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Misery Loves Company


There are old sayings that I have always fully understood the meaning of, “A fox guarding the hen house.” Anyone that has had chickens knows they are easy pickings. “Hast makes waste”, that one took a few years of experience to realize that sometimes the faster you try to go, the slower things work out for you. But there are the sayings I have never truly understood the meaning behind, “Like a sitting duck” for example. It always seemed like a duck that happened to be sitting had the same defense capabilities as any other positioned duck. Last spring there was a duck sitting on her eggs when Eric was brush hogging a pasture field. The process of brush hogging is a far cry from a drag race, and the top speed is shy of three miles an hour. Considering the tractor is anything but quiet especially with a piece of equipment being dragged behind it, we never had a doubt that any of the water fowl would be anything but fine. Until one particular duck was sitting on a clutch of eggs. Keep in mind when operating a brush hog or any equipment, especially around our pond, there has to be as much attention paid to what is ahead as to what is behind, also watching the equipment for any odd vibrations, and listening for odd squeals or sounds. Long story short, the sitting duck didn’t do anything but sit while the brush hog ran her over. Eureka! That is what was meant. Ducks sit. They sit until the bitter end because they are like a “sitting duck”! That was a terrible and sad lesson to learn the hard way.


This last cold snap had me thinking about the saying, “Misery loves company.” I always took it to mean one of two things: Miserable people love to try to make the people around them also miserable. Thus, being sure not to be alone in their misery. I never understood that particular train of thought that misery was somehow like a sheet of brownies, if you gave it to everyone you would have less for yourself. Also, I took it to mean that if everyone is miserable and suffering together it was somehow more bearable. That somehow knowing that the entire county was dealing with an arctic single digit blast of winter time fun made it better. That meaning never quite fit for me either. If my hands are aching from the cold, if my toes throb when I get inside, it does not feel better or worse for me if I am the only one or one out of a million that has to deal with the cold. The fact that a neighbor was also cold, or enjoying a new hot tub didn’t make things any better or worse for me. It just makes me feel bad for my neighbor or wish I were a better neighbor, so said neighbor would invite me to join them in their new hot tub. Yes, perhaps I should be a better neighbor…I digress.


This week it hit me. When it was single digits over night and I checked the feeder pigs in their huts. The pigs were cozy. It was freezing outside but together with the bedding being thick and the heat from all of them, they were warm. Together they stayed, with miserable conditions, made not so miserable. Maybe misery loves company, because good company makes misery, less miserable. Maybe misery itself doesn’t love company, perhaps misery makes you love the company you keep when life can be miserable. It would have been a cold couple of nights for any man or beast to be on their own with no company to throw off some heat. With the right company the cold is less, the weight to bare is a bit easier, and the fact that there is in fact misery, is nothing more than a fact. It is not a lifestyle, a way of life, or a fate of anyone’s that doesn’t choose it to be so. It is simply a condition that exists, possibly for the fact that it teaches us who we can count on when things go south.


In the journey of life there are many cold nights behind us, and unfortunately many more ahead. There are many roads to walk on sore tired feet. The company that is kept on those nights is what makes them easier. The ones that you chose to have join you on the walk can make the tired feet seem a little less tired. Misery does indeed love company. But not in the way I once thought. It seems like there is obviously an implied word or phrase that was meant to be in place. Over the years the meaning has changed from something I never understood to something that makes perfect sense. I think the true meaning is misery makes you love your company. The lesson learned, be sure you love the company you keep when your nights are cold, your hands throbbing and your feet are sore. I need to find Eric, I could use a good foot rub.

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