I will never complain again if only . . .
Complaining makes me feel human. But some experiences ensure I will never complain about certain things again.
After my husband Dan died of cancer, I was in such a state of profound grief that my outlook on the world was deeply altered. The usual bitching and moaning of daily life silenced. Nothing could compare to the bleakness and the immensity of my loss. I thought many times, how does any of this matter? Any of it? The small ebbs and flows of our days, that we define ourselves around in our 21st century lives, felt meaningless and very small, from traffic to bills to exercise to boredom to politics to weeding to “I don’t feel like making dinner” to worrying about weight to family dynamics to fights with our spouse . . .
So, on the day (many months later) when I got irritated at Starbucks for not rewarding me with the correct number of stars for something I had purchased, it was a glorious day! It is ludicrously meaningless, but it meant everything to me—it meant I was healing, that my attention could be turned away from the awfulness of my pain. It felt good. It felt human. It felt normal. It felt like I was alive again.
To be human is to complain. It is completely normal to find that something annoys us, doesn’t meet our expectations, doesn’t go the way we want, or that we simply don’t like. To complain is to simply express those feelings about those kinds of things. I wish I could say that after Dan died, I became totally enlightened at how little it all matters in the bigger picture, vowed never to complain again and therefore never did. Instead, I take delight in indulging in a little bit (or sometimes in a lot) of bitching and moaning, because it reminds me that once again, I have a life in which I have the equilibrium and the energy to do so.
To be clear, by “complain” I don’t mean endlessly whining in a victim kind of way. I mean acknowledging that something is rubbing me the wrong way. Then moving beyond it by either fixing the problem if that is in my control, or fixing my outlook on it if that is the only thing I can control. In between, it’s okay to be human and complain for a bit.
That being said, I’ve since discovered that I can be so transformed by an experience that complaining is off the table. Forever.
Take Texas heat. This particular summer is one for the ages, but all of them here are hot. I made a conscious choice when we moved here to embrace, not complain. Beyond “wow, it’s hot” you will never ever hear me disparage the Texas heat. I was so cold for the majority of my years in Seattle, so relentlessly chilly in my bones that I never want to feel that way again. All those years longing to my core to feel warm have left a deep mark on me. Those Pacific Northwest summers, waiting for the sun to come out, for it to warm up enough to put on shorts; just last August in Seattle on the golf course my fingers and toes were freezing in 58 degrees and drizzling conditions-- I will never take heat for granted!
Which reminds me of something I have been pondering lately, as I navigate my seemingly never-ending broken wrist/sprained ankle adventure.
At almost eight weeks, I’m still not exercising in any significant way, golfing or able to lift more than 3 lbs. I’ve barely resumed driving. But now I can manage pretty well in the kitchen. And what keeps sticking in my mind is, “I will never again complain about chopping veggies.”
The desire to cook does not come naturally to me, although I love healthy eating and the end result of creating a delicious meal. And I love veggies! But chopping, it’s always felt like a bit of a dirge. It’s not that I complain out loud much, but I know myself well enough to know that I will find ways to avoid it, to alter dinner plans, to do the bare minimum if I can and to bring less than positive energy to a ritual that maybe should be celebrated instead.
I’m feeling so aware of what I’ve (temporarily) lost, so very aware of the delicacy and fragility of the ways of life we take for granted. I want my strength, my mobility, my painless ease of use of my wrist back. I want to not think twice about pulling out a chopping board, grabbing a bowl, loading and unloading the dishwasher. I want to whip out the knife and chop away without experiencing pain or stressing my wrist. I want my pain-free, ease of use in all the ways in which I used to take my wrist for granted. I know that golf will happen again, strength training will happen again, swimming, weeding, my wrist will come back to full strength as it (mostly) did for my right hand.
But still . . . I keep coming back to “I will never complain about chopping veggies again, if only my wrist heals.” It has become a crucial marker of some kind in my progress, and I’m embracing it.
I love that as humans we get to indulge in complaints. I love that it is part of what makes us human. I love that it’s impossible keep a more “meaningful” perspective on the more important things in life the majority of the time, precisely because of our humanity.
But what I love the most is that life always finds ways to remind us that complaining is meaningless in the bigger picture. We don’t tend to choose these life-altering experiences that bring such perspective, but it is entirely our choice to choose how we wish to apply that meaning to our lives moving forward.
I will never ever complain again about chopping veggies if only my wrist heals and I can just use it again normally.
And I cannot wait!
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