Stop complaining . . . if you can
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.”