Stop com­plain­ing . . . if you can

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LIVING - Donna Debs is a long­time free­lance writer, a for­mer ra­dio news re­porter, and a cer­ti­fied Iyen­gar yoga teacher. She lives in Tredyf­frin. Email her at debbs@com­

With both of us mis­er­able — my old high school friend and I — we make a pact. Over a lunch in which I have a sprained wrist and she has a sprained arm — our jack­ets fall­ing off our shoul­ders, our forks clang­ing to the floor — we take a no-com­plaint chal­lenge.

Mean­ing we will not, for one painfully-long week, groan about one soli­tary thing — not our sore limbs, the cold weather com­ing in, the wait­ress who won’t stop talk­ing, or the lat­est bomb­shells in the pres­i­den­tial race, the thing we’re com­plain­ing about the most.

Re­searchers say we gen­er­ally gripe maybe 30 times a day — you’re late, I’m late, the food is bad, I’m tired, you look it. Ex­cept dur­ing this elec­tion. Now we com­plain so much we for­get to cook, clean and work. Hey, let’s keep this race go­ing! But re­ally, what is a com­plaint? The first thing my friend and I do is come up with a def­i­ni­tion. Is say­ing “I have noth­ing to wear” a gripe? Or a fact? For our week of be­ing pos­i­tive, we’re call­ing it a fact. Our ex­per­i­ment, our rules.

Then we do a lit­tle re­search and come up with this: Com­plain­ing is blam­ing oth­ers or life it­self, in­stead of ac­cept­ing a sit­u­a­tion and try­ing to make it bet­ter.

We both screw up our mouths and pon­der a mo­ment. Hmmm. Tagged, we’re it. We take an oath to mend our ways. The week be­gins.

Day One:

Com­plain­ing can ac­tu­ally be good for you. It helps you con­nect with oth­ers and takes a load off the chest. Ex­cept when a good cry over wine be­comes a whine. I try to tease out the dif­fer­ence, and on the first day, I’m turn­ing gripes into grat­i­tude. Like be­ing thank­ful I have a TV for the pres­i­den­tial de­bates, even if I can’t stand watch­ing them. I mean, uh, am thrilled I have eyes to watch.

Day Three:

My friend con­fesses she’s com­plain­ing in her heart, though noth­ing is cross­ing her lips. She has a neigh­bor who is driv­ing her crazy. I ask her the lat­est. I know if she an­swers, be­cause of the oath, she’ll say she’s just glad she has a neigh­bor. Sud­denly, on the phone, she starts laugh­ing be­cause oth­er­wise her throat will ex­plode. Laugh­ing, we say, is bet­ter than com­plain­ing be­cause peo­ple are drawn to happy, op­ti­mistic types, if you like that sort of per­son. I mean, who doesn’t want to be that!

Day Five:

We de­cide com­plain­ing may be hard to iden­tify, but ev­ery­one knows when “honey could you please not put your shoes in the mid­dle of the floor,” be­comes “I am sick and tired of you try­ing to trip and kill me.” How­ever, on Day Five which has so gen­er­ously been given to me for my un­fet­tered en­joy­ment, I am moan­ing all day long. Be­gin­ning with “where is the sun” and end­ing with “I can’t be­lieve how much of a waste this day is.” In be­tween I hate the col­or­ful toys I see while shop­ping at IKEA. To­day I even hate pump­kins. We call this a slip.

Day Seven:

I re­view the rea­son no-com­plaint week be­gan. It started af­ter I bought a mini-col­lec­tion of wit­ti­cisms called “Stuff Hap­pens, Get Over It” — well maybe not that first word ex­actly. It got me think­ing about giv­ing the bad vibes a rest. Did it work? We both say yes, it did. Day Seven is hope­ful and cheery for both of us and we re­new our pact for an­other week to see what mirac­u­lous changes can oc­cur.

Then we let it all hang out and have a groan-fest. I mean, what are friends for!

As Rocker Joe Walsh said, “I can’t com­plain, but some­times I still do.”

Donna Debs

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