I’m not complaining, but it seems to me I was born in a country where doing just that is a treasured past time. In the United States expressing dissatisfaction about the weather is a common conversation starter. The fact that it snows a lot on our north-east coast during the Winter is apparently a good reason for my compatriots to have a complaint on the tip of their tongue. On especially cold days the complaining goes far beyond the subject of the weather and extends itself to anything from finding dog poop on the doorstep to the local mailman's delivery habits.
A recent move to the south-east coast caused me to discover that exceptionally good weather is also an appropriate reason to complain: It’s too hot, I’m sweating all day, and the lawn needs constant watering are commonplace "small talk" here. Now that it's winter in the southern tip most days the temperature has dropped to a comfortable 75 degrees and it’s raining now and again. I’d say, a perfect compromise between thirsty plants and humans that don’t enjoy getting wet. But I honestly doubt that this nearly perfect weather is enough to assuage people’s creative complaining.
It goes without saying that not all Americans complain. -and of course it’s not just American people who indulge in the art of complaint. People from all over the world occasionally succumb to this seemingly innocent form of negativity. I admit that I myself was also an occasional complainer. That’s right, I was rather than am. I won't own it (although those closest to me might report otherwise)!
It sounds obvious, but I realized a few years back that complaining is a choice. It’s not something that is forced on you by less than ideal circumstances. If it were that way, everyone of us would complain about most things quite often. I’m not entirely sure how it came about, however once I came to this realization the decision was made; "I will no longer indulge in complaining of any form, no ifs ands or buts, period."
Does that mean from now on I always have to be upbeat about everything?
Not at all.
What it does entail is that even when I think something isn’t as good as it should be I have a choice between making it worse or opening myself up to the idea that maybe it is nothing but a blessing in disguise. After all, what do I know about the mysterious ways in which the universe is serving me? How often does it happen that there is a glitch of some kind that you later find out was what saved you from having to experience something worse? Knowing that, isn’t it also possible that there are infinitely more ways in which you are constantly being rescued without ever being aware of it?With my limited human understanding I would say that has to be the case.
It might be worth saying that even before this discovery I was never one to complain often or for long. I doubt that matters. Even if the action of complaining is minimal, as long as we do it the inner mechanism of it is operating is present. That means it is contributing to our general outlook on life. An outlook that doesn’t allow us to live with the amount of necessary surrender that maintains happiness.
After making such a clear decision I got a chance to see if it would become murky in the face of an actual (minor) incident. I’m currently tending to two houses , taking care of the property while homeowners are on vacation. One of the houses is great during the day but a little spooky at night so I make it my business to get to the spooky house before dusk. Their are plenty of chatty neighbors at the other one so I prefer to get there when I know their inside having dinner.
Yesterday, when I arrived at the first house, the spooky one. Their cat was nowhere to be found. This concerned me because even when he’s outside he always comes running immediately when I get there. Not yesterday though. It was quite late already when I showed up so after a quick search I aborted my plan to spend the night tending to the other place in favor of waiting for the cat to turn up.
As I sat around at night I heard the usual creaking and scratching sounds always made me afraid someone was learning in the house, only now, those noises gave me hope that the cat was coming in through his little door. It’s all about what we tell ourselves. Perception is everything.
I stayed at the house until midnight, the cat didn’t come back. At home in my bed, I was determined not to sleep -until I eventually started picturing his safe return. Just before I drifted off I had a moment of clarity where I noticed my concern about this animal had completely stopped me from being afraid of everything that could have gone wrong with the cats disappearance.
And just like that, abstaining from complaining turned into a sense of gratitude about the situation. Had the cat not disappeared I wouldn’t have realized how easily I could distract myself from being fearful in that house, or anxious about the cats whereabouts. This lesson certainly will not be wasted on future situations.
Naturally, I went to the house when morning arrived, and so did the cat. Although this was a harmless episode, it did illustrate to me how choosing not to complain can really turn an experience around. As our tendency to grumble lessens, and we easily open up to a different view of the same situations, there’s the potential of turning whole parts of our lives around.