We Adaptable Humans and the Gulag Mind

Deer trials in the woods behind the farm
Deer trials in the woods behind the farm

“It’s so warm out”, I said to Wendy at the post office, “20 degrees.”  The man in line behind me had a different opinion.  “It’s not warm”, he said loudly, “don’t let anyone fool you, 20 degrees isn’t warm, ever!” But after so many days of below zero weather,  for weeks and weeks, 20 above does feel warm.

We laughed about it, but it got me thinking.  About how adaptable we human are.  How we can get used to almost anything and how quickly.   And that’s a good thing because it’s how we survive. But sometimes, when it’s not really about survival, we get used to living a certain way and adapt and forget there are other ways to live.

For years, when I used to restore houses for a living, I worked all the time, seven days a week.  And I forgot how to take time off.  I forgot how to relax unless I was exhausted from a days work and having a beer or glass of wine at the end of the day.   I didn’t take vacations or even little over night trips.  It was as if I was afraid to stop working, like I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.  Back then, I couldn’t even sleep late (something I now love to do on a Saturday or Sunday morning) I’d get anxious being in bed after 7am.

For years I lived this way, got used to it.  As if I didn’t have any other choice.  I actually think I forgot that I could change it.  That there might be another way to live.  This is what I mean when I say that sometimes humans can be too adaptable.  I mean if you really have no choice, like you’re in the Gulag or something, then it can save your life, but if you’re living in upstate NY in the 21st century and thinking “Gulag” when you get up in the morning, somethings wrong.  (Although many mornings this winter when I get out of bed and it’s zero or below outside again, I think of Eugenia Ginzburg’s memoir “Journey into the Whirlwind” and am grateful for my hot shower).

So today after another 12 inches of snow fell last night, it was 20 degrees when we went out to feed the animals.  “It’s so warm”, I said to Fanny and Lulu, knowing they’d agree with me, and gave them some carrots.  I’ve obviously adapted to the weather, and that’s a good thing.  But I’ve also adapted to the idea that sometimes you just have to get away, take a break from life’s routines, even if it’s only for one night.  Which is just what Jon and I are doing today.  Making an overnight getaway to our favorite Inn in Vermont. Because, thankfully, we do have a choice and we know it.

3 thoughts on “We Adaptable Humans and the Gulag Mind

  1. Beautiful blanket. Have been a “lurker” on your site for several months (in that I don’t sign up for email notifications). Just come in every once in a while to see your beautiful work. Seeing your imaginative work helps me believe I have some imagination inside me somewhere! Please continue.

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