Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Art of Complaining

If practice makes perfect, then I should be a near perfect complainer. I do a lot of complaining. This occurred to me when I ended yet another call to my sister Traci with the now tired expression, "Next time I won't complain the whole time." Poor Traci hears a lot of my complaints; including, but not limited to, complaints about the laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, meal preparation, making the bed, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the toilet, dusting, the price of gas, the price of milk, dirty diapers, health insurance, dental insurance, everything Bubba does that annoys me, everything Henry does that annoys me, everything that I do that annoys myself, acne, bad hair days, pregnancy symptoms, wardrobe issues, needing new towels and dishes and everything, student loan debt, credit card debt, church callings, carpool duties, working from home, the weather. I could go on. And I have.

Poor Traci bears the brunt of most of this ceaseless complaining. And it's not just the fact that she is a blood relative and keeps answering my calls that makes her the poor recipient of my tirades. It's the fact that Traci is a good complainer, too. Correct that. Traci is a good enabler for a complainer. When it comes to complaining, she knows the rules of engagement.

When I complain to Traci, she knows to avoid the following:

Inequitable complaints - Example: I complain about my tight budget, and you in turn complain about how money is so tight you can only afford to remodel your kitchen and buy a new car, but can't afford the winter cruise to the Caribbean.

Failure to reciprocate - Example: I complain about how my husband never helps out around the house, and you in turn praise your husband who does all the laundry, cooks the meals, and cleans the bathrooms.

Disproportionate display of pity - Example: I complain about how hard life is, and you in turn pile heaps of sympathy on me for leading such a downer of a life.

Traci is great at commiserating - she listens to me and complains too, reminding me that life sometimes is just hard for everyone, and I always feel better after I talk to her. But still, I really should try to cut back on the complaints. After all, I have so much more to not complain about. And those complaints that I have probably won't be helped much by continually harping on them. As Jeffrey Holland said, "No misfortune is so bad that whining about it won't make it worse."

But until I can stop complaining, I'm afraid Traci will still have to hear most of it. It's her fault for being such a great listener.

In Orwell's 1984, Winston Smith concludes that "Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood."

Luckily with Traci, I get both.


janel said...

I think all pregnant women are allowed to give an extra measure of complaining per day. Because, hello, look at what the little fetus is doing to us. (Just call me and say "compression hose" and I won't be able to stop.) And every mom of a two year old definitely gets an extra measure. And the wives of lawyers... Basically, I'm glad you have Traci. And you have me whenever you want, too. Because I'm pregnant with a two year old and a lawyer husband, too! PS--I think you added acne to the list just to make me feel better...not to describe yourself.

chelsea said...

i just apologized to a friend for the same thing today.. she asked me a simple question and it turned into a five minute complaining explanation. seriously knock it off though all you people that enable us, i mean it's their fault right?

Kimberlee said...

I loved this post. I am a huge advocate of complaining. I disagree with those that say complaining doesn't help anything. It ALWAYS makes me feel better! It's like when I complain, the very thing I am complaining about is released from me at least for a time. So keep complaining, and call me if Traci isn't available.

Stacy and Mike said...

Can Traci be my sister too? I always like to think that I know better than to complain but really sometimes .... you just need to. Problem: husbands are not the best sounding boards because they just want to fix it. ... no really I just want to complain. I loved this post and you could give Traci a break and try me out if you need to. :)

Stacy and Mike said...

ps. Lisa started blogging... you should check it out and maybe let her check yours out.

April said...

This is about 4 posts too late, but congratulations on your pregnancy! I am so excited for you... I hope that things are going good and that you are feeling well. I have a little more than a month left until our baby #2 comes and I'm starting to freak out! How is it done? One is (may I say) difficult, now one time? Hopefully, I'll figure that out once baby comes.
But, exciting news! Was happy to hear it!

sarahbclark! said...

ooh, good book quote. i hate that my husband hasn't read that book and therefore doesn't understand any references made to it. wait, that was a complaint, wasn't it?