steep hills . . .

by mulberryshoots

DSC_0099I was talking with G. this morning about how sometimes we go through long periods of what feel like hard times. And that life is not simply black and white between happy and unhappy but often grey for much of it.

I know that one of my daughters, who seems truly happy now, went through years of isolation and difficulty, personally and professionally. Another has been having her ups and downs as well. As for myself, my clearest memory as a young child was wanting to hide in the kitchen cabinet under the sink of the big house where lots of us were staying in Shanghai while fleeing from Japanese and Communist armies who were fighting each other at the time. The noisy company of all my cousins was something I withdrew from to be alone in order to have peace and quiet. This desire has been a strong feature of my outlook on life, counterbalanced sometimes by loneliness. There have also been long stretches of time where I worked hard in stressful environments that served almost as a refuge from an unhappy first marriage. For much of my life I’ve noticed that unhappiness has been my friend rather than my enemy.

Anyway, when I was relating this to G., he said, “steep hills make stout hearts,” to which I laughed out loud, because if that were true, mine could be pretty big by now. And, come to think of it, I think for the first time in awhile, it has been growing. At least enough to introduce more ambiguity into the mix of my conclusions about people’s motivations. More of the grey that I see around me rather than just “good guys and bad guys.” One offshoot of this I’ve noticed, is becoming more comfortable not getting my way all the time, and letting it slide off of me rather than resenting it.

More and more often, I see unusual personality traits that we all have as being more the norm than not. Rather than thinking that there is actually something as “normal behavior,” I have begun to think that most or all of us are actually abnormal in one way or another–a refreshing new normal of the 21st century in which we can just be our quirky selves. For example I have a friend who puts his cash into his wallet, the bills in ascending order, each of them facing the same direction. Another’s attention skips from one thing to another to something unrelated, then back again. Stubbornness in someone which suddenly appears when what you are talking about has to do with business, not friendship. People seem to be standing up for themselves in more assertive ways all the time, more directly illustrating that what I thought might have been going on, wasn’t at all what they were thinking. Have you noticed this too or is it just me?

So, the question of the day is whether steep hills really do make stout hearts? I’m not sure. You tell me.