Complaining About Complaining

(Song Dedication: Right Here, Right Now by Jesus Jones)

Well if that catchy title doesn’t make you wanna dive right into this masterpiece I’m at a loss then, aren’t I?  I just really love irony and what it’s always trying to teach us in our hard wired, blockhead lives:)

So here’s the thing.  I am ALL about honouring our emotions, ALL of them; good, bad and ugly ones.  And when I say honour them, I mean it. I’ve learned the hard way what happens to our stifled shitty emotions when we try to stuff them back inside so no one knows how imperfect we really are.  It’s toxic stuff.  (I mean who wants to eat their own shit? Well rabbits do, but…)  I’ve become my own cautionary tale; this blog one chapter after another of just some of the highlighted fuck-ups and triumphs. (That’s right people “some” as in I don’t share everything for the sake’s of my friends and family, and perhaps my readers too, no one wants everything, and I frankly, don’t want to write that much.)

I’ve clawed my way out of various holes; depression, anxiety, addictions, chronic migraines to name a few. But when it comes to complaining I’ve felt that it is seldom, if ever, helpful to me.  Which is why I lean toward a positive narrative most times where a post might start out a bit dark and suspect, but the process of writing helps me transform the dark into light; thus highlighting a solution or the process of unveiling being the solution unto itself.

I believe that allowing ourselves to complain is a necessary part of healing and processing BUT if left as only that – complaining – it is a missed opportunity for reconciliation.

This new year brought a spontaneous goal to our household which was no complaining without offering and openness to solutions. However, this is a bit of a tricky concept for a 7-year-old, and maybe also for the almost 40-year-old inhabitants of this residence. Especially with this time of year; the relentless snow and cold and overcast skies, my husbands recovery from an Achilles rupture, and then there’s me…the one with chronic pain on a hiatus from teaching, a multitude of health appointments and an addiction to information (currently reading 4 books right now).

They say the first step to recovery is always acknowledging the problem though, right?!

I’ve come across two concepts I’d like to share today which I’m going to employ to help with the negativity around here.  They are as follows:

  1. Awareness of my mind’s relationship with time and problems (Eckhart Tolle)
  2. Apply the “But Out” problem-solving method (Daniel Pink)

The first concept is outlined in, “The Power of Now” where Tolle suggests we can be mindful of how we frame our relationship with time (past, present, future) and try to be in the second category as much as possible (hence the title of this book, makes sense right). He also asks we consider the use of the word “problem” which Tolle indicates is problematic in and of itself.

When we constantly spotlight all the problems needling for our attention or fixing we can get pretty bogged down, like we are playing a virtual game of whack-a-mole with a broken mallet. What if we change the idea of problem to situation? And what if we are able to deal with a situation (rather than problem) as it arises in the moment rather than projection of future problems? (I hold a predilection toward fortune-telling…at least according to more than one therapist…and believe me…I’m terrible at it…if I had a crystal ball it would be broken, never having worked since the day I brought it home from Walmart…because they probably sell those too). Holy shit, did you see how naturally I went into manufacturing a probable problem right on the spot like that? I’m a natural!

So, how do we do this? Eckhart proposes time as a theoretical construct where most of us live in the “insanity of psychological time” where the “highest good lies in the future and the end justifies the means”.  That type of time takes us out of the present moment (which in reality is all we really concretely have) and projects us into the unknown abyss of the future.  It steals from us the ability to bask in the present moment and what gratitude and joy we possess in the here and now, instead handing us empty promises disguised as distractions of projection.  You know, that yearning of want for something that is not quite there just yet…just a few more pounds to lose, just a few more pages to complete that report, just a few more weeks and we’ll be on that beach, just a bit more money in my bank account and then, THEN I can be happy.

To be clear Eckhart Tolle also discusses the practicality of “clock time” not just for planning but also for learning from the past, so we “don’t make the same mistakes over and over”.  I just didn’t want you to think I was going all sci-fi time bender Donnie Darko conspiracy theory or anything.

Step one: as Garth would say “Live in the now, man!” live-in-the-now

Step 1.a Now that we understand (sort of) what the now is, we can address the idea of “problem.”

Again, Tolle outlines problem as a stepping out of the present moment, proposing we exchange “problem” for “situation”. When we do this little semantics shift, it brings us to awareness rather than fight or flight; and with conscious awareness we are able to better address the course of action needed (if any at all) at a more calm, intrinsic level rather than being all hyper-reactive swinging that whacking mole mallet all helter skelter.

When we combine the “Now” with a “situation” based approach, we save ourselves a shit ton of worrisome anticipation, cause if you’re at all like me, most of the shit you worry about never actually comes to fruition!

This makes me think of something someone once shared with me (one of those someones you think are so grounded and centred –  having life all figured out).  Anyway she told me how she was projecting her worry about returning home after a long time away, conceding this wasn’t a visit home that was one hundred percent her choice, but more out of obligation to family) And someone reminded her that the trip was still weeks away and so why commiserate with your anxiety now?  As in you’re not there now so stop acting like you are! And also added you will have plenty of time to be uncomfortable and anxious when you are there if it so arises so at the very least, save it for that time. (This was a relatively botched job of paraphrasing a conversation about other’s conversation, so I apologize if it comes off a bit convoluted).

Secondly I plan to use the framework of Daniel Pink, who I referenced in my last post,  who suggests the “But Out” approach. Rather than complaining with “blah blah blah BUT this….”end stop. Try replacing “but” with “and” so that I challenge my thinking to stretch beyond the complaint, which may creatively inspire a solution in this open-ended approach.

For example, “I want to write and be more creative more often BUT I have difficulty finding enough time for this on a daily basis.” Now engage But Out. “I want to write and be more creative more often AND I have difficulty finding enough time for this on a daily basis. So I need to adapt my time table; pare down my appointments to only the ones that are absolutely necessary, wake up earlier (which also means to bed earlier) and maybe even drop a book or two for the time being.”  Huh, that worked…I just conjured a minimum of 2 extra hours per day to work with to meet my need…out of thin air…kind of magic actually!

Pink says, “This is grammar’s way of saying, Deal with this!”

As previously mentioned, I know these are semantics, but if you really consider the importance of how words and ideas are framed, delivered and then hopefully absorbed they can be quite significant if you want them to be; if you need them to be.  If Martin Luther King Jr. said “Fight darkness with light and hatred with love” it may have been an oversight in the history of uprising but instead he proclaimed,

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

So rather than saying “stop complaining” to myself or someone else. I will endeavour to be ever-present, I will note the situations as they arise and I will refrain from “buts” in exchange for proactive, positive thought processes.  Its the little things that make the big impact and I am glad I have just a few, manageable morsels to carry me into this new year right now.


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