The Power of Complaining

This has been a terrible year.

Don’t get me wrong. Every year is terrible in its own way—and each one always seems like it’s upping the ante from the previous one—but this year is one for the books.

Not only is idiocy running rampant, it’s being lauded as wisdom and truth. Scumbaggery and smug self-righteousness are the orders of the day, while decency and thoughtfulness are on the fast track out of town. Social media helps us forget to take time to live actual lives. People can’t have conversations without bursting blood vessels in their brains, and that’s when they’re talking to people who agree with them. If you have hair, it’s enough to make you want to pull it out.

Okay, I’m lying. This year wasn’t all that terrible. Sure, all the things I mentioned are true, and while they may not be any truer than they were last year, we’re probably becoming better at pretending they’re perfectly normal. So that’s bad. But as far as I’m concerned, like the years before it, this year had a whole lot of good and bad things, all mixed together. In short, it was a year.

However, all this wave of doom and gloom brings me to my point: I complain too much. In fact, I’ll admit it—I like complaining. Sure, I may be improving at not grumbling when people can hear me, but when it comes to the most important (and most self-defeating) variety of bitching—the kind heard only by me—I’m still a habitual offender.

I know what you’re thinking: If you can’t complain to yourself, what’s the point of living, other than getting to drink coffee and watch Netflix every day? It’s a fair question. You probably noticed I didn’t say we complain too much, not because others don’t do it (Have you seen Facebook?), but because I can’t do anything about anyone else. Yes, constant negativity from others can darken my mood if I let it, but my own grousing is what really follows me around like a sad trombone sound effect.

Whether it’s a garbage can blocking my driveway, the guy ahead of me in traffic who can’t ignore his phone long enough to heed the turn light, the woman who needs the entire Starbucks menu explained to her in detail, or the jerk who snagged my favorite parking space at work, I give that person a little slice of hell. They never hear me, of course, but I hear me, and that’s the point.

That said, if I were going to make a resolution for next year, it would be to complain less. This doesn’t mean I won’t address things that need to be fixed, but it does mean I’ll stop throwing my figurative hands up in the air every time something goes wrong. Instead, if I can make things better, I’ll do my best.

Anyone who’s good at meditating will tell you it’s pointless to try to banish unwanted thoughts from your mind. The best you can do is watch them come and go and try to see them for what they are. So while I think I’m getting better at not complaining to others, I’ll try to be more aware of the incessant complaining I do to myself.

When I complain, things always seem worse than they did before. If you’ve been keeping track and are good at math, you know this gives me a larger number of things to complain about, which makes things seem worse, which promises to send me into a swirly cyclone of self-pity and, even worse, turn me into That Guy Who Complains All the Time.

I don’t want to be that guy, not even in the privacy of my own mind.

This piece was originally published in 2017 on US Represented at www.usrepresented.com 

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