I don’t know if he knows this, but my high school swim coach was one of the biggest influences in my life.
He was a great motivator.
He loved coaching swimming. And I know he loved coaching us.
He had a lot of quotes that I remember to this day, but the one I remember most was “Complaining is cancerous.”
I even remember what his handwriting looked like on the board when he wrote it down.
I always thought of that quote in terms of swim practice only.
Swim practices are hard. They suck most of the time.
Complaining about them isn’t going to make them any easier, but there’s a good chance that sentiment will spread until you have a pool full of seriously bitchy swimmers.
So in the pool, I didn’t complain much.
The other day a friend sent me this picture:
and then I wrote this post.
And yesterday I didn’t complain.
I didn’t complain today, either.
Did my life start changing?
So what did I notice in my first complaint-free 24 hours?
1) I wake up and my first instinct is to complain.
When did I turn into this person?
I start my day off by complaining about how tired I am. And you know how that makes me feel?
And angry. And just pretty much shitty overall.
That’s a crappy way to start off the day.
And that crappy shitty complaining tired bitchy mom is the first thing my kids have been seeing in the morning.
2) Complaining is like Lays potato chips..
Bet you can’t have just one.
Once you start complaining, you are sort of on a runaway train.
It’s hard to slow down the momentum.
3) Complaining makes you miserable.
Whining about the weather or practice schedules or road construction or the crowded parking lot or the temperature of the locker room or whatever it is you happen to be bitching about at the moment doesn’t make you feel any better.
And have you noticed that most of the things you complain about can’t be changed?
Complaining doesn’t change things, and it doesn’t make you feel better. It makes you feel worse.
And don’t think that by substituting the word “venting” for complaining that you are making okay.
I once told a therapist I was venting.
And she quickly disagreed.
She called it “pumping.”
She said when you complain you aren’t really releasing anything. You are just pumping yourself up with more and more anger.
When you complain you don’t really vent. You don’t feel lighter afterward.
In fact, there’s a good chance you are even more pissed than you were when you started.
And now you have succeeded in either rallying the troops and getting everyone else around you to complain and be fucking miserable in solidarity, or in annoying every single person within ten feet of you.
But there is good news.
When you are mindful of the words that come out of your mouth and the thoughts that run through your brain, something happens.
When you stop complaining, you stop being perpetually angry.
Venting doesn’t make you feel lighter.
But not venting does.
You notice and appreciate things that just a day earlier went completely unnoticed.
You start enjoying even some of the unremarkable moments during the day rather than just making it through the 5:00 hour and then counting down the minutes until bedtime.
And you start laughing more.
In the past two days, I have laughed with my friends. I have laughed with my kids. I have laughed with my parents.
More than usual.
Because when you don’t complain you make a choice to focus on gratitude.
When you don’t allow your brain to go there, it has no choice but to go to a happier place.
And I definitely can’t complain about that.