I’m Giving Up Complaining

I have four brothers. Yup. No sisters, only brothers.

Every year without fail, I go east to Cape Cod where we grew up so I can spend time with all of them at once. When large families get together I find they often tell crazy stories that are funny to some and not so funny to others. They rib one another. Laugh at one another. Stuff comes up, and yes, stuff comes out.

Lots of stuff.

On this trip one of my brothers casually remarked, ‘Don’t you think it’s interesting that we sit around and complain about how our parents didn’t do this and didn’t do that, yet here we all are — all five of us together, talking with one another, laughing with one another, working stuff out and through?’

Whatever faults our parents had — and Lord knows everyone thinks their parents had, or have, faults (my kids included) — somehow ours did something really right. They brought us together and encouraged us to stay together and stick together and here we are.

[The Power of Gratitude]

My brother went on, ‘Do you think kids just always like to complain about their parents instead of trying to focus on what they did right?’

I thought about that and it resonated as true to me. We all complain. Like a lot.

I complain about such stupid stuff. My kids do too. I’ve been thinking about how really unattractive it is — at least to me. How really negative it is. And how I can choose to change it.

Like right now.

After my brother brought that up, and after I read Alison Piepmeier’s inspirational piece, Thank you for my beautiful life (she sadly passed away right after it was published), and after hearing so many of the inspiring stories from Olympians and their families about what they overcame to get to Rio this year, I decided I’m going to give up complaining.

I want to try it. I want to see if it makes me feel different (it already has). I’m going to tell my kids that I’m instituting a “complaining free zone” in the house when I get back from the Cape. In my office too. In fact I’m going to try it for the rest of the summer. No complaints about anything. Not about friends, or jobs, or what we are eating for dinner, or traffic, or what a sibling did or didn’t do. Not even about the election. Remember: If you don’t like your choices you can always get in the arena yourself.

[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ columns here]

After all, my kids are healthy and so am I. I’m blessed and I want to stay in that place of gratitude for my blessings.

So that means out with the complaints both small and large, because those complaints impact my space, my day, my relationship with others and my life. No more complaints about my age, my body, my work, my friends, myself and none about how I grew up or about what my parents didn’t do right. It’s so boring.

I’m already focused on moving forward with gratitude only. Especially to my parents for the greatest gift they gave me: The gift of friendship with my siblings.

I can only hope that way off in the distant future, when I’m long gone, that my four kids are sitting around a table sharing their lives and sharing stories about their childhood. I know what I did wrong will come up, I can hear it already, but I hope they will also pause and realize, ‘Wow, look at us all together, this many years later. Our parents must have done something right.’

That’s what I’m thinking about. What about you?

[Photo by Annie Leibovitz]

About the Author

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Maria Shriver is a mother of four, a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning journalist and producer, a six-time New York Times best-selling author, and an NBC News Special Anchor covering the shifting roles, emerging power and evolving needs of women in modern life. Since 2009, Shriver has produced a groundbreaking series of Shriver Reports that chronicle and explore seismic shifts in the American culture and society affecting women today. Shriver was California’s First Lady from 2003 to 2010 and, during that time, she spearheaded what became the nation's premier forum for women, The Women's Conference. Shriver's work is driven by her belief that all of us have the ability to be what she calls Architects of Change -- people who see a problem in their own life or the community around them, then step out of their comfort zone and do what it takes to create the solution. Like her page on Facebook or follow her on Instagram.

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