Perhaps I should have taken this complaining thing a little slower. I’ve been trying to learn to live complaint-free since January 1st, and it’s now November 25th. I haven’t gotten the hang of it quite yet. I still lament, belly-ache, moan, and — yes, I’ll use the word — complain.
But it’s 6:50 a.m., and I’ve been awake since 4:30 a.m., and I’ve not uttered one word of complaint! Not even inside my brain! This must be progress! I’ve even read the newspaper, with its terrible accounts of burning police cars in Ferguson. I’ve checked Facebook (same, worse) and e-mail (mostly junk, very inoffensive). I’ve had a cup of coffee, another of yogurt, and listened to the dog snore. I gazed over the smattering of leaves that blew through the front door and now litter the hardwood. I meditated and breathed through the ever-present trills of rapid heartbeat, debating whether to take a pill but not cursing my lot in life.
So far so good: my morning without complaining shows promise. And how could I not go complaint-free in the face of the horrible news from the east side of the state?
And this morning, I have a further, personal inspiration. A man whom I have known for 45 years might well now have passed from earth to soar with the angels. John Rice, who attended high school with my brother Mark and squired me around through my late high school, college and graduate school years, proved himself a hero by first getting his son out of a burning house and then going back for his wife of 37 years, Joanie Voelker Rice, who has MS and would probably not have been able to get out without his help. They both collapsed from smoke inhalation. Joan moves closer to recovery every day; John’s family determined last evening that no further medical measures would be taken.
John taught me a lesson that I’ve sometimes forgotten but never lost: “What can’t be cured, must be endured.” He said that to me hundreds of times: through my personal quest to wean myself off of Valium; through the early days of college when I felt so estranged from my classmates; through a time when my mother and I did not speak to each other for some stupid reason that I can no longer reconstruct.
Though the trials which plagued me in those days seem ridiculously mundane in retrospect, the lesson that I should have learned from John will serve me in the last five weeks of this, my year without complaining. “What can’t be cured, must be endured.” And its converse: “You need not endure that which you can cure.”
Johnny, should you let go of this life and move into the next, know that you proved yourself, yet again, to be a hero. And thank you for all that you gave me, and all that you taught me, back in those days when we were both young and hopelessly romantic about everything, even suffering.