I was thinking today, as I dropped both children at their lovely nursery school and went off to have my teeth cleaned and polished, that despite the total chaos that my life sometimes appears to be, I am actually incredibly fortunate and I don’t know what the fuck I’m whining about.
In the year and a bit since I had One I have become completely addicted to a Hip Hop dance class. It’s run by a very fierce, fly guy who has absolutely no interest whatsoever in one’s aching, ageing bones and whose sole purpose in life is to blast your eardrums out with very loud music while forcing you sweat your ass off doing the kind of moves that scantily clad ladies half my age do in rap videos. The routine is never the same twice (so, not really a routine, more of a mental and physical assault) and it’s the only time in my life that I have never been bored by exercise. I may lumber around like an uncoordinated elephant, but I’m not bored! The best part about it is that I have lost the thirty, yes you read it right, THIRTY pounds of blubber that was sitting fatly on my frame after I had the baby. That was after I had the baby, too. That number didn’t include child, placenta, water weight, ugly shoes etc.
Anyway, there was, for the longest time, a sprightly and friendly Brazilian girl who was always in the front row of the class. She had the choreography nailed down each and every time and her groove thing shook in a distinctly un-Anglo way that set her apart from the rest of the class. She was there five days a week. It was her religion. And then one day she simply disappeared. I wondered where she was, but nobody seemed to know and it isn’t the kind of place where people talk much to each other. The studio is all business – after a year and at least $1000 of my money I doubt the teacher knows my name and he rarely acknowledges me beyond a scowl (occasionally) when I stumble (often). You come, you pay, you sweat, you leave.
So I was at Circuit City the other day, desperately searching for a portable DVD player with the longest battery life (see previous post for details) when who should I run into but the lovely Brazilian lady looking rather less svelte, in fact distinctly grey-faced and chubby. I greeted her warmly and asked her where she had been and why hadn’t she been to class? She told me she had gotten pregnant, she was 22 weeks along and she didn’t feel like she could jump around anymore. I certainly related to that! I asked her about the pregnancy, how she was feeling, about her doctor, how her parents felt, was she still working? Bit by bit I pieced together that this young woman was working as a nanny for 3 kids while pregnant and was unsure whether she could continue when the baby was born, had no help from the father, was thousands of miles from her own family, had no money, was afraid, had no home of her own and felt pretty crappy most of the time but was keeping a brave face on it.
What was she going to do? How was she going to cope? I didn’t know. Neither did she, but my guess is that she just would, so many women just do.
Then later that day I retrieved a breastfeeding pillow I had lent to my hairdresser’s daughter to pass on to another friend who had just given birth. The hairdresser’s daughter is a young single mom who is trying to work, study, care for her baby, attend to her c-section scar that won’t heal properly, and deal with the fact that the father of her baby won’t help her financially and has just gotten another girl pregnant. Wow!
Cue sudden rush of love and deep appreciation for Husband.
Reeling from a bit too much direct access to real life I started surfing the net (junkie) but ended up reading about mothers whose children are dying in scores of diseases that are totally preventable, but they don’t have access to vaccines because there is no money. Hmm. That’s a bit different from choosing not to vaccinate because we’re worried that there might be something icky in the compound.
And what about those women who walk miles, barefoot, clutching a preciously guarded plastic bottle to fetch dirty water for their children to drink.
I tend to grizzle if there isn’t enough ice in my cocktail (and I’m English!).
I wasn’t feeling much better about myself after all of this. In fact I am beginning to come face to face with the fact that I am a big fat spoiled baby and I have it pretty good. My two beautiful (if not always beautifully behaved) children are healthy and absurdly cheerful. Husband is loyal and kind and he works very, very hard, not only at his job, but also at home and at living with me which is no mean feat. And water comes out of my taps in both hot and cold. We have access to great medical care, to healthy, plentiful food, to incredible natural beauty and weather, the list goes on.
I have the luxury of making choices about what I do, and it is, ironically, this that gives me the opportunity to reflect upon the meaning of my existence and therefore to question it and ergo to complain (again, I’m English!).
If I was just trying to survive I wouldn’t have the time to worry about these things or the energy to complain about them.
On the other hand I often feel that I don’t have enough time to think at all because I’m so taken up with parenting that what is left of my mind is squashed into a very small space and only given tiny outings in the downtime between the demands of my family.
If I had more time would I complain more or less? Would I have better solutions or fewer problems? Hard to say.
I’m not quite sure where that leaves me.
Grateful but still complaining? Is that allowed?
Should I be complaining on behalf of other people who are too tired or beaten down to do it for themselves (nb this is not always helpful and can be monumentally arrogant)?
Aware of the plight of others but still irked by the peas under my feather bed?
If one takes steps to alleviate the pain of others does that mitigate one’s own suffering, or just give one license to moan?
There is no neat ending to this one.