As my husband will attest, I often bitch about where we live – Dallas, Texas.
And I tend to complain in broad generalities. I dislike the many superficial and hypocritical people. The vast wealth and showy materialism. The distance from my family back in New England. The endless driving. The oppressive heat. The closed-mindedness. The pushy religiousness. The emphasis on outward appearance. And I could go on. But I won’t. Because I’ve discovered something not so wonderful about myself.
I have become a whiner. And I hate whiners.
It took just one book to shut me up: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. What his female characters coped with in Afghanistan in the 1990s, such as bombing, rape, violence, burkas, the inability to leave the house without a male escort, lack of education, boredom, fear, abject poverty, hunger, filth and the inability to care for a child, was eye-opening. I think the reason it spoke to me so poignantly is because I remember reading about all these atrocities in the news at the time. But it seemed so distant and implausible when I was a young adult back in the 1990s. Seeing the horror through the eyes of his deftly created characters forced me to take another look at myself and my supposed unhappiness with where I live.
Perhaps it’s not the actual City of Dallas and its inhabitants that I truly dislike. Maybe it’s the real estate inside of me. Maybe I use hating Dallas as a big, fat excuse of why I haven’t 1)accomplished more in my career; 2)made more friends; 3)carved out the life I thought I would have.
Maybe I am my biggest problem.
So, today, instead of thinking unhelpful negative thoughts about Dallas, I’m going to be grateful that I live in a house that is not being bombed. That I can care for my family. That I can leave the house whenever I want – by myself – even if it means driving on construction-ridden, congested highways. That I have the freedom to choose my own religion and friends. That my own husband doesn’t beat or rape me. That air conditioning mitigates the overpowering summer heat. That I survived cancer and am alive today, no matter where I live.
When I start to think of it that way, I realize that I’m so lucky to live in Dallas and not Afghanistan, or any of the other places on earth where women have few rights and opportunities. Now, if I could just find some more kindred spirits here…