I think I have discussed how much I love complaining, especially since complaining has become a serial activity on Facebook. Not only are ya miserable but you can make your friends miserable too. And also your “friends.”
I may have reached a little too far into the serenity bag for many peoples’ taste; especially those that like to pull out the double-barrel complaint cannons. I’m not saying that I never complain, but if I do, it’s something important. And rare. And I am annoyed as the words come out of my mouth. Minimizing complaining has been a focus for me.
The complaint double-whammy is traffic and weather. Throw in an abusive spouse and we have a hat trick (Goooooooooooaaaaaalllllll!). It’s been very humid here the last few days. It’s left my hair…”special”. But as I was walking back from the store last night, I found myself thinking “mmmm, this smells like the mid-west” (which I do indeed miss on occasion)…now where those cicadas at?) and “wow, this is really good for my complexion.” Yeah, I went there without even having to do the “how can I see the positive in this?” thing. I believe that positivity is a muscle that needs exercise. Jebus, my skin looks good right now.
And I believe negativity is a muscle too. A really annoying one. Yeah, muscles can be annoying. And at the risk of complaining about exactly how annoying, I’ll stop there and take a breath. People complaining really isn’t a matter of fault in my opinion. As much as you can’t fault a d-bag insomuch as they had a tough childhood that led to the d-baggery. It all comes from somewhere. I can wrangle up some compassion for even some of the more despised among us. Something made them that way.
So what leads to this culture of complaining? Oh, wait, wait, this is going to be much better if I put my glasses on and slide them down my nose as I type this. I am no expert but this is what I spy with my little eye:
1) Habit: ever had a conversation where words came out of your mouth and you had to do the 15 second rewind to figure out what you just said? Me too. And I have caught myself saying innocuous things that aren’t exactly true out of sheer laziness. Sometimes you are on autopilot. Sometimes the gate between what you think and what you say is stuck in the open position. Everyone has those habits. Mindfulness helps break those; pulling yourself out of your inner mind kernel and expanding. I’m still practicing this. And as much as I don’t buy into psychological dogma that turns into cultural catch-phrases: admitting you have a problem is the first step in recovery.
2) A lack of understanding that there is a connection between what you say and how you feel: I can talk myself into a very dark place. And I can see myself already there and change my perspective by talking myself into it. This is what therapy is for, my friends. How you talk to yourself (not the mumbling as you walk down the street scaring people kind) in your head does make a difference.
3) A sense of entitlement: this one, I feel, is only getting worse. Gratitude is about appreciating, whether or not you are truly “owed” something. Feel like you earned it? That’s great. Feel gratitude. Feel like it’s something that was given to you out of someones generosity? Feel gratitude. Feel like something was granted to you out of pure randomness? Feel gratitude. B*tching about the free lunch? Um, yeah…that just doesn’t work.
4) An inability to examine things in the context of what you can control and what you can’t: I am getting good at this one. When I am tempted to complain, I ask myself if this is under my control? If the answer is no, then who exactly would I be complaining to other than myself? And I, well, can’t do anything abou it. If the answer is yes, then I guess it’s time to get to work.
5) Sometimes it’s just.Not.Funny: Jerry Seinfeld can pull it off. Sometimes. Lewis Black? Almost always. You? I don’t know. Has someone paid money to see you? Perhaps this is just a matter of audience. Because sometimes a little humor can help. But not always. And sometimes it sounds funnier in our head than it does coming out of our mouth. Marketing 101 is also cmplaining 101 in this case: know your audience.
So today, the day of our company meeting that is taking place in this humidity. And among these crowds and this traffic. There is a lot to be grateful for. Not the least of which are the cool products that we have coming out, that free phone we are getting, having jobs, working with smart people, great health insurance, the beauty of where we live, family/friends, nachos and beer, Thai food, wine, college football, cable TV and DVRs, interwebz and Denis Leary. And my skin looks effing great today.