Complaining Clutters the Mind
Illustration by Moon

My mantra has become, “We never do anything fun anymore.”

We used to go on adventure dates where our only destination was somewhere new to explore whatever we came across: hiking trails, used bookstores, vintage clothing and new nibbles.

After my protest, my husband tried to reassure me that we have a lot on our plate, but we could make enjoyment a renewed priority.

When he suggested we go back to a park that now had a new playground, I huffed. I dismissed his plan of exploring a quaint area called Magnolia because we had mediocre takeout there once.

I replied with an observation. No matter where we have lived, how we made a living, with baby or without baby, I see that we get wrapped up in getting things done. Our dopamine hit often comes from checking things off our to do list: workout, write, side business, groceries, clean, cook, laundry.

When accomplishment becomes my drug of choice, my mind and my to-do lists are always  jam packed with the next chore or personal mission. It is easy to replace busyness with other repetitive habits such as grumbling. The truth is any pattern on repeat is easier for the brain to replicate and be consumed by.

Lately, I see myself complaining to mask my despondency especially when I can’t seem to fix what is not working in my life.

I got stuck in my “complaining corner.” My dear friend Cindy coined a perfect term called the “worry corner.” She shared that it is too easy to begin with a worry and then let it pile on top of you until you are buried in it. You cannot back out of it because all you see are the walls of frustrations that you have built. It is like a broken record…worry and push repeat over and over again. You need a loving buddy to dig through the muck and grab hold of your hand before pulling you out.

Complaining Clutters the Mind
Illustration by Moon

Instead of the worry corner, I created a “complaining corner.” Sometimes we unknowingly use complaints as a way to jumpstart change, a kind of kick in the butt to make better choices. It is an ass-backward plan if there was one. Before we know it, one complaint easily leads to another. Suddenly we are mired in hopelessness.

When Cindy and I lived in the same city, we used to vent and talk openly about what we wanted to change in our lives. We listened and provided support. We did not allow one another to get stuck in negative perspectives. We sought out and shared inspiring advice and anecdotes.

We nudged each other toward the changes we wanted: moving out of inner city Baltimore, freeing ourselves from harrowing work and to live somewhere safe and enjoyable. Both of our families made all these changes in about two years. We cheerleaded each other when doubt and overwhelm surfaced. In retrospect, it is  incredible to think about the progress we made. I know that I could not have done it without her encouragement and helpful prodding.

Our negative thinking and self-talk take over and rule our minds. When you are cleaning out an overstuffed, dirty room, you need to see what can be removed to see the potential of the space, to have breathing room. When we clean up our mental clutter, we can make more effective decisions.

For a week, observe how much complaining and worry take up your time and energy. See if removing some of the mental distractions helps you redirect that energy into purposeful actions.

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Before he walked our dog this morning, I apologized to my husband for my stubbornness and wanting to be miserable. He kissed me and told me that he understood. He came back and told me that the homeless tent pitched on the sidewalk near the library had an elderly woman and daughter living in it. He heard the woman talking to her mom and reassuring her, “It is ok mom.” And the scratchy voice of an old lady responded.

How would I feel if I were a homeless woman in midlife who was taking care of her ailing mother in a makeshift tent during the middle of winter? It is a choice I would never want to consider.

I have a simple and meaningful life that holds potential for so much more. My family has all our basic needs met. That is why we can focus on and even complain about our unmet emotional conditions.

Perspective always helps but good friends who can remind you that change is possible are invaluable. Misery loves company. But true friendship guides you out of a jam when all you can see are your challenges over the possibilities for change.

Moon’s illustrations are whimsical and thought-provoking. Please check out more of Moon’s art at this link.

Character Illustrations by Moon

 

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