Friday, January 28, 2011

Crabaholics Anonymous

Hi! My name is Rhianon, and I'm a crabaholic. ("Hi, Rhianon!")

I complain a lot. It's a fault, I freely admit. I'm here today with my fellow problem complainers in order to do something about it.

Honestly, I often have no idea why petty things annoy me so. Some people have a great deal to complain about. Their spouses beat them; their cars break down and they can't afford the repairs; their jobs don't pay well, or have disappeared. Serious stuff.

Me, I complain about the trivia in life. I don't get a good seat on the train, or I end up sharing the seat with a seat hog. The guy in the quiet car has now taken three cell phone calls in fifteen minutes. It took me 45 minutes instead of two to change an outdoor light bulb that rusted in the socket and broke when I tried to remove it. I could go on, but you get the idea. Heck, I complain incessantly about my job even though it pays pretty well and my boss and colleagues are pretty good people. Sure, it's annoying that my wise advice is ignored consistently, but as long as the paycheck keeps coming, what's the real problem? And who among us hasn't felt that her great thoughts have been ignored?

What makes me a crabaholic? Damned if I know, except... I think that complaining about our lot is part of human nature. We worry about things, complain about things, most of the time concerning ourselves with things we can't change. We want to believe there is order in the universe, so we take personally things that are almost surely not personal. Yes, that tuneless whistling is highly irritating, but, thought about rationally, the whistler is surely not doing so to annoy those around him. (The seat hog, on the other hand...)

I'm not a big believer in New Year's resolutions. They tend to be grandiose and unachievable, and, when they are not achieved, create a sense of letdown. I'm going to write the Great American Novel this year, or walk two miles a day. Okay, two miles starting the day after tomorrow. Maybe a mile next week? But the constant crabbing about things was starting to get even me down, so I grabbed my little book of meetings and wandered down to this church basement to drink some bad coffee - oops, there I go again - and tell you my story.

The first step in solving a problem is recognizing the problem exists. When I find myself getting irritated at something, I've stepped back and asked myself why I find it irritating, and whether it's really a big deal. This method hasn't stopped the world from irritating me entirely, but it has given me a little perspective about not sweating the small details.

Not that it's been easy. I was doing fairly well - some minor episodes of falling off the perspective wagon - until the other night, when my commuter train broke down and we sat in the dark. For an hour. While the next train whizzed by. No announcements, other than vague, inaccurate, and out-of-date emails. The next train arrived, parked, and took those passengers close enough to a conductor to hear that we had a method of escape. My car was still left in the dark, both literally and figuratively. We eventually got going, whatever problem with the engine resolved, and made it home an hour and a half late. Needless to say, I was grumpy. I think there was a real grievance: that communication, both from whatever entity controlled information about a rescue train and from the conductors aboard our train, could have been vastly improved. On the other hand, engines do break down because of things beyond the control of anyone in the system, and we did manage to make it home, so getting frustrated at the entire situation was probably not the right reaction.

Ah well. Consider this a work in progress.

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