I was talking to my mom this weekend about my last blog post. I talk to my parents frequently, and they often were my major source of comfort for some of the events at work that left me so frustrated.
But despite that, when we were talking about the post, my mom said, “I had no idea it was that bad”.
Which is exactly the point. Neither did I.
When you’re in the midst of an experience, you can’t see the big picture. You can feel what you’re feeling at the time, you maybe can add context if you have some history, but it’s still a very narrow focus.
And frankly, most of the time I was just too darn tired to even be capable of thinking about it in broad terms.
It wasn’t until I was no longer in that environment that I could step back, look at my cumulative experiences, and make connections.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between a few big terrible actions, and a lot of small terrible ones. Whenever films or TV portray something like domestic violence, they like to go for the big, intense, shattering kind of representation. Broken furniture, physical violence, calls to 911. Which does happen, and is utterly horrible for the victims.
But what we never see represented are the small insidious abuses, often emotional or mental. The kind of thing where if you complain about it, people will shrug, and say you’re probably overacting. And if it only happened once, maybe you would be. But it doesn’t happen once. It happens over and over again, little bit by little bit, until you’ve spent twenty years with someone hurting you, and you haven’t even realized it.
Managers who break things and shout curses are getting pretty rare these days. Because it’s a behavior that can get them in trouble.
But gradually devaluing people you don’t care for? So much harder to point a finger at. Even for the people you’re doing it too.
Until they have a chance to stop, and look back.
I don’t know what my point is exactly. Maybe just that I hope people give themselves grace for not seeing the big picture sooner. I hope we all get better at acknowledging the small things that are not ok. That we understand we do not owe it to anyone to keep excusing behavior just because it’s not as bad as something else. And that we can draw the line in the sand, anytime we’re ready.
What’s something you saw with perfect clarity, only with hindsight?