As my trainer Bethany puts me through exercise paces at the gym, we chat about one of my favorite hobbies—complaining. For the past several months, she has made a conscious effort to avoid the activity. “Do you know how hard it is to not complain?” she asks. I can’t imagine. Like parasailing, hang gliding, and scrapbooking, I’ve never tried it.
I take this as a challenge and declare that if I can go the rest of the afternoon without complaining, I’ll reward myself with nachos from Los Gallitos (with extra guacamole). It’s two-thirty. If I eat dinner early, I’ll only have a few hours to endure.
When I get home and click the garage door opener, the door stays closed. For several months, the door has mocked me in this way—just haphazard enough to keep me from calling someone to repair it. “Son of a—“ I suddenly remember my vow. I force a smile, make a conscious effort to not grumble, and park the car outside.
I enter the house to find my husband Gary, who’s been presenting flu-like symptoms all morning, in his recliner. He asks if I’ll go to The Purity to get him Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup and some juice.
A whine starts in my brain and threatens to erupt into foot stomping. (Just so you don’t think I’m heartless, this would be my second trip to the store for him today.) My tantrum is quickly squelched by the memory of my pledge. I like going to The Purity. And I won’t have to mess with the garage door opener because the car is parked outside. I happily go to the store.
Oh no. I’d forgotten about the demanding cat.
I think of Jesus and how He maintained serenity despite His many trials and tribulations. (Note to self: ask a theologian if there’s mention of a fat gray cat in the New Testament.)
During the past several weeks of our dog Lucy’s recovery from knee surgery, Little Mister has been sorely neglected. Instead of my usual annoyance (I have work to do!), I muster compassion and pet him as he rumples the paperwork on my desk. When he tries to climb onto the computer keyboard, instead of yelling, I gently pick him up and spend a solid five minutes settling him on the rug.
By this time, it’s three-thirty and I’m feeling quite pure of heart. I wonder if four o’clock is too early to eat dinner, but remember that’s the time for Lucy’s second rehab walk of the day.
After countless obedience classes, Lucy and I are pretty adept at our walks. However, her limited outside time during her weeks of recovery makes each walk a challenge. The resident blue jay taunts her, the kitten who has taken over the field in the back needs to be chased, the cat poop buried under bushes must sniffed out and eaten.
She’s very strong and singularly focused when she wants her way. Given the fragility of her knee, I have to be careful not to pull on her. I must be ever vigilant to avoid distractions and coax her with treats. A twenty-minute walk is exhausting. (Or I should say was exhausting until I stopped the habit of complaining.)
I take deep breaths and determine this will be the best walk ever. I evade the bird, kitten, and cat poop pitfalls while carrying on a stream of light chatter—telling her she’s the best girl, so smart and wonderful. We pass a guy sitting in his truck. I say hello and he offers the kind of wary smile one gives a crazy person.
At four-thirty, I receive a text from the house sitter that she’s not available over Mother’s Day weekend. It will be the first Mother’s Day in three years I won’t spend with my kids in San Francisco. Part of me wants to cry and thrash about, but the new well-honed saintly part suggests I’ll find another way to celebrate Mother’s Day.
By five o’clock, I’m on the phone with Los Gallitos. At five-thirty, I’m sitting in front of Judge Judy scarfing down nachos. By six I’m stuffed with a feeling of wellbeing—a combination of yummy food and a successful three and a half hours of avoiding the traps of self-pity and martyrdom.
I must admit this was an enjoyable afternoon. I’m thankful to Bethany for bringing enlightenment. I might even try this non-complaining thing—and definitely those nachos—again soon.