Ask me and I’ll tell you that 2023 was a rotten year, one of my worst ever, but viewed objectively from a different perspective and upon reflection, it was a truly wonderful gift.
I’m alive and basically healthy, thanks to the loving care of Mrs. Kangaeroo and daily cycling even though I gained too much weight and am limited to how long, far and high I can ride by painful arthritis spreading through my hands.
My maximum ride length seems to be about three hours on a warm day, but I’ve lost so much of my grip strength that braking, downhill especially, is dangerous and fixing flats nearly impossible, both of which have rendered group rides pretty much out of consideration.
I’m very grateful to have a wonderful fleet of bicycles that bring me countless joys every single day, and I managed to escape injury in 2023, so that alone made it a good riding year. I was surprised to see how much I’d ridden for the year. I’ve got at least one and possibly two trips left, but ended up doing over 19,000 km for 2023, which isn’t bad considering I don’t have a commute.
Work was disastrous in many ways and has left me a quivering wreck on the balance of living paycheck to paycheck, as I got yet another massive pay cut that I felt was totally unjustified and was enough to drive many others away from the employer.
But, I also got to interview for some positions over the course of the year, mostly for bicycle-related work, even though I didn’t manage to beat out other candidates. The one job I believed I was certain to get, more related to the kind of work I do now, turned out to be a devastating failure that dragged out traumatic experiences from the past.
I’d also been given some hope to returning to a career that I desperately wanted and is the only job I have ever felt comfortable doing, but the experiences of the missed position and the reason for missing out have returned me to reality and quashed that aspiration, too. I am rather despondent about work and praying for humility to deal with the reality of my situation.
It’s here that one of the greatest gifts of the year became evident for me. I am utterly surrounded by an extremely loving, caring, dear group of people. I have some truly amazing friends. And they are priceless.
So many people have rallied around me to show me how much I mean to them. It brings tears to my eyes, and one tear has now just rolled down my check as I type. So many warm, kind, caring people are around me and I am so fortunate to have them in my life. That realization alone makes 2023 a ripper of a year.
I can say with all sincerity that one common factor of my life at this point in time is that pretty much wherever I go, I will find a very decent person. I only wish I could feel the same way about myself! I can’t be too bad to be consistently associated with such wonderful humans, yet I despise myself and all I do with alarming vehemence. Nutcase!
Having said that, the creature I spend more time with than anybody else has also provided me with a wonderful year! Dino, our rosy-faced-lovebird-cum-dinosaur, brings unceasing pleasure, even if that said pleasure is sometimes prefixed with a “dis.” She is perennially horny, which means she is constantly tearing strips into anything than can be torn, mostly paper, which is sometimes hard to keep up with and often becomes overwhelming when I slip into a depressive state, which was pretty common through 2023. But she is a delightful companion who has brought immense and unexpected joy with her spunky personality and fierce devotion.
Family was also….well, family. Mrs. Kangaeroo is my rock, without whom I am useless. (Pretty much useless anyway, but that shouldn’t stand in the way of explaining just how amazing my wife is.) I’m also delighted mum not only made it through the year, she is doing amazingly well, bringing joy in all sorts of ways, particularly as we parted in October 2022 with me thinking it unlikely she would make it through to the end of that year.
I think this is largely the result of my sister’s dedication to her care, and the support the rest of my siblings and other family members, especially nieces, provide. And, of course, the old girl herself. Other family relationships, unfortunately, also struggled due to pains from the past and now seem irreparable. So it goes.
Death, fortunately, has been limited almost exclusively to inanimate objects. Trek FX3, the bike that taught me among other things that it was possible to ride from outer suburban Tokyo to the center of the metropolis and back again every single day while putting in a full day’s work, finally succumbed to the effects of fatigue when her frame fell apart.
I planned to cannibalize her for parts, but it basically wasn’t to be. (That, at least, opened the door to the new opportunity of building a bike by myself <in addition to the enormous contribution made by one of those friends mentioned above who donated a lovely frame, many other parts and much time and advice>, though that venture is being delayed by the crippling pay cut that followed soon after.)
My camera, a secondhand Nikon D3300, is also kaput, and with it probably my hobby of photography. I love taking photos, but a DSLR is too fragile to keep carrying around on a bike and the service of the manufacturers too poor and the expense of purchasing and upkeep too great to maintain. This post is dotted with my favorite photos from the year, most of which were taken with this camera, and I thank her–and my photography pursuit–from the bottom of my heart.
I’m a recovering addict and one of the things that helped me to rebuild my life in the early days of sobriety was photography and focusing on how to capture the small pieces of beauty that occupy our day-to-day lives. It was a wonderful way to turn my mind upward and think about being constructive.
The same came from 12-step programs, but they also died for me in 2023, as I came to the realization that life has presented me with opportunities to grow that need a different path of development, though where and how I haven’t yet realized.
Experience has showed that relapse usually starts from distancing from the 12-step programs, so the death can’t be terminal and I do stay in contact in some ways. In a few days, God willing, I will be 13 years clean and sober.
Also taken away were some of the plants I tried to grow. One of the greatest joys I got from the year came from Kangaeroo Corner, the garden of our home. During my trip to Australia in 2022 I managed to bring native plant seeds back with me. And I delighted in the process of trying to get them to grow.
Nearly all of the seeds I brought back germinated, but I lost the bulk of them at the seedling stage, instead earning the learning experience of trying to propagate plants. I really enjoyed it, and documented a lot of the process here. And I did get to successfully grow some plants, which I was delighted to be able to share with the neighbors, mostly. I can’t wait until spring when they will hopefully flower.
Kangaeroo Corner has been a delight. My parents enjoyed gardening, but it had never appealed to me until Mrs. Kangaeroo set up our Aussie-themed garden. Now, the early morning perusal of the lawn and the trees and the plants is one of my daily joys. It’s lucky because 2023 seemed to be treating the garden cruelly.
Kangaeroo Corner thrived until the onset of the rainy season….that never came. As a result, the fertilizer I spread in the hope of being washed into the soil turned out to burn through the turf and transformed the verdant lawn into a dustbowl (despite allowing the trees and shrubs to thrive in conditions closer to their native climate than Japan’s typical sodden, humid summer).
Fortunately, cooler weather and heavy investment in time, money and experimentation has revived the garden. The Fountain of Strewth is also getting daily visits from the local avian life. Unfortunately, Kangaeroo Corner casualties along the way included a hairpin banksia, which we are now trying to grow for the third time, and a eucalypt I removed and potted yesterday because I feared she was growing too well and her roots would overwhelm those of other trees nearby.
And that’s about it for the year. Just clean up the house, go shopping and maybe sneak in another ride. We had little rain this year, which has been good as failing eyesight, reflexes and the aforementioned arthritis made me pledge to stay off the bikes in the wet, ironically didn’t come into play on the final day. So, instead of getting out on the saddle, I’m sitting here writing. And I am glad I did because the reminiscing enabled me to see how much good is in my life even as I was feeling really lousy.
I desperately need to find a new career in 2024! Anybody who can help, please get in touch. Bear in mind that I carry reputational risk, which is why I missed out on the recent position and found it so difficult to re-establish a life.
Thank you all. In a year of challenges, you have really blessed me and I am very, very lucky! Let’s have a ripping 2024!