I hate whining, at least outward whining. I have very little patience for whining from others–I like to think I provide a unique blend of tough love and optimism to snap my friends and acquaintances out of a pity party before it can grate at my last nerve. When I’m on my own, however, I frequently catch myself indulging in an extra heavy pour of whine. I like to think I’m just as tough on myself when I realize what I’m doing, but my response is usually 90% tough love, 10% optimism, and the optimism is often half-hearted. Luckily, this whining is typically inward whining–pity echoing inside my head and maybe finding outward manifestation in comfy sweats and unwashed hair pulled into a messy ponytail. Lately I fear my whining has been spilling outward to my web presence–particularly over on Twitter–so to those of you who keep up with me online…I apologize!
If this past week has taught me anything, it’s that whining really *is* a waste of time, because things could always be worse. I used to cheer myself up when I was feeling for the bottom of the barrel with the old addage, “Things can only get better from here.” After an unbearably stressful end to the summer which culminated in my decision to take a leave of absence from my graduate program and move cross-country, purging myself of most of my possessions in less than a month in preparation for this move, the self-pity had begun to come over me in daily waves, predictable as the tides. I was just starting to snap myself out of it in order to get done all the things one has to do when one decides to uproot and move three thousand miles in less than a week, using that “things can only get better” line when…
You know how you’ll be driving down the road and see some huge [box, tire tread, hunk of metal…etc.] in the middle of the lane and think, “Wow, glad I saw that and was able to swerve to avoid hitting it.” Yeah, well imagine it’s night, the roads are PITCH BLACK (because apparently much of the Bay Area is just too cool for street lamps), you’re tired and both of your arms are starting to ache horribly (because you just got your first flu shot ever, and a pneumonia vaccine for a matching–if more painful–pow to the other arm). You get into the left turn lane to head home after a long day of errand-running and
you strike something. But before you can even get “WTF?” out of your mouth, you’re up and over the curb/median thingy and heading towards some ridiculous shrub. You somehow manage to not overcorrect (thanks, Dad) as you steer off the median and back onto the road, make it through the turn light and pull off on the first side street you come to.
Fortunately, I was ok. Shaken up, sure, not to mention still tired/achy/all the things I was before this happened. Unfortunately, my car was not ok. I got out to inspect the damage, and found my driver’s side front tire completely shredded. Super. Fortunately, I have AAA. I called them and a tow truck was there within a half hour. Unfortunately, driver brought to my attention the trail of fluid–transmission fluid–my car had dribbled all through the intersection to its final resting place. He couldn’t even get it to shift into neutral. In his words, “You really messed your car up.” Gee, thanks.
So yes, the bottom of the barrel can always sink deeper. Here I was with less than a month to pack up an apartment full of stuff and donate or ship most of it, and I’d “really messed up” my means of transportation. Ok, I thought, I’ll get the car to a shop in the morning. I have comprehensive insurance with a relatively low deductible. I’ll get it fixed, and in the meantime I can start listing larger items (like furniture) for sale on CraigsList.
Not only can the bottom of the barrel sink deeper; sometimes once it’s sunk as far as you think it can go, you realize it’s a false bottom which will disintegrate beneath you and drop you onto another bottom even farther from the light at the top of the barrel. After the tow truck brought me and my car to my apartment, I stumbled inside, quickly washed my face and brushed my teeth, took some Tylenol for my aching arms, and collapsed into a deep, deep sleep on my bed. I didn’t even bother pulling down the comforter or tossing off the shams. When I woke up a few hours later shivering I simply reached for a nearby throw and wrapped myself in it. I was that tired. So tired, in fact, that I didn’t realize I didn’t have my phone on me until about an hour after I woke up the next morning.