Lessons from The Writer’s Studio and Completing Goals

Woman writer2I did it! I finished 10 weeks of The Writer’s Studio workshop. I had to go back and count them up and yup I have 10 new stories. Now I have nurtured a mini-collection of healthy seedlings–starts to short stories or dare I say chapters in a novel. As I mentioned in this post, I was filled with trepidation about starting (and finishing) yet another workshop. In the past, I’ve struggled with workshops, unable to process feedback without inciting more self-destruction. I would feel angry that fellow classmates did not understand my intentions. The stand-out authors in class became a source of judgment and comparison, rather than healthy competition. I would read exemplary writing and kick myself for not doing as well and began to spiral in self-doubt. What came next is obvious, I would lose the energy to write, my ideas began to stagnate, eventually settling into debilitating writer’s block. I never asked for help or ever tried to reach out. I would just stop writing, skip one class, then another and slowly fade away. The self-defeat would feed more distraction from the very thing I have always desired in life–to write stories.

This time around, I gave myself one goal, to simply finish every assignment and never skip a class. Not to expect Nobel-prize winning narrative, oohs and awws over dozens of well-turned sentences and standing ovations. I just had to complete every assignment, in earnest. But most importantly I had to show up, week after week, ready to listen and learn. At first, 10 weeks seemed a long stretch and I was concerned about keeping up momentum. I am VERY guilty of starting off strong and petering out by the end. But it flew by. The best part, I never missed a single class, never “called it in” and I felt energized the entire time. It’s hard to put in words the immense feeling of pride I have for achieving my simple goal, but on the night of the 10th class I felt elated. I might as well have gotten a call that I won a Pulitzer Prize, Booker Award and National Book Award all on the same day. (Yes I know this is impossible, they are not announced at same time, just go with my metaphor please).lady writing

However, there were some positive side affects to my goal, changes that I didn’t expect, huge tweaks to my creative process. Because of the time I spent, huge mental blocks have been cleared. New ideas and perspectives have been forged. Aside from perfect attendance, here are some of the unexpected lessons I’ve gained in the past 10 weeks:

1. An idea is only the first step-I learned not to get over-confident just because I had an idea for a story. The seed still has to be harvested and the work has just begun. An idea invites us to sit down, open a notebook, turn on the computer and begin typing. An idea is a tiny fraction of the whole process. It’s only the start. Ideas are everywhere; what I have learned is how to begin to make them alive.

2. Begin by writing an intention for the story-The Writer’s Studio process includes writing a prologue before we begin creating the story. This can be a short statement that includes the type of persona narrator (ex. first person-present tense), types of techniques (such as playing with time) and objective of the story. I also began to think about the characters and their back-story and relationships to each other, so I had some guidance. When I would stray or felt stuck, I would read my prologue and it helped me get back to the story. This is a very useful technique, one that will stay with me as I write.

3. Writer’s block is an opportunity to try new techniques-Of course I had writer’s block, even if an idea sparked right away in class. For the first assignment, I wanted to write about marriage and kept getting stumped. My idea had a personal elements and it felt hard to get on paper. So I decided to write in the voice of a male character, something I had never done before. It was liberating because I could explain the situation in a totally fictionalized manner, however I wanted. Later I learned I practiced a writer’s trick without even knowing it.

4. Readers need a break from bleakness and caustic tone-This is a big one for me. Many of the stories I have yet to write are bleak–drug addiction, abuse, mental illness, failed relationships–and what I have come to learn is that readers (and the writer) need space. It’s not that writing about difficult emotions is taboo, but being heavy handed, negative and dark for pages upon pages makes it tiring for readers to stay engaged. Techniques such as adding dialogue, surrealism, abstract sounds, humor or simply changing point of view allow the reader a chance to take a breath. When I experimented with these tricks, I felt I had better responses to very emotional stories.

