A video of poet, Rudy Francisco, performing his piece “Complainers” has recently gone viral. On Facebook, at least. I haven’t been able to make a complete scroll down my timeline without bumping into it.
First things first, Rudy’s flow is sick and you should definitely check out the performance below.
The poem feeds into the familiar notion that you should be thankful for the things you have (you should), you should acknowledge that things could have been worse (always) but most persons came away from the piece believing that people shouldn’t complain as things could have been worse.
Despite the line I chose to highlight from the piece I believe, after listening to it in its entirety, Rudy wasn’t advocating shaming persons for complaining. I came away from it with the knowledge that Life is a struggle but keep fighting, keep building your muscles of resilience because :
I got that as long as you have breath in you there is some hope.
However, I am not here to talk about my interpretation of Rudy’s poem (there are about four hundred comments under the video devoted to that). I am here to talk about the notion that as things could have been worse people should stop complaining and stop feeling sad when Life isn’t going as planned.
Yes, I said it.
Of course things could always be worse than they are. Trust me. Even the person who may, in our mind, be in the absolute worst position in the world could have one thing happen to them that could make life a millimeter worse. I remember the common writing advice about putting your lead characters in a tree and keep throwing rocks at them. In Life there are a myriad of rocks lying around that could make any situation even marginally worse.
The notion that you should lay off complaining and not feel bad about disappointments in your life because there is someone who is worse off than you is dangerous. Firstly, it invalidates our feelings. Secondly, it reduces our empathy for others. It is hard to empathize with someone if you are constantly trying to measure their situation against some scale of validity. When we tell ourselves that we are not allowed to be disappointed that our relationship didn’t work out, our favourite coffee wasn’t in stock, that job interview bombed or that we woke up feeling unsuccessful, we do not give ourselves the opportunity to work through things. We also forget that no two people are the same. Someone who kind of likes sushi may not want to go off the rails if their favourite restaurant is out of the tuna they craved for weeks. But I, with my bonafide sushi addiction, might.
I think what is most important is that we teach people that it is okay to feel what you feel but what matters is how you deal with it. It matters that you try your best to be kind to others even if you feel like you are at the end of your rope. And, it matters that even if we acknowledge sadness, frustration, disappointment or anger we do not pack up our worldly belongings and go live with these emotions. So go ahead. Feel all the feels. Appreciate all of the topsy-turvy emotions that make us human beings as opposed to Androids. Validate your feelings and respect those of others. But remember as a wise man once said:
Give yourself permission to sit with your negative feelings. Then, darlings, get back up and kick ass.