Last weekend, we visited our friends Melanie and Andrew near Chicago. We only go every other year, and they visit us here in Kirksville in the off years. Though the exact nature of our plans change somewhat each year, there are some constants to our traditional visits:
1. When in Chicago, we always go to Ikea and we always take the train to the city one day. When in Kirksville we visit (the recently defunct) Washington Street Java Co.
2. We always hire a babysitter and go out on a double date to dinner.
3. We use the visit as an excuse to make special breakfasts, like quiche or souffle or homemade waffles.
4. We usually unintentionally develop some kind of phrase for the weekend; usually some inside joke that is repeated amongst us several times over the course of the few days.
This last part of the tradition is nothing that we plan, but is something I've noticed over the years. One year, during a game of Taboo, Andrew kept insisting that the answer to Melanie's clues about a party thrown by Mexicans was a “festivo.” This is funnier when you know that Melanie is Mexican. The rest of us spent the remainder of the weekend trying to work “festivo” into the conversation as frequently as possible. One year, someone was relaying a story about Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger where he had concluded a meandering list with the phrase, “...and things such as this.” Try adding that phrase (in the Arnold voice, of course) to the end of all your lists. We enjoyed that joke into the ground for a full weekend.
This year, there were a number of times where one of us (usually Melanie, actually) punctuated the end of someone's complaint with the conclusion, “Ah, first-world problems...” For instance, any complaints about smartphones freezing up, what someone doesn't like about this Wii game, or old Teva sandals not feeling “squishy enough anymore” was met with this reminder.
The interesting thing about this is that it really resonates with what I've been thinking about myself lately, only with different words. See, recently I've been noticing that the things that make me crabby about my day-to-day life are those middle-aged suburbanite kinds of things that the idealistic, high-school-aged me would be mortified to see the present me complaining about. It's embarrassing, quite frankly. Really, there are people starving, being opressed, dying, and THESE are the issues that consume my thoughts?
On the other hand, though, they seem so VERY IMPORTANT to me in the moment, and have just been adding up until I feel like I want to explode in a petty, spoiled combustion. So, for the sake of avoiding that, please read now my list of first-world problems, so that I can get them off my chest for good:
-The lid on my washer has stopped staying open alone and slams (hard, and loudly) any time I make the mistake of leaving it open without my hand on it. It hurts my ears, and sometimes my arm or fingers, and loading my laundry one-handed while holding the lid makes me seethe and curse my top-loading, non high-efficiency laundry existence.
-I'm pretty sure that the brown in our family-room curtains is a warm brown, while the brown in the rug is a cool brown. Nobody else notices or cares, but it quietly mocks me every time I walk by.
-No matter how many coupons I clip, I just don't think we have the money in the grocery budget to have a glass of wine with dinner every night. There are health benefits to doing that, you know...
-The filters in my vacuum are always clogged. There are three of them, and their constant maintenance prompts me to avoid vacuuming our house, which used to be one of my favorite chores. Also, one of the attachments is broken. Also, I have a favorite chore. I'm quite sure a Dyson would be so much better.
-The kids won't jump off the deck into the pool at swim lessons. For some reason, this is the issue I've decided to enter a power struggle over. It just irks me, because I've seen both of them do it before, when their teachers and I weren't asking them to do it. Seriously, that three-year old is not watching ANY videos until she just JUMPS IN on her OWN when I SAY to!!
-The (non-chemo) treatments for my (not-life-threatening) skin cancer are expensive. Paying those bills is infringing on the back-to-school shopping budget.
-My favorite Zumba class at the YMCA is right when we'd really like to be eating dinner.
-The shelving unit that I wanted to buy at IKEA does not fit into our car with car seats and luggage, so I could not get it. I will have to pay outrageous shipping costs, convince some childless truck-owner to road-trip to Chicago, or forget about it. And it really would have tied the room together.
So that's it for now. Some of you have already opened another window in order to quietly de-friend me on facebook. For those of you who decide to hang on, I promise that this is a regular cycle for me, with a period of adding to this list, then days later feeling grateful and content and subsequently ashamed about it. Maybe rereading Freedom of Simplicity again is in order. Let's all hold our breath and hope I move back into the grateful phase as soon as possible.
What are your first-world problems?