5. Don’t avoid your personal identity-Until this class, I have NEVER written characters of Indian descent, maybe I thought they were in my head, but I would give them Western names, talk about American ideals and culture. My characters did not reflect my full identity and this left out a huge part of my story. I felt comfortable talking about others, but this tactic kept me away from the richness of my own blended heritage. I finally wrote a story about a mother and daughter, named Ritu and Meera. I was able to get deep with the theme of culture clash, because I have lived this and know the way an Indian mother would think or react. It’s mind boggling to me, that I have never written this story. I feel open to a very large portal of personal material. These characters are not Lindsey and Michelle (yes at first I gave them these names) they are Ritu and Meera.

6. Editing is where art begins to shine-As I mentioned above, an idea is just the first step. With the first 2 assignments, I gave myself little time to edit, mainly because I was so sure my idea would just pour onto pages in perfect form. (Silly me). Procrastination, gave me little time to edit and I only whizzed through a draft to catch typos. The third assignment was to write a scene focusing on setting and I forced myself to start early. Immediately, I wanted to write about a man and his peach orchard. I gave myself a full 5 days to write. I spent more time hacking away weak adjectives, choosing obtuse words to describe a world of mud and trees and peaches, through sounds, smells and touch. I worked to create movement, following the man as he walked around to check his crop. I deleted his thoughts and showed his character through actions. I learned to push myself further, strengthen and hone. I realized something obvious, good writing does not happen in one draft.(Yes, you can say duh). It takes time to make art.

7. Feedback is a positive thing-Last but not least, the act of giving and receiving feedback. First off, we all hammered out themes, techniques and the style of each piece out loud in front of a silenced author. I quickly learned to focus on the prologue and point out the strength of the piece. Nobody in our group was negative, we all were encouraging. If we there were places to improve, we pointed to it as an opening to expand the story. Not as something bad, or wrong. The mostly positive feedback, helped me get over my lack of confidence and I began to feel safe and willing to experiment outside of my comfort zone. I believe strongly, that to put down any art in the beginning phase is negligent. We all seemed to really enjoy something in every piece. For me, this kept me alive and not afraid to write. I think this is the trick to The Writer’s Studio method and kept me from falling off the wagon.

mechanical-writing1I hope this inspires all of you to keep on with your writing or art. I am beyond energized. Now that I have an idea, I know that is just step one. I have begun to create my own process and can’t wait to share my stories with more readers and continue working on my craft. I have signed up for another 10 week session and I can’t wait.

Fighting the Battle Against Terrorized Parenting

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Yesterday at dusk, my daughter wanted to ride her bike up and down our driveway. She is well trained and stays within the boundaries of her cement confine. As I was cleaning the house, with the front door wide open and all the blinds up for maximum exposure, I kept poking my head out almost every minute calling for her response. I am sure she smelled my fear. Sometimes she would ring her bell and other times she would cheerfully reply, “I am right here”! She didn’t question why I kept calling. I reminded her not to talk to strangers. She said okay. After about 10 minutes, I think she gave up. It made me think of the freedom I used to have, riding around with my friends, without ever being called home, without a single parent on guard. I wondered if she felt annoyed, or thought she did something wrong. But I felt better after she was inside and promised a bike ride the next day, together of course. With my eyes peeled for any danger, for creeps in cars and backyard prisons.

I never aspired to become a helicopter parent, on the contrary I wanted to be autonomous and supportive, without being over-bearing. I try to give her space, I try to keep my nose in a book at the playground, letting her figure out the social scene and the scary slide on her own. But I can never concentrate as I am worried about every moment she plays. This is not enjoyable, but I am a terrorized mother, thinking about predators, bombs, rapists, gunshots, basement dungeons, girls chained up, pedophiles with cameras, stabbings, snatchings and killings.

