Thursday, February 22, 2018

Whine O'Clock

The faith I grew up in comes with many teachings and tenets; the one with which I most closely relate is the annual call to purge ourselves of that which does not serve us. Lent lasts the 40 days before Easter and is a time of slowing down with an element of sacrifice and the end goal of spiritual improvement. As a kid, this meant things like giving up candy, likely because it made me super hyper, which was not a reflection of a spiritually mature self, ha! I embrace the tradition now as a chance to deliberately choose to rid myself of a substance or habit that does not serve me well. In the past, I have given up gossip websites, alcohol, whole sedentary days, and complaining. This year, I am revisiting complaining, because Lord knows no one wants to hear that and it certainly does not serve me well.

I noticed a few things, in the quiet space otherwise occupied with my complaints. Reflection happens. I have to be more careful what I say. I think it out before I say it, lest a complaint slip in there. It is really easy to get caught up in a conversation about banal complaints: the weather, gas prices, making kid lunches. I don't have strong feelings about any of those things, but when someone else complains about them and looks to me for agreement, it's tough not to give them an "Amen" and high five. So, I'm working on it. I wear a beaded prayer bracelet, and every time I catch myself in a complaint, I switch arms, hoping a physical action tied to an effort to break a habit will prove fruitful. (See this book, which gives a lot of support and impetus to the no-complaining movement. Yes, it's a movement!)

I debate what the difference is between venting and complaining. Or between identifying a wrong and complaining. I can't just live in blissful ignorance pretending nothing is bad. For myself, I have decided a complaint is only a complaint if it is whiney, if I am saying it just to air it, and have no plans of doing anything about it. It is not a complaint to identify that there is a lot of laundry to do this weekend if I follow that up with a plan to involve the children in it, without my requests dripping in a complain-y tone. 

That addresses a lot of my first-world problems. And that is at the heart of my mission. I am truly blessed, privileged, and I live a comfortable life with all my necessities met. I have very little reason to complain because I am not fleeing my country with my children living in a refugee camp. Perspective and gratitude are my main tools. When I feel myself wanting to complain, and it is a real want sometimes, I take a few minutes to establish some gratitude inside. I list off a few things in my head and really dive into the thankfulness I feel for, say, my kids' health, my pets, Rich's willingness to bring the garbage to the curb on a night of freezing rain. I curate perspective in reading the news, in thinking of those who fight for the same privileges I have been afforded. When I can check myself with these, the complaints become immediately whiney when I repeat them in my head, and so they do not leave my lips and my bracelet goes unmoved.

I have not had a complaint-free day yet, but I'll keep trying. 

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