I took a trip to visit my family in New Hampshire recently. The trip was both relaxing and enlightening. The relaxation came in the form of sitting with people I knew well enjoying their friendly faces and warm conversation. The enlightening aspect was learning about their past and just how much each of them have been through.
As usual, our conversation eventually shifted onto the subject of my stepfather. He was a major influence in all of our lives and quite a dangerous person when he was inebriated. However we’d all been through so much that most of his past behavior was more laughable to us now than anything.
We chuckled as we talked about all the really oddball and dysfunctional things he did throughout our life. It’s not that his antics were humorous, they were downright scary when he was drunk (and he was drunk a lot), it’s just that we’d all been to hell and back and were elated to be out of fear, and beyond his control.
One of the stories really made an impact on me. My mom recalled when my stepfather whipped a hammer at her. She remembers it whizzing by her head.
We all stopped laughing and sat there with our mouths open. I forget who said it, but the words spoken were:
“He threw a hammer at you? You could have died!”
To my mom, it was just one of the hundreds of “normal” events that happened during her relationship with him. That one event to her was like a drop in the ocean compared to what else she had been through in that relationship.
She could have died that day.
That realization struck me hard. It made me understand something at such a deep level that I will never forget it:
Just because it was a miss doesn’t mean it didn’t leave a mark
As far as I’m concerned, he did hit her with a hammer that day.
I realize that’s a bit of a stretch, but how close does danger have to be and how often does it have to happen before you realize just how much in harm’s way you really are?
What does it take for you to walk away from any dangerous situation? Not just an abusive relationship but anything that has the real potential of harming you?
I see too many people continuing to discount all the near misses in their life, not taking action to get away or prevent the next one that could actually strike them down.
There are accidents of course, and people lose their temper and do stupid things of course, but how many near misses do you really need to have happen in your life before you decide enough is enough?
My mom somehow survived 40+ years with someone so unpredictable that a simple shift in the wind could have determined her fate on any given day.
Don’t let the near misses be your “normal”.
Don’t let luck be your motivation to stay in any dangerous situation.
Don’t let the next near miss be the collision that takes you out completely.
Comedian George Carlin summed up near misses quite nicely. He said:
“Here’s a phrase that apparently the airlines simply made up: near miss. They say that if 2 planes almost collide, it’s a near miss. Bull****, my friend. It’s a near hit! A collision is a near miss.”
I don’t mind forgiving people for ‘one-off’ bad behavior, but if continuous bad behavior puts you in the “near miss” zone more often than not, it’s time to seriously consider just how much risk you’re willing to take to stay in what could be a harmful or even deadly situation.