Nelson Mandela

One of the great heros of my life is Nelson Mandela. Why? I guess I’m just a sucker for quiet dignity. There surely were people more powerful than him, people who could and did imprison him for daring to suggest people should be treated equally. I can imagine his jailers dusting off their hands, slapping each other’s shoulders, and saying, “well, that’s solved that!” As the years went by, this diminutive man endured what was tossed his way, but did not lower himself to the level of his captors. He continued to speak the truth, even though the retributions for his actions must have been harsh.

I’ve wondered myself how I would respond in a similar situation. And I doubt very much I’d come anywhere close to his level. One of the advantages of following the lives of great people is it gives one an ideal to aim for.

Although the scale is vastly different, this winter has been a jail of sorts for us. I get most of my satisfaction from working outside, and tend to take on more and more outside projects. My latest was to arrange to have logs that were generated from some recent work along the powerlines hauled to a spot just west of my workshop. When I agreed to take this thing on, I did not have a clear picture of how much there would be. As my neighbor used his logging truck to deliver load after load, and the logs piled up, it became clear to me I was in for a big job. “No problem,” I told myself. “I’ve got all winter.”

I had made satisfactory progress on the logs up until we left for a vacation in late November. The weather was getting cold by then, but there wasn’t much snow. When we got back in early December, oh my, it had snowed. So much so, that I decided to wait a bit before getting back into the log project. Wait I did, but the weather continued to be difficult to contend with. As the days went by, I think I got more and more stressed. I began to feel like I was in jail. That I had a clear idea what I would have done had I have been free, but freedom was elusive. And as I thought back on it today, I realized I’d put myself is a zone where my exceptions of the break I felt I needed became lower and lower. I also noticed myself not taking on projects that were more doable because it would be like admitting that this weather wouldn’t break.

Other years, we’ve had a fairly reliable “Janaury thaw,” where we’d get a few days of warm enough weather that the snow would fall off the metal roofs of the buildings. Not this year. Day after day the weather stayed cold and the snow kept coming. I reluctantly climbed the roof a while back and removed as much snow and ice as I could.

Of course we are poor judges of our own physiological state. But I do have to admit I have been interested in trying to catch a glimpse of myself from the corner of my eye. We are wired up in interesting ways, some Nelson Mandelas, some Ted Soldans, and everything in-between.

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