This week I have hit the close button of a news story more than once, reading about the horrors of the poor women held captive in Cleveland for 10 years boggles my mind, makes angry and wounds my heart. I find no pleasure in horrific details. This afternoon, a friend posted something about a man making a soundproof dungeon like some torture chamber from a Stieg Larrson novel. Apparently, this would be child torturer was caught before he committed a crime. I skimmed but caught too many scary details, they made my heart race. I know there is an argument that being aware of such things, reading details and understanding the mind of predators is valuable information for parents. More than once, I have been called a wimp by family members who say it’s essential to know how sick people work so we can stay on guard and keep our children informed. But I feel it’s my job to keep my child a bit protected from horror, to filter out as much negativity as possible. My husband and I believe she should enjoy the world and know that a very large portion of society is kind and just (even though her mother is still afraid). We are not shielding her from reality, we will always tell the truth. So I try to suck in fear for her, keeping a vigilant eye. The details don’t help me stay calm and collected. Children have a perceptible sense something is wrong. Memories of my parent’s hushed whispers talking about The Night Stalker or The Hillside Strangler still freak me out.

Recently, my preschooler asked me if a shooter killed little kids in a school. I took a deep breath and said yes. Obviously she heard something about the Newtown tragedy from someone at school, since I tried to keep a tight lid on any whispering at home. Lying was not the answer, she would know the difference. I held her in my lap and promised she was safe at school. Then we talked about all the nice teachers and John the principal. I said they were always here to protect all of you. She smiled and agreed that her teachers loved all the kids. They would not let a shooter come into the school. We hugged for a long time. I wasn’t sure of the total truth of our heart-to heart. It’s mostly true, but not really a “promise-promise”. This is a tough conversation to have with an astute 5 year old, as she will press on with more questions, despite her own fear. But this is where I stand, trying be as honest without totally freaking her out. I am here to let her know that there are some bad people, but all the good people in her life work hard to protect her from harm. This I know is true.

bikeshadow2But what I truly wish is she could ride her bike outside with a pack of kids, laughing and screaming. It was at this age, around 5 that I wandered about all day long, with my 3 year old sister in tow. Now maybe this was not the best idea, but nothing ever happened to any of us. On the contrary, we had adventures, used our imaginations, got exercise, scraped our knees, lost bikes, got in scuffles and ran across busy streets to buy candy with change we swiped from our parents. It was the time of our lives, the stuff of golden memories. And there were evil things happening in 1978-1985. I recall a story about a missing Asian girl, her body found stuffed in a garbage can. I lived through the McMartin Preschool trial, the longest running child-molestation case in US History. My mom told me that the evil people at the pre-school used puppets to trick the kids into doing bad things. I didn’t understand but was very bothered by this image. As an adult, I learned about the coerced testimony of the pre-school accusers and I mourned the wasted moments lost to fear. We were told never to go into anyone’s house, a rule we rarely ever broke. Inside a house was a boring place, made only for rainy days and sleepovers. We wanted to play outside, squeezing every last ray of sun, ignoring the flicker of the streetlights, delaying dinner for as long as possible. We rode for blocks around the neighborhood, hours of freedom before dreaded homework and bedtime.

I hear a lot about our loss freedom. Blame taxes and big government and Bloomberg’s nanny state. There are terrorist plots from foreign invaders. Religious zealots and their hatred for our ways. We worry about marathons, malls, schools and crowded places. True these are targets for maximum impact. Yet terror has already reached its stealthy tentacles into our homes. We choose to shuttle kids around in cars that are more prone to accidents than riding a bike in a park alone. We need websites, like http://www.walkbiketoschool.org to give us resources and tools for something we used to do without much thought. It’s a great idea, but we only stopped walking to school in one generation. Have we actually forgotten how to do this? We live in a free country, a democratic society and our kids don’t walk to school any longer. Instead I worry about the quiet houses on the block, who are they? Even the friendly neighbor, the one that could do no harm, may be the one. We have lost the battle in our own neighborhoods—chalk one up for fear.

