The Irish Complaints

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Puffed up Irish pigeon, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, on a cold April day

I’m just back from a week in Ireland. The brogue is still in my ears, and this morning’s gentle rain and greening lawns remind me of the island I left yesterday. I’m in that jet-lagged head-space, neither here nor there and moving around in a kind of daze. With that in mind, I’ll share a few impressions and ask you a question at the end.

Our group of 45 American tourists traveled by bus from Galway to Dublin, viewing a wide range of landscapes and getting a taste of the history, the people, and the charming pubs, snug and cozy in the April chill. Our first three days were sunny, with temps in the low 60s. “It’s like this all the time here,” said a young barkeep with a wink that made me smile.

I come from a culture notorious for complaining, often with good reason. Polish people had it tough in the old days with all those Cossacks invading and now it’s stuck in our DNA. And let’s face it, Americans have taken up the cause in recent years. It was a nice break to get away from CNN and MSNBC. I marveled at the cheerfulness of the Irish people, friendly and laughing despite the gloomy weather.

And I wondered about Americans, the ones on our trip, and the ones I encounter in my daily life. Me too, of course, for I’m a complainer raised by complainers, and I struggle to rid myself of the habit, not with a faked rosy outlook but by re-framing.

My husband would surely say I saved my negative comments for his ears alone, but I really noticed, this past week, how many little things people turn into catastrophe. One lady “hated” the breakfast at our hotel. Another “couldn’t stand” the heat in the dining room. Two people at dinner said the Polish people collaborated with the Nazis, the proof being “all the camps were there” and the world was a mess because of “radical Muslims.” My husband and I politely disagreed, but they weren’t really listening. The service was slow, the waitress “didn’t need or deserve” a tip. Can you imagine the look I got when I tipped her anyway?

Our flight home was cancelled, and we found out at 5 a.m. in the hotel lobby, with suitcases gathered around. Worst-case scenarios spread but, in the end, we were rescheduled on a flight that brought us home just three hours later than planned. I watched two good movies on the plane and had a nice long nap.

The line at immigration in Newark was long, so more doom-saying ensued. “Have you ever seen it like this?” “This is ridiculous!” Etc. Etc. Etc. In fact, we were only in line for 20 minutes or so. Not bad for re-entering a country where we aren’t refugees and have good homes, our own cars to drive there, and people we love waiting for us.

Yes, this blog post has been a big complaint about complaining. I haven’t changed, but I did try to re-frame. Or, writer that I am, rewrite!

How do you handle negative experiences? Tell us your tips in the comments section and you’ll be in the drawing to win a signed copy of The Gardener by Seamus Dunne. This paperback was a happy discovery at Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop in Galway. It’s a perennially relevant novel about a former German soldier living in Ireland and how he handles his town’s reaction to a band of gypsies.

This month’s winner of the anthology containing my story, “Dinner for Five,” The Collection: Flash Fiction for Flash Memory, is Bobbi Smisko. Congratulations, Bobbi and thanks for your comment last month!

26 thoughts on “The Irish Complaints

  1. My mother died when she was 23 years old. I was just a baby. I’m living years she never got to see and share, so I breathe in and out for the both of us. That plain fact is my north star that guides me. When I’m annoyed, I remind myself I’m not suffering. And when I am suffering, I remind myself that I’m still alive. That puts things in perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree, it’s exhausting to be around complainers!

    When I was fired from a very important job, I was depressed. Truly, I had a lot to complain about. So I sat down and watched Aaron Brodie in The Pianist. If you remember this movie, you’ll remember it’s grim and scary. Nazis and Jews. I told my daughter how surprised I was at the uplift it gave me, and she said, “Ah. Someone with real problems.” Turns out, getting booted out of my all-too-comfy work environment was the best thing . . . now I am finally writing and I take flamenco lessons to stamp out any negative thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, The Pianist was indeed grim. Good idea to seek out that kind of flick when down in the dumps. And flamenco lessons! Hmmmm. My zumba class does give me a lift. 😉

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    1. Good one! Sounds like Polish Alzheimers too. But just to be clear, it was the American complainers I was writing about here. The Irish were surprisingly (to me) cheery.

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    1. Because of their uplifting attitude? Just to be clear, the Irish were friendly and cheerful. It’s the American complainers I’m complaining about here. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. What a waste of time and energy it is to complain about things you cannot change: the weather, other people, long lines, etc. Do I complain? Of course! There are situations that I need to vent about. I’m thankful that I have loving friends who let me do this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I will be honest, the thing I complain about most is people who complain. I am trying to break that habit! I have found that speaking kindness into a situation helps.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I handle negative experiences much better than I used to, but I still struggle with knee-jerk reactivity. My technique now is to pause before I speak, and ask myself, “How much does it matter?” or, “Am I in a hurry?” Or, “Is anyone’s life at stake?”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Nice article as always Linda,
    I sit in class every Friday and Saturday for long hours trying to achieve my career goals, I often feel tired and overwhelmed and my brain begins to drift. Classmates get frustrated because they have worked all week long and they are tired too. But here we are, all seated together and all coming from very diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds. We complain about the long hours, yet we are grateful
    That the courses are available to us. We complain about the repetition of the course content, “Yet we still learn one thing new that can be life changing “. The good Definitely outweighs the bad.
    I get to see all of these amazing people every week, I see them chasing THIER dreams right there before me! trying to make a better life for themselves! They are powerful woman and men who are making a statement, ” I am tired and overworked” But I am here and I will accomplish this goal, despite my complaints. So what I see is not the complaints but the perseverance despite the complaints. beautiful people with beautiful dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. When I purchased my RV two weeks before retiring, and then lived in it for the next nine years, all passengers were warned before stepping onto it, that it was a complaint-free vehicle, that we would deal with whatever the road, the weather and life threw at us. And so it was. I totally agree. People complain too much, and should instead be counting their blessings more.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This paragraph made me shake my head:

    “The line at immigration in Newark was long, so more doom-saying ensued. “Have you ever seen it like this?” “This is ridiculous!” Etc. Etc. Etc. In fact, we were only in line for 20 minutes or so. Not bad for re-entering a country where we aren’t refugees and have good homes, our own cars to drive there, and people we love waiting for us.”

    It made me smile and it sums up my feelings about “first world problems” and how we handle them. I can whine with the best of them, but this is surely a reminder that a good laugh about our perceptions goes much further and is better for one and all than complaining about truly minor issues. I’m a big fan (as you know!) of reframing and re-storying!!

    Liked by 1 person

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