31 days of grumpy gratitude: coda

A kindly friend recently made me join a 6-week fitness challenge through our gym.

I say “made me” with some reservations.  I know I shouldn’t call her pushy, aggressive, insistent, and overwhelming, because she’s a girl.  And yet in fact she was all those things — but in a good way.  I said no at first, at least 10 times; she just kept asking, in her up-beat and good-natured way.  So eventually I said yes.  I’m happy to be doing the challenge, except when I’m not.

Last week was the first full week of the challenge and I went to the gym a lot, and I worked out a lot, and I even took a tennis class, and I wear this “MyZone” belt that tucks a heart monitor right up against my sternum and records my level of effort based on heart rate. I know MyZone is wrong, because whenever I work very hard it tells me I’m in the “yellow” effort zone when I know I’m in “red.”  So very red.  I asked my personal trainer to fix it for me, because MyZone heart rate zones can only be changed through the gym you joined (fascists).  He basically told me…. um, nah, I think the zones are right for you.  He seems to think that unless I keel over and swoon, I don’t belong in red.

I should have been super grumpy when he pushed back.  People around me who obviously weren’t working as hard as me — they just didn’t look like they were suffering as much as me — had their MyZones reporting them in the red zone, or even worse they were in the yellow zone while I was still only green.  So I should have been pushy and insistent and whiny and made him change my zone ranges.

Instead, I let it go because this thought came unbidden into my feeble mind:  he must have a lot of confidence in me, to think I can work this hard and just keep going. That’s kind of nice.

This is what happens when a person busies herself with gratitude and positive thinking.  It’s not right.

* * * * *

By the way, the best thing about wearing a MyZone heart monitor belt is setting your resting heart rate.  Strap it on; take a nap.  Best workout I’ve logged in the past 10 days.

* * * * *

By last Friday, I was exhausted, some of my muscles hurt to the touch, and I was dehydrated.  It was also the first sunny day in a really long time, and the world was glittering bright. Jesse asked if we could go to Barnes & Noble to spend a gift card she had gotten for Christmas, and that seemed like a fun thing to do.  Off we went.

The first display I took note of when we entered the store was this:


Very little can make me grumpy like a display of books about “mind, body, spirit.” Plus look at what they put right under the sign. Tim McGraw. he will teach me to TRAIN and TRAIN and OWN.  With grit.  Yeah, when I think of “mind body spirit,” TIM is who I think of first.

I circled the display like a dog sniffing a well-used mailbox post.  Look at this crap.IMG_4563

“Things No One Else Can Teach Us.” Hey, let me sell you a book in which I teach you about the things no one can teach you.  Heh heh heh. “The British Art of Comfort”? More like, the British Art of Passive Aggressive.  “An Introduction to Sacred Sounds.” That made me snicker, because I’m a toddler trapped in an adult body so I thought, “my butt makes sacred sounds.”


Mindfulness.  Now is the Way.  Embrace Your Weird. Aromatherapy.  Feng Shui.

IMG_4565Younger Next Year. Gratitude.  Daring Greatly.  Codependency. Dash Diet. On and on the display went, book after book of contradictory advice from gurus selling their guru-ness one copy at a time — do more, do less, diet, don’t diet, seek power, release power, be grateful for what you have, strive for more, accept where you are, make big changes, be rich, be poor, stay young, grow old.

None of this made any sense.  I continued my sniffing circuit and a subversive truth about the display became apparent. Whoever put it together… has a crush on the eff-bomb.



I shook my head and a thought came unbidden into my mind: I’m thankful that the person who laid these books our is jackass enough to make fun of the whole self-help scene. What a relief.

I finally freed myself and wandered off to the manga section to find Jesse. Next we needed to find a make-up DIY book.  I don’t wear makeup so I don’t know how to use 47 different smears and colored sticks and powders to shape-shift my face. A staff member led us to the “self help” section of the book store.

Jesse was ahead of me.  As she approached the correct aisle, she started to snicker.  “Mom, look.” Here is what she had found on display.


And this.


And this.


And this.


This was not a self-help section after all.  We had instead been taken to the “Trigger Jesse’s Tourettic Obsessive Compulsive Disorder” section of Barnes & Noble.

Worry not.  Sometimes triggers are so over the top that they become untriggers. And indeed, dear reader, that is what happened. Instead of exploding into pornographic, foul-mouthed bird song, Jesse just laughed and laughed.

Frankly, I think she felt less alone. I whispered a quiet thanks to the universe.

We ended our circuit in the teen section, at which we found this display.


Sigh.  I grew weary of all the gratuitous cursing.  Me.  What’s with all the asterisks? What, the asterisk makes a mystery of full-frontal displays of potty mouth? What, a person of Modest Mouth will think the tome on the bottom is about getting vaccinated together?

It was around this time that the dehydration, the sunny day, the glittering bright world, and all these stupid cursing books caught up with me, and the migraine hit.  It began its assault by removing useable vision from my right eye and replacing it with sparkly flashing auroras and gray space. My left eye was slightly better; I retained some forward vision in it.  Then the nausea and dizziness and disorientation hit. I had no choice but to act like a really creepy person, dropping my sunglasses on to block the flourescent lighting, and panting and muttering breathlessly to Jesse with my eyes half shut. “Honey I’m sorry but we have to get home now I need to get into a dark place quickly so let’s just go check out and I need to get us home before I fall apart even more can you please stop browsing and come with me seriously put that down put that down I don’t want to look at it don’t make me smell that please help me we have to get out of here.”

Had we been delayed by another 10 minutes, I probably wouldn’t have been able to drive home.  But we made it, I drank a massive cup of water, and I crawled into bed.  An hour or so later, I came to briefly and realized Nick’s end of school was approaching, so I called Anthony.  Huzzah! He was able to retrieve Nick from school.

I cowered in bed for most of the afternoon and evening, with sunglasses on like some crazy ass Hollywood dame until the sun set.  Meanwhile, Anthony made dinner, took care of the kids and dogs, and covered for me completely.

Some time in the evening, our 60-pound poodle Everest struck the next blow.  I don’t know the exact sequence of events, because migraine, but before she was done she had vomited in several places, shat diarrhea in Jesse’s room and the living room and the basement, trod on her own shit, and wreaked havoc throughout the house.

Anthony had to clean it all.  I lay in bed, helpless with slow recovery from a migraine, head throbbing and spinning, guts quivering, brain not working right, just suffering and feeling guilty that I couldn’t help.

At some point, Anthony came upstairs and said to me quietly, “Everest shat everywhere in the basement, like… Everywhere.  I think we should just pull up the carpet.”

I stared at Anthony from under the covers.  Thoughts came unbidden into my feeble mind.

I’m grateful that I had a migraine today of all days, so that I’m not the one having to clean up all this shit.

I’m grateful that this migraine seems to have taken away my sense of smell.

I’m grateful Everest decided to poo and vomit in Jesse’s room, not mine.

I’m grateful that we’re going to pull up the carpet in the basement, because it is old and nasty and I’ve been wanting to do it for at least two years.  The last few times we had doggy poo disasters in the basement, Anthony was content to have me shampoo it all up.  I’m thankful Anthony finally realizes that losing the wall-to-wall is a better option.

I’m grateful that I don’t have to shampoo the carpet to get the poo out ever again, because when you pour out the waste water from shampooing up dog poo… Oh, it’s ugly.  My eyes are watering right now, just thinking about it.

And so last Friday night I lay in bed, miserable and broken, and thought all these grateful things.

This is what happens when a person busies herself with gratitude and positive thinking.  It’s not right.