Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

I won’t say that my PC is functional and is all set – no indeed; I’ve learned that lesson all too well. I feel comfortable with the restoration; new hard drive, a fresh version of the latest and greatest Windows 10, and data mostly back. As I think I mentioned, I use two online backup servers, actually three if you count iCloud. Unfortunately do to the rapid and successive events that befell this PC, the backups turned out to be imperfect; this mostly because each time you install a new operating system the “identity” of the PC is different and the online servers think it is a different PC, even though it is not and the data hasn’t changed. So ultimately, I got back almost everything – around 700GB of “stuff”. In fact, oddly, it seems only one file is missing, a spreadsheet I created and used for finances. I cannot seem to find a copy of that anywhere….odd. I can’t imagine how that happened!

What I found astounding out of all of this was how far technology has progressed. As I mentioned my data was around 700GB, almost 750. And it was all backed up and kept current through nearly invisible data streams between the PC and the online server. And when I needed it, it arrived within a couple of days neatly stored on a 1TB password protected USB external hard drive. And it took less than an hour or so to move all that data back over to the new hard drive. That is mind boggling to me, especially to when I remember the stack of 20 or more 3.5” floppy discs needed to install MS-DOS and Windows some 25 or 30 years ago. I think it was over 46,000 photos, nearly 2,000 songs, a number of videos, and countless other files. That alone is staggering to me

Speaking of a hard drive and Windows, I created a bootable USB stick with a spare PC that held all the Windows 10 install data, so once the hard drive was replaced (about a 5 minute job), it was as simple as plugging in the USB drive and hitting the power button – fresh new copy installed in less than 15 minutes I think (although it needed time after that to go get all the latest updates, but the PC was functional at that point). Remarkable!

I will admit it was disruptive and disconcerting to me; my PC is a crucial piece of my life: shopping, banking, email, other social items, and of course this blog….oh – and games too! Thankfully my grandson graciously offered me his laptop (my old XPS14) to use while I worked on mine, researched how to fix it, and ordered all that I needed to do so. It was a life saver. And out of that I returned it to him cleaned up with some file maintenance, a new less obtrusive virus protection, and installed a new copy of Windows 10 for him (it was running Windows 7 which loses support next month).

But PC issues or not, the holiday has been fast approaching so there was all that shopping and wrapping to be dealt with as well. And that helped provide a distraction; the very real threat of losing almost your entire electronic life is a heavy feeling until you have actually restored the data and know that it is back and safe. For the geeks wondering, I installed a 1TB SATA physical hard drive along with a 32MB SSD drive. I chose it despite the obvious flaws with a physical drive – read/write delays and the ever present risk of damaging the platter. They can hold a lot of data though. But a SSD drive can vanish with seemingly only the slightest electronic disturbance, all the data held in some form of cyber-storage and unrecoverable upon a failure (online backup notwithstanding of course).

But the holiday shopping is nearly complete, if indeed not fully complete at this point. I wrapped as things arrived so there is little wrapping to be done as well. And that is nice given the shorter period this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hard to believe the Christmas is tomorrow! And this is my first Christmas with no dark mass associated with work hanging above my head; no obligations other than celebrate the holiday. Last year still casts a shadow over my memories, this due to an unforgivable violation of trust by a couple of people who worked in my organization. That issue created a huge chasm of distrust and scrutiny of the whole group and was indescribably painful and unpleasant for all of us, but especially me. I had always managed as the sole person responsible for it all – no matter how big or small, if something went wrong and something bad occurred – it was my fault. I either failed to properly train my folks or failed to provide them the proper resources or allowed them to to go to work with flawed procedures or inadequate oversight. But regardless of the mode of failure, it was my fault. And the one from last Christmas left a permanent scar on me. And the group is still feeling the impact even now a year later. It was not a pleasant way to end my career, but by the time I did leave, I am confident that they had everything they needed to ensure lasting future success.

Speaking of work, a small group went out to celebrate the holidays and extended an invitation to me to join them. It was nice to see them all again, but it also quickly reminded me of the toll that the stress of responsibility brings to those in management. They were all smiling and laughing and having a great time, but when talk would turn again to work, you could hear it in their voices and see it in their brows: the frustration, the pressure, and the stress. Not surprisingly, they are all handling it marvelously; I hired a lot of them and promoted every one of them several times. They will be successful but it is a long battle and rarely is a moment of peace found while battling. While I missed them all tremendously it reminded me of the that I do not miss the stress and pressure of the job. Life is far more pleasant on this side of the employment line!

And time, of course, has not slowed or stopped just because my PC went on hiatus and here we are today at Christmas Eve. While mine is warm and comfortable and filled with joy, I have a number of friends that are struggling on this holiday; some have lost a mom or a dad, some have lost their job, and some are deep in the vile mud of divorce and are spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone without spouse or children for the first time in years, while other are celebrating Christmas alone having lost their spouse.  

Christmas is a present to us – a gift of friends and family and celebration of love. Yes, I know well that it is a religious holiday and celebrates the birth of Jesus – that is not lost on me at all. But as all great things do, the holiday has grown and has become more than the sum of its parts. While for Christians it is still very much about its original intent. But for those who are not practicing Christians or are either non-believers or other believers, Christmas still creeps into their lives and infuses them with the spirit and love that this holiday brings with it. It is steeped in tradition, bundled with warmth, and wrapped with loving scenes of snow gently falling upon trees decked with lights. The sights, the smells, and even the tastes of the holiday lift all of us into the Christmas spirit at one time or another.

But the wonderful gift of Christmas is different every year for each of us and some years are less pleasant than others; some years are difficult and some….some are outright impossible to find joy within. That is the reality and the duality of life. And if you, dear reader, are one of those mired in the depths of loss and sorrow, I can only offer you my sympathy and these meager words to comfort you. Loss is permanent; there is no such thing as coming back from the final departure. But the sorrow, the pain, and the longing is not permanent – at least not in the extreme sharp and cutting levels that pierce our hearts at first. It settles back into an ache and occasional pangs, and then after some years it becomes more of a soft and warm comfortable shirt which has a hole in it or a stain on it: damaged and not for public display, but wonderful to wrap yourself in when home alone. Moments and memories overcome and supplant the grief. Know this and please trust that whatever pin you are feeling now will subside, will abate, and will leave you to provide space for those memories to flourish.

Wherever you are, whoever you are my dear readers, I wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a wonderful Kwanza, or whatever else you choose to label this time of year. And beyond that I wish you warmth and love and peace. And for those for whom grief has locked out that gift of Christmas, I wish you a speedy journey through the dark and please hold close the words that this too shall pass.

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