“Instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.” ~Proverb
If you’re reading this blog post anywhere in the world where you are within earshot of other people, stop and listen. Chances are it won’t take too long for you to hear the complaining.
We complain about the weather. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. Too windy. Too dry. Too… fill-in-the-blank.
We complain about our jobs. Our joblessness. Our lack of time. Our lack of money.
We complain about traffic, misplaced keys and red lights that take too long to change.
We complain about our weight, our friends — our family.
Yes, I am writing today to complain about the amount of time our society spends complaining.
It’s so easy to get swept up in the negative stuff, right? There’s so much solidarity in it. A connection formed by a parallel annoyance. That “You feel my pain” thing is pretty powerful.
When we planned the first two weeks of April as the best time to have our mountain cabin stained, we didn’t think about the “April showers.” Sure, they are great for bringing May flowers, but not so great when you have a (very tight) 14-day home renovation project and three of those days are literally washed out by storms.
We got to the cabin Sunday night and by late Monday afternoon, my phone was blowing up with weather alerts with warnings of tornados; flash floods; and monster winds that promised to take out trees, knock down power lines and, I’m assuming, easily sweep a crew of painters off a metal roof.
To make the whole experience all the more exciting, what started out as replacing just a few rotted boards, quickly turned into removing all the wooden siding of the fireplace / chimney… all the way up. And, “Oh,” the contractor shared, “There’s also no paper or insulation, so we need to do that, too. But no problem.”
Tuesday, day two of our 14-day-project, they ripped off all the boards, did the framing, the insulation… etc., but were unable to get the gaping hole in the house covered up properly before they called it quits for the night (at 9 pm!) With a smile and a nod, the contractor promised to be back in the morning with the crew to “make it all good.”
And then the complaining began. How would we finish on time? Why the hell didn’t we check the weather? How in the hell are they going to get that whole chimney covered tomorrow when it’s going to be pouring rain all day? Do they know it’s starting at 8 am? And it’s going to rain all week? And so on. And so on. The evening wore me out – I wore me out — as I remained completely focused on the idea that the whole project was a complete wash. It was the story I was telling and that was it. Ruined. Stupid. Weather. Dammit.
At 8 am the crew arrived as promised and got to work covering up the house. They were almost done when the sky opened up. And my first thought was “See! I told you they wouldn’t get it done.” But instead of escaping the downpour, they continued to work. Soaking wet, they hustled. An assembly line of workers getting it done.. and they were… singing. And cheering each other on. Smiling and laughing in the rain. They seriously seemed like they were having fun. In the storm. Under great pressure–having lost at least two days of a VERY tight project timeline. They were having fun…and as they promised, they were gettin’ it done.
And in that moment, my shoulders relaxed. It was all I could do to keep myself from running out into that storm and joining them. It will get done. Or it won’t get done. But no amount of complaining about things beyond my control–like weather –was going to make a bit of difference.
It’s not like I think that holding hands in a campfire circle singing Kumbaya is the answer to all our worries, but there is some perspective to be taken from this story. We can’t control everything, but we can control how we react to things. We have a choice. We can bitch and complain, or we can sing in the rain.
And something tells me that when you sing in the rain, it’s a lot more fun.