As a parent, I live in constant fear and I don’t see a way out of it because it’s a validated emotion time and again. Am I going to be the first parent to let my child walk across the street to the park on her own? Go on a play-date with less than a one-to-one parent child ratio, absolutely not! I have experimented at the park, and every time I’ve pulled back another parent will start intervening, a cue I better get my nose out of my book or be deemed negligent. So there is no way my daughter will find that pack of kids running around our neighborhood. They don’t exist anyhow. She has been raised to find me standing right next to her so she can show me every new flip on the jungle gym. There is special triage for every tiny scratch, the type we would have ignored until they scabbed off our bodies. Tattling for every indiscretion is de rigueur. I’m the one who taught her not to use the words like-dumb, stupid, or hate–so I get to hear about every instance. She points out my own dalliance with harsh language. She is on guard too.

Then I think about the good stuff. I know my child better at this age than perhaps my parents ever have, they still struggle to understand me as an adult. I see how she interacts, trying to negotiate with other kids with her bossy ways and take charge attitude. Her trepidation is wrapped around the highest slides and the whizzing speeds of the merry-ground. But she has no fear walking up to little kids introducing herself with the confidence of a mini-senator. When she is older, I will “get it” when she has a leadership role, or says she is frustrated because she hasn’t been promoted to manager. Listening to her worries, I can remind of her innate personality to lead, the one I saw forming on the playground. Watching her climb higher on each rung of the twisty ladder, a huge improvement over last year, is moment we celebrate. Yay! You are a big girl now, look how high you can climb. The smile I see on her face are snatched nanoseconds of pleasure I will savor forever. The trust she has in my judgment is all I need. I am here for her, yes for every tiny little bump, using Band-Aids needlessly, I am always around.

But it does enrage me to think that I am a bit terrorized, mainly by insidious homegrown evil. Its like we have lost freedom at a very micro level, in our own streets and parks and homes. We seem to be wary, there is little trust and connection with the community at large. This is damaging to our society, not having support further exacerbates isolation, extending the cycles of violence. And then I worry, I should to do more than just being there for my child, focusing on her trusting smile. I try to foster connections wherever I can, but it takes a concerted effort, it’s not there for the taking. I am very grateful to my community of friends and family, but I am not sure if it’s enough. To think of solutions, feel so out of reach. Getting the neighborhood together, patrolling the streets, allowing our kids to cry over a boo-boo. I know I can start with little things, like getting over the past. It’s simply a bygone era, where a jumble of worn out kids dragged their bikes home under a dusky California sky, soothing their own scrapes and dreaming up silly games to play in neighborhood streets. Without a parent on watch. Such times are lost forever.bike shadow

Mommy. That’s not my name!

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It started off as NooNooBean, in utero. Just a name for my ever growing belly. Websites that track our progress, compare the fetus to fruits and vegetables. Starting off as a bean, an apple, pumpkin, an eight pound watermelon. When my little girl was born, I was in love. I recognized her round cheeks and distinct shape of her lips from my final ultrasound at 26 weeks. All smooshed up inside. A baby grows in a mother’s arms, the perfect shape to hold an infant. We both healed together and I loved this simple time. Soon babies begins to react to sounds and smiles. Cooing at everything. Legs kicking. It was about this time I made up the NooNooBee song, to the tune of Spiderman– cue the 1967 cartoon version, please!

NooNooBee, NooNoo Bee

Your the cutest NooNoo Bee

Can’t you fly in the sky

Don’t you cry NooNooBee

Lookout! Here comes a NooNooBee, yeah.

You’re just a NooooNooooBeeeeee!

I held up and flew her in the air and bounced her on my knees. We loved it. My husband thought I was a little nutty. He laughed, though slightly worried she would think her name was NooNooBee. Admittedly, I have been been calling her NooNooBee ever since. It just comes out, she is my little NooNooBee.

Well, the time has come. I have a spunky little girl, going on 5. Just yesterday, she laid down the law. Mommy! I am NOT NooNooBee!

