The Moment and
the Unexpected

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January 2013

I realize that there are many of you out there who live in places where snow is a regular occurrence during winter months. Countries where everyone has a spare set of wheels for their car with winter tyres for driving through snow. Places where inhabitants take to their skis and carry on as usual. Countries where schools don’t get closed and daily life thrown into chaos because a few centimetres of snow appear overnight. 

child in snowSnow, the Unexpected.

But that is really the point. Where large amounts of snow are a regular occurrence, life has adapted to it. For anything which we do or experience on a regular basis there will be provision for coping. It is the unusual and unexpected which creates problems. Resorts, like those in the Alps, which rely for their income on skiing in winter months and maybe summer alpine activities have their entire systems adapted to making the best of both situations. They can be almost 100% certain of getting masses of snow for their ski slopes in winter so they can afford to invest in the right systems to cope.

In the UK we get varying amounts of snow in some places, maybe most winters but not always during the same winter months. Apart from some northern parts, there isn’t usually enough of it to make it commercially viable and we can never be sure that it will come, or when. I have known snow at Christmas and snow at Easter but not both in the same year.

It is the unpredictability of snowfall in the UK that causes the problems. 

Since last Friday when the snow fell, I found myself in a state of indecision.  

The snow I could cope with – I have 4 wheel drive on my car and I also have legs and good wellies so I can walk in it. Getting around wasn’t the issue, the problem was knowing what others would do.  Each morning I awoke to two dilemmas.

First, what should I do about the horses – should I put them out in the field where they’d have nothing to eat (where I keep them it isn’t permitted to put hay in the fields) and would stand around waiting to be taken in again? The ideal would be to put them out just for an hour or two for a change of scene, but if it was a day when I was going to work I’d be unable to get them in again until after work. It wasn’t an issue over the weekend, but when Monday came…?

Secondly, what would I do about work? I knew I was due to run two courses starting  after the weekend, but would the participants be able to get there? If only one or two turned up it would not be viable to run it. I could postpone it but then I’d run into problems because it would overlap with the next scheduled course. Some participants would have re-arranged their work to be able to attend… etc.

By the end of the weekend this indecision was starting to get to me. I was waking up each day wondering what I should do. So I finally made a decision. Since the snow was still around, I could no longer be faced with that degree of indecision each day when I woke. I went to work and postponed the course.

Then I cancelled everything else for the week, and took some time off that I was owed so I could work instead on this website. Now I’m enjoying the snow’s presence because, once again, I am in control about what I do and when. I know some will say that I’m lucky because I was able to choose to cancel. On the other hand, it was only causing me a dilemma because that decision was mine to make.

The unexpected will always tend to create raised arousal because the survival instinct hasn’t anticipated it (otherwise it wouldn’t be unexpected) so raises our awareness in case it proves dangerous.

When the unexpected is pleasant we usually label this raised arousal as ‘excitement’. Big lottery winners who publicly state that they are going to keep doing their jobs despite their wins are allowing themselves time to adjust to their wealth by leading their daily lives as normally as possible, giving the survival instinct what it has come to expect and so keeping the arousal down. This allows their heads time to get used to their new situation so they deal with this life-changing event with as much calm as possible.

When the unexpected makes us feel out of control, we need to make decisions to regain it.  Had the decision about work not been mine to make, it wouldn’t have caused me so much uncertainty because someone else would have made it for me and I could just have accepted what was and gone with the flow.

So I now have a few days to be in totally different moments from those I might have expected.  Just now the snow is a gift, a chance to redirect efforts where they would not otherwise have been focused.

  1. Overcoming Anxiety
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  3. The Unexpected