Monday, November 22, 2010
Crying Over Ovens
The day started in one of my favorite ways. Half asleep, curled up in a warm bed with the man I love, watching one of our favorite home improvement shows. It’s something we bond over, watching other people tear down and build up their own homes. But this day it bothered me.
The husband in the show was working hard to build the couple’s dream home, doing most of the labor himself, while the wife’s job was to hang out with a decorator, picking out furniture and appliances. Maybe it’s because I enjoy the activities the husband had on his list much more than the wife, but it didn’t take long before I was totally fed up with the wife and her decorator friend.
I know it was probably creative editing on the part of producers, but the wife came off as a whiny crybaby. She wanted the best of everything and thought nothing of ordering items that continued to blow their budget. The scene that made me physically get up and walk away from the show involved tears. After ordering restaurant quality appliances for their kitchen, her husband had finally stood up to her and changed the order to regular, good enough appliances. And his wife turned on the water works.
“Really?”, I said to my purely innocent husband, who only wanted to watch some entertaining TV before he got out of bed on a weekend morning. “She’s going to cry over appliances? After ordering high end sofas and twelve dollar a foot wood floors, she’s going to cry about a stove?”
As I stormed out of the room I was mumbling to myself, “Heaven forbid she gets a call next week saying her kid has cancer. Let’s see how important having the perfect stove is then…”
It’s something I fight a lot. This constant dialogue that runs through my brain, reminding me that there is always someone worse off than I am. I know, it sounds bleak and fatalist. Some might call it pessimism. But it’s something other than that. Generally I’m a pretty happy, content person. I would definitely fall into the glass-half-full crowd. But somewhere, deep in my psyche, ungrateful people annoy me.
Maybe it’s because I was raised in a large foster family and just having my own bike was a big deal. Maybe it’s because I saw the terrible family situations I could have been born into, but was instead blessed with parents who had such big hearts they took in other people’s kids. Or maybe it’s because I saw firsthand, when I was a teen, the poverty in Haiti, and how the basics of clean water and daily food should never be taken for granted. Somewhere deep in my brain there is a default setting that is constantly set on ‘at least you don’t have to deal with…”
Later the same day I was puttering around the house, cleaning up a bit before the weekend was over, and I couldn’t stop wondering why the woman on TV bothered me on such a deep level. It was just a show. Just a woman I’ll never meet. Possibly a perfectly lovely woman who was severely misrepresented. I think maybe it’s because I know some people like her and I know those attitudes and values exist in our country.
In this place where many families are losing jobs, losing homes, losing careers early when companies choose to force retirements, there are still people who will complain that the parking lot has no close parking spots left. This year, as food banks can’t keep up with the new crowds of hungry families who stream through their doors, there will be people complaining about the fifteen minutes extra they have to stand in line at an understaffed grocery store. Having the money to pay for their cart full of groceries should be enough to draw up some patience.
We have friends who have lost children to cancer, had diagnosis of autism, and been crushed by the anguish of infertility. Today, as I write this, a friend sits in a recovery unit with her teenage son, assisting him as he slowly recovers from a brain injury. It doesn’t seem right to complain that I have too many things on my to do list, especially when the list mostly includes caring for the happy, healthy people in my life.
I have to remind myself that it’s okay to be annoyed sometimes, when my quality of life dips a bit. That silly clock above the TV refuses to keep accurate time and I end up racing around so I’m not late to work. No one, and I mean no one else, in this house understands that picking up the bathmat and hanging it over the tub after a shower will extend its life and mom’s sanity. The dog’s nails bleed (again!) when I try to trim them and I spend more time than I’d like trying to get the stains out of the living room carpet. These are the things that can drive this mom crazy.
Even in our cushy life as Americans things aren’t perfect. And I’m the first to admit I’ll grumble a bit when the little things in my day backfire. But down deep I’m always aware of how good I’ve got it. When I realize I’m having that nothing-seems-to-go-right day I take a deep breath and give myself a pep talk, reminding myself of the things that aren’t going wrong. I don’t think it’s fatalistic. I think it’s realistic.
Most of us have more blessings than we can count, if we take the time to do the math.
This is the holiday when thankfulness is celebrated. Maybe we can capture a bit of it and stretch it out for the months to come.
Maybe it’s time to turn this holiday into a lifestyle.