Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Rule #2: Don't Complain

If you want to make God laugh, make plans. I conceived of the idea of writing about my rules once a month. When I wake up with words in my mind and a conviction in my heart, my plans change. I think that is the time I write at my best.
Rule #2: Don’t complain. 
Woah, boy do I struggle with this one. Complaining is something of an American national past time. Comedians and Politicians make careers on their epic ability to complain. Why do complaints resonate so strongly with other people?
First, I want to define complaint. A quick Google search renders the following definition:
  1. a statement that a situation is unsatisfactory or unacceptable
  2. an illness or medical condition, especially a relatively minor one.
I like both of these definitions rather a lot. The first part is simple. “Pardon me, Frederick, but it seems you have backed your car over the whole of my right foot,” says Norman. While this is an observation of fact (and slightly British sounding in my head) it is also a complaint. This is not the type of complaint that applies to Rule #2. When Frederick recklessly weaves his Cooper over your Puma rendering you a literal flat foot, you should have something to say about it. Getting run over is a very valid complaint.
The above example also speaks to the second definition. Norman is valid in his medical complaint of carranovermyfoot-itis.  We only hope for our fictitious speaker that the condition is not chronic. “Sally, I seem to be bleeding from the rectum,” observes Midge. This too is a valid form of complaint. If Sally is Midge’s doctor, the complaint has a really valid audience and is contextually appropriate. If Midge is the ticket taker at the local movie theater it becomes less of both.
The spirit of Rule #2 is aimed at the every suffering person, the chronic complainer. We all know people like this. Their every response is a complaint. I often worry that I am a complainer, and the reason I make these rules is to improve myself.
The chronic complainer is easy to identify. “How is your day going, Marcus,” asks Reginald. “I am so glad you asked,” responds Marcus. “Starbucks shorted me on the Espresso in my Triple Vanilla Mocha whatsit. My dog insisted on me taking her for a walk even though it was raining outside. I am going to have to replace the breaks on my car. The IRS is auditing me. No matter how many times Brian and I make love I just cannot get him to get his O face just the way I like it. Honestly, I don’t know why I try so hard,” Marcus continues.
Marcus is a tool. Don’t be like Marcus. He complains about everything in his life. Reginald doesn’t know Marcus like that. No one knows anyone else well enough to just dump on them like that. Our parents shouldn’t have to hear this type of garbage. Priests in confession shouldn’t have to endure this level of over information.
Marcus is seeking attention or validation by complaining. He has embraced the negative and tosses out his problems like verbal dynamite hoping to elicit sympathy from any source. Having been in this headspace I can suggest that Marcus is probably intensely unhappy. If you have encountered Marcus or someone like him (since Marcus, like all these examples, is fictitious) put some distance between you. Retreat entirely if you can. There is nothing to be gained from this relationship.
Law 10 of The 48 Laws of Power states:
Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and the Unlucky. 
People who complain may or may not be unhappy or unlucky. Don’t stick around to find out. Their negative mentality will draw you into their troubles. Over time, your good intentions and attempts to help will become the source of new complaints to someone else. I have experienced this many times. The complainer cannot be helped because he or she is deriving a twisted pleasure from the act of complaining.
To square my own actions, I do my best to avoid complaint. When I am asked about an unfortunate situation that deserves some complaint, I will try to keep my answer more solutions based. “David, how are you dealing with your Mother’s passing?” I respond,” I am thankful that she didn’t end her life with a long-term painful illness. I miss her, but I know she is in a better place.”
There is a valid complaint in there. I miss her. The rest of the sentiment shores up that complaint with some positive thoughts. The person I am speaking to isn’t brought down by this answer. They likely have a bit of respect for my response.
Complaining focuses more on the problems at hand than their solutions. I have no solution for Death. None of us do. Instead, I correct my thinking about it. That puts the innate negative connotations of the subject on the back burner. I can solve myself. The person I am carrying on the conversation with isn’t burdened with feelings of sympathy or burdened with pity. The conversation leaves us both in a better, more resolved place.
Carrying myself this way also has the unseen upside of genuinely changing my thoughts from a dark place to a lighter one. I feel happier and lighter. Had I dove deeper into a complaint with,” My Mom was a unique person. She has left a hole in my life I can never recover from. I don’t know how to live my life anymore. I truly cannot ever be happy again,” the other person is left with a sense of horror and is forced to either act uncaring or take on the Brobdingnagian task of consoling me.
Not complaining is not the same thing as keeping all your problems to yourself. That is extremely unhealthy for your psyche. We all need confidants and people we can vent our frustrations with. That helps us come to solutions rather than dwelling forever on the problem side of the equation.
Not complaining also has the upside of not slapping yourself repeatedly in your own face with your troubles. I am a broken record. Poor Ethan, Contessa, Chris, and Whitley have heard more about me riding a motorcycle than any group ever should. I talk about it daily. “I wish it were warm enough to ride” “I don’t like leather riding vests because I am long in the torso.” “God it was a beautiful ride in.”
If everything I say on a subject is a complaint I become oppressive. My energy is rather large and can be overwhelming. Even a quiet and small complainer can be a complete buzzkill. That negativity can ruin your whole day if you let it. If you find people avoiding you, it may well be because you bitch and complain too much.
This applies heavily to relationships too. If you are always complaining to the other person about the time they don’t spend with you, the fact they didn’t come home on time, that they didn’t text or call, that this or that friend makes you uncomfortable, that you worry about them, etc. then you will eventually run that person off. Complaints in a relationship should be few and far between. Either the person complaining should just end the relationship, or the person being complained about constantly should run the other direction. Truth be told, the person complaining is probably doing so because the other person is already pulling away.
Again, there are valid times to discuss concerns. Relationships should be full of communication and everyone should have their needs met. At the end of the day though most of a relationship should be made up of positive interactions and experiences. I know I start ducking out when a relationship is completely soured with complaints. There are too many chances to surround yourself with happy people that will enjoy your company to waste time on people who want to bitch and complain.

Rule #2 is very important. It is a social obligation. It is also how you can control the inside of your own head. Violate it to your own harm.

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