One of the many benefits of having friends is that they call you when they need to complain. I can be a fairly good listener. I often wash my dishes while a friend is on a complaint loop, but I mute my phone so they don’t hear the running water.
Everyone needs to vent frustration. When I spend the time to listen it means I can call with my own complaints when I’m sick of my own silence.
In times like these, it’s easy to make a list of complaints.
It’s cold. We thought the pandemic would end last January, and in June, and then again in September. Americans put our money in the stock market and now we’re worried we might lose our gains. We can buy everything we want online, but nothing will arrive by Christmas. People are dying and we’re not supposed to attend group gatherings, including funerals.
When a friend travels down a trail of woes, it is difficult to resist the urge to give advice or offer “the bright side.”
However, when I hear gems of wisdom from my own mouth, I sometimes realize it’s good advice I should follow, even if my friend stays stuck in their grump.
“You’ve just envisioned the possible worst-case scenarios,” I heard myself saying recently. “Now stop for a minute and list 10 things you’re grateful for.”
A long pause followed, but my friend was able to meet the challenge.
As my friend continued to empty his bucket of sorrow, I made some notes on scratch paper:
I’ll be with my family for Christmas. My mom almost canceled the gathering. She’s on a first-name basis with the Schwann’s delivery man and most of her toiletries are delivered to the door in cardboard boxes. I’ll take two COVID tests before joining our family for a gift-exchange — outdoors near the fire pit. We can take off our masks indoors only when we’re eating. But we’ll be together. I like my mother. I’m glad she’s taking care of herself so we can all be together next year.
I love my job. My car starts every morning. When I scoured online for Black Friday sales, I realized I didn’t need anything. My cholesterol is within a healthful range. I have friends I can call when I’m feeling low.
I planted white clover seed in the bald spots of my lawn, just before it rained. I have a boss who will text me at 8 o’clock at night to tell me to go outside and look at the moon.
The days are getting longer.
I failed to solve my friend’s problems that night, but my own outlook brightened. We’ve passed the winter solstice and soon we can add summer heat to our list of complaints.
Time marches on
On Christmas Day, we’ll get 16 extra seconds of daylight vs. the day before. Tack on an additional 20 seconds Sunday and then we’ll really be on a roll. By New Year’s Day, each spin of the earth will bring us half a minute more light before sunset.
I found a very cool “time and date” chart at https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/usa/san-francisco that lists the amount of daylight for each day on the calendar. Once we get to mid-March, each day increases by about 2 ½ minutes.
Thank you Costco for putting that giant rack of spring-blooming bulbs along the giant walkway through your ridiculously spacious warehouse. I’m thankful I remembered to put bulbs in the ground. This week the white tips of daffodils popped up from the black soil.
The pots of bulbs are in a row in front of Dad’s black convertible, so I can check on their progress during my spare 30 seconds of daylight next week. In mid-February, just 2 ½ months from now, we’ll have a sunny day and I’ll slide the top off the convertible and drive to the Sacramento River. The almond orchards should be in full bloom by then.
Even the squirrels are giddy to see the white tips of the bulbs pushing up from the black, wet soil. I wasn’t even miffed when the squirrels “unwrapped” the bulbs like early Christmas gifts. The tree rodents love munching tulips and crocus, but they hate daffodils. I got a good laugh envisioning them digging and digging, only to abandon my bulbs in disgust. It was no problem to push them back into the wet dirt.
When the frost came, I remembered to cover my plants with towels. I had noticed it was cold because I was outside looking at the moon.
On Christmas, my family will be together.
“Of course we will all gather for Christmas,” mom said cheerfully. “Just make sure you’ve been tested twice that week and haven’t been anywhere or seen anyone for 10 days.”