Don’t Worry, Be Happy

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There’s this person I know at work who is something of an extrovert so she needs people to chat with.  We’re friends, don’t get me wrong but I’m not her typical first option but this morning she comes in and starts going off because her daughter is getting married and they visited one cake place that was going to charge her too much money.  She had already made the decision to go elsewhere but still felt compelled to spend time telling me about how awful this person was for wanting to charge so much and how could they do that and what a rip off it was.  And on and on and on.

It turns out that she had spent the better part of the week ranting with others about this so everyone knew the story.

The reason I’m writing about this now is because I had a thought that was new to me.  Hell, I’ve been the complainer before and, at times, I can still do that especially when talking about work because some of the decisions made there …  But I’m listening to her go on about this and I wanted to stop her and have this conversation:

Me:  “Wait, you’ve already gone with a different baker, right?”

Her:  “Yes”

Me: “And there’s no chance you’ll change your mind and go with the more expensive option from the lady you hate and gave a mean nickname to?”

Her:  “Hell no, because ….”

Me (Interrupting):  “Well why can’t you just be happy that you found the new baker?  What did you gain by ranting about the option you ended up not choosing?  How much time did you spend complaining about this and what positive things could you have done with that time?”

Her: “Umm, Well, time for me to go back to work”  (Walks away thinking I’m a little strange)

Most of my philosophies towards life tend to be simple and the truth is that life is too short to be unhappy all the time.  We all need to vent from time to time and I’ve certainly done my share.  But to sit and stew and complain over something that really didn’t impact you because you decided to go another way?  How does that possible benefit you?  And think about the impact on others.  I’m listening to her but I’m refusing to take some of the bait she was tossing out because someone doing that much complaining wants you to validate that they were correct.  I was actually thinking, you know, if you can afford it (and you can), and it makes your daughter happy, then why be so negative?  In this case, her daughter was fine with the other option and I think it will all work out in the end.  So what is to be gained by staying in that negative place and complaining to everyone around you which can easily bring them to your level.

There’s another quote I like which I may not know exactly, but to paraphrase “If you don’t like your current situation, change your circumstances or change your attitude, anything else is madness”.  Yes, it can be fun to throw a pity party from time to time and I’ve certainly done that.  But to wallow in that negativity is really not healthy and that is something that some people choose to do.

Every day life throws a lot of stuff at you.  Some of it is bad but there’s a lot of good as well.  Sometimes, you have to look really hard for the good but there is going to be something there.

I suppose you can probably find lots of passages here where you could accuse me of living in the proverbial glass house and that is certainly true.  But, you’d be surprised what little things can do.  It is no secret that I hate winter – it is dark, cold and lifeless to me.  Two years ago, I started using #wintersucks in several facebook posts just as a way to rant.  I did it partly for fun but, in the end, it really just kept me focused on what I didn’t like.  This past winter, I made a conscious effort to not complain about the cold as much – I had to shut some people down when they wanted to and even started to use #lovesummer to focus on what I really love.  Winter was still a pain in the you know what but it seemed easier to get through.

I guess you could argue that I’m still perhaps a bit too focused on Z since I’ve already changed that situation.  And you could be right.  But that was a very complex emotional situation for me and it just takes awhile to unwind all the threads.  (Boy, I really do have a rationalization for everything, don’t I)  Look, I’ve said I’m not perfect and I will use this blog to vent from time to time.  What I am trying to do though is keep from staying in that pit of despair.  I really do believe that we have more power over our own happiness than we believe but it takes work (like losing weight or exercising each day).

There’s a Don Shula quote that I love as well.  If you don’t know him, he coached professional football for many years.  He said that he always gave his players 24 hours to either celebrate a victory or mourn a defeat.  Then, he said they put it behind them and moved on the preparing for the next game.  I’ll use something similar for those times when life kicks you in the head.  I don’t see anything wrong with taking a little bit of time to be sulky and all “life sucks” but the key is not allowing yourself to stay there.  Get out the next day and look for something – like a good sunrise, or some birds singing, or even having all the lights be green on your drive to work.  There are positives out there and you have to tune in to them and use that to keep from staying in the past and with the negative stuff.

For me, I’m going to take this post as a sign that I’m moving in the right direction.  I can’t believe all these thoughts came out just from someone complaining about the cost of a wedding cake.  But that is where I went.  I really wish this lady would just let it go but I don’t think that is her nature.

2 comments

  1. You could make the argument that some people bond through complaining. The fact that the cake place was a ripoff really doesn’t matter as much to her as feeling connected does – she wants to be connected in her “community,” so she complains to everyone she meets. The people she complains to are supposed to say something like, “that’s terrible!” or “man, I know what you mean, I went to such-and-such a place,” and that makes her feel like part of the group.

    Then again, you could also guess that the cake place being a ripoff doesn’t really matter as much to her as hearing the sound of her own voice! Some people just like to talk. 😛

    1. Sure, she could be bonding through complaining. But I’d counter that isn’t the most effective way to do it. She could have come in with a positive story about the cake she selected and that might have accomplished the same thing. And if you bond through complaining too much, it feels like it could become counter productive because you turn off a lot of people and just get branded as a Debbie Downer.

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