So here are The Rules:

1. NooBeeBee is only used at bedtime, when we are alone.

2. It is not to be used in front of her friends.

3. It is not to be used at other people’s homes.

4. I shouldn’t keep using it, even at home.

5. She is NooNooBee only to me.

I am proud of her, exerting her opinion, with a bit of compromise. She didn’t totally throw away her NooNooBeeness. I smiled, knowing she understood it was name that bonded us close.

Today, on Mother’s Day 2013. We are hanging out together, joined at hip, sometimes we cuddle and other times we get annoyed, only to cuddle again.

Last night we enjoyed an Internet Cat Video Festival in Downtown Oakland. I asked her to remember that all Mommy ever, ever, ever will want for Mother’s Day is to spend time together doing something fun and adventurous.

My mind flashed forward, I saw my little girl as a grown woman, needing to do her thing. Mother and daughter being silly at a festival, hiking in the woods, sailing in the sea, whatever suited our fancy. All moms’ really want is quality time, enjoying life with their kids. I know she will be busy, this is why I steal her time now. But just a day, fully together is all I will ever want. A card or flowers will not suffice.

 

WordPress Family Award

I have been very remiss. Long story short, I am officially over-booked with the goodness of life. This is not a complaint, I’m just slightly annoyed I haven’t kept up. Today I move forward. Funny thing, I’ve been keeping exciting news to myself. I’ve been nominated for a WordPress Family Award, by David, a prolific blogger (and dare I say new friend) about many things but mostly music on his blog Sounds Like Orange. David is usually the first to comment on many of my posts, has urged me along and now nominated me along with many other well-written blogs. I am very appreciative.

Take a look at the list of blogs, I am in great company and David is a very adept curator on many topics. Part of my procrastination is the fact that I am still trying to foster my own “family” of blogs. At this point I don’t have 10 but I am getting there. (Sorry, I am breaking one of the rules, for now).

Having support and followers is what this adventure is all about, after all. I still have a long way to go in creating my community and gaining some influence but I know I am onto something true. This award is a sign of progress. It means a lot to be read and to know people understand my voice. I have keep it silent for so long, only blabbing away in person. Removing self-consciousness, so I can say what I want, how I want, has been the first liberating step towards better writing. This self-consciousness had held me up for most of my life. Every word I have written since, moves me further away from this barrier. I am older now, I have gone through a lot and one thing I know, being concerned with what others think is a huge waste of time, talent and motivation. If I have enemies, detractors and conflict when I was caring so much about other’s opinions, why not just give up and be free?

So thank you all for the support, I have gotten emails, words of encouragement along the way and I have to say every tiny bit keeps me going. Don’t be shy, seriously writing can be solitary but in the end the words are meant to resonate with many people. So your feedback, encouragement and ideas are more than welcome.

Thank you all for Listening Hard.

A Turban is a Beacon of Love

thumbRNS-SIKHS-TURBAN080612In the rough and tumble of Oakland, CA, a place where violence can take hold-an elderly Sikh couple walk around my local park and use the free city shuttle almost every morning. They don’t talk to each other, they seem more intent on walking. Based on their simple clothing, the twists of his white cotton turban and the muted caramel brown salwar kameez worn by the woman, I would guess they have not been in the US for long. Their shoes give it away. Black, flat sandals with thick rubber treads, worn-in but built to last. These are not from Target or Macy’s, I have seen them in the Bazaars of Punjab.

These two, walk in peace, use the park and transportation available for all. Watching them gives me some comfort. I feel proud for them. The elderly man, has a somewhat messy white beard, with the crooked gait of old age. His wife drapes her soft chunni properly and adjusts it without skipping a step. I long to say Satsriakal, to hug them. But all I do is amble behind, with a watchful eye, silently securing their saftey as their board the shuttle. But they know what they are doing and always seem safe. The world is alright.

