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When Things Change, It’s Sometimes Hard to Sense the Direction

·320 words·2 mins
Relationships Survival

Looking at photographs taken at twilight, I can never tell if it’s sunrise or sunset.

Not sure if this is just me.

I can tell a change is taking place — and usually a beautiful one — but the direction eludes me.

Sometimes my gut feelings about people and places work that way, too. I can usually tell when a situation is iffy, but without context, I never know if something is getting better or worse. I just see a suboptimal situation.

It’s wild, isn’t it, how an inspiring turnaround can look so much like something that’s crashing and burning when you strip the directionality from it?

It makes me think of watching videos completely in reverse. The rewind makes everything surreal. Plants crumble and crawl back into the earth. Rain climbs up into the sky. In rewind, doctors make patients sick. Very few people eat; most of them throw up their food. In rewind, we continually harvest whatever we need from the trash. Everyone gets younger and younger until we return to our mothers. (Makes me think of Time’s Arrow.)

It’s so obvious in scenarios like this, which way the tape is playing. But I’ve found it harder to tell when it comes to people. It’s especially hard to tell the direction an iffy situation is moving in when you step into a new one, as a third party. When you’re not acquainted with the people involved, their back stories, or what is “normal” to them.

But sometimes it can be tricky, too, when you’re one of the key figures in the event and have a bit more historical context, to discern which way the momentum is heading and what the final outcome will be. Is this rough patch a temporary dip? Or is it something that’s going to devolve into something even worse?

You can feel things shifting underneath your feet — but which direction are things moving?


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