I enjoy complaining. I feel that it can be an art form, and, if properly used, can go a long way towards correcting flaws in the universe.
Sometimes, though, it’s just a drag.
So I’ve been working on a project lately, one of those self-improvement things that people often start but rarely stick with. It’s the “one complaint, one joke” project, in which I strive to become a less annoying person. I think it may actually be working, and the rules go something like this.
- I may complain to someone else if I need to share feelings about a sad or frustrating situation.
- BUT if all I’m doing is saying something negative just because of a bad mood, I need to follow it up with a joke.
Let’s watch it in action.
C-Man asks, after taking care of Boy Detective for a few hours so my sick self could take a nap and then get some work done, “How are you feeling.”
I say “Well I drank some tea and all it did was burn my tongue. I really triiiiied to wait until it cooled off. I should have just put an ice cube in it, I don’t know what I was thinking.”
What is the purpose of this complaint? I do not have such deep emotional feelings about burning my tongue with the f*&ing tea that I need C-Man’s understanding and support. The information about my tea incident is not crucial to his ability to live his life and provide for his family. I’m just bitching, frankly, and it’s not really adding to anyone’s life.
So, the proper followup would be this: “I’m trying to decide who to sue. You paid your Bar dues this year, right?”
Except that I forgot to do the policy on that one. I’m making progress, but I’m not perfect. Here is an example of one time it did work.
C-Man asks, after we put Boy Detective to bed, “What’s your plan for the evening?”
I say “I’m going to think about how much September sucks.”
And then I say “It’s a good plan, because I can do that plan AND another plan at the same time, and that way I get more done!”
It was not the best joke in the world, but we both laughed. He was undoubtedly happier than he would have been if I had stopped before the joke. I was even happier. After all, instead of the takeaway being how annoyed I am at the world, the takeaway was that my husband and I can bond and he thinks I’m funny.
I’m not saying I can do it all the time, or that I even need to do it all the time. I’m not trying to turn into the class clown. But it turns out that you really can influence how you feel through your actions – and improve the lives of innocent bystanders at the same time. Who knew?