At the beginning of February, I announced that I would be challenging myself to refrain from complaining for an entire month.
It’s February 15, so it’s a good time to check in and update you on my progress, what I’ve learned, and what has been challenging me.
So, how am I doing?
Pretty well, actually. What I’m finding is that, in general, my default is not to complain very much. I tend toward looking on the bright side of life. I’ve explained it a few times, like here and here, but I think it’s important to reiterate: this default of mine was not the factory setting. Focusing intently upon staying positive and avoiding complaining this month has served to solidify my confidence that the change has been a lasting one. For that, I’m truly grateful – life is so, so much better this way.
I have noticed a few challenges as well.
Challenge 1: Temperature
I am a little bitch when it comes to temperature. I have a really hard time stopping myself from whining when it’s too hot. And for me, I define “too hot” as anything above 69.9 degrees. I grew up in southeast Texas, where it’s hot and humid. It’s not uncommon to break a sweat walking from your house to your car. I don’t think I realized the extent to which my homeland was like a giant rice paddy until I got the chance to be elsewhere. And ever since, elsewhere has suited me just fine.
“It’s gettin’ hot in herre, so take off all your clothes.”
– Dr. Cornell “Nelly” Haynes, Jr., 2002.
And then, I moved to our nation’s capital about two years ago – from the temperate, always beautiful land of Northern California.
Much like Houston, I’ve always been baffled…who the hell wandered upon a swamp on the south side of Maryland and said, “by George, this is a fine place to plant crops, raise sweaty children, and catch a nasty case of malaria – let’s build a city!”
But build a fine city they did, and here I am. I unfortunately feel the urge to bitch when it’s anything other than slightly chilly, and DC provides that environment more often than you’d think.
My proclivity to kvetching is exacerbated by the fact that my loving, wonderful girlfriend is FREEZING TO DEATH if she’s caught wearing less than five layers of clothing. We’ve had our share of fights that started with me glaring at her and barking, “Did you touch the thermostat?”
So, this month’s challenge has shined a light on this flaw in my being. As such, my promise to you (and her) is that I am going to do my best to bite my tongue when the temperature is not to my liking.
I may be missing a tongue by March 1.
Challenge 2: Aggressive Drivers
I don’t mind traffic. I live in an urban environment, and it’s just part of the game. Being mad that there is traffic would be like being mad because it’s hot out…oh wait, bad example.
Being mad that there’s traffic would be like being mad about any of the myriad of (other) things over which you have zero control. By the way, “traffic” is my girlfriend’s version of my “it’s hot in here” bitch-fest. She goes NUTS when there’s traffic, even when she’s not driving. Even when we are under zero time constraints. Doesn’t matter. Traffic = hell for her. Her freaking out about the fact that traffic exists stresses me out, namely because I’m usually the one driving.
But I see now that her reaction to traffic is no different than my reaction to the temperature. It’s something we don’t like, we don’t control, and we don’t mean to let ruin our day. So, sorry I tell you to calm down when you get all snappy about the traffic, baby. I’ll try to just let you be you on this topic.
Distinct from “the mere existence of traffic,” aggressive drivers really chap my ass. I have a hard time maintaining my smile and lighthearted ways when someone whips past me or cuts me off. I get angry when people start switchin’ lanes up on the freeway. I usually have some choice curse words along with a definitive evaluation of the driver’s intelligence, a la “look at this fuckin’ dipshit, will ya?”
I have no control over the way others drive, and I need to do a better job of realizing that. Further, I need to do a better job of empathizing with the drivers who attract my ire. There’s a reason they are driving like that, and a charitable assumption about their driving would go far for my own well-being.
The second half of the month…
The good news is, in 15 days, I’ve confirmed for myself that “refraining from complaining” is not that hard for me, thanks to some great pre-work I did starting way back in 2011.
The bad news is, in 15 days, I’ve discovered that I’m good at keeping positive unless it’s slightly warm or someone cuts me off. And if you cut me off AND it’s hot out, I might go Bruce Banner on y’all and turn into something you wouldn’t like.
But back to the good news, identifying flaws and being open to improvement means I now have 13 days (woo short month!) to course-correct and see if I can eliminate all complaining for the rest of February.
Can I do it? Sure. Will I do it? Probably.
Maybe I should take an Uber to work every day and stuff ice packs in my drawers just to be safe.
I’ll report more on this later.