It all started when I purchased a cherry-red wall clock for our kitchen. It spoke to me. The numbers on its face were large and easy to read, and I thought its bright color would add a little whimsy to checking the time. When I made the purchase, the hands on the clock said 9 o'clock. And they still do.
After several attempts to get the clock running, including a trip to the store for new batteries, it still does not. I'm often not a gracious person in situations like this — I get cranky. I find myself complaining about everything from the company that made the product to the retailer who sold it to me. I complain about the fact I threw away the receipt and will probably have trouble returning this red, plastic albatross. (Yes, plastic. What was I thinking?).
If other irksome events happen around the same time (let's say the receipt definitely cannot be located even after rummaging through the garbage — twice), I may take my complaining to new heights. Not pretty. My mother, if she were still living, would not be proud of me when I get like this.
There is a website for everything, complaint-eradication included. It did not get the clock running or return it for a full refund, but it did divert me a bit, and it made me reflect differently on the entire situation, redirecting my thinking in a way I did not anticipate.
On the same day I had the clock issue, I read a column in the New York Times by Alina Tugend profiling www.AComplaintFreeWorld.org. The idea is to encourage people to be more aware of their complaining tendencies and their less-than-positive impact on mood and relationship. You are sent a purple (not red, thankfully) rubber (not plastic, fortunately) bracelet to wear on your wrist for three weeks. Every time you find yourself complaining about something, you are instructed to move the bracelet to your other wrist. I am waiting to receive my bracelet in the mail.
Wearing it will apparently affiliate me with more than 10 million people in more than 100 countries who are trying to make the world a better, more complaint-free place, one bracelet at a time. If you attest to being a noncomplainer for 21 days, you are sent a "certificate of happiness."
If I can pull this off, maybe I can frame the certificate and put it on the wall where I intended to put the clock. (Can you tell I already am leaning toward optimism?)
My mother would have liked all this. She often wore her purple, big-pocketed jacket on Mother's Day, and the bracelet would have matched it perfectly. She would probably have ordered a lot of bracelets and had them readily available to hand out in church on Mother's Day as a reminder to anyone who was complaining to "count your blessings" — or her other favorite saying, "Do all the good you can to all the people you can as long as ever you can."
In response to that — and in fond recollection of my amazing mother — may I say, amen.
Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at 541-261-2037 or Sharon@hmj.com