Fifteen years ago I worked with a woman who rarely complained. When she did complain, she’d apologize. Since the rest of us complained a hell of a lot more than she did, I asked her why she alone felt so guilty about it.
“My mother couldn’t stand whiners,” she said. “Whenever I whined about something, she’d make me stand in the corner for half an hour and count my blessings.”
At the time I thought this seemed quaint. Maybe borderline abusive. A depression-era trick to get your malnourished brood to feel better about their circumstances. But for some reason the idea stuck with me over the years, so that in trying times I would squash my own frustrations by closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, and ticking off a couple of blessings.
It turns out her mother knew something. Whether you’ve been whining or not, counting your blessings is a worthwhile exercise.
That’s why I’m using it to start this blog.
Let’s see. I’ve got a wife who loves me, a couple racks of pipes, enough tobacco to last another year and enough whiskey to see me through the end of February (if I’m careful). There’s the steady job which challenges me to the point of distraction, sometimes, but at which I’m never bored. There’s health insurance, which (sadly) in this country is a blessing worth counting a dozen times. There’s the house in which a Christmas tree is still lit up and clinging to significance. While the house is drafty, nearly 300 years old, a little tipsy, and modesty proportioned (to put it generously), it is nevertheless a warm place to sleep and keep my books.
There’s two small dogs, both of which insist on licking my face on the mornings they wake before I do. There’s two cars which are mostly rattle and rust at this point, but which still get us from a to b.
There’s this time we’re living in, on a world which feels a bit like it’s spinning out of control at present, but which is nevertheless still full of more goodness and pleasure than any other time man has known. This country has seen such prosperity that I can go to the local dump and pick up a serviceable rocking chair and a typewriter than someone spent two weeks’ salary on twenty years before.
There’s near-magical technologies rolling out all the time which I could never justify purchasing, but which create a next-to-free supply of last year’s leftovers that exceed my desires for entertainment and creative work.
There’s this internet, which lets me talk to all of you. It lets me listen, too, on those days when I’m not too distracted.
There’s my 1918 Steinert grand piano. It’s been through a few years of neglect. We got tired of towing it around with us so we finally just moved back to it. It sounds a little flat and hoarse, but it’s not above letting me tune and restore it.
There’s Bach, and hundreds of years worth of other music, some of which is almost as good as Bach. We’ve got a three year old ipod with a half-full hard drive that could play for months without repeating itself. There may be music on there I have never heard. I don’t have enough free time to check.
See, too much may have its own set of problems. As much as I like to grumble, though, I’ll always take too much over not enough.
The Wife has been encouraging me for some time to write a companion blog to her 50s year. She understands I have this need to move my fingers over keyboards. (It’s not really unique to me, given how many blogs are out there.) I get irritated by a lot of the same stuff she does, and of course I enjoy a lot of the same stuff too. There’s a reason that by the time I hit 33 we’d been married 13 years. (Yeah, you can do the math. It didn’t feel impetuous at the time, and experience and circumstance have borne this out.)
So if you’re a reader of her lovely blog you might like this one too. If not, I’ll beg your forgiveness and refund your purchase price.