The No Complaining Cure

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle loved children, but some of her cures were, admittedly, rather demented.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle loved children, but some of her cures were, admittedly, rather demented.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (whom I referenced on this blog once before) supposedly had the cure for every iteration of childhood misbehavior. Eat like a pig? She’ll send along a perfectly-mannered porker to teach you not to stir your oatmeal like a cement mixer. Gossip too much? Try a whisper stick–it’ll give you the yummiest case of laryngitis you’ve ever had. (And good luck spreading that rumor.)

I’ve thought of Mrs. P-W often when cases of grown-up malfeasance have dominated headlines. What sorts of cures would the lady who lived in an upside-down house have to offer people like Eliot Spitzer or Bernie Madoff? Or, on a smaller scale, what might she thrust on poorly-behaved adults? (I can certainly think of a few people who would benefit from a whisper stick or two…)

Perhaps there’s a little bit of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in the hearts of those who started this organization. Their cure for complaining? A purple bracelet, void of magic powers. But a reminder to those wearing it that complaints, valid or not, should be excised from their daily conversation.

I haven’t gone so far as to purchase a bracelet, but I was intrigued by this article in the New York Times, which outlines a 21-day no complaining challenge. On Friday, I embarked on my own three-week hiatus from complaining–which I hope will prove to be a life-long reorientation toward more productive modes of thinking and speaking.

One of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s cures, for the obsessive tattletale, was a regimen of pills that converted potential tattles into smoke puffs with tails (one tail for each would-be tattle). I was reminded of this over the weekend when I found myself biting back a complaint or two that I hadn’t even been conscious of forming until they were in my mouth. If I’d been part of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s story, even opening my mouth to complain would have been enough to unleash a wiggly black cloud that would be my companion for the rest of the day. The mental image was sufficient, though. Even a metaphorical black cloud over my head–and really, is there any better illustration for how complaining makes us, and those around us, feel?–was an ever-present reminder that the darkness of worry, disappointment, or just general discontent wasn’t something that I was interested in having follow me around.

It’s been five days since I started my no complaints lifestyle, and I have to say, the change has been striking. I was never a big complainer to begin with, but I’m still amazed by the way this challenge has totally reoriented my thoughts. Setting out each morning to find things to be happy about has stopped a lot of gripes before they’ve even formed. And when I do hit situations that are grumpiness-inducing, I find I’m more willing to be proactive in addressing them. Why complain when you can do something about the situation–even if that just means changing your attitude about it?

I can’t say I’m “cured” yet–in the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle stories, that’s where a generous dash of magic comes in. But I’m looking forward to seeing if not complaining can become as much of a mindful habit as complaining can become a mindless one. I hope everyone who reads this will commit to joining me in this endeavor…

…though I won’t complain if you don’t.

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