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Caught by what you’ve been hunting


Constant complaining simply means that you are focused on things that frustrate you and make you miserable.

SO THERE I was on Wednesday night. I had just about finished a 720-word column and I was looking for a fitting ‘clincher’ to end it with; something that would bring all the threads together and hopefully tie everything up neatly.

I had written paragraph after paragraph complaining about how supermarkets are seemingly laid out to frustrate the shopper and how it’s not uncommon to find similar products on completely opposite ends of a shop!

For example, on the extreme right hand side of the store you find air-fresheners, insecticides and some bleach products; meanwhile, on the extreme left of the same shop there you find the soap powders, more bleach and dishwashing liquid.

And only heaven knows where to find the furniture polish.

I wrote about how once, during one of our city’s many water crises, I went shopping for drinking water – I was disappointed to find only one-litre bottles of water available. However, needing the water, I stacked several bottles in the shopping cart.

Then, three aisles from where I found the water – in the aisle where they have dishcloths and plastic bowls on display – I found rows and rows of five-litre bottles of water standing on the floor.

That morning the people in the aisle were impressed at how well my French lessons were coming on.

I then wrote about shopping apps and home deliveries where, here too, the bugs have not all been worked out. You still cannot find EVERYTHING on the app. Also scrolling through products on your phone really eats up your time and strains your eyes and neck.

And though the stores are doing their best to get you the best value for your money, you don’t have the luxury of being able to check if, for example, the cabbage is firm or whether the onions are big enough or they are miserably tiny.

I wasn’t done griping. I then took a swipe at our crumbling infrastructure and how our city in particular makes commuting to the shops incredibly expensive.

I used up a few angry paragraphs to explain that if you can drive smoothly at a constant speed, without unnecessary acceleration or braking, you can save a huge amount on your monthly fuel bill, adding that I cannot remember the last time I drove ‘smoothly’ in our city.

I wrote about how these days I find myself swerving to avoid potholes, braking to go through the excavation without wrecking my car’s suspension and then accelerating a bit before I have to brake for the next on-road hazard.

I moaned about the fact that in a city where the price of fuel is higher than the rest of the country, the least our municipality could do for us is to help us drive smoothly by fixing our roads … and fixing them properly.

Then I sat and looked at all that I had written and it just made me feel down.

Constant complaining, you see, simply means that you are focused on things that frustrate you and make you miserable. And I didn’t want the DFA readers to be frustrated and miserable this weekend – especially with a potential shutdown of the city on the cards.

As I sat thinking about all of this, I remembered a story that I had read a few years ago, and it took me a while to find it, but I did. And so never mind the confusing supermarkets, don’t worry about shopping apps that are not completely up to speed and do all you can to not allow potholes to frustrate you as I share the story with you.

Once upon a time, in a village, there was an elderly gentleman. The entire community was sick of him because he was always downcast, always complaining, and always in a terrible mood. The longer he lived, the more vile he grew and the more poisonous his words became.

People tried everything they could to stay away from him since his misfortune and dark moods were contagious. He instilled in others a sense of sadness.

But then, when he turned 80, something remarkable happened.

“The old man is pleased today, he doesn’t complain about anything,” some villagers were saying. “He smiles, and even his face is freshened up.”

The whole village gathered around the man and asked him, “What happened to you? What brought about this complete and sudden change?”

“Nothing all that spectacular,” said the old man. “You see, I’ve been chasing happiness for 80 years and it’s been fruitless. Then I made the decision to live without happiness and simply appreciate life …

“And that’s why I’m happy now.”

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