Today I hear about the hate crime against Piara Singh an elderly Sikh who was brutally beaten in Fresno, CA and I immediatly think of the nameless couple walking around the park. I am on high watch. I want to be in the park first thing in the morning to make sure my secretly adopted PapaJi and BeJi can walk safely as they have been. I could hide away, to shield them from my emanating fear. Maybe their children have warned them to stay home. I hope not, I need to see their Sikh spirit, their courageous bravery rise to the occasion. Their morning constitutional in a busy city park, sitting on public transportation a silent protest against hatred and ignorance.

These are grandparents, walking outside temples, finding refuge in a world that can be isolating, they seek to connect to their religion and culture. This recent hate crime, and all others that are directed at Sikhs, prove we have much further to go in this country to create unity and to accept that the “other” is a neighbor, friend, coworker and classmate. A turban is a symbol of devotion to a spiritual and cultural identity, that of a Punjabi Sikh. This outward difference is where it ends, our souls, hearts and connection to community and family translate similarly between all citizens. But in this world we don’t foster this idea very broadly. The media thrives on alienation and propaganda and their thirst for an enemy simply creates more innocent victims.

My prayer tonight is that we strive to find connections in the sameness of our internal selves, to look past visual and cultural differences and bond over what we all have in common. Blood and bones, light and dark. The outward vessel is just marker, a slight variation that uses a tiny fraction of DNA.

I will always keep an eye out. But I pay special attention to Sikhs, especially the elderly, who should be respected as our most tangible connection to the past.

My heart goes out to all affected by hate. I suppose we all share this in common.

I invite you to learn more about Sikhs please visit www.saldef.org/learn-about-sikhs/

Then learn more about everyone.

A Galaxy of Unrealistic Dreams

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I know I gave myself a challenge. A post a day the entire month of May. I have my ears open for topics that shift perceptions, ideas that inspire change in attitudes, kill off old habits and upend outmoded thinking. My intention is to celebrate change, inciting motivation in myself. An act of doing rather than dreaming. But I have already hit a wall. Becoming paralyzed with the reality that I may be nuts and may never achieve my dreams. At some point, I wont be unencumbered with all this time to nurture ideas. Trust me, I am soaking in every minute. Walks, daily meditation, reading, movie watching, writing fiction, writing a blog, slight networking, making healthy meals, photography, volunteering at school, journaling and napping too. I should feel better right!?! Isn’t the Universe supposed to drop some profound gift, open a pathway, guide me to a new bright future. All my wounds will be mere scars. My failures will transform into a triumphant success. Seems ridiculous to even think this way. Maybe its a load crap? The Ophrahization of the society. Just follow your bliss the world will be yours. Nonsense. This is some serious work!

And now, today I feel stuck. So I tortured myself reading an article about a fancy pants writer girl, she is 44 but looks 30 with amazing flowing hair standing in front of a vintage Galaxie 500, a mother, a wife, a talented writer. Her home is my distant, not-possible fantasy, “a two-story American Craftsman house…austerely decorated with vintage furniture and an eclectic mix of art, including a painting of a self-possessed woman in an evening dress by the Social Realist artist Isaac Soyer that once hung in her grandparents’ Long Island home.” Rachel Kushner is her name and I even want to read her book, The Flamethrowers. I’m not jealous, just in awe of her success. She started UC Berkeley at 16. Then an MFA at Columbia. She was the oldest at 29. TWENTY-NINE! See, what am I thinking? I will be in my mid-forties, if I can even get into a program. Reading about her, makes my dreams– a published novel (notice I didn’t say “highly acclaimed” but I am lying if I said that wasn’t important) a nice house, degrees, confidence to finish and get noticed–seem fit for another person’s life.

They feel out of reach today. The monsters of doubt are always within, lurking to take center stage. Some days, I believe what they say. Taunting me in my dreams. How in the world will you ever write a novel? You just started in earnest at this age. Time has passed and you’ve lost your chance. You’ve squandered it away partying in San Francisco. Your talent is limited and your dreams don’t match reality. GET. OVER. IT. This ain’t gonna happen. Successful writers work very hard. They are highly trained. Their teachers are Jonathan Franzen and Jennifer Egan. They get mentored and advised. They get invited to Iowa to write in retreats. You can’t just write on your own without help.

