This year for Lent I decided to challenge myself in a new way. Rather than giving up sweets, which I usually fail at miserably, I decided to give up complaining. Easy, right? Until I began this challenge on Ash Wednesday, I was unaware how many little annoyances I complained about. I didn’t shout or belabor any particular subject, but I found fault with a multitude of mundane things without even realizing what I was doing.
What I found when I caught myself in the act of complaining was that complaining had become a habit. For example, I’ve moaned about our heater for years. We have geothermal heat at our house, but this winter, in particular, the heat pump has not been able to keep up with the demand. We employed a man to fix the well, but our water pressure doesn’t remain constant if the heat is on and the shower is also on. I usually rush to get ready for work, so my showers are quick during the week. Just yesterday when I was showering, the water was falling in a weak stream–my husband and I joke about our well needing some Viagra. I didn’t have time for the extra minutes I needed to rinse the soap off and started my usual harangue of the heat pump. Then I realized I what I was doing.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and said a quick prayer. When I thought about all I have in my life, I felt ashamed of wanting a shower that rinses me off in seconds. How many people would love to have a hot shower, never mind one that rinses them quickly. How many people would love a roof over their heads, especially with the winter we’ve all endured? How many people want the security and love of a family? I’m blessed with all these and more. How could I be so thoughtless?
Rarely do I see my life with such clarity as I did in the shower mid-complaint. When I decided to give up complaining, I did it on a whim. What I’ve found, however, is that my lack of complaining has opened my eyes to the wonders of my life. And I’m grateful. I go home to a warm house and a loving husband. I have two children I’m proud of and love more than I can say. I have a difficult but rewarding job when others are struggling to feed their families. I have nothing to complain about. The necessities of my life are taken care of.
Before giving up complaining for Lent, I would have complained when it snowed yet again two days ago or that my son will return to school in a day or that Bruce will be gone for the rest of the week, but I am choosing to see the what I have instead of what I lack. Travis has been home for nearly a week, Bruce will be home Friday night to take me to the airport before I leave to see family in Georgia I haven’t seen in a long time, and the snow that fell two days ago has already melted.
Although Spring officially arrived in Wisconsin today, we won’t feel the warm breezes or see the earth come alive for a while yet. The blanket of snow still remains but is melting each day. Dreaming of the flowers, green grass, birdsong, and blue skies that will follow makes me smile. Spring and the Lenten season is a renewal not only of the earth but also of the spirit, just what I’ve been contemplating lately. I am trying to change the habit of complaining into a habit of gratitude, each day a new beginning and a fresh perspective on the wonder of living. I have no complaints.