Wind at Your Back

February 3, 2012

Last night I had a moment of recognition.

I was standing at a bus stop waiting for the slowpoke M15. A chilly and windy night, after just a few minutes I retreated from the open air to the shelter provided: in this case, two glass walls and a ceiling. Luckily the wind was coming from a direction that allowed those walls to block most of it. The relief was significant and I stopped shivering.

But then it occurred to me that it was still pretty frickin’ cold. A diligent breeze continued to creep in around my jacket. It was only the differential between my first, unprotected place and the relative calm of the shelter that enabled me to consciously recognize the reprieve.

It made me wonder just how often in life there must be factors working in my favor that I simply don’t notice.

I’ve had the thought before: bicycling along the Hudson, it’s painfully obvious when you’re riding into the wind. It happens about half the time. But in the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of outings I’ve had along that route, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually realized the wind was at my back. Regardless of the direction I’m traveling, I generally know I’m riding into a headwind, or simply don’t think about wind at all.

Statistics and a some empirically-derived intuition about weather patterns indicate it’s pretty unlikely that the wind is actually almost never supporting my momentum. Instead, it’s my own brain that simply thinks I’m on a roll, and doesn’t want to share credit.

So again I find myself curious about how many characters, circumstances, and personal talents or proclivities are at my back from day to day, quietly helping me onward and upward.

My guess is a lot.

Our weaknesses (and those of our friends, colleagues, family, location, personal situations…) seem to generally be heartbreakingly apparent. Everyone on Earth can name many factors that have worked against them in their lives.

But maybe there are just as many — or more — variables working for us, pushing us toward success.