Sometimes I think my Pastor preaches directly at me.
At first, I thought she was just going after the kids last Sunday when she started out her children’s message by asking the kids if they ever whined or complained. I watched as LittleBrother’s eyes got wide with honesty. I smirked as BigBrother smirked, knowing in his head he was saying, “ME?! NOT ME!!” Ever so dramatic, that child, but yes, he whines and complains like every other child on Earth. Life can feel hard when you’re a kid, when you’re not in charge of the rules or the dinner menu or the schedule or of anything really.
I don’t expect them to never complain. My ears would prefer if they would complain without whining, of course. You know, in a very adult-like way. “Oh mother, this homework is bloody difficult today. I feel eight kinds of frustrated. May I take a short snack break?” Apparently I want them to complain like British adults. Or something.
But after the kids sat back down, after I shot them my smirky Mom grin, the Pastor continued on with us adults and how we complain way too much.
Me? Not me! (I don’t know where that older son gets the dramatic flair. At all.) I shook it off though, because surely someone like me, someone who recognizes the many awesome things in her life, didn’t need to be told not to complain. Surely my own complaints were valid.
There’s been a lot of complaining in the house this week from the kids though, as with every week. Homework is hard. Kids are mean. It’s not fair that they can’t go to a friend’s house on a soccer night or use technology on a weekday or that they have to go to bed at the time we have set because so-and-so doesn’t have a bedtime, Mom. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
“What did Pastor K say about complaining?” I smirk.
And then I find myself grumbling while I fold laundry or struggle to meet a deadline or stand outside with the dog in the dark. I found myself in places I didn’t want to be going through things I didn’t plan on going through, feeling angry and whiny and very, “This isn’t fair.” I whined about things like pace. Like dog hair on my black pants or my tan pants or maybe I mean any of my skirts because I don’t wear pants and why did we get a black and tan dog anyway? Or a dog at all! She smells! She’s annoying! She trips me when I try to walk down the hallway because she thinks the sun rises and sets on my head! She barks! AT EVERYTHING!
Traffic. Bad drivers. Good drivers. The moms at school who won’t talk to me because I didn’t come from here and I don’t fit in here or maybe I just complain too much. The testing at school (but really…). Waking up early. Going to bed early. My site loads too slow. Google Docs won’t open. iOS 8. They updated an app in a way I don’t like. They didn’t update an app and now it doesn’t work properly. WordPress. Not WordPress. Spotify on my computer freezes at least eight times per day. I’m out of lives on Frozen Free Fall; I can’t beat the wolves either. My kid’s soccer coach is a jagoff. I hate politics in Ohio. I hate politics in Pennsylvania. I hate politics everywhere.
And on and on and on.
And so I’ve said to myself, not out loud or maybe out loud and that’s why the moms at school won’t talk to me, “Remember what Pastor K said about complaining. Take a breath and look around you. Take a breath. Be grateful.”
I’m not doing well with it. I’ve complained all week. But every time, every single time, I pause. Even if I tweeted it and it’s already out there for the world to see. Even if I said it to my kids or my spouse or the dog. Even if it’s already out there and I can’t take it back. Even if it’s only in my mind, a silent grumbling mess of complaint. I pause and I think and I breathe and I shut my mouth or stop moving my fingers across the keyboard or tell my brain to stop, just for a second.
Just for a second.
That’s usually all it takes for me to realize that my complaining is stupid. Some of it is valid, of course. Parenting can be exhausting and life can be draining and responsibilities can feel daunting and health problems simply stink. Those things will always be true. But the breath, the pause to think about things for just a moment, changes my tone, my perspective just enough to push me back from Pessimistic Over Whiner and into my normal Realist Who Talks A Lot.
I’m not going to paint my world with a rose colored brush, but maybe the pausing will change my tone just enough that my shoulders won’t be forever clenched in a stressful hump. Maybe.
But maybe all of this almost-optimist talk comes from the fact that my lives are back in Frozen Free Fall. I have to go kill some wolves; priorities are important when figuring out how to be grateful for the things and people in your life. Obviously.