'I Can't Complain' belongs in the ubiquitous plethora of responses that humans vocalize when their paths cross. When I was younger (and naturally lower to the ground) I would observe bugs and wonder at there purpose and motivation. Ants tended to follow the same path as other ants even though the driveway was comparably equivalent to the state of Rhode Island. As they passed each other, they stopped to intertwine antenae in some form of ant twittering. I imagined that the first ant would say, "How's it going?" and the second, pulling from his bag of standard responses would quip, "I can't complain."
Those of us who wake up every day wondering, "How am I feeling today?" find that these common pleasantries take on a new and much more literal meaning. These are the questions that we ask ourselves and wait for our body to answer. For me, however, 'I can't complain' is now a mandate. It is not as if it could be worse, it should have been worse. If I feel crummy I remind myself it is better than not feeling. I really can't complain because I am still alive. Not only that, but I really have a wonderful life. I have said before that to live without serving others is mere existence. I continue to retain the privilege of serving others.
Let's say that the chemotherapy makes pizza taste like cardboard, my body feel like I just got off the Tea Cups at Disneyland and head needs to be in a vise to offset the pressure. No matter, I know that if I go outside my health score will increase by three points. If I then get on my scooter; it is now up by seven. When I walk into my office, it magically increases by 13.417. You may say that this is just placebo effect, but I did a double blind study by closing both of my eyes and still felt the same. Somehow, the more I get involved with nature or other people the less I focus on myself. I guess I should write a self-help book. However, it would be very short. Only three sentences.
1. Life without service is mere existence
2. Happiness equals service plus love
3. There ain't no free lunch, there just ain't.
I think the last line, if not understood, is why people complain. It bothers them if they are not in complete control of their life or if they think their situation is unfair. Somehow, they think that merely by breathing, they are entitled to stuff. Life is not fair. But that is not any one's fault. It just is what it is.
For me to complain would be the ultimate expression of ingratitude. So it is not that I shouldn't complain; I cannot complain (that doesn't mean that things don't still annoy me, just ask Barbie.) Somehow I feel that if I were to complain about how it is unfair that I got this disease, and swim in my own fetid pool of self-pity, that all of the atoms in my body would collapse into a ridiculously small black-hole; overcome by the ego-driven gravity of my situation. Ultimately, that would warp my remaining time. It is just not worth it.
Now when people ask how I am, I truthfully respond, "I can't complain." ....But my upward inflection indicates the veracity of hope contained in that moment.