Trying to spruce up the elderberry vodka which has been maturing nicely in the shadows at the back of a kitchen cupboard I turn to a bottle of elderberry cordial made in the distant memory of late spring.
Popping the stopper there is a very loud bang and the ceramic bottle top hurtles into the ceiling like a bullet while smoke curls from the lip of the glass like cordite from the barrel of a handgun.
There are consequences to the fermentation of wild berries mixed with a whole heap of sugar, left on a kitchen shelf in the full sun of the hottest summer on record.
I remember a sick note given to me by my compassionate GP when I was in the early clutches of depression. I told myself the black fog wasn’t so bad. I felt that having time off wasn’t going to help, rather it would just make me more miserable. That it would validate my own despair. I put the note in my top pocket and forgot about it.
Eventually, the crash came and it was much harder and longer than it might have been.
There are consequences when you refuse to listen to your own desperate cries for help.
Every action has a reaction.
When, in the midst of a crisis, we are focused intently on what might happen next we have forgotten about what we might have done to set the chain of events running in the first place.
“If you do that again I’m going to leave you”
This line, or something like it, spoken without a willingness to follow through creates an emotional chaos. When the same thing happens we immediately question why our tormentor can be so cruel as to treat us badly again after we explicitly said we wouldn’t accept it. Except we do accept it, and that has a consequence.
Even when we are not responsible for the pain inflicted upon us we are sometimes complicit.
It is the finest of balances to strike the right note between abdication of responsibility and self-flagellation. There is no value in pretending we are innocent and there is none in beating ourselves until there is no breath left in our bodies.
An acceptance of consequence is the understanding of our power, not an over or underestimation of it. It is the clarity to understand that we mostly have enough control to keep ourselves safe if we have the humility to accept help, criticism, and responsibility, and the strength to use our influence in our best long-term interest rather than for short-term comfort.
It wasn’t anyone else’s fault that I almost had a terrible accident with some foraged berries in my kitchen.
When bad things happen to us, instead of looking for someone to blame, or wondering how we might shift responsibility elsewhere, we might do well to look back over our own shoulder and realise what it was which started it in the first place and ask what part we might have played, and how we might do things differently in the future.
Accepting the consequences not only removes a huge amount of unnecessary anxiety but it makes us face the reality of our fallibility and, therefore, the sometimes terrifying truth of what it is to be human.