It’s happened again.
The south has gotten what our forecasters call a Major Winter Event and northerners call a nice day. The internet is full of the snickers from snow savvy people as they watch entires cities becoming paralyzed by an inch (or less) of snow.
My first reaction, as a southerner, is to be a tad defensive and to invite them to go running with me. In August. At noon. The problem is that life-sucking humidity doesn’t make for the same compelling video as pirouetting cars on ice.
My second reaction is to point out that I am writing this blog from my office , that despite being both a southerner and a woman I navigated snow covered streets just fine. But that feels like tempting fate. After all, I do have to get home.
And then I realized that this is a great example of something that often comes up with my clients. Sometimes clients will beat themselves up for not knowing how to do something. They’re missing a crucial life skill or social skill. On some level they know that as adults they should know how to do these things but they don’t. Maybe it’s dealing with money. Maybe it’s dealing with feelings.
They take that lack as more evidence of their unworthiness as a person. They must be defective. In the words of Bill Murray from Stripes, “There’s something wrooong with us, something terribly wrooooong with us.” But there isn’t. They aren’t fundamentally defective. The truth is, they’re just like southerners in the snow.
There are two parts to knowing how to drive in the snow. First, there’s information. You have to know what to do; for example, don’t slam on brakes. Secondly, you have to have practice. When you live in a a place where there’s meaningful snow once every five or ten years, there’s not much chance to practice. In addition, in the south winter weather usually means as much ice as snow. Ice is the great equalizer. No one can drive on ice – all you can do is ride it out and try not to overreact.
These people sitting in my office aren’t defective. They just missed out on something. For whatever reason, they didn’t have adults in their lives to teach them these things. The adults in their lives didn’t model good habits and social skills. I tell my clients that it is as if they grew up in a house (and school) where only English was spoken, and now they are down on themselves for not speaking fluent German. In the immortal words of Rocky Balboa while courting Adrienne, “Gaps, we all got gaps. You got gaps. I got gaps.”
Of course, now as adults they have the responsibility to fill in the gaps, to get for themselves the things they need but didn’t get. That often takes a little work. And a not so small dose of humility. It’s easy to let your pride get in the way, thinking that you should know things and not being willing to admit that you don’t. Like learning to drive in snow, you have to get the information they need and then practice the skill.
I had a dad and brothers who taught me to drive and to drive in bad weather. But not everyone has that gift.
If you didn’t get what you needed, cut yourself some slack. Focus not on what your gaps say about your worth as a person (for in fact, they say nothing.) Focus on what you’re going to do to fill in that gap.
Driving lessons, anyone?
My devotional book, Strugglers, Stragglers and Seekers: daily devotions for the rest of us is available at Amazon. Check it out!