I'll dispense with the faux I don't normally do a summary of the year, but... or, well, that's another year in the books... and just write down a few things that stood out for whatever reason in 2015. It was a year of two halves. Like two sides of the same coin, one shiny, one dark and smudged. Like the Harvey Two-Face character—Aaron Eckhart-style in The Dark Knight!
I started the year flying because I had an ultramarathon in March which meant I'd started training way back in September of 2014. By the time January arrived I was running 110 km a week and clocking 40 km runs on Saturday mornings alone. Lean, mean, ultra-machine. I got slightly derailed two weeks into the New Year with my first ever bout of the flu (it thrashed me) but bingeing on the Serial podcast kept me company in bed. It was that same week we watched the horrific Charlie Hebdo shootings unfold on live TV and our city mourned.
The dream of seeing my first book published came to life in mid-March, the same weekend I welcomed 38 years of living. It was an amazing experience and the culmination of two and a half years of (sometimes frustrating) hard work. It has sold modestly well and I am continually surprised by the reactions people have to it and the various ways it has helped inspire people to live their own life stories more fully.
The ultras went well. I ran my 80 km race in late March in a very respectable 8:23. It was tough and when you have run the equivalent of two marathons and then have to run up the first floor of the Eiffel Tower, let's just say you find out what you are really made of. In May, Val and I celebrated our first year of marriage. Yay for us! Such a rich and fulfilling marriage we have, too. None of what I do in life would be possible without her unwavering support and love. Here's to many more years, sweetie. I also ran my second ultra—a six hour race—and took first place with a hard fought 63 km. Physically, the toughest one of my life with the heat and competition but proof that when you put the work in and focus on the goal with razor sharp clarity, the results will come.
Same can be said for my brother, Seán, and his career as a YouTuber. He has pursued his dream with gusto and become incredibly successful. He does it solely out of love and it has not changed him a bit. He is humbler than ever and when I see my kid brother participating in discussion panels in Seattle venues that are normally reserved for Pearl Jam concerts, or the reaction of kids at the Make-A-Wish Foundation to him, or the hundreds of thousands of adolescents who have overcome suicidal tendencies, bullying, and depression because of his hopeful message, pride is too small of a word to cover it.
In June, I took the logistics lead on a conference for forty people in London that was put on by some really good friends of ours. I got to meet some new friends-for-life and it truly was a week that I don't think anyone involved in will forget anytime soon.
We vacationed in the Black Forest in Germany this summer and that's when things started to go downhill for me. I was physically active but my mind started to get dark. It felt like sufferance to pray or see any form of positivity in life. It followed me all summer and came to a breaking point when some people I've known for a long time cut me out of their lives. Why? Anyone's guess. I am sure my faith and life path have something to do with it. None of us like rejection and when it comes, the very essence of who we are is questioned. The tapes playing in my head were telling me that I was not worthy of praise or love. It affected how I perceived those closest to me. When will they leave? That's all that went through my head. I started to put distance between myself and the people I cared about. I think I finally came up for air by mid- to late-September. The lesson it taught me was that all seasons of life need grieving, the good and the bad. I think I also found out what real forgiveness means and that to live a life of true faith one has to take a series of fairly brutal punches to some fairly sensitive areas. Am I better for having gone through it? Heck, yeah! Did it suck unmercifully to the point where I wanted to walk away from friends, faith, and the outside world? Yup.
The outcome of all this has led to renewed balance and being able to mentor people with the living to back the advice. There is no greater danger to our self-esteem than when we believe the lies in our mind and then compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing fine. Usually, they are far from fine and crippled by the same issues.
The end of the year has been focused on building a good community with our neighbors here. The horror of the Bataclan shootings will never leave us and I wrote a whole other post on that without getting into it again here. It has certainly unified people here in Paris, but, like we see with shootings in America, it all goes back to normal and our outrage and horror hibernates until the next “unspeakable tragedy” hits and the media cranks up the fear machine to 11. In this period of time it's important for us to be neighbors to all people. I have given up trying to save the world or to make a big impression on it. For years I thought that in order to achieve I had to be known. Wrong. I just need to do the best I can right where I'm planted.
December held two important dates: the 1st signified eight years living here in France. In the beginning, I thought I'd never survive. Now I can't see myself living anywhere else. The 12th signified five years of sobriety. Yeah baby! My kids also turned 11 and 8 this year.
These past few weeks I have gotten back into regular exercise, writing (I have started mapping out my next book which I will be focusing on next year), planning for my keynote talks at a university in the United Sates in February, and taking my time in all things. If I can remember that I am on an amazing adventure every second of the day and not a merry-go-round of banality, then I think next year should be OK. I'll keep you posted.