This has been the hardest year of my life, friends.
(**Note: This post has a happy ending, so I promise it's not all doom-and-gloom, people).
So 2016 was the worst, huh, Galv? Not that first year in Chicago (05') when you were literally starving, about to be evicted, had zero friends in the vicinity, and woke up (on the floor) to dead cockroaches by your face every morning?
No - 2016 has been worse,
To be fair, some of this year's general suckiness was a slow descent off the tail end of 2015 with the hospice care and eventual passing of my mother-in-law, so I suppose I can't place all the blame on the last twelve months.
Having said (written?) all that, this year, and an amazing little show called Hell On Wheels, has taught me one inarguable fact...
I'm still here.
'So what made it such a tough year,' I hear you asking.
The biggest factor has been my youngest daughter's health. I haven't shared much of this information before because it's a personal/private matter, but if 2016 has taught me anything it's that story is sacred and life-saving. Also, my complete lack of newsletter updates, social media anything, etc. kinda demands an explanation, so here it is.
My daughter has a kidney issue that we were alerted to about a month before she was born. Fortunately, it's a fixable situation with a routine surgery, buuuut she has to hit a certain weight threshold, the kid refuses to eat, her weight loss/physical development has led to numerous hospital stays, doctor visits, and the like. All that said, hospital stays have a way of making you understand that things can always be worse, so the past year has been a lot of me telling myself, 'Quit whining, Galvin, about your daughter's fixable situation and be happy with the cards you've been dealt.'
The thing is...it's easy to say such things.
Anyone who has read my books knows I generally write darker stories where character deaths will happen and others are put through the ringer before the end. I also love reading/watching these kinds of stories play out because it's tough for characters to learn anything if only good things happen to them. And yet, while it's fun for me to create such scenarios for fiction, the situation with my daughter's health, the passing of my mother-in-law, living in Cali away from all family and nearly all friends, and having my writing time taken away from me to care for my daughter has had me feeling like Atreyu and Artex in the Swamps of Sadness for the past year and a half.
Wait a sec, Galvin, you said this is supposed to have a happy ending!
It will - My wife and Cullen Bohannon are gonna swoop in like mother-freaking luck dragons named Falcor and pull me from the muck. Now hush up!
This year has been filled with more of the above pity parties than I care to admit. A few months ago, my wife told me to let it all out. Just vent to her about everything I've been struggling with.
And, like the idiot that I am, I did.
I told her the hardest obstacle has been facing the truth that I feel like many men struggle with - I can't fix everything. And, possibly worse, I can't fix it now.
I can't bring back my mother-in-law to help my grieving wife.
I can't fix our daughter's medical issues or force her to eat.
And I can't write/make money if I don't have the time to work because I have to be Daddy Daycare...this third Salt book has felt unending...I haven't published anything in over a year, and it all boils down to I've felt like I'm working this hard for my family and yet my family is what's preventing me from working. Add all that up and it equates to a career-failure of a year, right? I suck at life.
...and then my wife proceeded to school me hard. Here now I submit, in no particular order, all the things my wife bid me realize we have accomplished this past year, despite these obstacles:
I then shut up and got back to work.
So here I sit, on the last day of 2016, happy to put it all in the rearview and get on with 2017. And yet, I'm reminded of a scene in my newest top shelf TV series - Hell On Wheels. (*Note, I haven't finished this series yet, so don't give me any spoilers!).
Anyway, the main character, Cullen Bohannon, is squaring off against his boss/nemesis, Doc Durant, in what basically amounts to the end of a boardroom battle. Here's what they say:
Thomas 'Doc' Durant: I was hoping for more of a fight from you.
Cullen Bohannon: You've been an advocate of mine, Doc, but if you aim to beat me, you should've ended this race where you stood a chance of winning it - right here in this room. The race we start tomorrow will be decided in the mud. Hell, I was born in the mud. Tore a farm out of that mud. Built an army out of more mud.
Thomas 'Doc' Durant: Failure stacked atop failure.
Cullen grins at Doc and walks out.
I was born in the mud too, folks.
Here's my last accomplishment of 2016.
Author. Actor. Rascal.