For those who don't speak a word of Yddish, a kvetch is a big-time complainer. My paternal grandparents spoke Yiddish when they didn't want me to understand what they were saying. I doubt they called me a kvetch.
My husband does. He says that I constantly complain about everything from my weight to my bad back to suggestions about what to do on a Saturday night. He may be right, but It's not easy to see myself as a woman who isn't afraid to say out loud what others may keep to themselves__even when my pronouncements are not sunny, optimistic.
I guess I needed someone else to confirm my kvetching. And that's just what happened the other day en route to the airport and a trip to Mexico. "I can't believe it," I said. "The weather report says clouds and cooler days. A bummer."
My best friend who was chauffering jumped right in. "I can't believe you are complaining." There was that word again. "Your life is blessed. You have everything. Unlike the rest of us, you get to leave this hell hole for two months. What's the big deal if a few days aren't perfect?"
"There, you see," my husband said. "I'm not the only one who thinks you're a kvetch."
I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of being right but, in my gut, I knew he was. I'm not sure when I became a kvetch or why. I can play therapist and conjure up something in my past that set me on this path. As the oldest of four, did I start to kvetch once I was kicked off my throne__when when the limelight was no longer mine? Or was it a major life trauma when the love of my life broke up with me in my senior year in high school? (I'm not sure how that meshes with being a kvetch, but it sounds good, anyway.) Or maybe the truth is that I have the kvetch gene. Whatever the reason(s), I have some work to do.
And here I thought that by age seventy-four I had mastered my major shortcomings, learning to say "No" at the top of the list. Surprise! It never ends, does it? We are on a path that keeps us busy and challenged until the day we hang it up for good.
Here I am in Mexico. I ate too many chips with salsa last night but didn't kvetch. It has rained twice (very unusual for this time of year), but I didn't kvetch. We can get Netflix, but our TV doesn't work. I haven't complained. The screwup with the Iowa caucus and the still unreported final results didn't send me into another rant. (My husband won't tolerate you-know-who, so that's one anti-kvetching trial that allows me plenty of practice.)
It's not easy to break bad habits this late in the game. Having a wad of cotton or a dishtowel at the ready to stuff into my mouth when I'm about to complain might be a solution__a bandaid of sorts that could help me kick my addiction like methadone for heroin addicts.
But our first words are fateful. That I know. When someones asks me how I am or how my day is going, I vow to say something positive. "Great!" "Couldn't be better!" "All is well." "I'm on top of the world." I won't let on that my pants are too tight or that a narrative essay of mine has been rejected. And I sure won't complain about the weather in Mexico because the sun is shining and it's 75 degrees.