Problems of Abundance

It was a week from hell. Leaving the house to walk the dog, I noticed a huge crack in one wall of my house that must’ve shown up overnight because I’d never seen it before. It ran across the wall outside of my office for about three feet. My eyes scanned the rest of the wall and, sure enough, there was another two-foot-long crack below the window. My mind immediately grumbled about having more work to do on the house. Again!

Staring at the lines, I knew the repair would be a big expense and involve a week or more of workers around me, hammering and hammering for hours. My brain went into high gear listing all the inconveniences that having cracked walls would cause me. As the list grew, I could feel my gut tense up, my shoulders clench and my head begin to ache. The longer I complained to myself, the more uneasy my body felt.

When a neighbor appeared, I recited my list to him, feeling worse by the sentence. I continued about that damn wall, damn house, damn contractor until he walked away, full of my bad mood.

The next morning, while walking the dog and texting a message to a friend that I just could not wait to send, fearing I would forget what I wanted to say to her, I dropped my phone. I swore as I picked it up and saw cracks all over the face of it like the glaze in an old Chinese dish. I swore again, loud enough to turn the head of a passerby. The litany began, “Now I have to get a new phone. Can I do it online or do I have to go to a store? How much is that going to cost me?  This one is so old I won’t be able to replace it and I’ll have to learn a whole new device. How much time is this problem going to take? I hate technology!”

Then the tears came, full of grief for my loss. When the wave of emotion passed over me, I became aware of how tense my body had become. This was an emergency I had to deal with immediately. I was foolish to be walking and texting. I know better, but better isn’t always win. I hated myself. My intestines churned. I hated myself.

Rushing home, ignoring the cracks in the wall as I entered, I called a friend with tech skills. Luckily, he had a spare old phone and was willing to let me use it while mine got fixed. I sped over to his house, swapped SIM cards, and was back in business. . . until I had to figure out all the differences in this new phone. Swearing under my breath, I sensed a sharp pain in my neck. I took a deep breath, told myself how smart I am, and that learning a new phone would keep dementia away.

The very next day I bought a water-filled cooling machine. It wasn’t the one I wanted, but it was the one the store had in stock. Desperate to cool my office, I tossed caution to the wind and waved my credit card.

Setting it up tried my patience. Two ice packs needed to be frozen before putting them in the water tank. The tank was at the bottom in the back of the device, with a short piece of hose dipping a few inches into it from the machine. A cover over the filter had to be slid up to remove the tank to put water in it. It was a two-person job and I was only one. I clenched my jaw.

After filling the tank in the kitchen I rolled the cooler into my office, leaving a trail of water behind me. The cord was too short to reach the wall and I had to search for an extension cord. Finally plugged in and turned on, the dog ran out of the office, through the house, and into the laundry room across the garden and hid, as far from that machine as possible. “What the hell?” I asked myself, following his trajectory.

I took a bowl of water to where he hid. Returning to my office, I could hear the fan and decided it must have one of those frequencies dogs can hear but humans can’t. What else could have scared him like that? I sat down and began to work.

About half an hour later I became aware of how loud it was and how poorly it worked. It didn’t seem to cool any better than a fan and it cost three times as much. That thought opened the door to the Problem Department. “Dammit,” I swore, so angry I saw spit fly.

I slapped at the off button and began to line up my complaints. “It would not be easy to return it, if I even could return it. If I have to keep it, the dog hates it and won’t come into the house when it’s on. I should have bought a better unit. I should have used Amazon, they take everything back. I hate machines!” On and on I went until I became aware that my back hurt and my jaw was tight. Again.

I paused, took a deep breath, moved the machine into another room, retrieved the dog, and carried him, shivering, into the house. I showed him that the beast was gone and he settled back into his bed next to my desk. That problem was solved but I still had to deal with the cooler. I took a pain pill and moaned, “Tomorrow.”

When tomorrow came it began sweetly. The minutes and hours flowed where I directed them. Lunch with a friend was delicious and entertaining. Entering the garden to my house, I leered at the cracks and kept walking. Until I noticed the naked oleander tree. Wasn’t it full of leaves yesterday? Oh, dammit! Those damn cutter ants devoured another plant overnight.  The light went on in the Problem Department.

By the time I sat back at my desk, I’d worked up a pretty nasty headache. “One more damn problem to fix,” I growled. It was too early to settle myself with a glass of wine, or was it?

I decided it was and messaged the gardener to bring killer chemicals as soon as possible. It was another emergency. I took another pill.

The next day I had to pick up my Amazon packages at the mail store. There was one more blanket for the summer climate and a big Alexa to improve the music quality in my house. The traffic was terrible. I had forgotten that Friday is always heavier traffic. I should have waited until Monday but I wanted that device. “Traffic, damn traffic.” I stewed in the driver’s seat. “Look at all these trucks and buses and workers in cars. Look at all these one-person cars. They should fix the lights. They should find another route across town. What happened to the tunnel idea?” On and on until I became aware of the knot between my shoulders. Arriving at my destination, I took a deep breath, sighed, and relaxed my shoulders.

The first email I read the next morning was from my rescue friend offering to sell me his old phone. By then I’d figured out most of the new tricks it could do and accepted, flattering myself for saving money and being environmentally conscious.

That evening another friend told me she’d gotten her phone glass repaired for not much money. I took it there and she was right. “Ready in two days,” the woman said. “Lovely,” I said. Five days later I picked it up, repaired back to its original solid glass face. Now I have two phones.

I took the dilemma to the Problem Department where my mind bounced from giving it to a young person who could use one, to donating to a charity store, to keeping it in case of the next emergency. My nose started to run.

“Enough!” I said. These are all problems of abundance, not lack. That I even own a house is a gift. Yes, I worked to earn the money to buy the house and almost everything in it. I have a house to live in, all to myself, and one sweet rescued dog. How wonderful is that? 

Sure, it always needs repairs and maintenance, but every year I live inside it. Friends visit. Drinks and meals are shared. It is full of safety, comfort, love, and joy. I made myself aware of how lucky I am. I have more than most of the people in the world. That thought alone soothed my body like a cool breeze.

The next time I’m in traffic I will realize that I am part of the problem. I could be on foot or a bus. The next time I will remind myself that I am inside a car, not out in the sun. I have heat and air conditioning and a comfortable seat with a belt to keep me safer. How wonderful is that!  And someone else is complaining about my car being part of that awful traffic.

It took one bad week to see that all I have are problems of abundance. Those are the kinds of problems I can handle. I also noticed how my bad attitude can abuse another person’s good mood.

Most importantly, I learned how my mind can influence the condition of my body.

Like my house, this old body will have enough problems in time. I don’t want to suffer the damage caused by a bad attitude. That would be unkind to me.

I shut the door on the Problem Department and added a new entry to my shrinking bucket list: turn complaints into gratitude. There is the problem with abundance.

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Loretta Downs
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