“Can you hear me?” screamed Darcy as she tried one last time to breathe life into her friend.
Startled, she felt a body rub up against her, followed by a familiar whisper: “It’s no use. She’s gone.”
After wiping the last icy tear from her cheek, Darcy stood up next to her friend, shivering, as the two little hedgehogs leaned into a howling winter wind.
“How many does that make this year?” Darcy asked, doing her best to keep her voice from cracking.
“I’ve lost track. Seven? Maybe eight?” replied her friend.
“Dammit. This has to stop,” said Darcy. “If the rest of us want to see spring, we need to bundle together at night to keep warm.”
Despite enjoying nothing more than to fight with their prickly leader, the rest of the hedgehogs didn’t argue when Darcy laid down the orders later that night.
The next morning Darcy woke up and made her rounds. She was ecstatic to see that all of her friends were accounted for. However, as soon as she finished roll call, chaos ensued: “I didn’t sleep a wink,” yelled one of the hedgehogs. “Me neither,” said another. “I can’t count the number of times I was pricked last night. Your quills must be made of iron,” screamed a third.
The hedgehogs knew what was at stake, but the very next night instead of sleeping in a pack, some of the hedgehogs crept off so they wouldn’t be annoyed by their companions.
The next morning the hedgehogs were met with the all too familiar sound of Darcy’s screams — “Todd? Todd? Where are you? Can you hear me?”
Just like so many times before that winter, Darcy’s plea was met with silence.
“How many of us do we have to lose before you listen to me,” Darcy cried as she turned towards the rest of the gang. “Sure sleeping together sucks, and I’ll be the first to admit that being pricked all night drives me nuts but not seeing Todd’s face this morning hurts more. Until the last flake of snow melts, we are sleeping together. End of discussion. If anyone doesn’t like it they can leave now.”
The rest of the hedgehogs exchanged glances, but none of them had the courage to move.
“Good. You’ve finally come to your senses,” stomped Darcy. “You know the drill — when the sun starts to go down I want all of you here so we can keep each other warm.”
Over the following days, the hedgehogs ate their breakfast in silence. They were grumpy. They were groggy. But they were all alive.
Finally, on the fourth day of sleeping together, one of the older hedgehogs broke the still air, “You know what? Last night wasn’t so bad,” he said. “Yeah, I agree,” responded another. “I didn’t exactly sleep like a bear, but after a while, being pricked a million times a minute didn’t annoy me that much.”
Months later, the hedgehogs were spotted playing in the green fields of May. Despite the coldest winter in years — every single one of them was accounted for.
My grandmother must have told me that story a million times when I was a kid. She loved it. Like clockwork, after she was done, she would light up a smoke and say — “Michael, the world is full of pricks. You’ll be a lot happier if you just accept that.”
The older I get the more I can’t help but think my grandmother was right — during our lifetime we’re going to experience our fair share of pricks. However, one of the keys to living a peaceful life is not only accepting this but coming to terms that each of us can be quite prickly too.
I’m annoying. You’re annoying. Everyone’s annoying.
I don’t know about you but this thought calms me. It makes me breathe a little easier. It reminds me to be a bit more patient and forgiving the next time someone does something that gets under my skin.
This is for the simple fact that there will come a time when what I bring to the table tastes a lot more sour than it does sweet. But I hope the people I care about continue to give me the benefit of the doubt and still offer me a seat.
We give a honk and flip the bird to the person who cuts us off on the way to work. Yet the next day we’re the ones who are doing the cutting.
We get shitty when someone messes up our order. Yet a few hours later we’re the ones who screw up.
Round and round these events go and instead of getting angry about it maybe the best thing we can do is remind ourselves that we’re annoying too.
Ask your partner, family, and friends about the things you do that test their patience. Tell them that no detail is too small. Make a list if you have to and hang it up on your wall.
Let it serve as a reminder that you are human too.
After all, it’s better to have a few thorns in your side come spring than it is to freeze to death during winter.