You Can’t Complain!

Photo by Bernard Hermant on

Oh, I beg to differ, and I’m mildly offended. You’re seriously underestimating my abilities. What’s this “can’t” word you speak of? It does not compute, register, or sound like a word spoken in the queens English. I can’t, allegedly, complain?

Girrrl. Boyyy. Um, insert your preferred pronoun, and own it loud and proud, my friend. All who enter here are welcome with respect, love, and all the good vibes. Just don’t tell me I can’t complain.

Is there a world championship complaining competition? A WCCC if you prefer. Here’s hoping that doesn’t actually stand for something untoward, gruesome, or ew. I should google it to be safe. Or, I could take some risks. Oo, I feel the surge of adrenaline, my heart is racing, and now we know why I don’t ride rollercoasters.

I’m a bit of a coward and I have a heart condition. Ah, the riddle has been solved.

If the WCCC existed, then I assure you I would take gold, silver, and bronze. It would be a clean sweep. How is that possible? Why, thanks for ask. You’re very thoughtful, and that’s what I like about you.

My ability to lament the woes of life would be unparalleled. Competitors would resign before the main event. Flee these lands, and return to your homes in shame or, perhaps, bewilderment. It’s no use! You’ve already lost. Why put in the effort when it means nothing? 

An exercise in futility is good cardio? 

Okay, fair point. I hope you live a long, happy life. After, of course, you work up a sweat listening to my epic yammering. I’ve limbered up. There was a whole ninety-second of stretching. Yeah, you heard me right! A whole ninety. I’m suited and booted. Let’s do this thing because I was born to complain.

Are you ready to grumble?

Do you ever wish you could plug your brain into a projector so that everyone could see what you’re seeing? Your wild imagination projected onto a white sheet hung on the wall. You could hand out popcorn and those chocolate malt ball things. Sure, you put holes in your walls so you won’t get your deposit back, and the landlord will go ape-butt. Will it be worth it? Yeah, because it will be the best movie night ever!

Then again, with my scattered brain, you might see things you’d wish you hadn’t. I can’t control the images flashing before my eyes any more than I can control the wind blowing through the willows. Oh, that was a good book. Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Grahame. 

It was a childhood favourite, but then I grew up. What a disappointment that was! Don’t do it. Don’t grow up. It sounds cool from the other side, but it’s a case of the green grass. Looks can be deceiving and all the usual cliches.

I still remember the tragic moment when I realized wise old Badgers don’t walk with canes, and Toads don’t drive cars. It was yesterday. No, wait, it feels like yesterday because time is a manipulative little rat. One minute I was reading about talking animals and, the next minute, believing animals can talk, or toads drive cars, is a sign of mental distress.

They change the rules so fast!

I’m still not over it. The disillusionment of literature, growing up, and the nature of time. You can’t get it back, you know. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can try to hunt it down. Close your eyes, remember those precious moments when your imagination took you on wild adventures with talking creatures. Ah, then the phone rings, and you’re pulled back into reality.

A reality where, no matter what you’re going through, you’re told you can’t complain. It’s bitterly unfair! And, with that, I just locked in my first medal, and I’m off to capture the next podium at the inaugural World Complaining Championship Competition.

That was smooth and seamless. I transitioned so casually you barely saw it coming. Boo-ya! 

And you said I couldn’t complain. Well, who’s laughing now? Here’s a hint: She has two thumbs and she’s typing these words. That’s right, it’s me, I’m laughing. Bwahaha.

Yeah, okay, I’ll stop.

In my real life, though, I’m not that much of a complainer, and I should probably learn to do it a bit more. I swallow my thoughts, fears, and lifestyle malfunctions. I put them in a bottle, screw on a lid, and give it a shake. I should pop the top before the pressure shatters the glass, but who doesn’t like to watch things go boom?

I don’t sit down with a trusted friend and unload my grumbles, mumbles, and fumbles. Again, I should do it! It would do my mental health a world of good, but I don’t want to be a burden. It’s one of my greatest fears. The thought alone is enough to send me into a tailspin. The fact that my numerous chronic illnesses have often led me to burden my loved ones with my needs?

I hate it! 

They have never complained or insinuated that I’m anything but loved. This isn’t a feeling that’s been placed on me by others. It’s something that I’ve put on myself. If my life was a superhero cartoon, then my arch-nemesis would be my own reflection. I am my worst enemy, and I keep myself locked up in a very claustrophobic wine cellar.

A teetotaler trapped in a wine cellar? Well, that’s paradoxical in a tragic, Shakespearean, sort of way. Now I’m getting into hyperboles. I should stop before irony and satire swagger into the picture.

