Four years ago, the effervescent Jane Williams observed that I spent a lot of time describing the people, places, and circumstances about which I strove to refrain from complaining. She hazarded the mildly voiced guess that doing so tiptoed perilously close to complaining. I saw the wisdom of her thoughts and switched gears, for which I remain in her debt.
Now I study the people, places, and circumstances at hand and wish that I could throw this mission over my left shoulder and have me a good old-fashioned bitch session. I’m joking but just barely.
A video making the rounds on social media depicts a trio of sad women yelling at a clerk. One of them snaps, “Are you laughing at me? Don’t you laugh at me!” and my heart clenches. I can remember hurling just that accusation at a customer service rep in a Kansas City business. And you know? I think the clerk was laughing at me. I had gotten upset, and justifiably, but the vehemence with which I registered even my valid protest had risen beyond the pale. His laughter might have been mocking or it might have been nervous. I saw it as treacherous.
I remember how I felt in that moment. The error which I strove to protest cost me $200.00, which it took me about a week to recover. My life had fallen into a shambles — a true mess, not just a bad hair day or a summer cold. I barely dragged myself from bed each day. I could not even bring myself to ask anyone for help. I had no idea where to begin to salvage the tattered remains of my existence.
I should have been at home. I should have been in a shrink’s office. I should have been sleeping, or enlisting the help of people who cared about me. Instead I stood at someone’s counter screaming because I had no idea what to do and the guy smirked at me. I had had weeks on end of last straws and his giggle put me over the top. I felt just like the lady in the video which I watched in horror a couple of days ago. Are you laughing at me? Don’t you dare laugh at me!
I understand her anguish. I don’t laugh at people anymore. I’ve been on the receiving end of that demonstration. However innocently meant, that particular sound, in that moment, can sear a body to the core. I stood in that woman’s shoes once. I could never do that to another person.
This journey has broadened my understanding of life in immeasurable ways. I’m not complaining about not complaining. It’s done my spirit a world of good that might just make a decent human being out of me yet.
It’s the sixteenth day of the fifty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.