OPINION: Now is the wrong time to start complaining about anything
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Last week, a friend of mine went to a concert at one of the few London venues now open.
She hadn’t been to anything like it since early 2020, and she was thrilled. So much so that she shed tears of joy at being there – and looking around she could see she wasn’t the only one. It was a really emotional occasion and the past months rolled away as the music rang out.
The only downside was that a woman in the next seat kept complaining. She said things weren’t the same as they once had been, that the social distancing took the normal atmosphere away, that the obligatory masks were a nuisance and that the one-way system in the building was infuriating.
My friend refused to let this other concert-goer’s comments get under her skin, but they were upsetting.
I don’t know about you, but I feel as if we’ve been reprieved after a long period of darkness and fear.
Covid-19 has been the modern-day equivalent of Noah’s flood or the Great Plague of London, and I feel truly grateful to have come through the worst of it and to have survived, when some 150,000 of our fellow citizens have not.
I’m hungry now for more contact with friends and family, as well as for visits to theatres, eating out, and bit of travel, and I thank my lucky stars that I’m fit and able to look forward to these activities.
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And because I feel such heartfelt gratitude, I have no wish at all to listen to mindless moaning like my friend had to endure the other evening.
To be honest, I’ve always had a thing about complainers – perhaps because I’ve noticed over the years that the people who complain most are often the ones with little of importance to complain about.
During the various lockdowns, there was always someone on Facebook with a laundry list of gripes about their online supermarket shopping deliveries.
One person, who lives off the beaten track, complained bitterly that his delivery was late, when really he should have been delighted it was coming at all given that there was a blizzard raging outside.
Another had a rant about the quality of some of the out-of-season fruit she obviously felt she couldn’t live without.
I can’t imagine why such individuals feel they must turn their first-world irritations into a crisis, or why they’re hellbent on inflicting their gripes on the rest of us.
All around, people have lost their jobs, parents are worried about feeding their children, men and women with a wide range of illnesses are having to wait ages to see a specialist.
And elsewhere in the world, the virus continues to claim far too many lives, and there are not nearly enough vaccines to go round. So, I refuse to be drawn into the ire of someone who had the wrong peaches delivered by an overworked and poorly paid van driver.
You might think that’s harsh, but I don’t believe complainers are mentally ill, or even particularly unhappy or distressed. They just like a good old grumble.
I’ve spent 25 years in consulting rooms listening to anguished people reveal their fears, the horrors of unspeakable childhoods, their desperate lack of self-esteem, their shyness and social anxiety, or their lifelong battle with depression.
And the vast majority of these patients have been lovely individuals who very rarely complained about their troubles. In fact, they’d often say: ‘I know that lots of folk have had far worse things happen to them.’
But I did have one complainer, and though this happened back in my early days as a therapist, she remains in my memory because, unlike everyone else, she didn’t want to ‘get better’. She was wealthy, well-educated and healthy, yet she was massively dissatisfied with life.
However, she was not interested in working at ways that might have made her existence more purposeful and fulfilled, and believed that treatment should consist of me listening, without speaking, to her outpouring of vitriol about everything and everybody. We were not a good match!
So, to return to our brave new world, I am keen to remember how lucky we’ve been, and to hold onto my gratitude for the NHS, the scientists who have developed our vaccines and the local shops and delivery people who kept us going through the worst of times.
In order to do that, I’m going to avoid negativity in others, and plan to unfriend people who routinely carp about trivial annoyances on social media.
More than that, if anyone in my hearing complains, like that woman at the concert hall, that ‘things aren’t what they were’ I’m going to turn and walk away as speedily as I can.