Not just another blog

Day 20 Your Biggest Critic

The half-way point of my whinge-fast, and it has taken until now for me to realise that I am the biggest source of my complaints.  That very sentence is an example:  My default mode in matters relating to myself seems to be Could Do Better, and, although I do appreciate the value of constructive criticism, sometimes it seems almost as if my inner headmaster seems ready to rap me on the knuckles every time I say or do anything.

I met someone for coffee today, a man, and although I left the cafe an hour and a half later feeling “That went well,” by late afternoon, things I had said started to ping in my brain, and by bedtime I had convinced myself that he must think I am an absolute plonker.

My point is that I tolerate criticism from myself that would spark shock and outrage had they come from anyone else.  It is time to be kinder to myself.  After all we’re going to be stuck together for a mighty long time.



Day 19 Optimistic Pessimism

Complaining, like that extra slice of cake/glass of wine/ill-advised date, seldom makes you feel better, but you do it anyway.  You give in to that urge to count out all your injustices, even though you know it’s bad for you and you’ve seen all the pictures of centenarians who demonstrate the power of positive thinking (let’s just forget The Secret for a moment).  Why?

Well, according to a documentary I watched last night, our subconscious is so primed for optimism that we smoke and gorge ourselves on lusciously-iced buns because part (indeed, the vast bulk) of our unthinking brain is convinced we are going to live indefinitely.  So, irrespective of the dire warnings our dutiful conscious brains process every day, we persist in our deleterious behaviour because it feels good at the time.  There is something delightful and heartening about such pig-headed hedonism.  We have more in common with lemmings than I thought.

And yes, I have missed out on Days 16, 17, and 18, but I’m not going to beat myself up about them because that would be verging on whinge territory.  Anyway, isn’t Putin missing something like 12 years from his CV?

Day 15 Why Is My Whinge-fast Becoming a Cringe-fest?

There!  I’ve said it:  All this enforced positiveness is sending me to places that are truly wince-worthy.  Every time I read anything intended to spread the gospel of chirpiness something in me curdles.  Why is it that avoiding complaint and seeking out the good in everything/everyone is toe-curlingly, nose-flaringly, grimacingly sweet?

Yes:  Praising good service and being grateful for things like your hair do remind you of the relatively easy ride you are having in life.  That I get.  And yes:  It is wearing to listen to people who are having an even easier ride in life complain about husbands and jobs that they should be wearing holes in their knees giving thanks for.  But there is something about the unflinching insistence that the glass is half full that makes me want to take that glass and smash it into – well, you get my drift.

Is it that positiveness with a capital P is invariably associated with religion of an evangelically zealous stripe?  Is it that so much Positive writing is so unreadable?  Or is it, as I suspect, because so many undoubtedly well-intentioned practitioners of said Positiveness have no sense of humour? For all their smiliness, they take their jollity far too seriously.  Which is the positive message I am going to take from my resistance to Positiveness:  I have an overly developed sense of irony.  Obviously.

Day 14 Then I’d Be Happy

It’s not whingeing as such; in fact, it can sound quite reasonable:  “All I need is…and then I’d be happy.”  The implication is that your life is just about right and you just need one teeny-weeny adjustment to make it perfect, but of course it is far more insidious than that.  What you’re doing every time you say “…and then I’d be happy” is postponing your happiness, delaying your full experience of the here-and-now (which, after all is the only reality any of us has), by closing your eyes to life until the longed-for experience materialises.

Children don’t do it.  They don’t remind themselves that their lives will truly begin when their bellies shrink, boobs grow, cars/partners turn into current-year exclusive models.  They are too busy in the moment (and I’m not saying childhood is an idyllic bliss-out; I too remember stomach-twisting dread of vampires under my bed and the school principal) to consider the future as anything other than a nebulous haze of grown-up stuff.

I sometimes congratulate myself than I am one of those who live in the moment, that I truly appreciate the tiny beauties that drop into life on a daily basis, but that is only because my TIBHs are so prosaic.  “If I could just get my ex-husband’s name off the mortgage so my home was not in danger because of his profligacy, TIBH”; “If I could just be made full-time, TIBH.”  They may not be terribly glamorous as dreams go, but they are still sitting on  my subconscious all the time, squashing my ability to reach out and embrace the day.

And, of course, no TIBH is truly discrete.  Each longing carries within it the seed of the next, so as each one dies on fulfillment, the next takes root.  If I get the mortgage in my own name, will I wish  I could move somewhere else?  If my job becomes full-time, will I start to hate it?  I have to learn to stop filling the future with my energies and focus them on what I have now.  And then I’d be happy.

