We’re only human – we come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and wacky personalities. Some of us love the colour brown, some are weird about knitting and some eat far too much cheese. There is however one common denominator. (Obviously besides the basics like two eyes and a nose.) This constant in our lives is that we all have beef.
Now before we get off on the wrong foot – or hoof, I’d like to make it clear that I am not referring to the meat of a cow and I certainly am not accusing any fellow humans of carrying this on their person on a daily basis. If however you do like to fill your pockets with mince, I recommend stopping this immediately.
By beef, I refer to the qualms, quibbles, grouches, grumps, complaints and sigh inducing moans that we regularly like to share with the rest of the world. Our problems, the inducers of the eye roll and the source of many an impatient glare.
On average, a person will complain 72 times a week. That’s around 10 per day. (Probably with the straggling two falling on a gloomy Monday.) The main contenders for these moans are the weather, internet connection, other drivers, relatives and something the other half has done.
We moan because we are human. It makes us feel better to know we have a team of supporters rallying around us, ready at the shortest notice to pick up their pitch forks. Moans fit into two main categories, that I will try my best to explain by setting the scene.
I’m having lunch with my friend Matthew, we’re both tucking into sandwiches that have been eagerly anticipated after a stressful morning spent knitting a jumper for a three legged man. I’m feeling enormously disappointed by my own choice, an underwhelming tuna salad and I look up to see Matthew very much enjoying what looks like a BLT. I may say “Oh what a terrible life, this sandwich is disgusting. Why me?” My reasoning for moaning about my sandwich will be 90% spoken in the hope that Matthew will give me his sandwich.
Alternatively, I may be finishing off the remnants of Matthew’s BLT, and drop it in a puddle. There is no more of his lunch to rob him of, so when I now turn to Matthew, feeling altogether defeated I will moan because it will make me feel better. Sometimes all we need to marginally improve a situation is someone to listen and nod along, even if they are daydreaming about tangerines the whole time.
What I began to wonder is – does this actually make us feel any better, or does dwelling on all those many less fantastic aspects of daily life simply make us want to go and sit in a very dark cupboard for a while? Personally, I think the latter. Forgive my ‘always look on the bright side’ rationale, but sometimes a hearty rant is not going to fix things.
It was somewhere along this thought process that I decided to experiment this ideamyself. I donned my lab coat, goggles and slippers (for comfort more than practicality) and ran forth with a ready mind into the flames of curiosity! *This has been exaggerated slightly for dramatic effect.*
“The best way to cheer yourself up, is to cheer somebody else up.” – Mark Twain
So thus I began 24 hours without moaning. Not a peep, not a whine not a whimper. (Mostly.)
In all honesty, I had a bit of a stinker of a day. It was windy, it was cold, my hair was a disaster and I lost my eyeliner. My new shoes gave me blisters and someone coughed and I actually saw the germs and chunks of their mysterious lunch fly towards my face at alarming speed. I humphed home feeling a bit like Quasimodo looks in Hunchback of Notre Dame. Just as I switched on the TV to enjoy a whopping three episodes of Neighbours that I had recorded as a treat (I love it more than life) – a family member who will not be identified
decided to chat through the whole thing. I retired upstairs and spontaneously decided to dye my hair and accidentally turned it a strange shade of orange at the bottom. WHAT A DAY.
Each time something slightly disheartening occurred, I became so aware that my mouth opened instinctively to moan about it. Upon shutting my mouth and keeping this thought to myself, I discovered that I felt no differently. There was no crippling weight upon my shoulders, there was no excruciating urge to cry my troubles from the nearest hilltop, hell did not freeze over and life carried on as normal.
After a while, I stopped feeling this unnecessary need to share my problems with people who are probably much happier not listening.
24 hours didn’t feel like so long after all, not even when I was woken up at 5.15am by a series of persistent calls from a number I do not know. (Thank you nocturnal stranger.)
So was my experiment a success? Maybe. I discovered that moaning doesn’t actually improve your situation, and sometimes a problem shared is not a problem halved at all – it’s like cleaning up mud with dirt.
So next time you’re stuck in rush hour traffic, or stood in dog poo, or maybe you’re Madonna and you’ve fallen off the stage at the Brits – hesitate before you holler. Chances are, your day could be a lot worse, unless of course you are Madonna. Look on the bright side, smile at a stranger or just suck it up and get on with it.