Yesterday morning Jeanne said, “Were you complaining, just now, talking to yourself? I paused to reflect. I could not summon any memory of talking outloud but I must have, if my voice carried down the hall.
Her question started a train of thought that wrapped itself around the start of a poem and kept my fingers from the keyboard. That I could have muttered a protest so loudly that it seeped through the guest room door and let itself be known disturbed me. To have done so without realization compounded my consternation. I pondered all day; the seed which Jeanne had planted flourished and grew, choking my ability to articulate any decent understanding of its meaning. I kept asking myself the same question: How often does a running line of discontent lurk beneath the surface and poison everything I do?
On reflection, I realized that I might have been lamenting the difficulty which morning presents to my body. Stiff and sore on waking, I struggle out of bed and move through my morning routine with difficulty. In straining over the simple task of getting dressed, I must have cursed, or uttered some sharp judgment about the unfairness of the small burden which life imposes.
Later in the afternoon, Jeanne and I went shopping. When the clerk rang Jeanne’s purchases, multiple errors drove the final tally significantly higher than it ought to have been. Jeanne calmly asked about the discrepancy, and the clerk and she went over the entire transaction. In a few minutes, the mistake had gotten corrected and we left the store. As we made our way back to her house, I silently observed that I might not have been as gracious as Jeanne in handling the transaction. Even now, even with four years of dedication to living a life without complaint.
The morning light rises outside Jeanne’s kitchen window. Yesterday we saw a woodchuck in her back yard. The previous morning, a deer studied us through the window. It’s a beautiful place and I am happy to be here — for many reasons, not the least of which flows from Jeanne’s simple and unwitting query which led me to a sobering pause in this never-ending journey.
It’s the twenty-second day of the fifty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.