Day 13 Bad Hair Days

My hair can do nothing right since a savage attack on it several weeks ago. The fact that I approved, and indeed paid for, this brutality does nothing to alleviate the sense of loss I feel since Marie chopped several inches from my mane. I convinced myself that 40 is just too old to be sporting locks past your shoulders.  I even let her cut a side fringe into it.  Now I look so sensible and appropriate for my age I might as well wear camouflage.  I pine for my longer locks, even if they did suggest a desperate clinging to youth.  And, because of my cow’s lick and various quirks of follicle, I am forced to use a straightener after every wash. So early 2000’s!

But because this is a whinge fast and not a whinge fest, I must remind myself that I am not Anne Gildea or any of the other people like her.  Anne Gildea was the subject of a brilliant documentary the other night.  Anne Gildea lost her hair after chemotherapy.  Suddenly my neat little ‘do does not look so bad.

Day 12 Reasons to be Cheerful

To avoid being consumed by the dejection that dragged me down yesterday, I am going to list things for which I am grateful.  And just because it is Day 12 of my (at this point rather shaky) whinge-fast, I will list 12:

Being alive

Having 3 wonderful children

Having wonderful parents

Having wonderful siblings

Being healthy

Having a job (even if it is only part-time)

Having a job that involves writing

Living in a beautiful place

Having a few good friends

Being fit

Having enough to live on

The ability to appreciate simple pleasures

Day 11 Whinge-fest

A day that ends with you crying in the shower is not usually one you want to record in a whinge-fast diary.  My theory about the good karma to be gained from saying positive things about people does not appear to have worked.  I suppose sometimes the stars are just not aligned in your favour. Onwards and, okay, maybe not upwards, but possibly sideways?  Hopefully not backward anyway.

Day 10 Good Karma

Yesterday I wrote about my decision to alert HQ at Elverys’ sports stores about the exceptional level of service I received from Stephanie at their Killarney store.  Within hours I had received a response from Kathleen at head office, thanking me for my kind words and informing me that she had called Stephanie to tell her about them too.

I imagined Stephanie’s sense of foreboding as she made her way to the shop telephone to talk to management and then her expression of relief as she learned the reason for the phone call.  I gave myself a metaphorical pat on the back as I wallowed in smugness.  I suddenly felt, not only responsible for my own emotional well-being, but empowered to scatter a little pleasantness into other people’s lives too.

Now, I accept entirely that this admission is nauseatingly reminiscent of a Hallmark/Disney message. I hold my hands up and concede that I lack only a Katie Melua/Nancy Griffith soundtrack to induce nausea on a stomach-roiling scale.  I must also say, however, that I have neither complained nor bitched about anything since.  So there.

Day 9 The Opposite of Complaining

I’ve always found it much easier to actively do something to achieve a goal than to stop doing something to accomplish the same aim.  Take weight loss – it’s much easier to get sweaty and burn off some calories than to spend weeks denying yourself nice things.  For a start, when you go for a run, it’s done, whereas when you’re walking past the ice-cream in Aldi with your eyes closed, it’s a seemingly endless penance that you can never tick off your list.

The same goes for my whinge-fest.   Rather than restricting myself to not complaining, I should actively seek out positive situations and praise the person responsible.  This engenders warm fuzzy feelings all-round and makes complaining feel like eating chocolate after brushing your teeth.  So yesterday, after an Elverys sales girl called Stephanie made finding my son the right pair of football boots her mission in life (well, at least her mission for 15 minutes), I decided to broadcast her excellence.  I mean, really, when you see a slip of a thing laden down with a stack of boxes taller than herself, all in an effort to ensure my son saw every fluorescence in size 6 that they stocked, it would be churlish not to respond.

I’ve just sent a glowing e-mail to Elvery’s.  I hope they don’t think it’s from her mother.



Day 8 Dog Days

The word may be synonymous with them, yet dogs don’t whine.  Yes, I know they are missing the vocal chords to express their general dissatisfaction literally, but they are such a generally upbeat species that I don’t think they would complain even if they could.  To be honest, if they are anything like George, they don’t really have sufficient grounds.  It certainly is a dog’s life:  daily walks, twice-daily feeds, a comfortable home, abundant affection, and absolutely no concern about maintaining this level of care.

But watching George bound across a field in pursuit of a heron that he could not catch if it fell from the sky and landed on his head, I can only conclude that he is blissfully happy.  He is so rapt in the moment that future or past whinges have no place in his world.  His absorption in NOW is so complete that even when he is snuffling along, tail wagging furiously, intent on pursuing a hot scent, the detection of a new scent sets him off on a completely different route, all thought of the previous quarry extinguished.

Now, I am not considering a similar policy – although my own life can look something similar when I quit dinner preparations to answer a homework query, only to abandon that when the phone rings.  What I do think would spur me on my whinge-fast would be an immersion in the present so comprehensive that it would render irrelevant dwelling on the past or fretting about the future.

I’m with Walt Whitman:  “I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d…Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.”