The interesting thing about working in the public library is watching the people who come in.
Today, one of the notable visitors was a woman who arrived with her husband. As they walked in, they were arguing.
To be more accurate, she was complaining about something to him. He gave monosyllabic answers to her long rants about their plans for the day, and how they were inadequate.
She left him reading the newspaper near the entrance while she descended on the library to plague the librarians with passive-aggressive questions about why they did or did not have the titles she was looking for. When she found a CD she wanted to check out, she complained that the CD wasn’t held in its case well enough—it threatened to fall out when she opened it, she said at great length and with much demonstration to the ever-patient librarian.
As she moved further into the library, I lost track of her, but I’m convinced she complained her way through the shelves, because she was still grumbling when she returned to collect her husband and leave.
I felt sorry for the librarians, who handled her complaints with grace and polite smiles. But I felt more sorry for her.
She was not young—easily in her mid-eighties. She complained with the skill of someone who has made it her life’s work to be unsatisfied, her goal to find fault with everything.
She can’t have had a very nice life.
Not that I think a hard life turned her into a complainer. On the contrary, I expect that complaining made her life hard.
That internal dialogue we play in our heads can colour everything we experience. It’s easy sometimes to let that dialogue turn to complaints.
The library never has the book I want.
Someone ate the last cookie again?
Why can’t people be quiet in the library so I can focus?
I’m not suggesting no one should ever complain. Pointing out problems to those who can do something about it, and standing up for yourself are important things that complaining can sometimes accomplish.
But when every thought becomes a complaint, the complaining turns toxic. Sometimes it pays to turn those complaints around. It doesn’t necessarily solve the problem, but it changes how you feel about it, and that can make all the difference.
The book I want is already checked out? Maybe the librarian has a suggestion for a similar book.
The cookies are gone? What a good excuse to make my favourite kind!
People are distracting me in the library? Maybe I what they do can inspire today’s blog post?
Life never gives us what we want. That’s probably a good thing. If we can remember that, it makes life much better.