Cheer, complaint and seasonal affect

I recently commented on someone's blog, "As with any life situation with which you are not in accord, your choices are to leave it, change it or accept it."

This is a paraphrase of Maya Angleou's quote, "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."

Ever since I read Will Bowen's "A Complaint-Free World", I decided to stop complaining, a behavioural shift which does not remove discernment or problem-solving, just whining and carping.

Bowen quotes Eckhard Tolle to make the distinction:

“Complaining is not to be confused with informing someone of a mistake or deficiency so that it can be put right. And to refrain from complaining doesn’t necessarily mean putting up with bad quality or behavior. There is no ego in telling the waiter your soup is cold and needs to be heated up – if you stick to the facts, which are always neutral. ‘How dare you serve me cold soup…?’ That’s complaining.”

I decided to take on the Great Canadian Whine-a-Thon, AKA "Can You Believe this Weather We're Having?", most recently applied to the cool, rainy summer to date. A Globe and Mail columnist wrote on Canada Day (July 1) that he was always depressed on that holiday because it meant the "end of summer was approaching."

My view is that there are two full, verdant months left, plus a nice dividend in September, if you ignore a few falling leaves.

I practiced last winter, too, during five months of every snow/slush/sleet combo known to a cloud. Once weaned off the drug of complaint, my mood improved, my activity level rose; I no longer patrolled my psyche for the predations of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

To keep the complaint-free spirit perking, I like to sing Ian Drury's "Reasons to Be Cheerful, Part 3", any verse, but my favourites are,

A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it
You're welcome, we can spare it, yellow socks

Too short to be haughty, too nutty to be naughty

Going on forty, no electric shocks

The juice of the carrot, the smile of a parrot
A little drop of claret - anything that rocks

Elvis and Scotty, the days when I ain't spotty,

Sitting on the potty, curing smallpox...

I backslide sometimes, carping about people who bellow into phones in restaurants or my son's late rising when he needs to look for a job.

Then I return to Bowen's counsel: to make steps toward change, or accept things as they are.

Instead of playing cards or free hearing tests, I wish that retirement associations would send this little book to all perspective members.


Northmoon said…
Thank you for a great reminder that I am responsible for my mood. There will always be things in my life I can complain about, and there will always be things I can enjoy and be thankful for. How my day goes depends a great deal on which ones I choose to pay attention to.
mette said…
What a coincidence of timing, this post of your´s Duchesse! Just the past two days I have had the feeling that summer is over. We had such a hot week, during which we had our hay harvested,and now that it´s over, I feel like everything is over. The weather cooled quite a lot too. When I told one of my friends how I felt, she too took the same attitude as you did. But I feel that I´m not really complaining, this happens nearly every year. A big task gets done and there I am, empty handed. I will get past this. And I wouldn´t even mention the cool soup ;).
Susan B said…
Was it Will Rogers who said "everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it"?

Back in my twenties, I was exposed to the idea that thoughts become self-perpetuating and will manifest results, and that we ultimately control our own thoughts. That doesn't mean we can control everything that happens in life, but it does mean that we can control how we deal with it. Understanding this and putting it into practice really changed my life. I still complain too much sometimes, but try to catch myself and stop, and don't have much tolerance for those who complain endlessly when there are outlets available to them.
NancyDaQ said…
Great post! I've come to the same conclusion as well.
Anonymous said…
I love this. A long time ago a friend told me that she "chooses to be happy." When I got to a place where I actually understood what she was saying, it a monumental discovery for me and it started me on the road to changing my life. Thanks for such a great reminder of this very important concept!
Duchesse said…
Northmoon: "what I pay attention to" is essential for me, too.
metscan: I wonder if those of us in northern countries,with such short, precious summers, are prone to this.

Pseu: I'm increasingly impatient with chronic complainers, and try to to ask them 'what would you like to DO about that"?
Duchesse said…
doll: Reminds me of a friend who used to say, 'I woke up, I ate, I am in a free country, the rest is gravy."
diverchic said…
Love the new picture!

Your lack of complaining is one of the marvellous, astonishing things I love about you. I fight negativity all the time having been well trained in fault finding. I wish I were as good at the cheerful word as you and sometimes I just need someone to say "poor baby".
mette said…
Reply to Duchesse: I´m sure that the northern position and the long, dark season without sunshine affects our mood. My toes have been frozen so often in the winter that it is impossible for me to wear a nice pair of boots, so I´m definitely not looking forward to the colder season.
s. said…
Living in a house with 2 fireplaces, a cosy library and a well stocked wine-cellar (well, a corner of the basement with a dozen or so cases) makes Toronto winters a joy. Now I'm trying to find ways to make the (usually) muggy months of July and August a little less... limp.

I love your attitude, Duchesse. We can't change the weather, but we can certainly find ways to actually each season.
Lylah Ledner said…
Wow...what a sweet place you have....guess i'm part of the older fifty crowd...and proud of it.

LOVE what you're expressing here.

so I'm guessing you don't have the box set of DVDS Grumpy Old Men and Grumpy Old Women!
lagatta à montréal said…
Moi j'aime bien râler - c'est un art!

I know what you mean about negative people, but I don't find complaining necessarily makes one a grump. And how can any sane person NOT complain about our horrific winters?

I have met refugees from war zones such as Salvador, who are very grateful to be here but who still get utterly miserable during our endless winters. Isn't that physiological? Not just forlorn Aboriginal communities or beaten-down Russians are sad in the winter, so are well-fed Swedes and Norwegians.

You have to complain with a laugh, and commiserating, as a form of solidarity. Not make others feel miserable. Subtle distinction.
Mardel said…
What a fabulous and timely post. I realized this a long time ago, but experience setbacks occasionally, but I try to stop myself.

Although the darkness is dreary, I love the cooler summer weather, and I found that the winter wasn't so bad once I stopped thinking it was terrible.
Anonymous said…
Being happy doesn't meant that everything is perfect. It does mean that you've chosen to look beyond the
Frugal Scholar said…
Must work on this. My husband is always accusing me of complaining. I like to think I'm merely describing a bad situation: I'm not expecting a solution, just an acknowledgment that what I perceive is true. Still, I'm working on my (in-born?) lugubrious nature.
Duchesse said…
Frugal: I recommend the book, if you really want to address it.

lagatta: An art only to the 'artist'; I'm quite bored by others' whinging.
Duchesse, I guess we'll have to agree to partially disagree about this one. Partially, because indeed I broke off with a friend who was always whingy, negative and self-obsessed and tired me (and other former friends) to wits' end. Tiresome indeed. But I can't abide the American-style "Positive Thinking" that infests Oprah and all the Self-Help cults.

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