First things first: the word “grismal.” It pretty much speaks for itself but you can find a proper description of it in this recent post by Dave at Pairodox Farm. After seeing his post and sensing the same mood in our weather I want out for a walk in the woods behind the house.
This winter got off to a fierce start. All through December and for part of January the temperatures ranged between -10 C and -20 C. We had a lot of snow as well, probably around 120 cm fell over the same 6-week period.
But then it broke. Suddenly the temperatures reversed. Overnight, it seems we went to mid teens. It rained too. After a week of rain and mild temperatures most of the snow is gone. Now it’s light rain and fog.
Funny about these grismal days. The mild weather seems to make all of your senses that much more acute. You hear things you might otherwise miss. Sometimes you see unexpected things too.
Some of the things you see exist solely in your mind. Walking along the quiet woods, listening to the rain gently fall all around you gives ample opportunity to reflect.
Reflect on the many people you’ve met.
Like the trees in the picture those people are in many ways the same when you don’t look too closely. On even the slightest inspection, though, subtle differences reveal themselves. Every one is different, some more than others.
A lifetime spent working with others has led to something of a realization. Think of a “typical” group of 20 people that you have encountered. Perhaps for you, too, it seems to break down like the list that follows.
- Fifteen have been just fine. In all regards they are generally a joy to be around.
- Four have been somewhat difficult. Perhaps they are a somewhat argumentative; disagreeable. Perhaps they hold values that run counter to yours. Maybe they just have a habit of doing things that annoy you.
- One out of every 20 people is such that that the pain and the effort required to maintain a relationship with them is just not worth the effort. Most would probably agree that that 1 out of 20 is afflicted with some undesirable tendencies such as: violent psychotic behaviour, chronic narcissism or what is usually termed “anti social personality disorder.” Colloquially we say these people are “not fit,” and you would be well-advised take great care with your involvement with people in this category.
On a personal note the knowledge of that general breakdown has been a constant source of comfort and relief. Frequently in my life I have had to work through situations that were at best stressful so the knowledge that the source of that stress was one of those five people (perhaps that 1 our of 20) made the situation manageable. I could see that the situation was not a typical one and even though I had to be more careful or patient than usual in this case, it was not necessarily a sign that a bigger problem was afoot.
And I managed to get through quite a few situations that way without losing it.
Getting by, day to day, is not easy. It seems that we spend most of our time just focusing on the next step. We move forward with our heads down, watching for obstacles in that ongoing effort to just put one foot in front of the other.
Sometimes, though, we get the chance to stop that for a bit. A quiet walk in the woods is one of those times. Surrounded by trees, sheltered from the wind & noise and hearing little other than the gentle falling rain your mind wanders and lets you see things differently.
I started thinking about that 15-4-1 breakdown and began wondering if it worked in reverse. Of any typical group of twenty people who know me do:
- 15 find me okay;
- 4 find me a bit difficult and;
- 1 find me not fit?
Sure, I like to think of myself as genial and am certain that quite a few people do find me okay. As a successful professional I can also state with confidence that very few find me “not fit.”
But as for that group in the middle, the “somewhat difficult” crowd, I was left with the realization that a significant number of people in my life have likely me put in that group. And it was probably more than 4 out of 20.
Just what do you do when a realization leaves you momentarily broken? The first instinct is a mixture of disbelief and mild despair, “Surely I’m that person!” What to do? How about what I always do: give it time; think about it.
The wide expanse of a pond reminds you that, while details count, so, too, does the big picture. That ice–not safe. Got to take the long way around once again. Even more time to think.
A delay gives the chance to look back. The view reveals even more details. It’s such a relief when you get the time to let System 2 thinking make sense of it all. Logic and facts remind you that that we generally have good reasons for the choices we make and, if, in the end, what we have done makes us “difficult” in the eyes of some then so be it.
Is it just me or is it brighter? It’s funny how a painful realization can first bring despair but then, perhaps, a sense of freedom. It’s time to turn for home.
There’s work to be done; things to be mended.
And not all those things are “things.”