One of the reasons that I strive not to complain involves my unswayed belief that if I live joyfully, I will live joyfully.
That’s a corollary of the Corinne Corley / Kati Behan Theory of Social Contact, which goes like this: The more you go out, the more you go out.
Admittedly, the Theory of Social Contact evolved from a conversation held between two people undoubtedly suffering from self-induced cognitive impairment, but as a theory, it holds a considerable amount of water. We learned (my cousin Kati Behan and I) that if we continued to paddle in the pool of potential amusing encounters, the stream continued moving and we drifted along with the current, occasionally dipping low enough to catch a few little fishies, take nourishment, and continue swimming.
Moving forward in life, I developed little side theorums to go with the original theory. These included the dictate that Waitresses Come When You Light Up A Cigarette, now obsolete because smoking has been banished from restaurants. I guided my early dating life by the original mantra, Men Are Like Streetcars, If You Miss One Another One Will Be Along In a Minute. That hasn’t worked in years, but it was a useful guide when I was twenty.
When it comes to the joyful bit, though, I find myself having to adjust the variables and tighten the controls in order to gather enough reliable data. The problem centers on my cussed weirdness and established inability to squeeze my polygon contours into the diminutive round hole tendered for my use. In short, the only real way that I can be joyful with any reliable consistency is in isolation, an odd-shaped peg lying on a shelf not really trying to fit into anybody’s idea of a life.
But then: I’m sitting at my dining room table, surrounded by the jumble that is my downsizing-in-process. And I’m eating a one-and-a-half inch rectangle of Baklava which I’ve meticulousy gauged for weight-loss documentation. I sip orange-mango green tea, absent-mindedly petting the head of the old dog. I focus my old eyes on a Kindle novel, one in a series which I’ve been obsessively reading to get me through some blue days.
And I see this:
“[Y]es, I own a house and there is stuff in there which I purchased, but I only bought a sofa and put it in my living room because I know that’s what people usually do with sofas and living rooms. Almost every choice I made, I made in order to bring myself closer to average. The whole place is beige and white and magnolia and chrome and so blandly inoffensive it’s like a museum of my opposite.”
From This Thing of Darkness, by Harry Bingham.
I slump back on the chair. I read the words again, holding them closer to my eyes this time, just in case I got lost in the sentence and they don’t mean what I think they mean, or say what I think they say. But no, I have it right. I’m reading a novel about a woman who considers herself just as different from the rest of the world as I do; a woman who has realized that she is not, and will never be, what other women are; who strives to at least appear to conform, at least in certain areas, accumulating home furnishings and clothing for the sole purpose of playing a part that might, eventually, help her to matriculate among other humans without seeming to be stark raving mad.
I’m not sure why knowing that someone can conceive of a character who feels as much an outsider as I do cheers me, but somehow it does. I think perhaps I might be able to go to work tomorrow. I might be able to summon a smile, and thank the person who holds the door for me. I’ll mail a package, and answer phone calls, and eat something for lunch without spending a half an hour obsessing over whether I’ll gain an ounce if I do. Later, when I’ve done whatever I can do to advance the causes of my clients, I’ll drive myself back home. I won’t even worry about the people who glance into my car. Let them think what they will. I’m going to be joyful regardless.
It’s the seventh day of the forty-fourth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.