Thursday, November 16, 2006

A question about complaining: Your input is invited

There is a question here... eventually... on which I would like your opinion. Stay with me for a moment even though there are no laughs today.

Tomorrow I have three credit cards due. Since becoming self-employed I have become something of an expert in figuring out how to use each and every day of each credit card's grace period, walking the check in to the bank or the store on the due date (unless I forget, of course).

I know I won't be able to pay all of these cards in full tomorrow. What eats at me is the fact that I settled a PI case in late October. While the settlement was not large, I was obliged to expend a relatively large amount on an expert. But between the modest fee (diminished further by payment of a referral fee) and the recoupment of my costs, I was looking forward to a decent payday. Only I'm still looking forward to that day because the claim person for the defendant's insurer does not understand that a med pay subro claim is not the same thing as a lien. She wants to finance the settlement of that claim from my client's proceeds -- but she made her settlement offer on the carrier's behalf with knowledge that a subro claim was pending.

This kind of stuff makes me crazy -- and, worse, it keeps me from focusing on the very real work I have to do. And to do my work I need to be focused... which is not easy for an easily distracted person such as yours truly.

Now you may call this whining and self-pitying... and I can hardly dispute that.

But I set it out because it provides necessary background for the question I have for the group.

When I vocalize these kinds of feelings at home, Long Suffering Spouse will tell me about someone else's problems... and these are always much worse than anything we're going through.

You don't have to go far in the world or in the Blogosphere to find people worse off than Long Suffering Spouse and myself. For all of my cash flow problems, at the end of the year I'll have made an income that a lot of people would envy. Too darn much of it will be eaten up in late fees and interest... but that's a digression. And most of my financial problems are self-inflicted: If I could concentrate on tasks at hand instead of fretting about things over which I have no control... working instead of just waiting for return telephone calls... I'd surely earn more money. And I've chosen to send my kids to private schools because it's a sacrifice I think and I hope and I pray will pay off for them... so I know I shouldn't complain that my checking account is on life support.

But I do complain, of course. I think complaining is a fundamental human activity. If you are unsure, click "next blog" (not now!) and you will see someone else's complaints. Probably in a different language.

But I don't like it when people respond to my complaints by pointing out that others have it worse: I know, I say, but that doesn't make my complaints any less valid. Long Suffering Spouse begins to doubt my sensitivity... and I begin to realize that I'm not articulating what I really mean.

Yesterday I was kvetching with a friend and he brought up the horrible ordeal of a former colleague of his. This man's wife is dying. It is his second marriage; he lost his first wife to cancer. And he lost a college age son in a senseless, stupid auto accident. Job might think he's got it better than this man. And my friend told me about the second wife's illness, and I choked up... but I flared up when my friend then said something like, "Compared to our problems...."

And an explanation began to take shape: I think I get upset when I'm asked to find solace in someone else's suffering. That seems ghoulish to me. I don't want to feel better because someone feels worse. I want to feel better because I solve my own problems, or work through them... or at least because I've vented.

So my question: When you're complaining and people remind you that others have it worse, does that help you regain perspective or a sense of proportion? Is that what it's supposed to do? And why is that not the same as finding comfort in others' misery?


Anonymous said...

though I often think those thoughts (that other people have it so much worse) when I hear people complain about trivial things, I would not utter it out loud. The reason being that I often complain about trivial things myself ..

Anonymous said...

If you have a complaint, you should certainly raise it. The English are the worst at complaining, my husband hates it. For example, he bought a nearly new car and the cigarette lighter does not work. He thought as he doesn't smoke, he wouldn't bother mentioning it. Only we need it to put my sat nav in. English men hating asking for directions. Tonight we are going out and my husband doesn't know the directions and we can't use the sat nav. Had he complained, we wouldn't have this problem.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a normal thing, what LSS does, to bring up that others have it worse, and sometimes, yes, it does make you feel better. BUT...when you've got legitimate complaints, and someone brings that up, what it usually ends up making me feel, is ashamed - and then mad. For example - My life was a LOT worse in Texas; I won't go into details, but let's just say that if I hadn't gotten out I might not be around to comment on your blog. So, when I cry here, Chris sometimes will say, "But you have it so much better now!" And while, yes, that's most definitely the truth, it doesn't change the fact that there are still things in the present life to cry over, or complain about. But, I usually end up feeling ashamed of myself for complaining about trivialities, and then I get mad at myself. And deep down, maybe, a tiny bit of resentment that Chris had to remind me...
I think others reminding you that someone else has it worse IS supposed to restore your perspective. But sometimes it's just annoying. I don't know why it's not or if it is finding comfort in other's misery, but there's my philosophy for the day.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

English people may complain, but most never like 'making a scene'.

