Yesterday, still in bed, I resolved to have a full day without a complaint.
I lasted until 11:00 AM.
When the telemarketer called.
I complain. You complain. My dog complains. Everyone complains.
I bet the Dalai Lama complains that the place is too damn quiet.
It’s only natural. I mean, there’s so much out there whose purpose seems to revolve around irritating us.
But I think I would be happier if I didn’t complain so much. Because complaining exists to remind us of how unhappy we are.
When I think about complaints, I see that there are various categories of complaints.
That’s the stuff that everyone complains about – mostly just out of habit or as a filler for conversation. The Weather. That’s probably Number One. Getting Old goes in this bucket… for the most part anyway. Getting up in the morning. No one expects you to solve any of these complaints. But we agree they are universal. No one is really hurt, no one is really mad. So go right ahead – everyone will agree with you, and so those complaints feel pretty good.
All minor aggravations that depend on whether you encounter them and in what mood. Dog poop is a good example. It’s not so bad from a distance, but considerably irritating in a flipflop. Potholes. Pens that won’t write. And any interactions with utility companies, cable TV, or telemarketers. It’s hard to avoid complaining about this stuff, and folks are bound to agree with you. The danger is that situational complaints are cumulative. A dripping sink and dead phone and a cat sharpening its claws on your leather recliner can add up to a melt-down at your in-laws.
This is the stuff we SHOULD complain about. Inequities in education and health care. Racial, religious, or gender inequalities. The abuse of the vulnerable – children, animals, the aged. The destruction of our environment. We should complain loudly – and constructively. Assemble, protest, vote.
These complaints are hurtful. Some in small ways – some more serious. But they hurt. They hurt others because they are almost always personal. And they hurt you because they can fill up your space with dissatisfaction. There will always be someone more successful than you, richer than you, more beautiful than you, luckier than you. Complaining about them makes you hate them for their good fortune and hate yourself for your shortcomings.
Maybe going a day without a complaint is an impossible goal. But I will try for a full month without a noxious complaint.
So far, so good. It’s 4:23 PM. Day One.
But the weather sucks.