It is a natural human trait and even a self-preserving necessity to complain about something. All of us have times when dissatisfaction smacks us “upside the head” and we need to regurgitate the mental poison that grabs us by surprise. No matter how small this dissatisfaction looms, the best part about complaining is that we achieve a catharsis with the benefits of understanding from those who ingest our story, sympathize, or even exhibit empathy as perhaps they have gone through a similar negative experience.
Expressing a complaint can even have the positive effect of bringing those friends and family members into one’s inner circle by creating a support system, as there is a sense of honesty and community in expressing the truth about things that have been rattling and disconcerting in our lives. Even complaining to oneself can keep us from burdening others. So, we can’t be too hard on ourselves for complaining.
On the other hand, when complaining becomes one’s constant dialogue as they see their “cups half empty,” it becomes the focus of their personality and their only reason for communicating with others. When we encounter these people in our lives, we accept them and sometimes try to make them see they have the right to their feelings, but we try to encourage them to look at disappointment as a learning experience. It is when one complains about the same thing all the time; they can push those away who look at them as selfish and exhausting.
In light of these two views of the natural act of expressing disappointment, I viewed one of the most interesting challenges posted by a friend on Facebook, the media center of connection, which has made our “fingers do the talking” rather than “good old fashion speaking.” I checked my Facebook page when I awoke in the morning, a bad habit I regret ever starting. It was becoming an obsession. But on this day, there was a particular post, which perked my interest. It was a challenge for one not to complain for a twenty-four hour period. It did not specify whether this was to be verbal complaining, but the assumption was clear. Of course, this could not possibly apply to those who are inflicted with highly serious problems and illness. However, It was more of a challenge to play a “game” on purpose by not spewing dissatisfactions that were bothersome and interfering with the appreciation of the positive. Even though our complaints are certainly not to be discounted, such as being sold a false bill of goods or getting cut off on the freeway, it seemed like the dwelling on expressing complaints is what can cause the real harm.
So, there it was, I made a mental commitment to take on the challenge of not complaining for twenty-four hours. Surely, I could do this. And then, as though someone from above yelled down to me, “not so fast,” I was soon to realize this small commitment would become a greater challenge than I anticipated.
It was Friday morning, around 9:40 a.m. I was getting ready to pick up Hailey, the daughter of an old friend who passed away about six years ago. Hailey lives in a group home and whenever the opportunity arises, I try to take her overnight, just so she has some semblance of a family and a place to feel safe in.
I remembered that she didn’t have any trinkets from her mom, so I decided that I would give her something of mine that would make her feel special. I opened my jewelry box, very deliberate, as in the back of my mind I knew exactly which pair of earrings I wanted to share with her. Suddenly, a cloud of confusion hit me like a smoky ball of fire. My jewelry was gone. Where was my mom’s locket? What about my wedding band? All of the sentimental jewelry from my deceased mother and both grandmothers was now gone, poof, vanished. My initial reaction was to just cry and allow myself to be the wreck that immediately enveloped me. I kept opening the jewelry box, looking inside, closing the box, walking around the bedroom, back to the box; was this really happening? The stark reality shattered my excitement for picking up Hailey. I felt like I had just got slugged in the gut. It was as if some non-existent thief stole my innocence. My body was trembling and my mind was flooded with grief. This felt so personal. Why me? I was really curious, “why me?”
But now what? The trinkets from my family were gone. Everything I planned to give my children as memories of their grandma and great grandmothers’ had disappeared as quickly as my excitement for the day. Flashing back, I remember when I would hold these mementos in my hands, touching them, smelling them and breathing in the last remains of my mom and grandmothers. I tried to make sense of things, but sometimes things just don’t make sense.
I called the Sheriffs’ department and we made arrangements for the officer to come to my house when I returned from picking Hailey up. I had promised her fun and that was a commitment I pledged myself to keep, under any circumstance.
Almost eerily, I physically felt something happen inside. It was as though I took the hit, stood up and dusted myself off. I found a piece of me that had the ability to separate the physical pain I felt with the loss of my jewelry from the actual emotional pain of the loss. I took a long, deep breath and forged ahead. I dressed for the day, hopped in the car and headed out of the driveway. Suddenly, hesitation hit. I had to stop the car. I turned around to check the front door again. The door is locked. My home was safe. I knew I was safe, but I was really edgy.
As I drove in the car, I was dizzy, invoking an anger that felt ready to explode. It was difficult to keep my focus. I imagined my jewelry disappearing as quickly as the signs on the freeway. There were no words. I had just experienced a loss that was mind-boggling. No time to complain. How could I ever turn this one around into a learning experience and not share the incident over and over. Somehow, I refocused on the “silly challenge” and brought my attention back to the day with Hailey. I simply put the stolen jewelry dilemma on the back burner.
When I arrived to pick Hailey up, her excitement and joy brought tears to my eyes. I knew I was responsible for changing her day from bad to good. So instead of going directly home to call the Sheriff, we had a mini-shopping spree, had sushi for lunch; Hailey even got a new hairdo and we bought her favorite snacks at the market.
When we got back to the house, I calmly called the Sheriff and made arrangements to have my jewelry box dusted for fingerprints. I was still running on automatic, holding tears and pain inside. The Sheriff arrived and took my statement. Unfortunately, because I love cleaning so much, the officer could not retrieve any fingerprints as I had just polished the jewelry box the day before. Sometimes, you just gotta laugh, right?
I tried to imagine who would have come into my home and done such a wicked thing. I couldn’t even identify most of the missing pieces, as they were sacred mementos I dared not even wear for fear of losing something. Nor could I even answer his question of the estimated monetary loss of my jewelry. I never cared about the monetary value. So, I really had no idea of the true worth. All I knew was that I had to keep my head straight and this was not the time to complain or break down.
It was time to start dinner, just like I promised. Hailey helped in the kitchen and I forced myself to stay in the moment keeping the pain of my loss deep within the corridors of my mind. Dinner came and went, all without a hitch. I said a special prayer to my grandmothers and my mom, apologizing for not being able to share their mementos with my children, with Hailey. It was over. There was nothing I could do about any of this. I had no control over the situation. I was helpless.
Saturday came and I didn’t have the heart to take Hailey back to her group home. Another day with me seemed appropriate; as with the mood I was in, there was no way I was going out anyway. I could not move. I was frozen with despondency. So, together, Hailey and I hung out and watched television most of the day.
On Sunday, as we were getting ready to head back to Hailey’s her home, I realized the one person who helped me make it through the sadness of my loss was this young girl. Being a surrogate mom to her gave my day meaning and I realized that I made it not just 24 hours without complaining, but 48 hours.
Yes, I finally cried. Yes, I was broken hearted. But now, my dilemma had become how much time should I allow myself to grieve?
While making dinner tonight, I realized that the dishes I was using were from my grandma, Evelyn. I didn’t really lose everything after all. I did, in fact, learn a lesson. Things are just things. Don’t hold on too tightly to things because they are not what make you happy. It was being there for Hailey that made me happy in the long run. This was my opportunity to teach a young woman how to be strong even in the moment when you feel like falling apart. Focusing on the good does help alleviate the pain. I thought about the things that the thief did not steal and I was grateful. I still had pictures, special dishes and even this huge soup pot that belonged to my great grandmother. And I still had my memories. So really, why complain?
Thanks for the challenge, dear Facebook. It doesn’t mean I won’t slip backwards and begin to whine a little; however, awareness is a gift and for that I will be forever grateful.