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Strangely, it usually doesn’t happen when things are going badly. It just seems to fall out of the sky and into my consciousness when the sky isn’t even falling. But every once in a while, (at least I hope it isn’t much more than that!), I get myself into a major complaint mode. I don’t know if it’s the result of my own bio-chemistry, changes in the weather, coming down with something, or just being tired. But when that mood kicks in, I tend to pick up a pretty terrible attitude across the board. All the little aggravations I can generally just ignore are suddenly un-ignorable. I feel compelled to say something about them to someone. And while the somethings vary pretty widely, the someones who hear about it all are almost always the people I live with. Of course, they are also included on my complaint list as well.
When I get going, I really know how to let it rip. In the past few weeks I’ve complained about nearly everything. Why do today’s parents allow their kids to run wild, expect next to nothing from them, and cater to their every passing whim? Why are there suddenly an unprecedented number of people who, stopped at a red light, never seem to notice that it has turned green? Why does Eric Gagne get brought in to pitch in the 11th inning? Why do less than half of the kids who attend religious education come to Sunday Mass? What does Al Gore’s global warming public awareness campaign have to do with peace? Why, when everyone wants to watch a major sporting event on TV, does our cable television and Internet completely stop working? And even more, why does the cable company insist that the miraculous restoration of services that occurs the following morning just before 9 a.m. is just a coincidence, and that the interruption of service during big television events is due to something wrong with the wire that runs in a conduit under our driveway?
I’m sick of bad parenting and the spoiled bratty kids that result from it. I’m tired of the aging population behind the wheel, and annoyed by poor baseball management decisions. I’ve had it with people who think that “CCD” is more important than Mass. While I do believe in conservation, I don’t believe the notion that global warming is the result of human activity. I can’t for the life of me figure out why it is considered more important than hunger or disease or poverty or illiteracy or slavery or war. I will never be able to place Al Gore on the level of Mother Teresa, Anwar Sadat, or Lech Walesa. (Of course, I wouldn’t put him in the same category with Yasser Arafat either. So much for the Nobel Peace Prize!) And I am appalled at the socio-political pressure to kowtow to the green gospel of religious environmentalism.
When my martial arts son asked me if he could buy a bottle of water at jujitsu yesterday, I told him that I was philosophically opposed to buying water. As I remarked to another mother sitting there, when we were kids, water and TV were “free.” Besides, we were only a five-minute drive from home. And today, I’m hoping that the installation of the competitor cable TV and Internet provider will put a permanent end to service disruption.
There are probably very few readers who have stuck it out through all my complaining to get to this final paragraph. I don’t blame those who feel that all that venting is just a waste of time and energy. In the end, they’re right, and I know it. Less arrogance and more gratitude would serve me, and everyone around me, better. But it’s nice to know that God listens to it all. That he is big enough, and patient enough, gentle enough, and loving enough to wade through all the moaning and groaning even an expert complainer like me can muster. Our God doesn’t just hear us, he listens. He may raise an eyebrow now and then when we take ourselves just a bit too seriously, but he listens not only to beautiful prayers of adoration and praise, but not-so-beautiful expressions of frustration and complaint as well. And it is because God listens and is present that we can eventually find a path out of criticism and negativity, back to the place in which we can no longer count all the blessings we have because we see them clearly once again.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an author, speaker, musician and serves as Faith Formation Coordinator at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Lynnfield.