Sunday, July 4, 2010

"What've You Got to Complain About?"

sometimes, you need to vent.
sometimes, you need to shut up.

There's a difference between complaining and expressing your dissatisfaction in productive and healthy fashion. Granted, it's a thin line, but it definitely exists.
There's something about complaining- the tone of voice, the facial expression and body language, the perspective engaged, and the amount of time taken up- it just really irks me.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for expressing oneself, it's totally important. Screaming, crying, talking about feelings etc- it all has it's place. Its human instinct to relate and build connections to others, many times through our shared experiences. There's a point at which releasing tension, or venting about a grudge or a particular event is helpful in moving past it, and when the goal of such discourse is to dissolve anxiety, procure a solution or to find a positive aspect of a negative position, then the complaining has a purpose.

There are times when I talk to my mom on the phone and she truly needs to let it out. When there's no one else she can discuss things with and the tension is building up inside her, we talk. I think she finds it helpful to get the issues off her chest, and our conversations will sometimes result in a solution or alternative perspective.
Sometimes you need to vent.

But there's this fine line to cross when you stop being productive and you start whining. If you're in a somewhat sour situation, its understandable that you want to release some of that less-than-positive energy. Here's the deal, though: negative energy only creates more negative energy, and chances are, you are at least partially (and I might argue wholly) responsible for much of your discomfort. All your complaining is going to do is to make you focus on the negative, thereby attracting more negative to you. Besides, whatever sour situation you're in, where you're complaining, you are sharing that experience with those to whom you're complaining. They get it, stop making them focus on it, too. You only end up feeding off each others' negativity. Its unproductive.

I remember being in Miami, spring break, senior year in high school. A friend of mine and I were thoroughly enjoying the beach, sun and Cuban food, and despite our severe sun poisoning and possible exposure to melanoma, our mantra for the week was, "What have we got to complain about?!" This (rhetorical) question should be asked more frequently. It made us realize that even though we could complain, why would we?

Now we've all been in uncomfortable circumstances, but having a sense of humor about it, not focusing on it, understanding when there's nothing you can do about it or being proactive in changing the situation- that's where your energy is better directed. Most of the time, there's something better to focus on.

I was hiking in Colorado for a couple of days. I was grumpy, tired, and a little lost. I was feeling frustrated, challenged, and a little bitchy. At some point, my friend and I took a break, and he asked me how I was feeling. I responded, "I feel inadequate, like I can't do this. Frustrated. Tired." Or something along those whiny lines. He looked at me, and said, "Would you shut up?" I was slightly taken aback, and in that moment I caught a glimpse of my surrounding environment at 1200 feet in altitude in the Colorado Mountains, snow covered peaks, the sun just over the crest. And I thought, "Wow. I've been harping on all this negativity, when THIS is surrounding me?! What a waste of energy." I looked back at my friend, and thanked him for telling me to shut up.
Sometimes, you need to shut up.

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