At the her brother’s wedding, the main character in Ann Packer’s short story Things Said and Done describes how, as a child, her father “conferred specialness” on her and how she “was to breathe only the rarefied air of the never-quite-satisfied.”
It was, she concludes, not the best preparation for life or for her marriage.
“After we married we had some fun traveling together, but once we tried to settle down I began picking at him over tiny annoyances—because the big annoyance, the fact that he wasn’t paying enough attention to me, was too unreasonable for me to recognize at that point, let alone communicate,” she remembers. “When I wasn’t picking at him I was picking at the rest of mankind, going on and on about some slight, a minor social disappointment, an achievement inadequately rewarded.”
How sad, I thought when I read the story in Packer’s collection of short stories Swim Back to Me, that this unnamed character didn’t gain her insight in time to change and save her marriage and her happiness.
I know a few complainers myself. And sometimes I play the complaining game. Next time I’m tempted to play the never-quite-satisfied game, I’m going to remember all the sadness that the game created in this short story.