January 2021 Musings

I send new year blessings to all of you my dear Truistas! It’s been a while since I’ve last connected and a lot has happened. There were good things, a wonderful unexpected interior design partnership emerged (see avenueinteriors.net), as well as a long hoped-for gift, and then the not so good, the sudden death of my mother.

While driving back from the country the other day at dusk I was struck by the beauty of the sky. It was the perfect shade of sky blue pink which was my father’s favorite color. That got me thinking about my father’s most used saying from my childhood which was, “You can like it or lump it.” (That along with macht schnell – loosely meaning hurry up in German, leads me to believe that we were a bunch of complaining slowpokes). I believe the “You can like it or lump it” saying is a cousin to the Queen’s less insensitive, “never complain, never explain” motto. Both imply that whatever the petty annoyance you’d like to discuss will not be tolerated. That’s not to say that important things were dismissed, and in fact, they were treated with more care. I learned that going the complaining route leads to the “boy who cried wolf” syndrome. After a while, people don’t pay attention. (Are you seeing a childhood theme here, one riddled with cliches?)

As a child and teen the phrase “you can like it or lump it” would prove to become quite annoying as I continually expressed my views on everything from the inedible dinner before me to the latest hair cut mishap. As an adult who has actually never used that phrase (and may soon begin); I find it to be a valuable bit of wisdom. After all, it’s empowering; I can choose how I’d like to feel! I like that! And depending on my choice, life will flow accordingly. If in my youth I had decided to “like” the long car ride and the traffic, I would then have had many opportunities. I could have had an engaging conversation with my father, I could have listened to an interesting segment on NPR or a symphony played at Carnegie Hall, all soul-enriching. Or I could have won a round of car bingo and subsequently the prize of a few dollars. If on the other hand, I had chosen to “lump it”, I would have alienated my father and others in the car. I would have then stewed in my head the entire drive, dwelling on my terrible circumstances all the while missing out on the good fun that could have been had. After all, nobody would have engaged in my sullenness and I wouldn’t have blamed them.

And isn’t that the same in adulthood? Accepting the less than perfect situation, the delayed flight, the restaurant dinner not to one’s liking and the hotel room that doesn’t live up to impossible standards often seems like an imposition of the worst kind. Only until I put it in perspective of the truly awful (disease, death, worldly injustices) can I even begin to get a handle on the pettiness of it all. To see these annoyances as something to endure at worse, and really, as a blessing, is to employ the wisdom of acceptance, and a step further, gratitude. That fruitful attitude is much better than the alternative, alienating others while upsetting myself. The happiest people I know make it a habit to not complain.

But the deeper question is why do we do it? Why do humans have a tendency to complain? Why is it so hard not to? Does complaining legitimatize an experience? Maybe it’s a learned behavior as a way to connect with others, to communicate. Maybe it’s something to talk about in order to fill empty space. Perhaps we are looking for empathy or even love through this channel. While the reasons are likely to be different for each person, what I do know is that complaining is a waste of time. It’s a bore to the person who has to listen to it and it takes with it your power and happiness. And for what? A few minutes of (negative) attention, a false feeling of power and importance, superiority? What it doesn’t give is “the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). It doesn’t spread hope and light. It doesn’t elevate the conversation or bring joy. It doesn’t create, it steals.

The next time I’m tempted to complain that my coffee shop was out of nonfat milk so I had to go with 2 % or how I have to go grocery shopping again, I intend to remember that I am blessed to be able to go to a grocery store anytime I want and buy whatever I’d like. My intention in 2021 is to choose to use my words in the most productive manner. And the next time I see a sky blue pink horizon may I remember to thank my father for sharing much wisdom through his many cliches.

With love always,

Comments (1)

Cathy Kruse
January 12, 2022 Reply

Beautiful Ailsa. And I’m so sorry your lost your beautiful mom. Prayers for you and her. ❤️?

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