I've just discovered that during the past thirty-five years, I've neglected an important life-skill. I hardly ever complain. Stop laughing, Steve, I can hear you. Alright, I don't mean that I hardly ever complain to friends and family. In fact, if you got me started on Steve and his habit of leaving trails of breadcrumbs, expecting kelpies to empty the dustbins, eating cereal at the study desk and leaving the dirty dishes there.... well, I might never stop.
But I'm not a public complainer, unlike most other people I know. It's making me feel left out.
When Steve is in the throes of road rage, I'm confused how he can get so angry, as if he never makes mistakes, or gets lost. Who ceded the moral ground to him? When mum-friends are complaining about the playgroup, the school, the park, I think of how lucky we are to have those same things - and beautiful, healthy children to enjoy them. When people bemoan the state of the country, I think how much we have to be thankful for in Britain (a fact a friend had to emigrate for a year to New Zealand to discover).
I suppose my problem is, I'm too busy seeing things from everyone's point of view. I can find excuses for most people (though there are, of course, limits). But I'm obviously missing out on something most people enjoy, so it's time to grow some pig-headed opinions, take illogical dislikes to other people and the way they behave, and act as if I'm irreproachable.
Here's what has caused my about-turn. Today, the builder started the patio. He wasn't due to arrive until mid-day, but the materials he'd ordered arrived before him, and the sand and grit was put on the pavement outside our house. Less than two hours later, a plump and pleasant man from the council knocked on the door to tell me he'd had complaints; who'd ordered the stuff? Would it be moved soon? And what about that skip...? I thought things not lawful to be uttered, and said the skip had a permit, at which he hummed and hawwed and said that wasn't really his business....could I get the builders to move the sand, please?
My lovely builder was there in ten minutes (he was already on his way) and the problem solved. I, on the other hand, stewed for an hour or two, playing 'whodunnit' with the neighbours - which one(s) were so upset that they told tales on us, rather than knocking on the door? I'd always thought we lived in quite a friendly street, with a good community feel. What kind of people have nothing better to do than wait for someone to do something they don't like, then run to the council about it?
That's when I decided that the problem was perhaps mine. Perhaps all this time, I've allowed myself to be too thin-skinned, and perhaps if I can learn to throw myself into complaining, and learn how to do it properly myself, I won't feel so hurt when someone complains about me.
I couldn't wait till Ste got home to try out complaining about the neighbours and how they'd 'dobbed on us' to the council. Immediately he got annoyed. (He can give me lessons).
'Pass me some cardboard,' he said, 'I'll go out and put a sign in the sand, telling them all to grow a pair and come and talk to us if they have a problem.'
'No, no, don't do that! It's rude. And they have had a lot of mess for a long time. And if they've seen the state of our garden for the last few years, they probably thought it was going to be there for weeks. And I'd be annoyed if someone else blocked the pavement with their sand...'
Uh-oh, must try harder not to walk in other people's shoes. I'll keep practising...