Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013: The Year of the Tiger Rocking the Boat

With this, my last blog entry for 2013, I was trying to figure out what sort of year 2013 was for me?  
The question I actually wrote down in my word palette for my blog was, “What Happened to me?”  And when I wrote it I meant the question to be answered in the most emphatic way.  Not just, “what events took place in my life this last year?”  More like, “Jeez...  What did all that s***t do to me?”
After writing down a bunch of stuff, comparing where I was at the end of 2012  to where I am now in various aspects of my life (“real” job, writing, family, health, etc.), I came up with one phrase that sort of sums it up, from an emotional, visceral standpoint at least.
The tiger in my boat is clearer now.  
If you’ve been reading my blog entries all year, you may recall one I wrote near the beginning of 2013, after I went to see the movie The Life of Pi.  This is the movie about a young man from India who is tossed overboard after the ship he is sailing on to Canada is sunk during a storm.  His only companion in the life-raft he sails in across the Pacific is a man-eating tiger from his family’s zoo.
In that entry, I contemplated what my “tiger” was.  In the movie, Pi, the young man from India, dedicates himself to keeping the tiger alive.  The danger of the tiger keeps him aware and on his toes.  Keeping it alive, despite all the difficulties to do so, gives him purpose.  The tiger is not his friend, that is made clear at the end of the film, but it is important to him.  Without the tiger, he very likely would not have survived his journey.  
In that entry, I didn’t come up with one single tiger.  I made the tiger into another metaphorical creature, the elephant being examined by the blind men, and found different things in my life that were part of the tiger, even though their impact on me was received differently.  
In this entry, I don’t expect to come up with the tiger’s identity.  But I’ve heard his growl in my ears this year.  And in his growl, I’ve heard different things being said to me.  Like...
“We’re a performance oriented company.”  
I heard this at work.  From my boss actually.  He was talking to someone else, but when he said it I could feel it resonating with me.  
What it basically means is that, as a manager, I’m free to run my department as I want.  My boss is not going to interfere with my handling of the department as long as one thing happens: We make the production goals the company has set for  us.  
If I don’t do that, I’m out on my ass.  This is what some people call “Freedom.”  
So far, I’ve made good use of this freedom.  After taking over the department in 2012, I beat the production goal they had set for the unit by thirty-seven percent.  For 2013, as my “reward,” they raised the goal by thirty percent.  With two days left in the year, I am ahead of that goal and fully expect to beat it.  
At a congratulatory dinner during the holiday season, one of the owners of the company told me that they’ve raised the production goal for 2014 by twelve percent.  Without giving any hard numbers, this means that what would have been a record setting month in 2012 is, in 2014, what is expected as a matter of course.  
When I tell my colleagues that this makes me nervous, they tell me that I’m being silly.  Maybe they don’t feel the tiger’s hot slobbery breath on the back of their throats the way I do.  
Another phrase I heard in 2013 that let me know the tiger is alive and well in my tiny boat: 
“I went to see the doctor...”  
In 2012 my mom developed a cancerous tumor on one of her kidneys.  They used a radiographic procedure to basically burn it off with radio waves.  There has been any sign of it returning since then.
Sigh of relief, back to normal.  Right?  
In 2013, my dad got a tumor on his kidney as well.  And found out that his hearing loss was caused by a tumor on his auditory nerve.  AND had to have bypass surgery.  My sister had her own tumor as well, in her left lung.  Fortunately her tumor was canceroid (acted like cancer) and not cancerous (was actual cancer).  The tumor was removed, along with the entire bottom lobe of her lung, and she seems to be out of the woods now.  She can definitely breathe easier, from what she tells me, literally AND metaphorically.  
Sigh of relief and back to normal...?  
I don’t think so.  This is the danger the tiger represents.  The idea that even with one’s best efforts you, or someone close to you, may be eaten up and taken from you.  
The sigh of relief is what is abnormal.  The imminent threat is status quo.  
“Thank you for submitting your story, but unfortunately...”  
2013 was nearly the year my obituary as a writer was written.  I made the decision to quit writing.  I went almost a week without putting any fictional words down on paper.  Six days.   
But like Pi, in that moment when the tiger is in the ocean and can’t get back in the boat, and he has the opportunity to kill the tiger once and for all, I changed my mind.  And like Pi, I don’t have any immediate explanation as to why.  It doesn’t feel like writing is my friend, the way I might have thought about it before.  It does feel like it’s necessary.  That without it I lose some part of me, my identity, my purpose, that I need to keep going.  
Dreams are dangerous like tigers.  If you cage them, they can’t harm you, but they can’t fulfill themselves either.  If you let them out so they can thrive in their natural state, they can kill you if you’re not careful.  
So, what did 2013 do to me?  I’m not sure.  Made me more aware of things I was taking for granted, maybe.  Reaffirmed for me what purpose I’ve assigned my life to, perhaps.  
Was I happy I went through it?  2013?  There were definitely parts of it that I would rather have missed, but the alternative to experiencing 2013 would have entailed a degree of non-existence that I’m still trying to avoid.  
Good-bye, 2013.  I’m still here.  Hello, 2014.  I may not be ready for what you’ll bring my way, but I’m going to give it a fight.  
Happy New Year, Everyone! 


Post a Comment

<< Home