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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Complaining... How Can I Stop?

A to Z Challenge: C- Complaining.

One day many years ago, I sat beside another mother watching our kids play basketball. She’d almost been killed in a serious car accident on the highway, was still recovering and wearing a halo brace. That’s one of those appallingly uncomfortable looking braces with a metal ring circling the head, pins that run through the metal ring screwed into the skull and a frame connecting the ring to a plastic vest.

It prevents your head or neck moving after spinal surgery.

“It’s sooooo bloody hot and stuffy in this hall, don’t you think?” I whinged, and turned towards her noticing the sweat trickling from her almost shaved head, down her saturated neck into the oppressive plastic vest encompassing her torso.

She smiled at me but didn’t answer.

We watched silently as the boys dribbled the ball up and down the court.

“Gawd… those whistles are giving me a headache!” I was about to blurt out, merely to break the silence, when I suddenly bit my lip remembering who was sitting beside me.

“Could these seats be more uncomfortable…,” I moaned and was about to add, “my back’s killing me,” before I cut myself off abruptly.

During the next thirty minutes I was constantly forced to bite down hard on my tongue until it was spurting blood because every one of my ‘conversation starters’ was a grouse about one of my stupid little maladies.

This poor woman had been through hell and back and only wanted to watch her son, who had very nearly lost his mother, play a game of basketball. 

She didn't want to be forced to listen to an ungrateful, whiny woman kvetching bitterly about her imagined medical conditions.

The encounter made me recognise how much time I actually spend complaining… it was an epiphany of sorts.

But I still gripe all the time without even realising it.

The first thing I do on Monday morning is walk into the staff room, throw my bag on the table and grumble, “Is it Friday yet?”

At lunchtime, I’ll complain to another teacher on duty about how tired I am, how stressful the term has been, how the kids in the class seem tired and hard to settle and how much I hate doing duty on the oval in the boiling sun.

When Scotto comes home and asks me how my day was my usual depressing response is, “Tiring and boring… same old same old.”

But here’s the thing, it’s not just me. A lot of people do it.

Why? Is it to fill a void in the dialogue; an icebreaker? Is it merely vacuous banter which no one really listens to anyway? Perhaps it’s just an innocuous way to get things off our chest.

Even our entrenched responses to the simple question, “How are you?” are riddled with misery.

“Fair to middling.”

“Can’t complain.” (Yes you can, you just complained about not being able to complain!)

“I’ve been worse.”

“Just happy to be above ground.”

“Upright and still breathing.”

“I’d be better if I won the lottery.”

“Worse than yesterday, but better than tomorrow.”

Anyway it’s all a moot point because tomorrow being a Friday and the last day of the school term, I know Pinky’s complaining will create sound waves rivaling that of an atomic bomb.

I can hear myself stomping belligerently into the staff room now…

“What the hell? How did this term fly by so quickly? I thought we still had a few weeks left! Now I’m going to have to turn my alarm off and waste every day for the next two weeks sleeping in, reading and watching stupid movies all day! I won’t have the stimulating challenge of holding my bladder for hours at a time! How will I survive the lonely day without twenty-six kids all asking me questions at the same time? And then there are those long lunches and coffees with the girls! That’s going to be a pain in the neck. Life is so unfair. I hate school holidays.”

Dear mums of school age children… you are soooo damn lucky!