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Friday, August 29, 2014


I love to complain.  It is a long held habit that I truly enjoy for so many excellent reasons.  For one, I am really, really good at it.  We all enjoy the feeling of mastery, and I have mastered the art of complaining, honed it to a razor sharp edge that cuts right through the bullshit to the heart of the matter:  a lot about our world sucks.  Does that seem harsh?  If you think so, you and I could probably never be friends.  Because as much as I value the ability to accentuate the positive, I value the ability to see what is really screwed up even more.

Of course we all know what I like to call “the wrong kind” of complainer, those people who pretty much exclusively complain about the same things over and over every day until they have drained you of every single bit of compassion you might have ever felt for them.   These people are energy vampires who herald their own powerlessness in the face of such atrocities as “the DMV” and “the speed limit” and “the weather”.   They don’t quite grasp the usefulness of online registration, obeying the law or umbrellas, so they come up against disasters on a regular basis, and this is not only exhausting to hear about, it’s also catastrophically boring.  And the worst part for me, these whiners give complaining a bad name!
If at this point you are wondering which kind of complainer YOU are, I will give you a helpful hint:  if you feel energized and invigorated by your complaining, you are my kind of complainer!  If you complain to people who actually may be able to help you rectify the situation you are complaining about, you are my kind of complainer!  And most importantly, if you also utilize the complaint’s oh-so-effective cousin, criticism, then you are my kind of complainer!  Rejoice, you are impacting both your world and your blood pressure in very positive ways!

As much fun as complaining is, criticism is just that much better, because not only are you pointing out a situation that leaves a lot to be desired, you are offering a potential solution.  For example, if your husband asks you where the mayonnaise is and you tell him (probably for the 400th time) that it is in the refrigerator, there is a pretty good chance he will assure you that he has already looked, because it  is a fairly obvious location for this condiment.  So you will go to look for yourself, and inevitably you will find the mayo just where it always is (or on rare occasion, slightly obscured by the ketchup bottle) and now you are faced with some choices. 

Will you go ahead and make your husband’s sandwich, because you are up now anyhow?  Or will you complain that you “have to do everything around here” and then make his sandwich?  Or will you tell him that he is as lazy as he is blind and that opening the fridge is not the same as actually moving your eyes from side to side and scanning the contents, and then slam the jar on the counter and storm off?  It’s up to you obviously, but I choose number three.  Because as good as I am at complaining and criticizing, I might be even more skilled at storming off.

 The point I am making here is that what is complaining and criticizing but the savory marriage of identifying a problem and offering a solution?  What could be more productive and positive than that?  If I complain “I have to do everything around here”  I have identified a problem that certainly needs to be rectified. 

But then if I further offer the solution of moving one’s eyes from side to side when the refrigerator is open to scan its contents, I have now taught you a life skill that will serve you most excellently well.  And how can this be a bad thing?  Life has just potentially gotten a little better for us both, what with me not running wild goose chases and you with your mobile eyeballs (these come in handy for so much more than scanning for food, I promise you that).
Pretending there are no problems in the world seems to me the silliest and most counterproductive of options.  The world is full of problems, and this is why we actually have something to do with ourselves every day.  The more problems we identify and fix, the easier and happier life becomes.  And it all starts with a complaint.  The sound of that first whine starts the cosmic ball rolling, and who knows where a well-placed criticism can take it next.  So come on, do your part!  Make a complaint today!  And if someone complains to you and there is any way in your power to make that person’s complaint go away, just do it.  We’re all in this together, and if you oil a squeaky wheel today, you have just brought us all a little closer to heaven.

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