Thursday, August 20, 2009
Department of Complaints
"Every single person on this bus called Earth hurts; it's when we have shame about our failings that hurt turns into suffering. In our shame, we feel outcast, as if there's another bus somewhere, rolling along on a smooth road. Its passengers are all thin, healthy, happy, well-dressed and well-liked people who belong to harmonious families, hold jobs that don't bore or aggravate them, and never do mean things, or goofy things like forget where they parked their car, lose their wallet, or say something totally inappropriate. We long to be on the bus with the other normal people.
"This is the illusion that many of us labor under--that we are alone in our weirdness and our uncertainty; that we may be the most lost person on the highway.
"When we see clearly that every single human being, regardless of fame or fortune or age or brains or beauty, shares the same ordinary foibles, a strange thing happens. We begin to cheer up, to loosen up, and we become as buoyant as those people we imagined on the other bus. As we rumble along the potholed road, lost as ever, through the valleys and over the hills, we find ourselves among friends. We sit back, and enjoy the ride."--Elizabeth Lesser, from Broken Open
This past Monday I went to see Linda, the woman I visit once a week. She's been having some issues with being overreactive. There's the stereotype of the senior citizen complaining about the tardy postman, the raucous kids on the block, the deceitful nurse who steals a piece of silverware. Linda is not old enough to be daffy, but she definitely offends easily. I've been trying to encourage her to join a group to meet people and make friends. I suggested the local senior center. I went there once for an artists' open-studio tour and I was impressed by what a nice hangout it was, almost like a college student center. She went once, sat in a corner, and didn't talk to anyone. She joined a church, but then complained that they lost a check and discarded an old desk chair she had donated. She stopped going to that church and took up another religion. She'll gush about a pharmacy's deliveryman one day, then the next time we talk, she'll swear she's taking her business elsewhere. There was even the time when she was prepared to end her friendship with Chris, the physically-disabled younger man who helps her pick up food and calls her almost everyday, because he was hanging out with some people she didn't like. That worried me. She was cutting off all her lifelines. Would I be next?
On Monday, she acknowledged that she had been feeling reactive lately, yet she still railed against her homemaker, who accidentally broke her coffee carafe and didn't offer to pay for a new one. I gave her some advice that I should take myself--be more flexible, try being more patient with people. We're all imperfect and we're going to mess up sometimes--answer the phone in a huff, act rude, lose or break things that matter to other people. Just like she herself wasn't perfect, neither was anyone. You can't just dismiss everyone who at one time has annoyed or disappointed you.
I was cranky when I came to visit her, although hopefully I didn't show it. Maybe I shouldn't have tried to talk her out of her complaining. I am, after all, there to listen. And didn't I complain about my life, too? Didn't I focus on the negative more often then the good things? I bought a Gratitude journal a few weeks ago and have been trying to do a daily entry to switch my focus to the good things in my life.
I didn't write an entry today because it's the 100th day of a sweat-inducing heat wave in the Northeast, and I'm upset about my broken foot. The original fracture which was just beginning to heal splintered again. In addition, I managed to acquire a second fracture in the same foot. My foot looks like a beach ball and every step I take hurts. My mother advised me not to overreact--lots of annoyances come up in life, and you can't get upset about every little thing. In the grand scheme of things, my slow-healing foot is not a big deal, just a temporary inconvenience. Probably my foot is telling me to walk more slowly, deliberately, and stop flashing by people with my New York power stride. Where was I going that I was always in such a rush?
There was one good thing that happened this week. On Monday, Mike and I brought home our new kitten, Joey Thumbs (pictured.) You can't possibly find anything to complain about when she's jumping up on you and resting in the crook of your arm, purring like a new engine. I sent her picture around to friends and family like she was my new baby girl. Mike and I fight over who she likes better, but ultimately I think she's going to love us both and give us a lot to be grateful for.