riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


17 Comments

Can You Stop Complaining? (Seriously)

Years ago, one of my closest friends, a former cheerleader, called me to announce that she was going to stop complaining for a month. “That’s great,” I responded. “But maybe try 24 hours first and see how it goes.” We laughed. But she did pretty well. To this day, she always leads with the good and looks on the bright side when it comes to the bad. I adore her.

Other friends are the opposite. They lead with the negative — and stay there. I adore them too, but can only tolerate this up to a point. It’s not that I don’t understand hard times, depression, job/partner/life/money dissatisfaction. I DO. But once I feel a person has sufficiently vented (30 minutes is about all I can handle), the “fixer” in me starts suggesting things they could be doing to alleviate their situation.

“Have you thought of this or that?” I venture. “Well, no I haven’t actually,” the person responds. With some people, the conversation then moves towards a more positive direction. With others, it quickly veers like it’s avoiding a pothole, then continues in the same direction. Blah blah blah… another 30 minutes go by. This is usually when I hit the speaker button, place the phone down, and start checking my email. Wrong, I know. (Would it be better to abruptly say goodbye?)

Of my least favorite pet peeves (littering, bad driving, ogling, to name a few), chronic complaining is right up there. I don’t mean the kind of complaining that we do with co-workers around the water cooler, or those conversations with our closest confidantes where we get things off our chest and/or ask each other for advice. I also don’t mean the kind of venting people do when they’re grieving, getting divorced, dealing with a new baby or any other major life change.

I mean the kind of chronic complaining people do about situations they could actually change if they wanted to, but don’t.

You know the type I’m talking about. If not, this is how you spot one:

Friend complains to you about something. You listen and empathize.

Friend complains again about the same thing. You feel bad that they’re still dealing with the same issue and offer suggestions that might help.

Friend complains a third and fourth time. You start to wonder if the person considered (or even heard) any of the advice you gave the last time.

When the friend continues complaining about the exact same issue(s),  you realize this person isn’t looking for answers or helpful suggestions – she doesn’t even want to fix her problem(s). She’s a chronic complainer who wants you to listen to how miserable she is (and if you don’t listen, then you’re not a good friend). She is like this because she’s 1) seeking attention, 2) looking for ways to justify her unhappiness, and/or 3) unable to handle other people being happy or doing well (both trigger her internal “miserable” switch).

Of course, to suggest such a thing is preposterous. No one wants to be miserable, right?

Wrong.

I recently overheard a mother tell her daughter on the phone, “The doctors told me I don’t have the kind of cancer that’ll kill me, but come on. We’ll just see.”

(Really? Okay.)

I think some people are uncomfortable with optimism, or don’t feel like they deserve to be happy, or can’t be satisfied with what they have. They always want more/better, and the grass is always greener over there. Or they continue to think of some past period of their life as “the good ole days” when the truth is, they probably complained just as much back then (about other things).

I admit, I’ve had chronic complaining moments myself (it’s not uncommon to disdain in others the same traits we disdain in ourselves). Remember my optimist friend? She would always listen patiently while I rattled on about everything bad in my life. Then she’d give me practical advice and point out the good things too, all of which I appreciated. To this day, I always feel more upbeat after talking with her, even if I was upbeat to begin with.

Another friend and I still complain to each other, but we’ve jokingly nicknamed our bitch marathons “The Depress-offs,” a la a competitive game show. So, we’re actually bitching and laughing at the same time.

In general though, I try to complain less than I used to. Part of this is watching someone die young of a terrible disease and feeling like what the hell do I have to complain about? Also, Kaz would often remind me that the best way out of depression is ACTION, and I follow that advice as much as possible.

At the writing seminar I mentioned in the last post, the instructor said to us, “What if you were to accept your current life and be happy with the way things are right now?” Everyone gasped.

He quickly explained that he didn’t mean giving up on our dreams and aspirations. He meant hitting the pause button on our perpetual moaning, choosing to acknowledge – and be in – the present, and being grateful. We were alive. We were sitting in a room with a bunch of fellow writers and new friends. The sun was shining. We had homes to go back to. We had pets/children/spouses/friends who loved us. We were unique.

We went on with the weekend feeling more positive and energized. Nothing had changed, and yet everything felt different.

At drinks, later that night, someone asked the instructor, “So, what are your dreams? What do you want to do?” He smiled. “I’m doing what I want to do. I’m here with you right now.”

Do you think you could stop complaining? Have you ever tried?

Tree at sunset (photo: @nivaladiva)

Tree at sunset (photo: @nivaladiva)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


16 Comments

The Clock Doth Tick

Sometimes I am still shocked by where I am in life: a widow, former caregiver, film writer/director who still works a day job and barely scrapes by, at 42 years old. Not feeling sorry for myself, just stating the facts. Actually, I was reminded of the facts yesterday.

Before leaving said day job, whether next month or next year, I’m using my health insurance to get everything checked out. There I was with a new OBGYN, from whom I need a referral for a mammogram, getting thoroughly probed and questioned about my family, medical and sexual history. Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, the conversation found its way to a subject which I had not anticipated discussing, and inadvertantly brought up the reality of my situation.

“Are you thinking of having children?” the doctor asked.

“I’ve… thought about it,” I answered slowly. “But I’m not really sure what my options are at this point.”

The good doctor briefly explained the options:

The old-fashioned way. Meeting a man, falling in love, making a baby.

The Baby Daddy way. Asking a friend to donate his stuff and sign away his paternal rights.

Cryobank. Shopping online for an anonymous baby daddy.

Eggs on ice. Freezing my eggs for later.

Adoption.

“If having a biological child is something you’re even remotely considering, the first step would be to test how fertile you are and what your time frame might be,” the doctor suggested.

“Okay,” I said. What the hell. Let’s see what this body of mine is capable of, and just how fast the clock is ticking.

Then she asked if I want to take the BRCA1 and BRCA2 test, which would tell me if I have the breast cancer susceptibility gene. At first, I was skeptical. I already know breast cancer runs in my family (both my mother and sister had and survived it). The doctor explained that the gene test would either confirm my increased risk (in which case I would start a vigilante early detection program), OR it would give me the peace of mind that I’m actually not at more risk than the average woman.

She further explained that as of this year, thanks to new health insurance and Obamacare laws, if a woman tests positive for these genes, her subsequent early detection procedures will be covered by insurance, AND if she switches insurance at any point, a positive gene-test won’t be considered a pre-exisiting condition. 

Again I thought, what the hell. Let’s test everything. I should have all the facts before making any big decisions.

As I left the appointment, tears started to flow in the hallway. I put my sunglasses on while waiting for the elevator with a mother and her two children and drove back to work, the whole time thinking about how different life would be if Kaz were still alive.

Facing these decisions alone is daunting. The idea of having a child alone is even more daunting. I know women do it all the time, but I’m not sure I want to – or if can afford it, to be honest. There’s all kinds of considerations, but the truth is, if it’s ever going to happen, the window of opportunity is closing. Anything could happen but my gut tells me the traditional route is the least likely option. Dating takes time, and who’s to say any potential partner would want to have a baby right away?

The good news is, I don’t have to make any decisions right now. The test results will come back within a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I’m focusing on my writing and Ruby, who I’m proud to say graduated Obedience 1 last weekend and begins Obedience 2 and Agility 1 this weekend. At the very least, I’m a dog mom (a good one). But as I told the doctor yesterday, “Sometimes I wonder if she’s enough.”