Small Problems

Jamie White FarnhamRemember when the Sex and the City ladies accompanied Carrie on her non-honeymoon? In one scene, Charlotte (the cute one) swallows water while showering and suffers some not-so-cute Montezuma’s Revenge in her loungewear. Later, while consoling Carrie, Charlotte admits to feeling guilty about her relatively carefree life. She has no real problems, while Carrie was left at the altar and their other friend faced cancer. Even Charlotte’s divorce was not so painful since she fell in love with her divorce lawyer.

Carrie forgives her friend the guilt. She offers some perspective when she reminds Charlotte of a problem she did face: “Sweetie, you shit your pants.”

This point stuck with me because I am a Charlotte. Not in the cute sense, but in the small problem sense. I have a lot of small problems. While I am not here to compare them with illness or death or divorce or anything significant, I do want to tell you about them. Consider a year in the life of a Charlotte:

It’s Winter Break, and the kids are playing in the snow. When I bring a forgotten mitten outside, I pull the front door hard behind me by habit. We’re locked out. The extra keys are inside. We can’t get in through the garage, the side door, or the basement. It takes an hour or so for a network of friends to get a key to us. The kids make a snowman while I huddle on the porch in my T-shirt and PJ pants.

Another morning, I awake to find my minivan’s window smashed in by a jerk. Did the jerk even take anything good? No. Was it the regular window and not the sliding door one? Of course not. Was it covered by insurance? Ha!

That was April. Now it’s summer. My husband and I go out for the night, leaving the kids with neighbors. We’re waving goodbye when I miss the curb and sprain my ankle. I suck it up because I want to have fun with my friends. Later, I get a brace and some pain meds. It’s back-to-school time when I stop limping.

Our house gets re-sided in October. I am more in love with it than ever. Admiring it from all angles, I stop short when I notice that a window in the attic dormer seems to be – missing? Huh? The window is gone. Where did it go? It has been sided over. It is preposterous and also kind of funny. Imagine the next owners whispering WTF? when they find a secret window in the attic.

We adopt a 45-pound puppy. She is sweet and strong, chasing after every bird and squirrel. On a walk in December, she takes me down on the ice, bloodying my knuckles and giving me a second sprain. This time it’s my ribs, and I ring in the New Year flat on my back, exasperated.

Tallying up my small problems, I feel Charlotte’s guilt when I know others around me face actual, life-changing problems. I take them seriously. I know I’m not immune. For now, I think my small problems could be a dry run for the real deal. Or maybe I will always be a Charlotte. The upside is that I have plenty of time to help the Carries around me. I will bring wine and tell silly stories about a secret window, my dog, and one you haven’t heard yet about cupcakes on the roof of the car. I have a lot of small problems.

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