My career in nagging started early, in Dad's Plymouth Volare:
"Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
Until my dad, doing 80, finally said, "Yes, we are there, Jason. And you can step out any time you'd like."
Mom didn't give in either. She'd just rub her fingers together and say, "Honey, what's this? World's smallest violin."
So it goes.
Marriage brought more lessons. My wife and I debated the philosophy of decorative towels until I prevailed with this argument: "Anything you say bounces off me and sticks to you."
Even our love life suffered my grousing. During sex I would always start in: "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
You can see why Ventura Unity issued me a "complaint bracelet." Unity is a New Thought church, which means you think for yourself (sorry, middle states). It's hard to concentrate on the message, though, because reverend Cathy Norman is, to speak in clerical terms, a hot chickie mama. Picture Heather Locklear with a heart.
"Happiness," says Cathy, "is an inside job. It's not what you look at but what you see."
To think that I had avoided this place over a mix-up about their opposition to "sects."
Yes, the bracelet. You wear this blue band on a wrist until you complain, at which point you switch arms and start over. Certain religions have you snap the bracelet and carry the welt as a reminder of your weakness.
Cathy handed me the bracelet, and I didn't say a word about its being made in China like everything else, including American flags and most of our honor-roll students.
I thought it would be easy to give up whining, the way I give up baseball every October after the Yankees lose the World Series. Turns out that society promotes complaining. Corporations devote entire departments to it...
"Hello, is this the Kellogg's Complaint Line? Yes, I'm calling about my Frosted Flakes. They were good, but they weren't grrrrreat!"
The problem is ego as suggested by Apostles John and Paul (Let It Be 4:3)...
"All I can hear, I-me-mine, I-me-mine, I-me-mine. Even those tears, I-me-mine, I-me-mine, I-me-mine."
"The antidote to complaining," says Cathy, "is to stop being such a jackhole." Kidding! She would never say that. Gratitude. Gratitude turns it around.
It's a good idea, for instance, to be grateful that your parts work. That's what my friend Mike says. He's in a wheelchair.
Not to toot my own horn, but I was snivel-free for two days until I encountered a major complication: people. They're everywhere!
In Ralphs I bumped carts with a fellow consumer and said, "Whoa, I hope you have cart insurance."
Not only did he fail to acknowledge my epically ingenious play on words, but he snorted!
"Sorry," I said. "I mistook you for a human."
Switch wrists. Begin again.
On the freeway, I blew it four times DURING THE SAME COMMUTE. It's amazing how many people who, despite years of behind-the-wheel experience, still don't get The Merge Concept.
Switch wrists. Begin again.
Day Four: Didn't even make it out of bed. My neighbor started his Nissan Titan at five a.m., and I pictured him being devoured by blunt teeth. What if I slashed his tires? Is that complaining?
The Unitics say that complaining is just a bad habit like grinding your teeth or watching "American Idol." At first it almost hurts to change your ways.
"Get that smile away. It burns. The world is awful, and that's the way we like it."
Fortunately, Cathy provides tech support, sharing stories, staffing a hotline. Some days we just sit in a circle and vent.
"My name is Jason Love, and I'm a recovering whiner. I've been clean now for three days..."
When you go 21 days without complaining, Unity gives you a graduation bracelet. Maybe it's like karate where you work your way up: red for not judging, brown for not lying, black for not cursing in traffic.
Reverend Locklear is right: My psyche is starting to change. The other day I caught myself whistling for no reason and practicing my golf swing in public. My therapist is not going to like this.
Seems like the world is a giant ink blot test: It says more about the looker than anything else. The question is, What will you focus on? Will you believe the world is full of outrage according to your pusher, Fox News; or will you recall, gentle reader, the enduring scripture of John and Paul...
"Let it be. Let it be. Let it be. Let it be."