Phil: Today was a learning experience for sure. I used to almost pride myself as being part of an industry that basically makes a living complaining. I’m no stranger to the art of it. I found myself finding reasons to complain about just about anything today. Sometimes, I was able to stop myself and realize what I was doing. Other times, I didn’t realize until it was too late. But I did learn what avoiding complaining could do to one’s psyche. I used to think of complaining as a way of getting something off of my chest. What I realized today, that in many ways, complaining is exactly the opposite. It makes these trivial complaints tangible and in your face. When I got the urge to complain about something, but then actively avoided blurting out a word, I steered away from existing in a negative moment altogether. I realized I was about to waste my time complaining about something so stupid that it wasn’t even worth the air used to speak it. I looked outside my window and saw how many parking spots there were, the same week I decided to leave my car home on Long Island because I felt there weren’t any spots. I could have complained about it. I was about to. But I shut my mouth and realized that no words would bring my car here, and I didn’t even need the damn thing in the first place. I went for a walk on a sunny day and could have complained about it being so hot, and me being uncomfortably sweaty. But then I stopped, because I was still off from work today spending time walking around and enjoying the weather. Around dinner time, I walked around desperately trying to find a place to eat but feeling both overwhelmed by all the Brooklyn options and also underwhelmed by those options not offering specifically what I thought I wanted. I went into one place and was ready to bite the bullet for a $14 burger, only to see it didn’t even come with fries. What the hell? I almost lost it. But I was able to center my thoughts and supress that urge to complain. I ended up at another spot, with an even more expensive burger. But it suddenly didn’t seem so expensive. But damn, it was good. So...shut up, Phil. Stop being such a baby. This is the kind of challenge I hope I can take with me throughout the rest of the month, and beyond. Complain less. Because what you focus on, you create more of.
Bruce: Although I am not the type to complain and generally take inconveniences in stride, today was still an enlightening meditation. It comes as no surprise that enforcing an embargo of complaints is innately soothing. The only thing worth remarking on about that seemingly obvious point is that we complain as if to incredulously rally against our obstacles and discomforts. The irony is that justifying complaining enables the practice and it becomes an ugly obstacle in itself. We become less and less comfortable and more willing to be petty in our outrages. Several strange things happened to me today as if the day was trying to challenge me further (I unprecedentedly threw up after the gym, was tasked with looking after the most difficult individual at my day job, which I was also late for due to construction and traffic). Happy to report that while I don't ordinarily complain all that much, I didn't even utter one gripe when new scenarios that were less than optimal came my way. Interestingly, being more mindful about complaining sort of makes you an anthropologist in what quickly becomes apparently is our culture of querulousness. The good thing is that I find that even if today's "Anti-complaint challenge" was unspoken, I found that stoicism and not encouraging other people's complaints sort of shut down their angst-fueled momentum. It's as though griping is infectious and the antidote is calm, mature acceptance. It occurred to me that complaining is a lot like impulsively saying "ouch" or helping when you didn't really get hurt (and is equally as useful). Once you have eliminated the impulse to uselessly whine about something that has occurred, your only option is to productively invent a solution, skipping a juvenile reactionary step that is needless. No complaints here!
Tomorrow's challenge: #10: Wake up an hour earlier than you normally would.