You are invited to the Enterprise Christmas Party, due to start week commencing Monday 4th December.

The closing date for submitting your entry is Wednesday 29th November.

For full details, visit my Journal at

Anonymous said...

when i complain to SOMEONE, i do not expect any input from them. i just want their listening ears.

when i complain to MYSELF, i owe it to myself to think whatever it is that makes me feel better, and not to wallow in thougths that will push me to get that gun and shove it into my mouth. if looking at other's misery makes me realize my blessings, then, i'll go ahead and focus on that. that is my choice.

no matter what other people say, when i am complaining about something i find really worth complaining, will sruely hurt my already sensitive feelings. so, all i want to do is complain and be heard, not be told what to feel. if i know nobody can be just those ears, i'd rather be quiet and complain to myself, because it is not worth it, the aggravation that i will continue to feel.

as for the LSS, it is inevitable between spouses i guess, because we always have that idea of saving each other from something, and always want to help, in any way.

just my two cents. sorry, it is quite lengthy.

Smalltown RN said...

When things are out of my control but have an impact on my life, that is when I want to complain. But if I complain does that make things any better. Does it make those things that I am complaining about go away? Generally not. Hearing about someone else's misery most certainly does not make me feel any better. It might make me take another look at my life.

I think about this week for example. I had a couple of really difficult working days. I talked about it on my blog and I guess I was complaining. But you know what happend. It backfired. I was left a couple of nasty comments. It made me re think about what I posted about what I was complaining about. I removed that post from my blog and chose to move on.

Last week my bank made an error with my account but had sent me a letter telling me it was my fault. It wasn't, so I spoke to the powers that be and made sure they corrected the problem and insisted they send me a letter of apology(which I got yesterday from the bank manager).
So was I complaining or was I correcting an error?

Mirriams Websters definition of Complain:
1: to express, grief,pain, or discontent
2: to make a formal accusation or charge

Hope things start looking up for you!!! Cheers.

Smalltown RN said...

oh btw that last post's me Qualicum RN had to change my name.

sari said...

everyone needs an outlet sometimes, just to be heard.

sometimes that's all you want.

cmhl said...

oh wow, you're speaking my language now.. this is my "thing".. sounds to me like madame adjustor may have made a mistake? you are right, there is an extreme difference between right of subrogation and right of reimbursement vs. the injured party being made whole. Of course, I am not familiar with IL law, but still...

In answer to your questions--
Hmmm, as far as regaining perspective, perhaps. Things, of course, could always be worse, but at times I need my situation to be the worst one out there.

Example. I have two small children, and a spouse. I can never be the sickest in the house. If I have a stomach ache, my spouse will be laying on the couch moaning. If I am congested, one of the kids will spike a fever. If I am searching for Tums, the dog will start eating grass out in the yard. It is a proven fact, I will never, ever be the sickest in the house. Not bad or good-- just the way it is.

I really didn't answer your question, did I...

Anonymous said...

I don't feel better at ALL when that happens. When I'm whining/complaining/venting/whatever.. I want to be listened to.

It's true that there is always someone else who's got it worse. We'll talk about them later, I feel like saying.

The Curmudgeon said...

Thank you all for your thoughts.

I am resolved, for the present, to stop this moody introspection and get some real work done.

No, I don't think it will last either....

SQT said...

We all have gripes and we like to know that at least one person out there sympathizes with us. I love my husband but he doesn't always get where I'm coming from, which is to be expected. Thank goodness I have a mom who completely gets me so that I have that sounding board.

But complaining can be a good thing too. If we never found fault with anything then nothing would ever get done right. I have no problem taking something back to the store if it doesn't work right or breaks. I also don't hesitate to tell a manager if there's a problem in a certain store. I'm not trying to be persnickety and I never try to get anyone in trouble. But I think everyone benefits If a problem is pointed out.

And as far as misery loves company.. not always. I know my problems are usually little one's in the grand scheme of things but still, even everyday frustrations can wear you down. A sympathetic ear is important.