Tag Archives: writing

No Whining-Part 2


I left the phone store yesterday and almost burst into tears. (Really, Katie? There are wars, famine, global warming and you almost cried from not being able to get your phone fixed?!) Perhaps you recognize the scene – it was the third time I’d gone in for a quickie little thing and there was a 30 minute wait and none of the phone-holster toting cowboys wanted to help me just take care of one problem that was keeping me from getting my work done. And it was like the 18th thing like it that day. But basically, I was upset because I was at the mercy of things outside my control.

Well, it appears that it all comes back to the Control Freak issue, I am sad to announce… Damn it. Got me again.

I spent the last 2 weeks trying to go cold-turkey on complaining, and I have surmised it’s all about wanting things to be different from they are – which leads to suffering, as any good Buddhist will tell you. Or, your spouse might tell you, if you’re lucky enough to have someone who recognizes your issues faster than you do. Lucky me. Actually, joking aside, I do mean that: lucky me. And, actually, a dose of “lucky me” gratitude is just what the self-help doctor usually orders to combat complaining. But affirmations and gratitude lists don’t always work, do they? So, when we need something more, what does work?

I am reading a wonderful book called The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living, by Dr. Russ Harris, M.D., right now and the premise is that we don’t need to actually change anything or do endless positive reframe, but rather we need to learn to sit with the way things are and make enough space around them to see what’s really going on without immediately jumping to change them. Annoyed by the long line? Kids being disrespectful? World falling to pieces? It’s our STORY about how things are that needs to be examined and perhaps altered, not necessary the things themselves. (Change the stories: long line allows me to slow down. Disrespectful kids, come to think of it, might be fabulously self-confident kids who are going to grow up to change the status quo. World falling to pieces… Is it? What does that even mean?) That isn’t to say don’t try to change the world for the better, of course. Quite the contrary. And one way to do that is to become someone who calmly glides through the world with a nice big wide perspective while being mindful of your stories. Now no one has ever accused me of calmly gliding around. Big enthusiastic waves of passion and energy? Yes. But gliding? I could use more.

So, my son and I decided to do the no-complaining/no-whining practice together… for a day at least. But being 8 he needed an incentive. Why do something for free when you can weasel some x-box time out of it, we always say. Well, we really sucked at not complaining. I spent most of the last week with a heightened mindful awareness of how I can’t get him to do what I want him to do and he, of course, picking up on that, complained even more. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that once you start a mindfulness practice, things start to shift.

The main thing I discovered is that complaining is an expression of feeling powerless. When we feel powerful or know what to do to remedy a situation, we don’t complain, or not in the same way. Maybe we say, “Yes, I really need to step it up at work and get that damn grant written,” but when we feel powerless we say, “This grant application is too long and they didn’t give us enough time!” We complain and blame. So how do we take back power? First, we have to take responsibility for our situation, even if it truly isn’t our fault and by that I meant take responsibility for how we feel about it and how we handle the challenge. So that is what we’re going to work on this week in my little household.

I received some interesting emails about this. I’d love to respond to the one from “Kerrycharacters,” who by the way is a good writer and you can check out her blog here. Kerry wrote to me about using mindful behavior modification techniques like snapping a rubber band on your wrist each time you complain. Go ahead and try it to see how it feels and works for you – but snap lightly please! We don’t want to make this another self-hating activity where we get to beat ourselves up like the Ego wants us to do! I was too wimpy for the snap so instead I switch the wrist that the hair band is on, as suggested by Will Bowen in Complaint-Free Relationships. Switching wrists constantly is a pain in the butt and makes me pay more attention. So here is a summary of the bits and pieces I’m practicing this week and would love to hear what you all notice from these practices. Have fun!

TRY THIS:
o Notice what your story is about the way things are.
o Notice when you feel powerless to change things.
o Does complaining help or harm?
o When you do take action to bring about positive change in the world, are you effective? Could you be more effective coming at it a different way?
o Take a look also at Ending the Pursuit of Happiness, another good book on the subject, by a Zen Buddhist psychoanalyst, Barry Magrid.
o Try a practice that helps you mind fully and kindly notice when you are complaining, blaming, believing your stories – such as the wristband/watch/hair tie switching practice.
o Write in and tell us what you’ve noticed and learned!

Katie Goodman’s Very First Blog


So the first thing I am proud to have accomplished today as I sat down to write this, was to discover that the word blog, scrambled spells “glob.” Now this may not seem like an insight worthy of a self-help author and political satirist, but it explains why it’s taken me so long to breach these waters.  What none of us needs is more Glob. And if you’re tired from the holidays and say to your husband, “I’ve gotta go write my blog,” it comes out “I gotta go write my blah.” So, with this in mind, my goal with this new blog is to be efficient, helpful, observant, irreverent, occasionally lewd, not depressing, fun, and void of long run-on sentences with too many self-aggrandizing adjectives describing my intent… oops.

Today is the first day of a very new, much-appreciated chapter of my life. Let me introduce you to my new Managers. Erik and Dawn Christensen of Loretta LaRoche Production are the shizzle. (My Microsoft Word dictionary does not recognize the word “shizzle,” but it doesn’t recognize “blog” either, so really, it needs move to a city.) Saint Dawn and Sir Erik will be managing my solo show, as well as “Broad Comedy,” and my speaking engagements and frankly they are mildly insane to do so, but I love them for it. They have not yet figured out that I am a recovering control freak, so please keep that between you and me. HOWEVER! This is a perfect opportunity (a.k.a. bitch of a learning experience) for me to learn to let go and let them do what they do, which is of course much better than I can do it, so that I can do what I actually do: create comedic havoc and piss off the extreme right-wing while maintaining that I want the country to be less divisive.

Each blog, I will offer some useful practices and pithy observations (see promised pithiness above), so for this one, join me as I commit to a spiritual practice for the New Year, which is:

No Whining.

Now, I live with a 7-year old, so I am very good at telling other people not to whine, but it’s actually my profession to sing a good long ditty about what’s wrong in the world/culture/hair-removal-products all around me. HOWEVER! I am going to go on a complaint fast. This is coinciding with a vacation and news-blackout, which should help a hell of a lot. I will check back in once I have mastered the art of complaint-free living. (So you may not hear from me for a few years.) I must admit I have tried this several (read: 10) times too much failure, but I don’t want to tell you about my failures because that would be whining. (Nice out, huh?) But I am going to warn you that this might be a shock to your system. The first time I did it, I made it exactly 12-1/2 minutes. But a commitment practice is really a recommitment practice. Lucky us. So when we screw up, we get to listen to what the voices in our heads say, smile, say, “Thank you and butt out,” and then re-ante-up.

Please join me in this New Year practice and feel free to post observations or direct criticisms about me and my blog (but then you lose you complainer you! Ha! Gotcha!). You can share thoughts including how this was particularly sadistic of me to suggest at the time of year when most of us are just recovering from a week with our in-laws… Thoughts can be shared on my Facebook page which is:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Katie-Goodman/118933314790519

May your New Year be filled with irony,

-Katie