I'm a complainer. I once spent an entire afternoon whining about how windy it was, while the rest of my friends enjoyed the beautiful spring afternoon walking along Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay. It was 1980, I was playing drums in a band, my hair was long, and well...the wind was ruining my do. My friend, also named Sal, thought I mentioned the wind one too many times, and smacked me in the back of the head, doing more damage to my hair than standing five feet behind the exhaust of an A 320 airbus would have. "HOW'S YA HAIR NOW?"
It's almost 30 years later and I'm still complaining about the wind and the humidity, not to mention subway service, the Yankees, my family and my friends. Only now, I take great pains in disguising my complaints as "healthy outbursts that need to be shared and in some ways addressed and ultimately corrected to my liking." Is that asking too much?
I realize now that I am older, certain things in life, like the weather, are out of my control and complaining about them would be a waste of my valuable energy. As a lifelong New Yorker, I can tell you that there is no more horrible way to spend an evening than trying to get a cab on a rainy night at 11PM, with the possible exception of listening to Rod Stewart sing standards. But once the levees broke in New Orleans, and I watched so many suffer helplessly on television, a little walk in the rain meant everything to me. As a matter of fact, I don't think I've used an umbrella since August 29, 2005.
Still I feel that too many of us don't complain enough. Sure, unless you're a Hekawi, no amount of yelling and pointing will stop the rain. But I believe that a little vocal sparring amongst friends is a healthy exercise. One should cut their hair not just because it is long, but also because it will grow back healthier. I am a most ardent practitioner of not taking things with a grain of salt. Venting, ruminating, pacing, and palpitating are some of my specialties. If it's broken, fix it. Or at least just relentlessly complain about it.
Most recently, I have been dealt a handful of reality in the form of my company of 15 years having to shut down due to lack of business. Prior to owning my own business, I had been working steadily since I was 16 years old. Now 28 years later, I am facing unemployment right in the kisser. Some personal matters involving my business partner, as well as family members and friends make this situation even more unpleasant than it already is. And while it may not seem completely logical, nor conducive to my physical well-being to sit and stew over the bottomless pit of "what ifs" regarding this demise, complaining about all that has gone wrong and laying blame on any and everyone is certainly more fun than solely blaming myself and my business partner. Of course, what would be completely logical is to not blame anyone at all. Many businesses fail. Just not mine.
There are some cases that simply require a token gesture of acknowledgment and nothing more. Like a story that sometimes just needs to be heard without comment, a complaint often needs the same respect.
A downside to complaining is that too many people close to me won't just let me. They will be too anxious to tell me about their own experiences. How they lost their jobs? How deep they are in debt? How things will get better? I know they mean well. The only difference is, no matter how terrible their stories may be, and how most of them inevitably bounced back, their stories won't be as terrible as mine, simply because this is happening to me. Right now. Hearing the story of how, in 1933 Aunt Theresa lost her job AND got scurvy just isn't going to cut the mustard. I know there is always going to be someone who has it worse than I do. What I don't know is why that's supposed to make me feel better? Complaining makes me feel better. You should try it. You don't even have to mean it. Just do it for fun. And you know what...it's a lot cheaper than a shrink.