When I get a new haircut or a new outfit, I'm expecting some compliments. I don't have to fish for them. They come naturally. It's all very nice. But I'm not surprised by any of it.
Today, I'm writing about the times that are unexpected. Most of what I'm referring to has taken place over time at my husband's family's country house.
When people live in NYC, if they are fortunate, blessed, hard working, wealthy, lucky or some combination, they might have a second residence that is not in the city. This second residence is out in the middle of nature. It is called a country house.
Friends of mine who are not members of my husband's family like to point out that husband's family's country house is quite a mouthful. They'll ask me what I'm doing over the weekend. If they are a new friend, I'll explain that my husband's family has a place in the country. If they are an old friend, I'll just say we are going to the country.
Some people ask why I don't just say our country house. That would simplify things. Yes, I’ve been visiting this country house since I was 19 years old. I am now aged 52. You may do the math.
I like to say husband's family's country house because it feels more accurate. This is not my country house.
When it comes to our two-bedroom apartment, otherwise known as our primary residence I take full ownership in conversation by calling it our apartment.
When it comes to the country house, I like to maintain a little distance with it. A little distance between this country house and myself is a good thing. This is true even while I am physically present at the country house.
Last Christmas, our nuclear family spent Christmas at the country house. Members of Jeremy's extended family spent the actual holiday with members of their extended family who are not members of our extended family. Then after spending a few days with these other family members, Jeremy's extended family came to the country house.
Several hours before they were due to arrive, it was time for us to prepare. This preparation was a multi-tiered process.
First, my teenagers had to vacate the rooms they were staying in and move to different rooms. We had managed to spread ourselves out quite nicely when we had the country house to ourselves. It was now time to consolidate our family into a different configuration.
First, we had to wake the teenagers up. Then the teenagers had to physically leave their respective rooms. The teenager’s belongings, which were strewn about each room had to be taken to the new quarters.
Once this was accomplished and the teenagers were either skiing or gaming, it was time for me to do my thing.
When teenagers have occupied a room for several days, there are certain niceties that I like to extend to the next extended family members who occupy the rooms. This involves some work because when teenagers settle into a room, they really settle in.
I do some dusting and straightening. I change the sheets and launder the sheets. When I am finished with that, I will clean and disinfect the bathrooms adjacent to the rooms the teens have been occupying.
The teenagers have been neat and respectful in the bathrooms, but much primping, hair brushing and bathing goes on in there.
You may ask me why the teenagers are not doing this themselves. That is a fair question. Quite frankly, I'd rather they ski, game, or do their holiday break homework packets. I'd rather they go on Tumblr, watch Buzzfeed, or sleep in their new quarters.
The reason for this is selfish. I need some peace and quiet. I need a bit of me time. I need the peace and quiet that I normally experience when my children are at school. I need to create a sort of peace and quiet bank for when extended families come to the country house. I save up the peace and quiet for later. I accomplish this peace and quiet by cleaning areas of the country house my children have occupied.
The next morning I greeted extended family members who arrived in the wee hours the night before. I was bustling about the dining area, facilitating breakfast for the teenagers.
My sister in law, who is also a friend of mine, made a general inquiry to the extended family members who had gathered and began to occupy the dining area. She wanted to know who made up the beds upstairs.
I indicated that I made the beds. She and her husband, my brother in law, exchanged what I took to be positive, married people-type knowing glances. Then my sister in law extended some unexpected and spontaneous appreciation.
She told me that my bed making made the bed exceedingly comfortable. Additionally, my brother in law added that it was quite cozy.
I have already mentioned that I had made these beds for selfish reasons. But the fact that two people were very positive about it and thought to mention it made the entire activity a win-win.
Months later, I sometimes still think about the unexpected compliments and feel warmly toward these individuals.
During a different visit to the country house, I was engaging in another selfish activity. I was occupying a large portion of the floor in one of the common areas and monopolizing the TV. I was using this television to broadcast Energy Flow, one of my exercise DVDs.
I had already apologized in advance for the peaceful and meditative music coming from the DVD. I commenced moving this way and that. It's mostly yoga with some hybrid Pilates mixed in.
As I endeavored to strengthen my core and enhance my flexibility my brother in law walked into the room. This is a different brother in law from the one I mentioned earlier. This brother in law is a physical therapist.
The Physical Therapist said something very softly almost to himself, as if not to disturb me. I don't remember precisely what it was. I can tell you that is was complimentary about my workout. He did not stay very long as he was primarily using the room as a thoroughfare rather than occupying it.
A compliment is always appreciated no matter who gives it to you. However, there are some compliments that hold more weight because of the person giving it and what their specialty is.
Having a Physical Therapist who is also fit compliment your workout is one such time. I compare it to this. Say I am PTA Secretary like I was one year while my kids were in elementary school. Then imagine Barack Obama making a surprise visit to Hamilton Heights School. He watches the proceedings. Then when it's almost over, he compliments me on my leadership skills.
Sometimes I'll be working out and inwardly complaining that I wish the workout was over. Some days take more discipline than others getting started. That’s when the offhand words of the physical therapist/brother in law pop into my head. Then I have a little extra to give to the current workout. I also feel warmly toward this individual.
There have been many such times. Here is one other time that really sticks out. This compliment was from a complete stranger.
It was the day after we had returned to our primary residence from the country house. I had just finished some cardio on the treadmill. I was on the floor doing some stretches.
One of the compliments I give myself frequently is about my flexibility. Because I value my flexibility, I take care of it by stretching.
The doorbell rang. Jeremy opened the door for the FedEx man. As Jeremy signed for the package, the fit FedEx man noticed our treadmill. He noticed me stretching in front of it. He accurately put two and two together.
First he said that it was nice to see people who really use the treadmill. Jeremy said that we also utilize the treadmill for drying clothes but only when we are not exercising on it.
The fit FedEx man then began a short conversation with me about working out. I felt complimented because it was a serious workout conversation initiated by someone who obviously works out a lot where he was assuming I work out a lot. It implied that he thought of me as another fit individual. I am not as fit as him. But he thought he and I were in the same general category.
It was a very pleasant exchange.
If we still had our treadmill I'd say that I think of this spontaneous encouragement every time I use it. But we got rid of it due to space issues during our apartment renovation. But I still do think about it at random times.
When I see something complimentary about another person, I don't hold it in. I give out the compliment. It's not just getting encouragement that makes me feel warmly. Giving it out also makes me feel warmly toward that person. Much more warmly than if I didn't say anything.