The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects. ~ Frances, Lord Jeffrey
One of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits, when I was in high school, was the duo of "Doug and Wendy Whiner". Played by Joe Piscopo and Robin Duke, this irritating, bedraggled and immensely harried couple were instant hits on the popular comedy show. They found fault with everything, with everyone, and with every situation. In the Whiner's trademark nasally, deeply depressing sighs, you just knew that the situation would go from bad to worse because it was happening to Doug and Wendy Whiner. And, you knew that you would hear about every excruciating nuance of why life was so dreadful. I found watching the Whiners hilarious. I believe that most of us knew someone exactly like this couple...those people who have the Eeyore syndrome of gloom and doom. One of the reasons why I believe this skit series was so successful was that most people could easily relate to characters having to *deal* with the Whiners, rather than the Whiners themselves. We usually see ourselves as well adjusted, coping properly and understanding social boundaries appropriately. Yet, when confronted with the real life Whiners, we all look for the quick escape route, even if it means telling a blatant lie just to scrape off the depressing tone and emotional drain.
Yet, how many times are we, ourselves, the Whiners? How often do we endlessly complain about every silly thing that crosses our minds? The statesman Bernard Baruch wrote "We can overcome anything if we don't bellyache." Constant whining is counterproductive to the problem solving process. It takes a great deal of emotional energy to continually dredge up all the reasons why a situation seems to be defeating us. The toll can even become physical; many studies have shown that those with ongoing, superficial defeatism are more likely to die when facing a serious illness. Those energies that are focused on the negative tend to draw negative situations to them. They appear to face more ongoing crises than people who look on the "bright side". There are some, like Doug and Wendy Whiner, who find every day dilemma's and scenarios to be beyond their control. There are others, however, who always seem to have a smile on their faces, no matter what the circumstances. One of the reasons I was drawn to Yoga was the positive nature of the Yoga practice. Unlike aerobics or competitive sports, Yoga brings with it an innate sense of well being. A simple Yoga meditation, that I often open my classes beginning is: "As I breathe in, I am at peace. As I breathe out, I smile." The very act of smiling can diminish worries, can help you relax, and finally, can actually open your mind to finding creative solutions to the dilemmas that nag us. I can't count the number of times I have stepped into the studio, having no idea what I was going to do about a concern. I found myself fretting, worrying, and venting to all who would listen. By the time my practice was complete, the answer came to me. This response might not have been easy to enact, but by releasing all that energy spent worrying and complaining, I was open to solving the problem at hand, rather than agitating myself further.
There is a fabulous Yiddish word for the kind of incessant, annoying and unrelenting whining that Doug and Wendy made a household name: Kvetching. To kvetch isn't just to vent about a complex and difficult life choice. To kvetch means to exasperate, brood, stew, yammer and anguish through the mundane. I, in fact, am more than a whiner by nature: I'm a kvetcher. Even with yoga, even with years of intellectual and compassionate thought, I'm still a kvetcher. I take life's curve balls personally. I take personally the driver who cuts in front of me in traffic. I internalize the thoughtless remark made by an acquaintance. Like the White Rabbit, in "Alice in Wonderland", I anguish over the very thought of being late. I run these situations over and over in my head, like a dreadful movie scene that I'm doomed to repeat, like Sisyphus. It's a constant war that I fight within myself: looking to the bright side. My nature, unlike those who possess a naturally sunny disposition is anything but. I choose to enact a positive outlook, even when I feel gloomy.
How does one do this? How do we take our glum and gloomy tirades and remove them from our lives? The first step is to just be quiet. There are certainly time we need to talk with our closest friends. But, we also need to ask ourselves if we are talking to ask their opinion, or if we are talking just to talk. Venting can help. But, venting can also turn into an extreme. We won't hear the wisdom our friends may share. We won't hear their ideas to solve a crisis. We will only hear the sound of our own voices. Unless we are also willing to listen, we shouldn't talk. We will be wasting our own energy, as well as wasting our friends'. As we just marinate on the problem that's bothering us,one of two things will happen: either we'll figure out that it really wasn't such a big deal to begin with, or we'll realize that we need to solve the issue using another tactic. There are times when just swallowing down the kvetching we desperately want to do is the best solution. There are other times we will need the advice and mentoring of a trusted companion. It will be far easier for our problem-solving team to understand us when we can speak with clarity, rationality and formulate what the actual central issue is. It will also aid in our own problem solving techniques if we can separate annoyance from legitimate dilemma. We need time and solitude to ruminate to sever these two different issues.
While this isn't an easy process, for those of us who are born Kvetchers, it can be done. As Tim Gunn would say, on the television show, "Project Runway": "Make it work, people." We need to quit grumbling and start performing. We need to cease complicating and begin deciphering. Sometimes we will "make it work" with ease. Other times, the answers will be far more difficult to puzzle out. There are even times when, upon unraveling an impasse or reflecting upon a slight, we willgather than we just need to let it go.
Therefore, I've set myself a goal: before remarking negatively on a predicament, I'm going to wait one day.After those 24 hours have passed, I may then ask a friend for help. I may have to bandage my mouth (or my keyboard) to keep me from kvetching needlessly. I may have to go for walks with my dogs, leave my cell phone behind or sequester myself away from all communication devices. I may even need Maxwell Smart's "Cone of Silence". But, I'm going to try.
If you should happen upon a red faced brunette yoga teacher, who is biting her lip, just smile. It may just be me.