In today's edition of Small Town Newspaper:
It’s Positive Attitude month, the perfect opportunity to take stock of my tendency to grouse and to look for ways to be more positive. I suspect you could do with some introspection as well, because, really, grumbling seems to be a favorite pastime for far too many these days.
I’d like to think of myself as relatively optimistic, going out of my way to look for the positive elements of even the bleakest circumstances. But honestly, I confess I can whine about irksome things with the best of them. I have been heard complaining about everything from people who pop their chewing gum in public to parents who talk out loud in the audience of a school band concert to drivers who slow down as they approach an exit ramp, as if the exit ramp itself were not long enough for that purpose. Recently, I was exposed to true masters at complaining, and their ability to completely suck the joy out of the room made me stop and consider my own approach to my surroundings.
My husband and I were on a cruise-ship vacation. Each day was relaxing and easy, yet amid the pampering with staff scurrying to meet all of our needs, we encountered a couple that did nothing but complain. They didn’t just turn their noses up at one event or one dry piece of chicken. In the course of the meal we shared with them, this couple picked apart the entire cruise experience, sometimes taking turns and sometimes practically speaking in unison without coming up for air.
The salad dressing was made with the wrong vinegar and there was too much fish on the buffet but not enough garlic on Italian night but that must be because the chef was French and you know how the French can be and the performers in the evening shows were so amateurish they swore they had seen better productions in high schools and the comedians weren’t funny and the woman singing at the baby grand in the atrium was terrible and the juggler was so bad they walked out ten minutes into his act. Gasp.
Finally, we politely excused ourselves from the table, needing some fresh air after being pummeled by these impossible-to-please fellow passengers. Throughout the barrage of their negative comments, I determined these people had forgotten something important—they were on a cruise, presumably one they could afford, which was a blessing in itself.
There is a proverb that says, “Instead of complaining that the rosebush is full of thorns, be happy that the thorn bush has roses.” By focusing on the best of the circumstance, you are free to fully enjoy it for all its worth, and you can take the “thorns” in stride.
Instead of griping about the food and the entertainment on a cruise, for example, be grateful you are able to take such a vacation at all, one that is mostly full of delights. The lounge singer may have performed outdated tunes at times, but there were entertainment options to suit your taste around every corner. The juggler may not have been exceptionally funny, but he did play “Fur Elise” by reverse juggling balls onto a floor-level piano keyboard, and you missed that impressive trick if you left too early. And on the cruise, you didn’t have to cook your own meals with or without fish. You didn’t have to plan them or shop for them or clean up after them. All you had to do was show up and be served.
Now back home and back to the usual routine, I am reminded the same principle of perspective applies. Someone might pop his gum in my ear or behave poorly in the school auditorium, but I can tune out the rudeness and focus on more pleasing sounds. Irritating driving habits may furrow my brow, but I am only responsible for my own skills behind the wheel.
Sometimes, it takes purposeful effort to be grateful for the roses despite the thorns, but I’m up for the challenge. I am up for putting the irritations of life into their proper perspective and not let them rob me, or those within earshot of my potential yammering, of the best of life. How about you?