Today I opened a new pack of gum and tried to pluck out a piece, but was rewarded only with the paper tearing. I tried this three or four times until I had a small pile of gum wrapper confetti on my desk, and still no gum. In my head I angrily composed a letter to the gum company about how hard is it to supply consumers with gum they can access and chew on? Would it kill them to make chewing gum the ONE SPOT IN MY DAY THAT WASN’T AWFUL?
Obviously I realized I was on a real tear (pun!) and was being overly dramatic and ragey before I got around to looking up a complaints hotline. In my head I simply added the hashtag #firstworldproblems to my rant and moved on.
But I’ve been thinking about all the little things in the day that can truly ruin what’s going on in life. How absolutely absurd that is, but almost unavoidable. Mostly it happens when I’m conditioned to enjoy myself.
I was staying at a hotel the other week when a series of small annoyances happened. Let me list them as these slights are too fresh to be forgotten:
- I found a large ant crawling across the carpeting and had to kill it.
- The lamp next to the couch was out.
- One of the lamps in the vanity over the sink was out.
- Housekeeping was bothering me at NINE AM (ON A SATURDAY)
- The WiFi cut in and out and I couldn’t finish my Bollywood movie (Diwali) and had to watch the REAL TV. (It honestly took me about ten years to figure out where the mute button was on the remote too. I kinda forgot how those things work.)
In the end, when I checked out of the hotel I didn’t mention any of these problems at reception. One, they didn’t ask. And two, I’m petty, but I’m not so petty that I want other people to actually know I’m petty.
But in the moment, on Saturday night, let me tell you something. I was almost incensed. I was so upset that I couldn’t even go to a damn hotel and have a nice time. What? Is it so much to expect my hotel to be insect free?? To have all light bulbs functioning?? To have actual working WIFI???
I don’t have to go to a hotel to be angry about small things though. I can’t be the only one who stacks things on a shelf or on a table and expects them to stay in that exact pose no matter how precarious. I can’t be the only one aggressively bending book spines because the pages turn each time I get up to get myself a snack and I can’t be bothered with a bookmark. Am I the only one, perhaps, who gets pissed when a car going the speed limit keeps me from getting to the light right as it goes yellow and they COAST through while I sit there fuming?
And the longer the day goes on and the more the small problems of the world add up the angrier I get. At almost literally everything.
But if you want to know the truth, having arthritis is a lot like living with a bombardment of petty problems.* Let me show you what a real average day is like for me (and please, auto-immune conditions are varied enough that you shouldn’t use me as a template for any of your auto-immuney friends).
- Wake up achey because I turned over weird and now my arm aches for about thirty seconds.
- Consider sleeping in because I’m still tired. Realize this is exactly how I felt yesterday and we made it through that day so what makes today special.
- Take out my mouth guard and realize my jaw hurts when I open and close my mouth for about five minutes.
- Get out of bed and have trouble walking for about three steps, maybe because I just woke up, but also maybe because the bones in my feet can’t remember what it feels like to have my weight on them.
- Walk into the bathroom, hate my hair because I slept on it weird (this is not arthritis, but I mean, come on, it’s pretty damn irritating)
- Walk up the stairs to my office, feel a twinge in my foot and panic that I’m going to be limping all day and everyone will ask what’s wrong and I’ll have to say “you know, life.”
- Sit at my desk and rotate my shoulders, hear them pop, continue working.
- Feel my wrists ache, consider putting braces on, decide it’s too much work.
- Open those lever handles on the doors between the hallways, get mildly angry each time because my wrist doesn’t bend like that, but what are you going to do? Stop going through doors?
- Carry a full water glass and tea mug back to my desk, get stopped halfway and stand there trying to converse and simultaneously wonder how long I can hold these items before I drop them both.
- Rotate shoulders again, stretch, feel a weird pain come down my arm, decide it’s nothing.
- Discover my thumb is having a bad day. Try to coddle it without appearing to.
- It’s 2:30. Tired has crept back up, but it creeps up on everyone so there’s no reason to mention it. Get tea.
- It’s now 4. I’m acutely aware of my wrists, but I’ve only got an hour left. This is fine.
- Try to plan a mental meal, realize I don’t care what I’m eating tonight because I’m actually exhausted. Remember I still have errands to run.
- Drive home? Road rage.
For the record, this is a cliffs notes list. I gave you the moments in an average day that I recall. But right now, because I’m deliberately thinking about this, I’m aware that my elbows ache, have been for awhile now, I think. I’m aware my one shoulder which is NEVER happy is currently unhappy, and that my thumb wants to act up even though we’ve talked about this and we had a deal. I’m thinking about my feet in an uncomfortable/but more comfortable than anything else position, and I’m wondering about the damage I’m furthering in my wrists because I’m not wearing my braces. I’m also wondering about that whole exercise thing. Because body and I agreed we were going to do that, and now body’s like “oh I’m tired” which is true EVERY day, but who’s being a baby now?
It’s all minor, it’s all petty. And most of the time, I don’t even realize I’m in a bad mood because my body hurts until I’ve been harsh to half a dozen people.
On top of all that, I still have energy to get mad at gum wrappers and traffic incidences, people who lack my verbal precision (because I am 100% the best communicator…), and general workplace grievances too stupid to mention.
Everyone’s got their own set of personal petty that keeps coming up, that takes energy to address that isn’t acknowledged verbally or publicly. Maybe it’s even something they think shouldn’t matter to them, shouldn’t affect them. And yet it’s always there, always ready to preemptively ruin a day that you were going to be SO GOOD at. And of course, that adds to the frustration that you’re not handling life well at all, and shouldn’t you be? After all, you’re __ years old, you should know how to do this by now.
But here you are, having a tantrum because the damn door won’t stay fucking shut and WHO MADE THIS ANYWAY WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS TO ME. That’s it. Fine. I’m burning my apartment down.
Petty problems are simply the result of unmet expectation. I expect my hotel experience to be completely luxurious. And if it’s not? Rage. I expect my day to go by unruffled. And when it’s not? Rage.
When it comes to my health…I may have had arthritis for eighteen years, but I’m chronically surprised that there’s always that smidgen of pain. This isn’t how life is SUPPOSED to be, you know? Everyone else is healthy (I know this isn’t true), everyone else is living a life where they don’t have to think about these things, but I have to?
So if you’re wondering why the rants section of this blog is so large, it’s probably this.
I’m sure there’s a better way to handle this. Zen, or yoga or whatever, but to be honest with you, I can’t bend myself into those poses.
…time to write another blog.
*Literally I just mean this for me. If you’ve got arthritis or something else and you mind that I compared arthritis to petty issues in the day, don’t worry, I just mean my arthritis. I don’t mean yours. I don’t know what yours is like, obviously.