In the midst of being hooked up to a food pump and the incessant humming of the mini fridge in my bedroom, I’m feeling overwhelmed. We added a new(ish) dresser, a cart organizer, a mini fridge, a ten-gallon trashcan, and a new IV pole, all to accommodate my 24/7 IV therapy. Aalso, new curtains for the window, keeping the room darker than Satan’s soul colored in with a sharpie.
I hate to complain. Hate. It’s a strong word. Just like I “hate” asking for free (or earned) things. Like I hate how everyone tweets about people using their phones too much. From their phones. Hence, being on their phones to complain about phones. That kind of hate.
I have come to realize, however, that “complaining” is a needed human mechanism. I oft get in trouble with my mother. Not for binge drinking. Not for dirt-bag boyfriends. Not even for my smart-arse mouth. No, I get in trouble with her for not telling the “truth.” For not complaining enough.
My instant reflex when a doctor asks me how I’m doing is “good.” Which I a lie, because I’m not “good.” That’s why I’m there. But I’m good emotionally. I’m chillin’ spiritually. I’m not good, however, in the sense the doctor is asking. I should tell them the complete truth, but if I do, it feels like my head will explode.
“You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”
“Waste not, want not.”
“Say please and thank you.”
“Compliment the meal.”
“Eat what’s on your plate, even if you don’t like it.”
“Be content with such things as you have.”
The mantras above should be memorized by every child. Thoroughly. Like, now. Kids these days don’t know how to be thankful. But these mantras should never be obsessed over, to the point of believing any type of expression of negative emotion is wicked.
I did not head the caution above. I obsessed over these ideas. I wasn’t warned about it. Nor did the stifled emotion of those around me exude any possible alternative emotion to “contentment.” Now, I’m learning the art of complaining.
Complaining, in this case, doesn’t involve incessant whining over trivial matters. We all know those people. If you’re reading this and you don’t know one of those people, you are that person. Stop it.
There’s a difference between genuinely sharing our recent hardships and complaining about Susie’s mom giving us a weird look last night at the fall festival. The former is the stuff that builds friendships, the latter is stuff that makes you the center of gossip rings. Pick one.
I suck at sharing my life. Whenever someone asks me how I’m doing, “I’m good.” I have only recently noticed my problem’s severity. I’ve always been guarded. I know that. More recently it’s hard for me to look someone in the eye when I tell them what’s going on in my life. It’s all weird medical stuff. I don’t have a job. I don’t currently have many measurable hobbies either. I don’t want to be a bore. I don’t want to meet a wall of misunderstanding behind their eyes. God forbid I’m Debbie-downer. A surly-Susie.
At the same time, I’m ashamed of my circumstances and emotions. They make me feel weak. Vulnerable. Like a field mouse in the talons of an eagle. In the moment I honestly tell someone about my situation I trust that person with the weight of my world. If they don’t understand, if they drop my world, I end up thinking my situation is too much for anyone to handle. So, “I’m good” it is.
This is unhealthy. This is why I SHOULD complain.
At the same time my reluctance to talk about my situation is harmful to my social, spiritual, and emotional life, it’s harmful to those around me as well. People oft express how “brave” they think I am. How I never complain. How I put them to shame. My shame at speaking honestly turns into their shame. Producing nothing but a chain of shallow conversations, people feeling they can’t complain to one another. Never getting past the “I’m good”s.
We compare our burdens to other people’s. We can always find someone who has a “bigger” burden than us when, in reality, we all carry different kinds of burdens. Measured out into the sum of our own lives. We feel pressure to be inspirational. To be perceived as a rock. To look like we’re juggling it all. None of us are. We’re always dropping one ball or another.
“Complaining” is important. It’s not so much complaining as it is honesty. To build any truly meaningful relationship, we must surpass the fear of being perceived as whiny. We must risk being vulnerable. We must face the possibility of being misunderstood.
Allow me to start the complaining conversation. My health is on a downhill slide. Dwindling even as we find answers. My rearranged room is ruining my “zen.” I don’t enjoy the beeping of my food pump in the middle of the night. I haven’t been out of the house for anything other than a doctor appointment in weeks. I feel lonely. My head isn’t always screwed on straight. I’m tired of being too sick to do much else than watch T.V. That’s how I’m doing.
How are you?