Challenges - A Week of No Complaints
My friend messaged me to say she had escaped an unpleasant encounter with an intoxicated lady at the bus stop.
This lady had approached her and begun to tell the tale of her unfortunate life thus far. From heroin addiction to alcoholism to hiding everything from her husband; she had been through it all.
My friend was worried the situation would turn worse but luckily it ended with her safety getting on the bus and driving off into the distance.
I felt guilty. I didn't feel sorry for my friend like she wanted me to. I felt sorry for the poor woman whose life had been full of ups and mostly downs. I felt bad that I was lying in bed on a lazy Sunday complaining about the London heatwave while someone else was struggling with addiction and mental health issues.
Mostly I felt guilty that it took brief moments like an encounter like this for me to remember I have so much to be grateful for.
This week I'm going to intentionally make myself aware of all those things I have available to me that so many in this world do not and yet still choose to grumble about. We all get negative about minor inconveniences; a train delay, a crap coffee, or, my common complaint, too many people in London. But these things really don't matter.
As with my 'No Sorry' experiment, I'm hoping 'A Week of No Complaints' will make me more aware of my negativity and, by the end of the week, help me to turn it into something far more productive.
Let the positivity begin to flow!
The trains are delayed. It's 70% humidity. And the man standing next to me on the tube cannot keep his elbows to himself.
Grin and bear it, I tell myself.
But when I arrive to the office I meet several of my colleagues at the door, all glistening with sweat.
"It's hot", one says.
"It sure is.", I agree. "Can't wait for this weather to be over."
Oh dear. Not even in the office yet and I've made my first complaint.
The rest of the day goes easily by without issue. The office is quiet and I type away, as I usually do, on a Monday trying to get ahead on the week so I can spend the rest of my time on project work. A lot of the time HR is spent on routine items but I'm not complaining.
On the way home I pick up my order of chairs from Argos for my upcoming BBQ housewarming. It's only a 5minute walk to get them home but the heat has now reached 33 degrees and I can feel the sweat pooling underneath my backpack.
I repeat the same phrase in my head; it's so worth it. The BBQ is going to be amazing. It's so worth it. The BBQ is going to be amazing.
The shower when I get home is freezing cold and incredibly welcoming.
In a Japanese conversation, much like a British one, you start by commenting on the weather. I'm allowing myself to agree when a colleague comments on the immense heat at the moment so long as I don't include an exaggerated sigh.
I tweet a report in the morning from the BBC regarding the 33.3 degree weather yesterday. I'm not complaining. Just stating a fact.
Post Office time and I'm already apprehensive. Many Londoners will understand the trials of an trip to the post office which are typically understaffed, slow and the highlight of all London hospitality. However, at 10am the post office, while buzzing, is relatively calm. I wander over to a self service desk and quickly punch in my details. When I'm heading to the drop off point a staff member reaches out and asks if he can take my parcel for me.
I had nothing to fear. This is genuinely the easiest and most positive post office experience I've had in a long time. I walk back to the office with a smile despite the sweat on my back.
An uneventful workday passes but a few employee meetings mean I'm staying a bit later than I expected. However, on the train home this means I can get a seat which I am grateful for given the weather.
At home I have a rare night with no plans so I bring the fan as close to me as possible and turn it on high. Tonight is for relaxation and I can't complain about that.
The temperature is only going up this week it seems. Today is to be 31 and supposedly there is another 33 degree day tomorrow.
I leave for the office later than usual knowing that I have a meeting that will extend my day by an hour anyway. When I get on the tube, instead of my usual busy but not packed train, it's the kind of busy where you can't help but be touching the 5 people surrounding you. I choose to focus on whether the later trains are always like this and think about why I like coming into the office early. I take a look around the carriage and wonder if they all take this train daily and where they might be headed. I play a game of trying to find the best spot to stand both for balance and comfort. By the time I get off, the unpleasantness of the journey has made no effect on my mood.
It's payday too which is always a day to re-evaluate my financials. I've been reading a lot of The Financial Diet recently (and posting articles there too!) so I'm starting to make myself face the hard truths. Like the fact that my rent takes up 48% of my take-home pay. But I'm not complaining about that either.
I'm supposed to be meeting someone for drinks tonight (read:date) but I haven't heard from them so I send a chaser. I hate sending chasers and it annoys me when people are unreliable (even though I can be flaky at times too). But when I check in on myself, I'm almost pleased if this falls through as a group of friends are meeting up tonight as well so alternate plans are in place and I keep my focus on that.
When I finally get a one-liner to say we're still on, I'm less than pleased but immediately focus on the fact that I finally get to go to a bar I've been wanting to visit for a while. After finishing late from work I make my way there and see him in front of me in the distance but when I walk into the bar he's not there. I sit for a little while before he appears and I finally get the drink I've been craving. I spend most of the time shortly afterwards complaining about various things. I can't help it. It must be pent up.
It doesn't last long though. I'm clearly in a bad mood so, while my date is in the bathroom, I check my phone to see my friends are hanging out at Southbank, only 15 minutes away. I excuse myself and head to them. Much better.
We sit outside, I drink a beer, they eat pizza, and we talk about life, love and everything in between. Unfortunately when you talk of these things a few complaints do tend to pop up and I slip a few frustrations at life into the conversation.
36 degrees. That's right. You heard me. London is supposed to reach 36 degrees today.
The tube is packed and at one point a man decides to stand over me, his body heat making me feel like a hot sweaty mess when I finally get out from under him.
I message my friends about the heat in a way that most definitely could be considered a complaint given my use of the word 'gross'.
At the office I'm met with weather talk again and I complain.
