Okay, I thought that I would manage to get by without writing or posting anything about the recent intense winter weather online. Because I don’t know about you, but I am oversaturated with discussions about the weather. I live in the Midwest, and cold in the winter is not actually all that newsworthy. Even “polar vortex” cold is not four days worth of newsworthy. So, I didn’t post about it on Facebook, or Twitter–I just tried to focus on the rest of life.
But then something happened yesterday. I got out of my car and it felt almost warm. Like maybe I didn’t really need my coat. Except that yesterday was not warm–the actual temperature was about 27 degrees Fahrenheit, plus a windchill. So what gives?
It wasn’t warm. But after single digit temperatures, 27 degrees felt relatively warm.
And that matters. So often in life, our experience isn’t entirely about what is actually happening. It’s about what is happening relative to what else we have experienced.
Here’s another example: if you have gotten A’s all your life, a B+ may feel like a “terrible grade.” But if you’ve gotten years of C’s–that same B+ is a great achievement. The difference isn’t your performance. It is how that performance stacks up to your past experience.
And why am I talking to you about temperature and grades?
Because this “relativity of experience” is something that happens all across our lives. It’s not just temperature and grades. It affects how we respond in relationships, what we do in the face of challenge, how we handle difficult feelings, whether we notice and savor the good things in life–the whole shebang.
This week, I am inviting you to try to notice moments when your own response to a situation might be relative. Is the irritation you are feeling actually about what just happened? Is it in proportion with the size of the irritant? Or could there be something else going on? Did that argument make you question a relationship because of a serious disconnect? Or because that relationship hasn’t hit any bumpy patches before?
I think that understanding how your responses are relative to other things in tour life can help you better understand yourself.
Here’s an important issue though–when I’m talking about “relativity of experience” I’m talking about your own experience. I’m not talking about your experience relative to others around you. We each have a unique path through the world, and your pain isn’t comparable to the pain others feel.
So what do you think? If you step back and apply the idea of relativity to your experiences, do they change?
Image Credit: “Glass Bubbles” by Chris Sharp via Creative Commons License