Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Professional Complainer


Maybe that particular bit of the Bible might get more hits if they called it Big Fat Complaints.   Long Whiny Complaints.  Something along those lines.

I am what you might call an Expert Complainer.  I love a good complaint.  Or - let me clarify - I love to complain.  Now, I'm not the type who will ask for a manager at the first insult, or who will scream out my car window at someone whose driving has been uniquely egregious.   I am more the long-suffering complainer, who will lie in wait for a good audience and then just vent:  I hold forth on any and all thoughts I may have on the subject, until my dissatisfaction is thoroughly registered.

Now somehow, with this unique passion of mine, I still managed to convince someone to marry me, and stay with me, through both long and short complaints.  This evening, for example, I've got Mr Man hanging shelves in the kitchen.  They are free-standing shelves, and hanging them correctly required a bit of math to get them to mirror the shelves on the opposite wall.  He called me into the kitchen for a consult, and quietly - dare I say hesitantly - showed me how these new shelves wouldn't match by a quarter inch.  And then he waited.  There was a long yawning silence in which he fully expected me to launch into complaint and demands for perfect shelf hanging.   

I told him they were great.  Really, just fine.  Go ahead and hang them like that.

Another long silence, and I could literally feel him waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Are you sure? Really?   I just thought you'd...... have more to say.

For let me say this: I am not proud of this inclination.  In fact, once a British friend of mine, after one of my longer rants about - I don't know, maybe the English weather, or BBC news presenters' teeth - enthusiastically proclaimed "Kirsten, you are the best complainer I know!"  And he genuinely intended it as a compliment.

I was mortified.  After - ahem - too many years of higher education, and a chunk of change in student loans, this is my top skill?!?!

That was maybe... eight years ago?  And I have to say I've been so conscious ever since, about the fact that complaint - even lamentation - comes so easily to me.  I consciously try to avoid it if I can, and sometimes even [shh, don't tell] cut my husband a break.

And then the meditation for Advent today asked me to write my own lament!  The instructions said explicitly  "make sure.... it expresses your frustration or anger sufficiently."  The idea is that through this exercise, through consciously getting the complaint out of your system, you have cleared the way for focus.  In this specific context, focus on The Event ahead.

This phrase is what jumped out at me:  "... move us past anger into a greater understanding of your love."  Phew.  If that isn't motivation to get the complaints out of my system, I don't know what is.  It is not until we let go of anger, let go of resentment, let go of the need for perceived 'justice' that we can move on to a place where we can offer love.

There's something to think about the next time someone with a "Choose Civility" bumper sticker cuts you off.


Sarah said...

great post! so right! i hate to hear myself complaining, but sometimes....sigh...i just have to get it out!

Harold of Scaggsville said...

Complaining about bad meals and service has earned me over $380 in gift cards. That's good.

Complaining about something my wife has done? I think I disconnected that synapse early in my married life.

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