Friday, March 15, 2013

Complaint Department

Recently I was on my way to the local post office. Near the door, I heard two women talking loudly. One of them began to complain that she was "soooo" tired. This occurred last Monday morning after we turned our clocks ahead one hour for Daylight Savings Time. "I'm exhausted," she said. "This changing the time is killing me and I'll have a hard time getting back on schedule."

Her petty comment confirmed something I have long recognized -- that there are people who will complain about nearly any topic. Perhaps they believe that complaining sounds like they have an opinion when actually they have nothing to contribute. Complaining gets the attention of others and you feel as though you are involved with current social events. For others, complaining is merely a habit.

We have become a nation of whiners.

I have always disliked whining, even in children where that activity remains somewhat amusing. Kids can whimper and carry on dramatically as though they are about to lose a limb. It seems that the bigger the injury, the less likely they are to complain. When I was an elementary teacher, I would see kids take falls or be otherwise injured on the playground with barely a tear.

Once a little girl of about 10 walked slowly up to me and held up her tiny arm. It was quite obviously broken about midway between the wrist and elbow and hung bent where there was no joint I calmly asked, "What happened?" "Oh, I fell out of the swing." She looked at me with enormous blue eyes while holding the broken arm. "Well, let's get you to see Mrs. Jones." Off we trotted to the nurse's office for medical help. Perhaps she was in disbelief over the injury, perhaps a bit in shock. But she was muddling through and that's more than some people would do.

If you don't believe that a large percentage of Americans are chronic whiners, just click on to the internet and read a few posted comments on nearly any subject. People whine about all sorts of small things, perceived slights, inconveniences, and affronts. It doesn't seem to matter how insignificant the issue. If people believe they have been wronged in some way, they are likely to vent about it.

Personally, I'm a believer in venting immediately about some topic -- either aloud or silently -- and then moving the heck on. I've been exposed to too many people in my life who would rather seethe over some tiny incident and let the issue ripen into eventual hatred. My theory is: get mad, move on.

Some people make a mountain out of a molehill and pay the price for such action. I just read that physicians are now uncovering a link between prolonged stress and heart problems. No kidding. I'm not a physician but I could have volunteered that information based on my life experiences. The connection between suffering and health damage is not confined to heart-related matters either. All sorts of stress can prove unhealthy.

As my life grew more complicated with age and career, I became fond of saying that I couldn't get too upset about small issues for which I had neither energy nor time. I was fond of saying that "I like to pick my battles." Don't know who was the first person to use that phrase, but it had to be someone who would rather focus on more important matters than trivial annoyances. It seems a better approach to life.

Spring isn't too far off now, with only a few more weeks of cooler weather before the flowers bloom. How can anyone feel bad about that type of future event? Well, I hear whining every day about what hasn't even happened yet. "Spring means my allergies will be at full volume again." "That means yard work (or home repairs) to fill every spare moment." "I haven't missed mowing the grass, that's for sure." "My skin is so sensitive that I have to avoid the sun entirely." "I need to start exercising again." The complaint list is lengthy.

When it comes to special days/holidays, the same thing occurs. Rather than focus on the magic of Christmas, there are ongoing complaints about shopping, busy calendars, demands, folks who didn't send cards yet, etc. Rather than spending warm summer evenings conversing with friends in lawn chairs, the air is filled with negative comments about mosquitoes, chiggers, loud music in the neighbors' yards and other annoyances. We are becoming so fond of venting about little things that the big pictures are being overlooked entirely.

When we find ourselves slipping back into a pattern of constant complaining, we need someone poke us in the ribs and say, "Hey, stop it. Listen to yourself for a minute." That's a good way to be jolted back to reality.

Let's not lose focus entirely.

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