There's no escaping the complaints today - at least it feels that way. It's Thursday and a freelance opportunity that came up earlier in the week has still yet to send me the job despite it being due on Monday. I've got a packed weekend so I'm hoping it doesn't go anywhere.
After work I'm off for drinks again and this time things are much better. The negativity that has been sweeping over me for the past few days vanishes for the evening and I sit back and enjoy the company.
This week has felt so long. I'm not sure if it's the weather or the challenge of no complaining but I've been so sensitive to negativity that any little change has prompted me to tense up. My thoughts have been so caught up in trying not to moan that I feel like I've been moaning more than usual!
The work day on Friday involves a few meetings which turn out to be semi-productive and ends with rain. Perhaps mentally it's helping to wash away my complaining as well as the humidity. I spend the last 30 minutes of the day chatting to a colleague about working in a Japanese company and setting up plans for our Macmillan Coffee Morning event in September.
After work I head to Sainsbury's but I've forgotten my £1 for the shopping trolley. I grab a basket and balance all I can for the BBQ tomorrow in it. My arm aches as I set it down at self-checkout but luckily as I'm leaving the rain has let up enough for me to get home dry.
My friend is due to join me for BBQ preparations but she decides to stay at home - a common issue in London when the weather takes a turn. I spend the night chopping up vegetables and making salads and skewers to make my morning easier. I surprise myself at how much I enjoy it.
Since the preparation is done I have a very relaxed morning until my guests start arriving.
They arrive slowly. We're expecting 15 in total but an hour and a half into the BBQ and only 4 have arrived. Typical. I complain a bit at their lateness but realise not everyone is a time-snob like me.
Nevertheless, as soon as I start firing up the BBQ the troops start marching in. I complain about my intercom which doesn't seem to work meaning every time a new person comes I have to run up the stairs to greet them and lead them back down to the patio.
The rest of the day runs smoothly. Burgers, sausages and even toasted marshmallows are had and even with a few sacrifices made to the charcoal gods we have plenty to go around. The weather is not the best but it doesn't effect people too badly. There is lot's of mingling and enjoyable chats going on. We only lose one glass and my cutlery holder due to a picnic table tipping mishap but I'm enjoying myself to much to mind.
After some Nintendo entertainment with the stragglers everyone is off home around 10pm and I'm left feeling very thankful that my friends are so tidy. Dishes have already been washes and rubbish bags are tied and ready to go out the next day. I really do have nothing to complain about.
Very thankfully I have no hangover today but the weather seems to feel differently. The wind is howling and rain is pelting down outside but being a fan of winter it only makes me happy despite an event I was going to being postponed.
I do a few of my chores but then choose to spend the rest of the morning in bed. Cabin fever eventually creeps up on me and I decide I should find myself a new cutlery holder. I do. It's copper, as with everything I own, and cheap. I'm feeling very pleased with myself.
On my way home I decide to pop into Boots to buy some makeup necessities but as I'm exiting I head the security alarms going off behind me. I step back into the store and hold my bag between the sensors to check if its me.
Oh dear. Nevermind, I think, I did pick up the receipt from the till.
I wait more than I really should given that an actual thief would be halfway home by now. Finally a security guard comes up to me and grumbles at me.
"You were here last week, right? Same thing?"
"Ummm... I mean I might have been here but I've never set off the sensors." I stumble.
He grunts at me to show my receipt and I pull it out. I accidentally point to my receipt for the cutlery utensil before reaching for the boots receipt - only to find it's the receipt for the person before me. No use.
He grumbles some more as we wander back to the self-checkout and I point at the one I use. I see a receipt in the machine and point to it but he ignores me and speak to the clerk. They begin digging through a box of old receipts. I try again to point out the receipt sitting there but he just gives me the stink eye and says they'll have to check the cameras.
He marches me over to another spot in the store and tells me to wait outside as he goes into the security room. Again, I wonder what would happen if I just walked off.
He's back and briefly mentions that I don't seem to be a thief before lecturing me about taking my receipt next time. To which I mutter that I thought I had.
By the time I get out the store (following more lectures and him wiping the security tag on my mascara) I'm in a very bad mood indeed. I ramble off the events at my friends over text for sympathy and immediately feel bad.
The whole scenario only took 20 minutes. The security could have had a better approach but he got the job done eventually. Sometimes things just align themselves poorly and of all the bad luck in the world this was probably less annoying that a mosquito bite.
If you had asked me before this week if I has anything to complain about I might have told you no - aside from the weather, I'm very happy right now but it appears my concerns are more frequent than I realised. It also made me realised just how entitled I am.
The self-induced negativity I experienced while monitoring my week of inconveniences and growing ever more annoyed at both myself and the world was far more than I expected. I was frustrated that I couldn't complain and even more frustrated that I so often felt the need to complain about such minor things and that somehow not complaining only made me dwell more on these things.
I do understand how important complaining is as a method of communication now. Acknowledging the same inconveniences as your friends or colleagues or sharing your stresses in order to feel some level of empathy or sympathy through that connection. I found myself running to my friends with any hiccup I came across just for a few comforting words. I feel like I could do with reducing my need to depend on others for comfort and perhaps I can find a better way to share my life without sharing only the negatives.
The good thing is, because of this experiment, I am constantly searching for the positive side of things. Sometimes this is just spinning the situation on it's head. Sometimes it's picking apart the reality of the issue. Often times it's telling myself it's not a big deal.
I've also been far more aware of why I'm upset about certain things. Asking myself, is this really a big deal? before messaging a friend or grumbling to a colleague about something. While I feel like you should let yourself moan every now and then I do think it's important to check you're not doing it too much for the wrong reasons; something I've realised is one of my own faults this week.
How do you think you would do on a week with no complaints? Am I just a big baby? Maybe give it a go and let me know if you feel similarly.