It tells me. Be prepared for life in a cubicle. It’s calling.

I might be going at this all wrong. Maybe I need to accept reality as it had been. There was nothing wrong with my life until now, I just had an attitude problem. I need to get over myself and put my big girl pants on and join the race. The sidelines are for spectators and losers.

Complaining Doesn’t Help

cupid-complaining-to-venus.jpg!BlogI come from a long line of complainers. Complaining is a pastime that is highly cultivated by the matriarchs of my clan. Their debut is launched with the skill of a professional impromptu master. So I have grown used to hearing a constant litany of what is wrong mostly with men, the house, kids and the world. I remember telling my mother that I would never complain about my husband. She laughed at me. Well, after five years of marriage, I will admit I didn’t achieve never, but I am confident my cycle of complaints is much lower than what considered normal in my family. But I have complained along with her, mostly to show some solidarity with her plight.  “Nobody helps with dishes, there is never enough time in the day, kids make a mess, husbands don’t pay attention and everyone is disrespectful.” Whew that is a lot.

The problem is that prolonged complaining brings out the worst in me. I get annoyed, I can’t barely stand hearing my self bitch about life. If I complain with co-workers for too long about a certain boss, project or process I will fly off the handle at their next transgression. Most of the time I probably look like a maniac, because I hadn’t expressed my concerns previously. My passion on a certain topic can seem out of place.

So when I read about “A Complaint Free World” an organization that distributes purple bracelets symbolizing a commitment  to 21 days without a single kvetch, I was more than intrigued. Mainly because I felt the strong connection between constant complaining and unhappiness.  Will Bowen, founder of the organization and author of a book by the same title says, “A lot of research has been done that shows complaining is damaging to health, relationships and careers. When people go 21 days without a complaint, they say they are happier.”  Just to be clear, Mr. Bowen is not advocating that we all just keep quiet and hold in issues to ourselves.  Part of his mission states, “We see a day when people focus on and speak about what they desire things to be rather than complaining about how things are”.

I have done my fair share of complaining. I just remembered a trip with some dear friends. We got trapped in a big blizzard and had to stay an extra day in the mountains, stuck in a tiny hotel room. I kept opening the curtains and continuously whined about the ever growing snow drifts, how much I hated snow, that it was too cold and we were never getting home. After a few hours of my relentless whining, I even cracked the resolve of one of my most patient friends who finally screamed in frustration “YES! We can see its snowing!!” I shut up pretty quickly. At least we both laugh about it now.

I have noticed when I try to eliminate complaining that I feel so much better. I have also noticed improved moods when I keep my distance from negative Nellies.  But the worst thing about constant complaining is that it fogs my perception about a situation or person. I have felt the negative affects. After a long complaint session about a boss at work, the very next encounter  is shaded with annoyance and anger. This only ramps up my next response and its usually a over-blown.Stop Complaining

Thinking even further on the motivation for complaining, aside from camaraderie and bad habit, whining is really a passive aggressive way to ask for something or to fill a need. I still find it hard to be direct with people when I have an issue, so complaining behind their back offers comfort and can even feel like action. Over the years, I have tried to reduce this habit but I compensated by keeping silent on important matters. This is also not a very productive approach.

I got to thinking after reading this article about complaining, its not about the act of complaints but the execution. Whiny tones and long diatribes are more often less effective as time goes on. It makes sense that we would rely on complaining out loud to blow off steam instead of trying to broach an issue with family or co-workers. Its way easier than confrontation. Especially if you can find a few people to join in with complaining, now you’ve got support for your cause. But in the end nothing is ever solved. I think we all know, or have been that person who just wanted to complain and didn’t really want advice. I think this proves the case for complaints mostly being steeped in negative cycles and in opposition of inner peace and happiness.

Now that I am done complaining about complaining, I am going to order my purple bracelet. I think I can do it.