If you know me personally, it won’t surprise you at all when I say that I’m a bit of a complainer. I’m good with words, which means I’m excellent at finding the most amazing and indulgent ways to bitch and moan. Some people say that I exaggerate my stories – but I prefer to call it “remembering big.” As a writer, I know that it makes for a much better story if I was late to work because a 1,500 pound moose charged my car, rather than some ill-timed road construction or an unreliable alarm clock.
Yes, I complain. I bitch about the weather, the traffic, the hills I couldn’t escape on my run. I whine that there’s nothing good on television, that my neighbor’s dogs are annoying and that taxes are too high for the middle class. I complain about a lot of little things that I just can’t change, I get it out of my system and then move on with my day.
But even still it’s probably annoying, and so I’ve been taking some steps to contain the behavior. I’m not looking to put anyone else in a shitty mood. Besides, my life is pretty darn awesome these days, considering.
But that’s not what I’m talking about, here.
I actually wanted to talk about a different kind of complainer. The kind of person who makes really big, really shitty decisions that nobody forced them to make, and then spends 2/3 of their life bitching about them in broad, colorfully highlighted strokes. Some of these decisions cannot be taken back, but many can. And either way, if you’re a family member, friend, mutual Facebook friend, party guest or stranger on the street you must be exposed to this wretchedly awful turn of events, whether you give a shit or not.
For this kind of complainer, the behavior is so deeply ingrained into their character that you couldn’t separate them from it with a scalpel. The complainer feeds so much off the empathy of his of her listeners, that you might believe they would walk headlong into these problems on purpose, just for the relief of furrowed brows and pats on the back. The words “hang in there” and “I’m so sorry” are a musical tune, a symphony to the ears.
The thing that bothers me the most about these incorrigible bellyachers is that if you look at all you know about their lives, 95% of the time…it’s really not that bad. Usually the problems they have are things like they hate their jobs, their husbands/girlfriends/children are assholes or they don’t have enough room for their diamond collection in their 5,000 square foot home. The complaints are usually either about stuff that means nothing, or stuff that everyone goes through at one time or another. Or worse, it’s stuff that they chose to get themselves into, with full disclosure of the side effects, but still want to bitch about anyway. And they want you to feel awful about it, too.
Sure, sure, call me a hard-hearted curmudgeon, but really? If you can’t rally through the most commonplace difficulties of life, then what are you going to do when…I dunno…a zombie apocalypse happens?
And I mean, it’s hard not to scoff at some of the things people whine about, if you’ve had a life like mine handed to you. Sure yeah, it’s probably not fair to compare people’s normal lives to mine, which started out so profoundly terrible…but then again why not? If I’m still swimming along with a grin on my face after all the shit I’ve been through, then why can’t you? Has your life been so good that you’ve never learned a thing about independence, self-sufficiency and the myriad benefits of a stiff upper lip?
‘A happy childhood has spoiled many a promising life.’ ~Robertson Davies
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t pretend to hold all the secrets to other people’s happiness. But I do know a really good place to start:
IF YOU ARE UNHAPPY WITH SOMETHING IN YOUR LIFE,
THEN CHANGE IT!
I know this seems all too simple, and it is! But that’s because it’s simple to make changes in your life. All you need is a little resolve and some perseverance. You just have to peel your lazy ass off the couch and do it. Well, actually first you have to gather up enough pride to stop debasing yourself with all that piteous whining. Then get up off the couch.
When you’re ready to plan your big change (or, maybe it’s just a little change, those are good too), carefully decide on what will be the first step or two. There’s no need to overwhelm yourself trying to wrap your head around everything at once. Why? Because you’ll just end up back on Facebook, adding this to your complaint list. Once you have decided on the first step toward your happiness, it’s important that you execute it by yourself. Rewrite your resume…on your own. Teach the kid to behave…without the help of your parents. Lose weight by going to the gym…not by slurping miracle shakes and taking diet pills. Leave your shitty spouse…without the use of a rebound lover.
Making this change without outside assistance is really important. If you’re one of those people who cannot live a single day without bitching about your life, then you’ve probably never done anything on your own before, and it’s time to start learning.
And it’s worth it. Executing the first step toward your happier life is like magic: you’ll automatically feel better, and you’ll see the light at the end of this mess you’ve made of your life. There’s hope for you yet!
Now, it’s important that you stick with your plan to make this change happen. Don’t let those fools you call friends try to talk you out of it, and don’t back down when shit gets difficult. And most importantly, don’t bitch about it! I realize that nobody wants to hear how happy you are, but they especially don’t want to hear that you fail at being happy too. So shut the hell up and have some follow-through.
Once you’ve finally turned this ship around, you’re going to wonder why the hell you didn’t do it earlier. The answer is always that you were an asshole. But now that you’re not an asshole anymore, it’s time to pat yourself on the back! But not too hard, you might get a bruise and be tempted to tweet about it in all-caps.