My house is in total disarray. The living room is filled with boxes and furniture from the kids’ rooms. Also with several baskets of laundry that I haven’t quite gotten around to folding. The kitchen table is buried in all the clutter that once lined the counters and top of the fridge. Our bedroom walls are lined with the truly astonishing mountain of junk that was somehow puzzled into our closet. The whole place is a disaster, a maze of random piles that we are walking over and around as we go on with daily life in the midst of the chaos.
We have decided to sell our house and I knew there would be some work involved in that process. Three growing boys are tough on walls and doors and windows and…well, pretty much everything. Every surface needs a coat (or four) of paint and just about every wall needed a dose of spackle before we could even do that. We’ve been making three bedrooms work for five people for some time now, but the stuff is starting to overflow from the shelves and closets and most of that will need to be boxed up before we can even think about inviting prospective buyers in for a walk-through. There is SO much to do.
I’m tired. Two weeks into the process and I’m already over it. I’m worried about the details, frustrated with the mess, and overwhelmed by all of the extra work now piled on top of an already busy schedule. I’m weary of reminding the boys not to touch the newly white walls and struggling to teach them the very overdue skill of picking up after themselves as they go. I don’t wanna give up my downtime after I finally get them into bed, but how else is all this going to get done?
Complain, complain, complain!!!
Here’s the thing about complaining – a little bit is okay, maybe even helpful. Venting to a good friend can help you feel less alone and in the best scenario, help your friend feel less alone too. It’s helpful to hear that life next door isn’t any more perfect than it is at your house. If your friend is an extra good one, they’ll listen, offer you encouragement, and point you back to God. You’ll leave the conversation feeling supported and refocused.
It’s all about the focus, really. Complaining happens when we’re focused on the problem. When I look around at the piles and think about the work, I want to send an overly dramatic bitmoji to my best friend and whine to my husband while draping myself plaintively across the cluttered sofa. I feel defeated. All of that complaining gets me nowhere. Worse, it keeps me stuck in that defeat. It makes my feet feel like lead and the tasks seem insurmountable.
So it’s time to refocus. It’s time to go sit in the two rooms that I’ve managed to clear out, and soak in the freshly painted and uncluttered splendor. It’s time to flip through the little book that I made with the kids about what our dream house will be like. It’s time to be so incredibly thankful that the house we were underwater in just four years ago will now probably net us a decent down payment for our new home. It’s time to be thankful that we are so abundantly blessed by a good job and generous grandparents, that our closets are literally overflowing with crap (ahem, cherished possessions, sorry).
That’s the secret right there. The absolute best antidote for complaining is gratitude. Every. Single. Time. There is always something to be thankful for. Today, it’s easy enough to come up with a list. Other days, it's not. Sometimes I have to stretch a bit. Sometimes I have to be thankful for the strength of the little lungs that are screaming angry screams at me. Once, I had to be thankful that at least my older kids weren’t with me when I was a full week overdue with baby #3 and my tire blew out on the freeway while on the way to see my midwife who wasn’t even there and who left a stranger in her place to send me to a faraway hospital for yet another ultrasound and it was hours before I got to eat dinner. (I may or may not have complained a lot about that particular moment, and maybe found the gratitude part just now while I wrote this...five and a half years later. Whatever.)
There is always something, even the tiniest little thing, to be thankful for. And once you find that thing, you might find it easier to think of another thing, and then another. You’ll follow those breadcrumbs of gratitude back to a positive focus and your complaining will be cured. Voila!
Jenn is a book-reading, quietly nerdy introvert who has, one choice at a time, managed to completely surround herself with chaos. Wife to one incredible man, and homeschooling-mama to three crazy-awesome boys, life is almost never quiet...but in each day there are moments - brief pauses in the crazy - and it is there that she finds God. He is in a quiet breeze through the trees, in a one-on-one conversation, in a lingering glance at a sleeping child's face. It is enough.