The No-Complaints Challenge

Winter joy


2020 has been a hard year for all of us.

  •  My husband Jon finally has students in his classroom – half the class at a time, wearing masks and socially distanced.  The third graders at his school had to go back to distance learning last week because two children tested positive for COVID, so Jon realizes that his students could be required to re-quarantine at any time.  The students with asthma and other health challenges are still at home, so he and his colleagues are trying to accommodate student learning in a variety of set-ups.  It's uncertain and stressful for everyone, but he has found that his colleagues are super hard-working, committed educators, and that most of the parents of his students are flexible and good-humored.
  • My father-in-law recently passed away, and some family dynamics have emerged that are less than optimal.  Some hard feelings have ensued.  Lines of communication are still open, and we are doing what we can to create more understanding, but it was sad to discover these cracks in the family relationships.
  • My son can now see massage clients if they have a prescription for massage therapy (from their doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist).  That means he still cannot work with the online referral services that brought him over 50% of his business, but at least he can see long-time regular clients, and they can benefit from increased pain-free mobility that massage can provide.  He's still scrambling to put together temporary part-time jobs that can help pay his bills, but at least he's no longer barred from seeing clients at all.
  • Jon and I battled bed bugs this summer.  We don't even know where they came from... it's 2020 and we haven't gone anywhere!  But there is nothing like the feeling you get when the pest control technician lifts up your box spring and shows you a pod of the ugly critters huddled under the edge of the dust fabric, and you realize that hundreds of those things are likely hidden around your bedroom and the rest of the house.  OMG!!  Thankfully, heat kills them, and our apartment manager quickly made arrangements for the costly treatment (free to us).  We came home one evening to a thermostat that read "19."  It can only show two digits, so that really meant "119," down from a high of 140 F. earlier in the day.  Thank God there are no signs of this horrible scourge since.
  • My daughter tripped down a short flight of stairs in September and broke an area on the fifth metatarsal of her right foot.  This is called a "Jones fracture," and can be very difficult to heal without surgery.  The first part of her recovery required that she put no weight on the foot at all for six weeks.  My grandsons are 20 months old and just-turned 5 years old.  Their house is a split-level, which means you can't get anywhere without going up and down stairs.  The injury keeps her from driving.  It's been a struggle, and a lot of extra chores and errands have fallen on my wonderful son-in-law, Steve.  But they're into the 7th week, and Elizabeth now has a walking cast, so she's a bit more mobile.  It looks like she won't need surgery, and the cast may be removed in the first week of December.
  • My brother is currently in the hospital, waiting to have his infected gallbladder removed.  He's been waiting for two days so far, because the need to follow COVID protocols means that fewer non-emergency procedures get scheduled.  My sister, a nurse, isn't happy about the wait because the chances of sepsis and other complications increase the longer the infected organ remains in the body.  We're hopeful he'll go into surgery early tomorrow.



I started writing about the things we've dealt with, and are still dealing with, in order to gain some perspective on how much room for optimism and hope there is.  I know I am not the only person who can put together of list of challenges like this, and that I'm actually far better off than many people.


It is so easy to fall into complaining and self-pity.  It almost seems like a game that some of us play, complaining to each other as if the one who has suffered most will get a prize.  (Don't believe me?  Just listen when a few women start sharing stories of how their children were born.)  But complaining not only fails to make the situation better, it actually does us harm.


Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent, a season when Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  It's supposed to be a time to step away from a busy holiday season to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, a time to prepare our spirits to hear and receive what God offers to and asks from us.  It's a chance to remember our Savior's birth as a baby, as well as his presence in our lives today, and his promised return as judge and King.


And yet... Christians (myself included) complain.  A lot.  Whether it is about COVID restrictions, politics, the traffic, the weather, the economy, the school situation, or whatever, complaints seem to dominate almost every conversation I hear.


We just celebrated Thanksgiving Day, but what did that really mean?  We took a few hours off from our normal negative behavior and attitude, that's all.


I recently had a post published on No Sidebar which the editor titled "How I Stopped Complaining."  I promise you, that wasn't my title for the piece.  In it I described how complaining damages our brains and makes us sick.  I wrote how letting go of expectations, past hurts and disappointments, spending time with positive people, searching for solutions to problems rather than moaning about them, and practicing gratitude could help us complain less.


So tomorrow is the first of December, and I plan to challenge myself to 31 days of no complaining.  Despite the title of my No Sidebar article, I have not completely kicked that habit!  Would you like to join me?  Let's reap the benefits of less complaining – more positive interactions, more patience, more empathy, more gratitude, more joy.


Sounds like I'll be giving myself a really wonderful Christmas gift.



Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash




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