I was chatting with a friend via email last week, and they asked how I was doing. I offhandedly mentioned that I’ve been struggling a bit. Physically, I’m trying to heal from my run-in with COVID. I’m exhausted, and random symptoms pop up out of nowhere. There’s nothing anyone can do to make it go away, so I’m left with the most unhelpful advice any doctor can give. Get plenty of rest and drink a lot of water. 

Thanks, I feel so much better. 

The mental struggles have also been difficult, and it’s feeling more pronounced. Loneliness from the isolation is a big one right now. Despite already having had the virus, there’s no proof that I’m immune, so I could get sick again. I’m lucky to have gotten away with such a mild case the first time, but what happens if I get it twice? I don’t want to find out, so I’m limiting my contact with potential carriers.

Now, I’m an introvert with moderate social anxiety, so you would think I’d be peachy keen. And I was, for a while, handling the isolation just fine, but it’s starting to feel suffocating. The walls are closing in. Is the cellar shrinking? Are the bottles breaking? Oo, I think I’m getting drunk off of the fumes. It tingles.

Of course, during the conversation with this friend, I didn’t go into all of that. I inadvertently let my guard slip. They kindly and sincerely offered to be my sounding board if I needed to vent. It was such a kind offer! It meant a lot. Have I responded to that email?

No, I don’t want to be a burden and complain about my life. What’s there to complain about? Looking over my current situation, while it isn’t ideal, I’m not in horrible shape. I have food in my cupboard, a cup of tea sitting next to me, and a roof attached to four walls. I’m dry, warm, and safe. How can I complain about a little stress or loneliness when I have it better than some?

Saying the words out loud feels icky, and kind of sticky. Writing them down? That’s a lot easier. There’s a giant firewall and thick layer of internet between us. It doesn’t feel like I’m grumbling, or going on a woe-is-me tangent. I don’t know what you’re beautiful face looks like, and most of you don’t know what I look like. We could pass each other at a respectful six-foot distance and never know.

That distance makes this feel safe. I’m just sitting in my living room, typing these words, all alone. It’s kind of like journaling, which I’m a big fan of, only this journal is posted online where anyone can read my deepest, darkest, secrets. 

I’m twelve years old again, and I’m leaving my diary on my bed unattended. What sibling wouldn’t want to read it? Who knows what kind of juicy ammunition can be found in those pages? From a twelve-year-old? Uh, yeah, no preteen should have juice in their diaries. 

I’ve written the word complain fourteen, fifteen, times now, and it’s taken me this long to ask a simple question. Why does it carry such a negative connotation? We’re told that we shouldn’t complain, and we’re given a lot of reasons for it. My least favourite is hearing that someone has it worse.

Stop complaining! You’re lucky because someone has it worse than you. True, but why can’t I complain about my situation? I’m hurting, this moment is difficult, but I can’t complain? I have feelings. I am a real person. My struggles are real, as are yours, so why can’t I complain?

It’s one thing to be a chronic complainer who’s never satisfied with anything or anyone. I took a risk last week and went to the store. At the checkout, I stood behind this woman who did nothing but complain about every little thing. She went after the cashier who wasn’t happy enough by her unattainable standards. 

Side note, this is such a big pet peeve of mine! Service workers are there to provide a service, but they aren’t dancing monkeys on display. They are people who are working long hours at a thankless job. They aren’t paid enough to put up with everything they endure. Be nice to them! It’s not hard to say please, thank you, and have a good day.

This complainer, however, found that concept far too challenging, and she went off. Those of us standing behind her came to the defence of the cashier. That added to her tribulations, and she complained even more. She went into that situation looking for something to complain about, and she found it.

That’s a chronic complainer! Or, she’s having a horrible, no good, very bad day, and she needs to release her pressure valve in a better way. However, that kind of complaining is a beast, and it can be very toxic for everyone involved. That includes, I assume, the complainer who is caught in a horrible cycle.

But someone complaining, venting, to a trusted friend shouldn’t be dirty or taboo. It shouldn’t be shut down or dismissed. That is what happens when we tell someone they have nothing to complain about. It’s especially true if they, like me, struggle to say these things out loud. 

If I ever find the courage to say these words out loud, it’s because I trust you, and I’m so overwhelmed I can’t function anymore. It is a risk for me, because I don’t want to be a burden. Though, even someone like me needs to unload some baggage before my ship sinks.

Also, for realizes, I don’t want to win the World Complaining Championship Competition. I know it’s not a thing, but if it was, it would be the worst reality tv show ever! Or the best? I’m running low on streaming content, but I’m not that desperate. Yet.


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