At some point early in life I developed this habit of complaining about anything and everything. If something went “wrong” or happened in a less than perfect, efficient, helpful, productive manner, I would be sure to point out any and all errors, deficiencies, oversights, and incompetencies.
I remember having a phone conversation with my dad when I was a senior in college. After coming up for air from a 5-minute tirade about God only knows what, I paused. “Dad, I complain a lot, don’t I?” I asked. “Yes, you do.” he answered plainly. I could always count on Dad for an honest answer.
On the outside I was sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows everything. I was regarded as an upbeat and bubbly person. Boy oh boy, did I have them fooled. For as much as I nitpicked the world around me, I was equally nitpicking myself for anything that I said or did that was less than perfect, efficient, helpful, or productive. I was very happy on the outside. On the inside? Well, it’s hard to be happy when all you see is your own errors, deficiencies, oversights, and incompetencies.
I’ve made some radical changes within myself over the past ten years since that phone conversation with Dad. I see now that the overly happy was covering my feelings of discontent and disconnect from myself, which led to my constant complaining. It was cyclical and toxic.
There are many conversations happening currently about choosing your feelings. About thinking positively. About changing your reality by changing your thoughts. But what the heck does that even mean? I had an experience this morning that my former self would’ve gotten loads of bitching material from. My current self, however, views it differently.
Scenario: The Curtain Guy
I got a follow-up call from my curtain guy at 10:00 this morning asking if he could come by with some samples. “Sure,” came my response; Miller and I were hanging out at home with no plans. “Okay, I’ll be there at 11:00,” he replied.
This is not this guy’s first trip to our home, and I’ve learned from being around him that he’s very methodical. I’ve also learned from mothering that I have a difficult (if not impossible) time of giving anything or anyone my full attention if Miller is with me. A part of my brain is committed to him, his whereabouts, his safety, what he’s saying to me, etc… I called my mom to see if I could drop Miller off at her house before the curtain guy arrived. Mom was already watching my niece, so I figured it’d give the cousins a chance to play and allow me to give undivided attention to the curtain guy. She graciously said yes.
At 10:50 I left for my mom’s house. By 10:58 I was back home.
11:00 came and went. No curtain guy. I picked up the toys strewn about the floor.
11:05 – This isn’t like him. I sorted another load of laundry.
11:12 – No curtain guy. He said 11:00, right? Not noon? I sorted the mail, got some checks ready to cash, and cleaned off the kitchen counter.
At 11:20 I started watching Glennon Doyle Melton’s SuperSoul Sunday interview with Oprah.
11:27 – The curtain guy arrived.
“Sorry I’m late,” he said walking into the house. “That’s okay,” I responded appreciating that he acknowledged it. My old self would’ve said, “Oh no problem,” through a big old smile while yelling on the inside.
Within fifteen minutes we figured out the type of treatment that meets my functionality requests and comes in a long enough option for our windows, and selected a fabric color from the sample book.
Then come the specifics: motorization options; mounting location; number of panels desired; how the mechanics work, etc…
It’s 12:10. The waiting game begins.
He takes measurements, references the product spec sheets, and calculates pricing. We share some stories, but mostly I keep quiet so as not to disrupt his thinking process. I hope he hurries up so I can pick Miller up and get him home for naptime, I thought. “You know he’s methodical,” I responded to myself. You mean slow. I ignored my snarky side by filling out some paperwork that I had put off for a week.
12:30. He’s still scrutinizing spec sheets. I quietly heated up some lunch for myself.
12:40 and he’s finished. He packed up, and we exchanged thank yous and farewells.
By 12:42 I was in the car driving back to mom’s house. It’s during this time that I think about what has transpired and how I choose to view it.
My old self would’ve hit mom’s door bitching. “He came a half-hour late and then took forever reviewing paperwork!” It would have been a true statement.
My now self got to mom’s house and reported, “He was to arrive at 11, but showed up a half hour late. During that time I got some work done around the house. We figured out exactly what I was looking for. He’s very methodical and thorough, which means that it takes a while for him to complete his work. It also means that he gets it right on the first try.” This is also a true statement.
I could act like everything was flawless, but that wouldn’t ring true.
I could focus on the fact that he was late, or I could focus on everything that I was able to do with that unexpected half hour of time to myself.
I could view the guy as slow, or I could view him as methodical and thorough recognizing that those traits result in a job well done.
I could be annoyed by a longer than anticipated process, or I could appreciate that I’m able to hire a guy to help with curtains, that my mom was willing to watch Miller, that she lives really close by, and that my son was able to play with his cousin.
Do you see how simple it can be to choose whether to complain or whether to focus on the good? Both exist simultaneously always. Both are available to you always. You can focus on the inconveniences or you can point out the positive happenings within each scenario. It’s your choice.
Somewhere between fake happy and constant complaints is a wide land of realness. That’s where you’ll find me, friends. Please, come join me.