There I was, having another nightly talk on the phone with my Dad.

Out of nowhere, he said, “I can’t wait for 2021 to be over. This was a really bad one. How was it for you?”

I didn’t even really take a pause. I just reactively said, “I thought it was great.”

“Well,” he said. “I’m glad it was good for you.”

And I suddenly felt guilty. And we hung up.

Huh, I thought, almost laughing at the surreality of it all. He had a point. More than a point. And so did every talk show host in America.

2021 sucked.

Covid-19, the Jan. 6 insurrection, the stock market rollercoaster, and then all the terrible things that go with having families and trying to navigate the whole “mask” and “vaccine” situation.

It was a terrible year.

But then again, here I was saying it was “great”. Why was I doing this?

I thought of a line from that movie, “Broadcast News” where Albert Brooks is talking to William Hurt.

And William Hurt says, “What happens when your reality exceeds your expectations?”

“Keep it to yourself,” Albert Brooks said.

And so all of this made me ponder on what we decide to focus on.

Thought Experiment

I am reminded of a thought experiment that Sam Harris talked about in one of his meditations. He said to “visualize the world from the perspective that you have no head.”

This is because we always see the world but we never actually see our head. It’s like the world has been replaced by our head!

What would it be like if we could actually see our own head? How would we approach things? Have you actually ever really stopped and studied and looked at your own hair? Isn’t that kind of weird? Who is that person? But we can’t do it with our eyes or our cheeks or our ears.

Gratitude reminds me of this. Something that’s right in front of us but we don’t see it. Instead, we see the world. And this tends to be a bit of a problem if the world is on fire.

The Puer

If you had caught me 10 years ago – you would see a different me. I was what you might call a puer, (this means a boy, for all you non-Frenchies).

The reason I was still a boy, 10 years ago, was because – I’ll just say it – I had not gone through massive and intense therapy. (We’re going to have to bring in a team for this one.)

10 years ago my Mom passed away. And my family – we went through the cancer with her – and I was, we all were, left as dis-shoveled wrecks. After the trauma, I was acting totally not like myself.

The other parts of me – the Dexter “hidden passenger” sides – were coming out. I was driving my car up into the mountains every night and wailing and crying. Like for 4 hours a night. Searching for answers. Every night. Staring out at the stars.

And I thought to myself, “Maybe something’s wrong here. Do other people do this?”

Was this just a romantic, artsy thing I was doing to somehow connect? And if so, to connect to what? The comets? My darker Id?

I began to find an interest in drugs that release massive amounts of dopamine. Think: Marijuana. Sure, it’s socially acceptable. But it became this weird secret that I couldn’t tell anyone. Because I’m the “together one”.

The feelings the drug evoked were feelings of protection. I was feeling better temporarily. And yet, I could feel this horrible depression starting on. Getting through the day, especially the winter, was almost freaking impossible. I would have to sit in hot water all day long just to survive on the weekends.

I would drive to Fairmont Hot Springs and just sit in the hot water. Like. Every weekend.


So to come full circle, back to my Dad’s conversation. If you caught me 10 years ago, and I had to live through 2021, (through the lense of the puer), then I would have told you, just like my Dad, how much I hated 2021.

Because it sucked for me, too, if I really think about it! In all these ways.

2021 was the year I lost a lot of money. And I mean a lot. I had a huge fight with my best friend. Plus, I have had huge fractures in relationships over Covid-19 that came from fights over vaccinations and fights over masks. And my family? We have been in freaking quarantine more than half the time.

It was terrible!


Now this is a big but, haha, BUT …

Get ready:

2021 Rocked

I have a family. I’m a Dad.

Look how far I’ve come in 10 years! I’m not in that water all day on weekends anymore. I don’t need to soak just to survive.

I’m not driving up in the mountains. I’m not looking for dopamine.

I don’t even think about all of that. It doesn’t cross my mind.

My focus and the way I view the world is completely different.

I can’t complain … because of my family. I somehow lucked out.

All of that therapy paid off.

Keep it to yourself … why don’tcha?

One of my friends, from my old life, said, “Hey can you come and meet us at the bar?”

And I said, “Because of Covid we don’t really go to the bar.”

“Oh. So you just stay at home?”

“Yes,” I said. “I don’t really go to the bar anymore.”

My friend then thought out loud. “Well I guess you have a family. And if you have a family then everything you need is right there.”

Andrew Huberman

There’s an awesome talk about Gratitude that just came out on Andrew Huberman’s podcast.

In it, he gives some surprising insights into the enormous psychological insularity one can achieve in life. Insularity from trauma, that is. And that this can be achieved by developing a daily gratitude practice.

Here are a couple things that stuck out to me from the podcast:

  • People who practice gratitude in the “sympathetic” state can reap the benefits a little bit more than those who aren’t. In other words, exercise or do some breathing exercises before focusing on gratitude.

  • Just writing a list of what you’re grateful for and trying to “feel” it isn’t enough!

  • If you really want to light up the gratitude circuits, then have someone else tell you about how much they feel gratitude toward having you in their life.

Meaning, receiving gratitude is much more powerful than giving gratitude. Having someone write down what they love about you and reading it to you – again, will activate the circuits we are looking for.

  • Also, the power of story, he says, is a great way to tap into gratitude.

If we can hear a story or watch a movie where the lead character, whom we empathize with, is going through this incredible strife – and they are then given help by someone – then this can act on us as well. Just the act of seeing someone else whom we empathize with in a movie or in our mind’s eye, (who are receiving help), can be enough to activate these gratitude chemicals.

Gratitudinous Chemicals

Side note: I watch “Schindler’s List” when I’m depressed.

Or I read “Night” by Eli Wiesel.

And I say: “My life’s not this bad. I have nothing to complain about compared to this. In fact, I should be cheering.”

But, aside from comparison, according to Huberman, there is something else going on here – .


When we watch a movie like this, most of us can deeply relate, on some level, to the suffering of the Jews. The film just paints the pictures for us.

Again, it’s obviously nowhere near to what they were actually feeling – but, for me while watching it – there were and will be a lot of tears.

Here’s the interesting part: It’s when they would receive help that I would feel it the most. When the Jews would receive help – just like in the formula that Huberman said – I, too, was now feeling a heightened sense of gratitude.

My gratitude circuitry had been turned on to release endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and you guessed it – dopamine.

Pause Button

Let’s take a break.

Sometimes I wonder if anything good will come out of this Covid. Maybe it will be a much-needed breather – like a pause button – where we can all reanalyze and re-evaluate the direction we as a society are going.

This focus on getting rich, on not caring about the environment, on staring at Facebook and these screens all day …

Is it possible that – as terrible as Covid is, and as terrible as this year was – is it possible that we can use this pause button to find a greater meaning?

Will it be possible that we will look back on our lives one day, and say: “It was the worst thing that ever happened to us, 2021. But it woke us up. In some ways we needed to be derailed.”


I got back on the phone, and I called my Dad back up.

I said, “Hey Dad, it’s me. I know what you mean, 2021 was terrible.”

He agreed with me.

I continued.

“But as terrible as it was – the fact that I have you as my Dad has made me the luckiest guy in the world.”

He seemed to really take in my words. It’s been too long since I’ve said this.

He brightened up. And he told me how much he loves me.

And let me say if you have made it this far, I appreciate you too, dear Reader, and I’m grateful on some level because we must be kindred spirits. Otherwise you wouldn’t have kept reading this far.

Let’s see what we can do to help out our neighbors and our community this new year of 2022. And tell people how much they mean to us.

It’s an interesting experiment – to see if anything good is possible to come out of this “really bad” year.

And to claw our way out – with little baby steps.