Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Thirty Years Ago: From Bitterness to Joy

I have been looking back at the (handwritten) journal I was keeping 30 years ago. 

It was sort of a "proto-Blog," even though I couldn't have imagined in those days anything like what we can do now with blogs. It was my "writing workshop," I suppose, but I knew that no one else was reading it. Well... at least not yet! Given that I was planning on (dreaming about) becoming a Great Man "in the future" - this was half my lifetime ago - I probably had at least a subconscious expection that this journal would be of interest "to posterity." 

And it seems that my pompous subconscious was right, in a way: "posterity" is interested, and is reading the never-really-meant-to-be-private journals. Here I am, my posterior self, thirty years later (and "here you are," if you're reading this now). Anyway, here is a page that represents what I'm finding in the old journal, at the end of the month of October in the year One Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety (yes, that's 1990):

Hmmm. It seems that  Autumn always comes "late" to the DC-Maryland-Virginia area (I lived in Arlington, Virginia in those days). 

Edith Stein quotations have lost none of their vividness.

Television was "raising the kids" in 1990. The Box was indeed at its height. Cable was booming with new networks, and everyone had VCRs and at least one membership card to a video rental store. Of course, by 1990 we also had personal computers in our homes. They were planted on desks, and looked like bulky microwave ovens. They were useful for documents and data, but they weren't much fun. In those days, the television and the computer occupied two entirely separate worlds, and there was no reason to imagine that that would ever change. As for phones... well, they were your house, securely plugged into the wall.

TV was king. In a few months, Americans would get to watch their first "live war." Thanks to CNN, the bombing of Baghdad was brought into our living rooms like a football game. They even designed a eye-catching logo for "the Gulf War." TV was shaping all of us. It was defining the stories with its images. Upstart cable stations and poor quality homemade video tapes hinted at the possibility of "new media," but not much....

What about John Janaro in 1990? I was doing well in graduate school. "But I am not happy. I am not content. I am not satisfied." I was 27 and I thought that "all things [were] bitter on the tongue."

For all that has happened in the past thirty years — even with the ironic realization that the brilliant and promising future that stretched before me in 1990 ended up being the academic-and-human-trainwreck that 
happened to me (and that continues) in 2020 — still, I would not describe my life today as "bitter on the tongue." No. Not at all!

It is a great life

Things are not bitter. Arduous and difficult, yes. But not bitter. It is a great thing to be alive, and to have hope for each day. At the root of me, beneath whatever complaints, frustrations, problems and pains, there is gratitude

It is not some facile emotion. It is a stubborn disposition, and it's not something I feel like I can "take credit for" (if anything, it has grown in spite of my all my fears and impatience and petulance). I am grateful for this gratitude, this joy. I could make a long list of what I'm grateful for, but it would only scratch the surface of something about my life that I don't really understand (and that I can't take for granted, but must recall myself to it as best as I can, I must live it, I want to live it). 

I think it has to do with a deeper awareness of "belonging" to the ultimate Mystery, and a stronger conviction that this Mystery is a Someone who loves me. I can rediscover gratitude and joy, rediscover my true self, when I remember that I have a loving Father, and that I am his child, and that the long journey of this life is leading me home.

Perhaps in some ways I've grown younger with the passing of years.