s driven me to drink, it’s messed with my sleep, and I’ve gained 15 pounds. In about March I threw up my hands and got a therapist, who’s gently helped me untie a knot of anger and resentment, and begin to find peace so I can move forward.

I admit that these problems have been bigger than me. My attempts to control them have failed. I’ve been upset most of the time for far too long, and I want that to end. It is for that reason that in 2020, my theme is equanimity.

Equanimity is a mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation. It is admitting that I can’t always do something about unwelcome life events, but I can seek inner peace as they fall. That can be very hard in the face of a shock. But my inner state is ultimately the only thing I can control.

I want to be like a blade of grass. When the strong winds blow, the blade of grass lies back until it passes. Then it stands up straight again, and keeps on growing.

If you’re curious, you can look back at all the posts I wrote about my annual themes here.


36 responses to “My theme for 2020”

  1. Hamish Gill Avatar
    Hamish Gill

    Good luck, Jim! For what it’s worth, I think that’s the perfect thing to aim for.

    1. Jon Avatar

      Onward and upward. Happy New Year my friend.

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        Same to you Jon!

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you Hamish! Let’s hope I can achieve it.

  2. J P Avatar

    An excellent choice of virtues to cultivate. That it dovetails with your Christian faith is a bonus. Building either one should strengthen the other.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You’re right! I love natural synergy.

  3. Marc Beebe Avatar

    We seem to be floating in the same boat. I’d just as soon forget the past three years myself, and even when it looked like something good was going to happen last year – well it fell apart. Now this year already has some bad moments scheduled, so I’m not going to be overly optimistic about it. Take it as it comes, and know that you’ll survive; you will get by.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Lordy, I wish I knew when the bad moments were scheduled. At least I could brace for impact!

      That’s what I’m trying to do this year: take it as it comes.

      1. Marc Beebe Avatar

        Most things, good or bad, don’t come with any warning. In this case we know when Mrs. has to go back to England to deal with her sister again, and we know the papers for the house sale will be redone soon. That leaves the other 11 months open to surprises. :p

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          May your 2020 have far fewer unwanted surprises Marc.

  4. Lisa Marie Stevens Avatar

    Hay there Jim, my wife and I have been on a similar journey for the past nine years. It’s been a haul but along the way I learned a lot about myself, family and life. Although I didn’t write about it, I used my camera to navigate the rough times. Yoga, meditation and walks in nature have really grounded me. You will get through it. Hang in there Jim. With every end there is a new beginning. Happy New Year!!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      NINE years? zOMG.

      I’m doing much the same: photo therapy. And for me, writing, which is a way of getting the story straight in my head.

      1. Lisa Marie Stevens Avatar

        Yeah it was living hell. But we made it and now we’re ready to get back to each other. I guess you can say I did write but I published very little. You inspire us to be vulnerable.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I wish you and your wife smooth sailing for the rest of your lives!

          I’m not entirely sure why I share as much as I do. I feel sure I wouldn’t write it if I didn’t publish it. Writing it is incredibly valuable to me. The trick has been to not say too much, and not to tell things about other people in my life even when those things intersect with what I’m working through.

  5. Wayne Salvatti Avatar
    Wayne Salvatti

    God is in control,
    God is is faithful,
    God will never leave you or forsake you,
    God is Good!
    Blessings to you and your family,Jim,and give you the peace that passes all understanding.
    Lets have focused “2020” vision and see what The Lord has!
    Wayne Salvatti

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I know God is with us! Without him surely we would have broken by now.

  6. tbm3fan Avatar

    Well let’s hope 2020 turns out to be a better year for both of us. It should be for me as there wouldn’t be more to lose, in theory. I started out 2019 with my 93 year old father going in for brain surgery a calculated risk. Didn’t pan out and a month later my younger sister and I had to make the decision to end. Not unexpected as it was a risk.

    Then on Dec.12, an congenital and unknown AVM in my sister’s brain decided to break. By the 17th her daughter, a neuro RN, and I got a look at her MRI and could see serious damage to the brain stem. We had to let her go on the next day which was my birthday. Totally shaken me to my core that loss at 61. Her two adult kids are great so we will sort things out (no prepared will) regarding the estate, my mother with dementia cared for by my sister, power of attorney falling to me, mother’s Social Security, banking, and so forth……

    Did I say the two kids were great? They helped me a lot in coming to grips with the events while the other brother was too busy.

    Anyway to a better and happier 2020…

    PS: a warning and that is never to overlook the early signs of a possible AVM such as numbness on one side of the body, momentary loss of balance, and episodes of aphasia. Turns out she had all those symptoms before Thanksgiving but were never related to me, only to her boyfriend, who did insist on seeing a doctor. She said she was too busy with work and my mother. In my field we have the saying that the care giver many times passes away first.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh my goodness, what pain and loss you’ve suffered. I’m terribly sorry. Especially on losing your sister so suddenly. I wish you peace and restoration in 2020.

  7. Karen Bryan Avatar
    Karen Bryan

    Hold fast, Jim. You have many more friends than you know. Count me among them.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Karen, what a generous thing to say. Thank you!

  8. Maureen Sudlow Avatar

    Control is a nebulous thing anyway. And I understand about children – mine are grown-up and still cause me sleepless nights sometimes. I pray that 2020 is going to be a year of joy for you.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you Maureen! I appreciate you reading my blog and my trials and trevails for all these years.

      We have seven children between us, ages 35 to 19, and yes we worry over each one of them.

      1. Maureen Sudlow Avatar

        Well done – I only have two, but now have grandchildren and great-grandchildren to add to the mix…

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          We got our first grandchild in May!

  9. Khürt Williams Avatar

    I’m in the corner licking my own wounds, but cheering for you. Happy New Year.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Here’s to better days ahead for us both.

  10. Sam Avatar

    Hi Jim and Happy New Year! Wow man, I’m stuck with your honest and open candor in this post! I truly wish this year for things to get much better for you and yours.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You know me, Sam, I lay it out there. Happy new year to you my friend!

      1. Sam Avatar

        I know Jim but man this one was raw and compelling. That’s what I dig about your blog it’s more than cameras!

      2. Sam Avatar

        Happy New Year to you too Jim I missed that!

  11. SilverFox Avatar

    Here’s to a 2020 that is all you wish it to be, Jim. I hope you find inner calmness. I appreciate you work on this blog here, it is the blog I follow most closely.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you! I’m pleased that you enjoy my blog!

  12. Peggy Avatar

    You have been though a lot this year and still go forward with positivity in your writing. That is impressive. It shows your inner spirit.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks so much Peggy. I’m actually a negative person by nature but at some point I figured out that while that sometimes protects me from harm, it also frequently does harm itself. Writing things out is often my way of finding the positivity so I can have a balanced view!

  13. Nancy Herget Avatar
    Nancy Herget

    Best of luck and health to you and your family in the New Year!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Same to you Nancy!

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