Good at Life

Complaint Free

What was I thinking?

Dear Aunties-

Do you ever agree to something and then think “what was I thinking?” Typically, my life decisions/commitments fall into one of two categories:

  1. I too quickly commit to something, go in full-sail (is that a real expression?), and then get overwhelmed by it (see: throwing wedding/baby showers); or
  2. I ponder, and research, and ponder, and analyze. I get sick of it and make a decision hastily, realizing it doesn’t matter that much and wondering why I wasted so much time. (see: booking work travel.)

But the exception to the above generally comes in committing to things that I think will make me healthier, stronger, or challenge myself.  I tend to jump into these, and rarely regret it.  So it was likely the combination of health, strong, and a challenge that made me take the Complaint Free World Challenge.

My trainer (as in gym trainer) extraordinaire, Jess, posted the idea on her instagram feed asking who wanted to take the challenge.  I commented saying that I did, and promptly forgot about it as I traipsed around the world last month.  Well the rubber hit the road (or my hand) as she walked out holding the purple band that would symbolize this challenge.

What I THOUGHT I was committing to was six weeks of no complaining (yipes, I mean, I was about to start a training session that moment.)  But it turns out that the PROPER way to do this is to start by putting it on one wrist, if you falter and complain, you switch the band to your other wrist.  Repeat. Until. . .the bracelet stays on one wrist for 21 days.  21 days of no complaints.  Woah.

Well, so I failed at the instructions.  BUT I did gain valuable lessons about complaining and, here I offer them to you, to take from them what you may need.

  1. Complaining is often used as a bonding tool. So Aunties, it is 110 degrees in Texas (fact that will relate to finding #2.)  I found that when I wanted to break the ice, or start a conversation with strangers, the shared experience of the heat was a ready tool.  “Is it hot enough for ya?” being a frequent one.  But you know, our shared discomfort was not going to make it cooler.  In some ways, resorting to the weather is a lazy way to make a connection.  Why not go for the “how is your day?” (and mean it.)  Or “I am happy to see you.”  Point is, that we can challenge ourselves to open without a complaint, maybe even a compliment.
  2. Complaining is often disguised as fact. In doing this challenge, I discovered that my particular brand of complaining wasn’t a full out complaint offensive, but instead very kind, humble approach.  More akin to a statement of fact.  “I had to snake through the east side to get to work today” or “I forgot to put undergarments in my gym bag.” We are really getting to splitting atoms here Aunties.  But if I am true to myself, I think where I am landing with this one is that if I say a “statement of fact” and want a reaction of sympathy or commiseration, well I think I have to label that as complaining. (Bummer.)

And instead of splitting hairs, let’s remind ourselves how much joy there is in choosing to focus on the positive.  I remember once being in a training (work) session.  The ice breaker that the facilitator used was “tell us something new and good in your life.”  As we went around the room, it was awash in joyful, hopeful energy.  New births, exciting life events, skills recently acquired.  Everyone was beaming (I am totally stealing that icebreaker).

Recently I listened to a podcast where the woman was talking about this exact idea.  “Focus on what is right,” was her message, “move away from asking what is wrong.”  So I tried it.  Walking down the street, I was walking upright (it was hot) but I was carrying my phone and wallet.  I remembered that it was a blessing to have the option of deciding to buy something if I wanted.  The sun was shining.  Everything else faded away.  I was here (there) in that moment, having a moment of joy.

It is going to take a lot of practice Aunties.  I feel that my “statement of fact” goes so well with my natural sarcasm.  I am not going to lie, work is going to be the most challenging.  But, I do want to be a person who can choose to focus on joy.  Maybe I will start the challenge the real way today, but I don’t know, it may be too hot today.