Last week, after getting a nudge, I decided to limit my complaining to see if would improve my life. If what we focus on expands, you’d think my life would turn into one big party.
Here’s what happened
The first day went well, but that was to be expected. After all, it was the first day. Anyone could do that.
I also succeeded the following two days when I went on a business trip. Nothing warranted objection, really, certainly not the food, the accommodation, or even any of the people who spoke at the conference.
The hotel staff set up coffee stations in just about every corner, so I couldn’t even gripe about falling into a three o’clock slump. My bed featured a top-notch mattress. I even figured out how to turn on the shower without having to call the front desk.
Our hotel had a view of the airport, but by some miracle of modern technology, we didn’t hear a single plane. I only came close to complaining once, about the hotel’s cheap WiFi policy. They didn’t charge you to use it in the lobby, but they wanted $12.95 per day to use it in your room.
I decided to suck it up and turned on Stephen Colbert.
Then, over the weekend, on my way to my niece’s fourth birthday party, we hit traffic even before we got on the highway. In the broiling sun. I wanted to complain about it, of course, and emit some profanities, but I remembered my vow and managed a prayer of gratitude for smooth travel.
Interestingly, once we did get on the highway, we sailed out of Connecticut into New York. We arrived at the party after just one brief tie-up.
I lose it
On Sunday, a person who shall not be named resumed a behavior that I have requested him/her to cease. My automatic response was to go off on a tear about how sick I am of his/her nonsense, and when is he/she going to get it, and so on.
I went hog wild on this individual (behind his/her back), complete with jokes and petty imitations. I started to really enjoy myself at this person’s expense. Then remembered the challenge.
Also, it occurred to me:
If what I think about is what I bring about, is it possible that by complaining I am contributing to his/her annoying proclivities?
I find it again
Yesterday, when this offender reappeared and started up, I opened my mouth to go on a rant. I stopped myself dead. I got an idea to pray for him/her instead. My prayers worked in traffic. Maybe they would work here.
I don’t have any results to report yet, but I will keep praying for this individual. If anything notable happens, I’ll get back to you.
The future of less complaining: Another experiment
My success in enjoying almost no traffic gave me yet another idea: to jot in a notebook my complaints as they pop into my head, and then offer a prayer of gratitude for their opposite.
So, for example, if my complaint is:
This guy’s a giant asshole!
My prayer of gratitude could be:
Thank you, God, for this person’s hidden kindness and courtesy, which is now surfacing for everyone to see and feel.
Now, it’s nearly impossible to pray for a creep who skidded into the parking space for which I patiently waited, so the best course would be to tap and let off steam first.
(Even though this asshole took my parking space…)
By next week at this time, I’m sure I’ll have filled several pages with prayers of gratitude. I wonder what changes that will bring about.
How I feel so far after a week of less complaining
I was pretty happy to begin with, but I’m lighter and happier.
I notice that when I don’t complain I can be truly present for other people, instead of being preoccupied by a lot of nonsense. (Because who really cares if someone stole my parking space?)
And, when I’m not complaining, I can be more present altogether. It may sound corny, but I’m aware of the cardinal on my doorstep, the bursting hydrangeas, the chipmunk skittering across my lawn. I make note of the color of other people’s eyes. Everything’s a bit brighter.
I’ll let you know what the next week brings.
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