Thursday, March 6, 2008

If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit by me!

After reading Martha Beck, I began the challenge of, for a brief period of time, all together removing complaint from my life. A week. Without complaint.

Complaining is like life's steam valve, she says, letting off just enough to make us once again comfortable with the status quo of our unfulfilled, unsatisfying, settling for less than we deserve, again putting myself on the bottom of the list, unhappy lives. If that steam power was not vented and instead harnessed, she argues, it has the power to transform our lives. She suggests that we resist the temptation to complain for a period of time, and instead channel the energy of that frustration into positive change in our own little worlds.

Maybe there is something to this, I thought.

After all, Gandhi himself said "It is not that I do not feel anger. It is that I do not give vent to anger. . .As heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world."

Yes. A complaining fast. My path to enlightenment.

Simple enough.

Easy really.

Oh Jacob... silly, silly, silly Jacob.

What I had neglected to take into account was that I was cutting out a HUGE chunk of my life. Apparently, I can't go three seconds without complaining about something. Anything really. Like you , for example, sitting there so smug with your. . . just kidding.

Minute after minute, I caught myself mid sentence. Hour after hour, I could feel the anxiety and rage mounting. I had to do this. I had to make it through. The entirety of my life's future happiness was at stake. (dang drama!)

But as the first two days passed, the pressure seemed to subside into clarity. The rage was still there, don't get me wrong. But instead of simply turning to a trusted friend, gas attendant, or stranger on the street and ranting for an hour about why I was so pissed off, I instead was motivated to have the constructive conversations (words chosen carefully) as a means to the desired ends of rectifying the anger producing situations.

And while I didn't end world hunger, or our nations dependence on foreign oil, and my enlightenment is left still somewhere out of reach, I do feel like I gained a better understanding of myself from the experience. Now, while I still like a good rant from time to time, I think more closely about things before I hear them tumbling out of my mouth. And I avoid complaining about situations over which I have total control.

Granted, it could be argued that we always have control over our own attitudes, and thus really never have the right to complain about any situation. . .but, I'm just not there yet. But I'm not complaining. Maybe someday.

For now I will bask in this tiny victory.

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