February 25, 2011 | File under: Advice and Lessons • On the Job
People love to complain. It’s a coping mechanism, I suppose, but sometimes it can get out of hand. Not only is complaining contagious; it is nearly always unproductive and can even be counter-productive, leading to a crippling lack of motivation in nearly everything. And after a while, listening to the same complaints over and over again becomes very irritating to other people. Especially when the complainer appears unwilling to do anything to change the situation giving rise to the complaints. At that point, complaining simply becomes a waste of time.
I used to be one of those people that complained constantly that I hated my job. I complained at work to my empathetic friends, I complained at home to my husband and I complained to my family when I spoke to them over the phone. I spent so much of my time thinking about work and complaining that my free time away from the office never felt like free time—-I carried my misery with me wherever I went and allowed it to overshadow the experiences I should have been enjoying. It was not a healthy way to live.
Very quickly, my negativity grew tiresome to others, and to myself. I was tired of ruminating over things that would never change, people who would always be difficult to deal with, and situations that were unavoidable evils in the profession I had chosen. My family was tired of counseling me out of my funks, a process that sometimes monopolized large chunks of the weekend days I was supposed to be enjoying. It was a state of mind I could not sustain.
February 10, 2011 | File under: Advice and Lessons
I used to have a very stressful job. I was a lawyer. Each day was a battle. Against adversaries. Against difficult supervisors. Against myself, battling the dread I felt towards my work. I was in a constant defensive state, preparing myself for the next awful assignment, the next unpleasant phone call, the next mean email.
To cope with the stress of my job, I sought refuge in simple things. Coming home to enjoy a slow dinner with my husband. Going for runs and listening to the repetitive sounds of my feet and breath while appreciating the beautiful sights around me. Wrapping myself in a blanket and knitting stitch after stitch, watching it become a scarf. And, oddly enough, standing in front of a sink full of dishes, swishing away food remnants with almond-scented bubbles. With these actions, I claimed small victories in my daily battles.
Thankfully, that stressful time in my life has ended, and I’ve begun a new, and considerably less defined, chapter in my life. Instead of the dread I used to feel, I face each new day with excitement and appreciation. I find even more fulfillment in those simple things I used to cling on to for dear life, knowing now that activities such as washing the dishes and cooking a healthy meal for my husband and me contributes to our overall quality of life, which has definitely improved since I left my job as a lawyer.
So while some people dread tackling a pile of greasy pans and streaked dishes (without a dishwasher, I might add), I am ever grateful for that time each day, knowing the dishes will not order me into the office on a weekend or compose an email in all caps. As I stand there, I mostly space out as my hands handle the repetitive work, my mind jumping from one thing to another. Is it weird that I have never obtained the same calmness of mind through yoga as I do in my purple dish gloves?
There is a lovely little book that is full of wonderful reflections on simplicity called Wabi Sabi: The Art of Everyday Life, and this one quote resonates with me deeply:
“The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.”