Today, I went for a long walk with a friend. It was chillier than we expected, but still, it felt glorious to be outside, moving our bodies, and catching up. The sun was nowhere to be found, but knowing that there were warmer days on the horizon made the temperature feel just fine.
I always marvel at how warm 50 degrees feels after a long, cold winter, and yet how cold it feels when November rolls around. It’s all about the perspective, isn’t it? Perspective and expectation.
When the temperature begins its inevitable drop toward the bitterness of winter, the same weather I experienced on my walk today feels foreboding. It chills me to the bone. Yet today, knowing that spring is just around the corner, I welcome the wind and rain as a sign of the new life that is struggling to push through the earth.
So it is with all of our reactions. Our entire experience is often shaped, not by the present moment, but by the narrative we construct around it.
I remember a couple of years ago, getting angry at someone who cut me off in traffic. A few blocks later, we got stuck at the same red light. I looked over and saw that the passenger of the car was in some distress, vomiting into a bag. The driver was clearly upset, trying to comfort and soothe the passenger, while navigating rush hour traffic to boot.
In that moment, the context of the story changed my entire perspective, as well as my expectations, and most importantly my reaction. Instead of indulging my self-righteous indignation, I saw the driver as a fellow traveler, worried, preoccupied, trying to manage the urgency of the situation. How might I drive if I was anxiously tending a loved one?
My heart softened. I wondered how much unnecessary resentment I might have continued to carry had we not both been stopped by that light. If I had not been “reeducated” about what was really going on. How many other times have I not been compassionate because I didn’t have all of the information? And, frankly, isn’t this always the case? Do we ever have all the information necessary to warrant our judgement of others?
I’m reminded of that famous saying attributed to Plato “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Because, when we peel back all of our expectations, interpretations, assumptions, judgments, and narratives, 50 degrees is just the temperature.
Blessings on your journey,