Grumbling: The Art of Making a Bad Situation Worse

You can either let one moment be the definition of your reality or you can show up to play.  You can appreciate that things are hard, but you can choose not to be a victim to those circumstances.

By: Tippany P. Ward
Watson, Roach, Batson & Lauderback, P.L.C.

Words matter.  We know this through the impact of the things we have said to others and things we have heard from others.  But have you ever stopped to think about how the words you say and the attitude you maintain impact you?  

I acknowledge the hypocrisy that oozes out of this writing.  If you know me, you know that I can be the world’s worst about grumbling.  I use “grumbling” specifically because “complaining” is more active. Grumbling is the unconscious counterpart of complaining. Grumbling is passing comments and random snarky text messages to friends or the occasional eyerolls at your professor or supervisor. 

After several months of experiencing some of the most intense anger I have felt in life, I recognized that the problem might be me.  I had been pushed to be more flexible and adaptive than I thought I could be.  I graduated law school, studied to take the bar (which got delayed and then moved to online), experienced heartache, got my first law job, got married, and decided to quit coaching soccer after twenty years with the sport.  I often found myself more angry than happy. I was angry in traffic, at home, at work, . . . literally everywhere. It was more than a “me issue.” It was beginning to impact my very new marriage and the other relationships around me.  I wasn’t “me” anymore.

Given that I was the common denominator, I challenged myself to take stock of every moment I felt myself slip into grumbling.  I found that there were maybe two hours a day that I was arguably not grumbling –and honestly, that is a pretty generous estimation.  I thought I had been dealing with everything in the right way.  I had been going to therapy, invested in a hobby that was unrelated to my job, and tried to create some space away from work for relationships.  As I have come to find out, you can create all of the opportunity in the world to be happy and still spoil it with grumbling.  You can set yourself up for success and still choose anger. 

Around that same time, I took my soccer team to a tournament in Nashville.  We lost the very first game 6-0.  It was devastating, but my team had simply not shown up to play.  At the end of that game, I asked my girls how they felt and was met with a cacophony of negativity.  I responded by telling them:  “You control how you react in these moments.  You can choose to show up to play next time, or you can let this loss define you.” 

I look back on that moment and realize that I knew what to do to turn away from the anger that had been plaguing me; but I had given myself permission to sit in the wasteland created by my own contempt.  I wasn’t showing up to play. I was showing up to complain. 

I share this with you to say that life is difficult and will always push you; however, you control how you react.  You can either let one moment be the definition of your reality or you can show up to play.  You can appreciate that things are hard, but you can choose not to be a victim to those circumstances.  Check your grumbling, and your outlook on your life just might change. Mine did. 

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