Nine years ago this week, I attended an office Christmas party with my then-husband.  The party host welcomed us in gorgeous downtown Kansas City loft space belonging to his business.  We mingled with other attendees, me feeling slightly uncomfortable in my unstylish Bohemian attire and him blending with the other Oxford shirts and crisp trousers.  

I wandered into a little alcove or mezzanine, I can’t quite recall which but away from the clink of cocktail glasses and the murmurs of year-end comparisons.  My head swam.  I rested my wine glass on a window sill and gazed through a large pane of glass onto the urban darkness, with the occasional flash of a passing car lighting the landing below where I stood.

The host’s significant other found me leaning against a pillar.  We talked for a while, in low voices and more honest tones than I felt I could use with most of the party guests.  I told her that I had decided to do a blog about not complaining, in honor of my recently passed mother-in-law.  I expressed trepidation about going a full year without uttering one petulant word.  She smiled and made encouraging noises.  She asked if I had told my husband.  I shook my head.  

What’s more, I confessed, I’ve just spent four months weaning myself off of prescription painkillers which I’ve taken since high school.  He doesn’t know that either.

She grimaced.  She asked if perhaps I should tell him.  I shook my head again, with even greater force this time.  Then we heard our names being called and rejoined the merriment upstairs.  As we moved away from each other, she wished me luck.  

As it happens, luck did not materialize.  A month later, my husband left me.  I found myself lost and lonely.  Every day, I hammered out entries about striving to live in the way that honored my mother-in-law’s sweet nature.  I cried myself to sleep.  I stared unseeing at clients as they earnestly shared the stories of their own failed marriages.  When my duties to the foster children whom various courts appointed me to represent demanded my attention, I knelt low enough to engage their eyes.  I knew that every small bit of humanity could bolster their self-esteem.  I understood feeling worthless.  I lived it every day.

Over the next year, I watched my entire life disintegrate.  My friends stood by my side.  My son visited and turned my attention to pursuits intended to distract me.  Thus did that first year slip away without the attainment of my goal but with some semblance of sanity re-asserting itself.  I began to build a new life; a life without an intimate partnership, my law practice, or a traditional dwelling.  A life in 198 square feet on the banks of the San Joaquin River in the California Delta.   Neighbors, a job, volunteer pursuits, a community of people.  A book comprised of essays written, most of them, in what I once believed were happier times.

This morning I shopped for Christmas gifts in old St. Charles, Missouri.  As I paid for purchases in one store, the owner asked for my email address.  I handed her one of the new business cards that I recently had made.  “The Missouri Mugwump,” she read.  “What’s that?”  I gestured towards myself.  I told her about the book.  She looked back at the little white square. 

“My Year Without Complaining, that’s your blog?” she asked.  I admitted as much.  “How’s it going, then,” she queried, with an innocent raise of her eyebrows.  I laughed and acknowledged that it had been a very, very long journey.

And now, here I am, in my hotel room, hoping the snow stops so that I can see my family.  My son has texted from Chicago that a blizzard might keep him off the roads.  My sister just called from fifteen miles away, wondering if we will be able to connect for dinner.  I have a bit of work to do, presents to wrap, and a handy microwave in which to heat water for tea.  I’m snug, warm, and safe here in my little holiday oasis.  Nine years have passed since I set out on a path which has taken me more than two-thousand miles and a hundred lightyears from my Kansas City home.  To paraphrase Edward Albee, I’ve gone a very long way to come back a short way properly.  Now, in just nine short days, my tenth chance to go 365 days in complete cheerfulness will start.  I can barely wait.

it’s the twenty-second day of the one-hundred and eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Holiday festivities at Park Delta Bay, the RV Park & Tiny House Resort in which I live.

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