"Quit your complaining."
"Life's not fair."
"Suck it up."
Ever hear these things? I grew up with the first one, and a bit of the second, in the literal sense. The third was always been there too, but less directly. As an adolescent I was even offered an incentives program for not complaining. If I managed not to complain for a certain amount of time, I got a prize.
Fast forward to twenty years old. I had a job I hated, a personal life spiralling towards breakdown, and... hey look, I'm complaining! Or am I? At the job, of course everyone complained in some way, we all
hated it. What I didn't say, however, were things like, "My back hurts so badly it literally burns." Or, "Yesterday I got home from work, dumped my stuff by the door, and almost made it to my tiny dining room before collapsing on the floor and sobbing into it for half an hour."
I was raised to not complain. This was drilled into me over and over until I literally couldn't speak out about the things that mattered anymore, because they were "complaints." How was I supposed to tell the difference? Of course, to right-wing extremists, anything bordering individual thought is a big no-no and thus should be squelched promptly and thoroughly. At most I was left to the petty complaints, the acceptable complaints, the stuff everybody else complained about. The safe things. "This cereal company could use a lesson in quality." "Management has no idea what they're doing, yet they expect to somehow tell us
how to do our jobs better." That last one would of course never be spoken to actual management.
I can't help but wonder how this sort of mindset helped lead to the various mistrials and horror story episodes of my life. Yes, I had other abuse issues to deal with, but this one really does key in to not speaking up. If I'd been more vocal, more adamant, taken complaining to the level where it really needed to be done, it wouldn't have taken me until thirty-one to sever all contact with my parents. It's entirely possible I would have told them where to shove their control-freak, religious indoctrination before it numbed my ability to think and helped lead me to be the perfect victim for an internet predator... who I would end up marrying. Even today, I might have told certain people in authority positions now the words they need to hear, regardless of how it may risk my living situation. There's complaining, and then there's... standing up for one's rights. That, or maybe we should just call it "super-complaining." People make money and policy changes off it all the time. They're called politicians... advocacy groups... lobbyists... radio and television show hosts.
This though struck me today in part because a lot of what I've been reading and watching lately has encouraged me to think outside the box. To question, to look at things from different angles, something I've been working on personally as it is. I read an internet article on ways the 21st Century is making us miserable,1
and although I in part disagree with their first point, that we don't have enough annoying friends, that in a way ties into this thought. When I've ended friendships, I will admit that "they were annoying" has been one of the reasons. But it has only been one
of the reasons. Usually there are more key issues at stake, like honesty or the lack thereof, unacceptable behavior, drugs.
Everybody has been annoying to everybody else at some point in their lives. Minor annoyances are just that, and perhaps some people do try to shed everyone
who falls into that category. I don't, or I'd never talk to anybody ever again. Then there's the question of whether or not minor annoyances are worth complaining about, worth confronting the offending person over. "I worked really hard to make myself pretty yesterday and you didn't even notice." "Remember when you wouldn't shut up about that one topic I wasn't interested in? That was frustrating." "I don't like your shirt."
There are, perhaps, some things that are so petty they really are the sort of complaints that should be left unvoiced. Then there are others, that might lead to personal growth in the offender, or quite possibly, the one offended. The person who made themselves pretty perhaps needs to learn to value themselves for themselves
, not expect constant feedback and praise from others. The person subjected to a lengthy dissertation on a boring or aggravating subject might need to broaden their horizons, or understand that the other person may have autism-related brain wiring or a similar issue that tends towards obsessive information sharing. The clothing critic might need a lesson in the convoluted realm of personal taste, or just plain being comfortable with oneself.
I was going somewhere with that, but I can't think anymore. I have a migraine, it's hard to keep my eyes open, and I think I'll just finish up before I really
Oh, right. I wonder if there's a better way to handle children who complain a lot. Childhood years are so delicately formative. After all my life lessons, if a little kid in my care actually said something to the effect of, "Wah, I do not like [insert issue here]," I would be tempted to either spin it as, "Why? No really, why? What would you suggest as a better alternative? Is it really so bad?" or if there is a true concern being voiced, consider the child's words carefully and see if there's some way to alleviate the problem that doesn't swing into flat-out giving in to whining for the sake of peace and quiet.
I don't know. And I'm not afraid to admit it. I've learned that there are some thing it's okay not to know. To not be certain. To entertain varied options, or not leap to some black and white decision based purely off motives or inside-the-box thinking even I may question later on. I do
know what doesn't work, specific to the issue of complaining. Now if only I could learn to complain the right
way... I'm getting better, but I have a long ways to go. The squirrels in the apartment air vents have proven this mightily. But that's a whole other story.1 www.cracked.com/article_15231_…