Thursday, July 28, 2005

...and you thought YOU had problems.

Have you ever noticed that some people will actively look for the worse in any situation?

I caught myself, a little while ago, thinking something that almost made me laugh out loud, and if I was someone else…I’d punch me in the face for even thinking it. (But I let myself off, I’ve had a major headache all day, and therefore a little cranky).

Let me explain.

Recently, my wife bought me a Gamecube (I cannot stress enough how happy this has made me. After a 14 month gaming exile, it’s like an amateur astronomer being given a seat on a space shuttle). We also received an offer to upgrade our basic cable to digital (Including all the movie channels and On-Demand), for only an extra $5 a month until December.

In short, life is sweet. Playing Splinter Cell and Spiderman 2, followed by some good movies. (Stir Crazy was on last night…in my opinion, one of the finest comedies ever made).

However, because my wife actually paid for all this, I tend to give her first choice on what to watch on TV during the day. Also, unless she’s asleep or reading, I don’t even consider turning the Gamecube on when she’s home. She pays the bills, and I have 8 hours while she’s at work to play the Gamecube or do watch whatever I damn well please!

In short, it’s only fair to let her have her way, without argument, during the day.

So my problem for the past few months was, quite simply, I had sod all to do. Now I have digital cable and a Gamecube. A veritable cornucopia of entertainment options.

So tonight, Sunny headed off for work. I looked through the TV Guide, and found not one, but two movies I want to watch. I also want to play Splinter Cell. Unfortunately, the two movies I want to watch are on at the same time. Also, if I watch the movie, I can’t play the Gamecube afterwards, because there’s something else I want to watch after that.

Too many things I want to do…and not enough time.

Some problem, huh?

I actually heard myself think:

“This sucks! I really wanna play Splinter Cell, and I really wanna watch those movies…Even if I watch one of the movies, and play the Gamecube later, I’ll still miss the other movie!”

Well, boo f**king hoo! Yeah, I REALLY have problems.

Two weeks ago, I complained because I had nothing to do. Now I complain because I’ve got so much to do, I can’t so it all at once.

It’s a strange feeling to want to kick yourself in the balls for being a whiny bastard…and that’s exactly what I wanted to do.

In my own defense, entertainment is the only thing I can multitask at.

Back in England, where I had a sweet setup, it was not unknown for me to play a PC game, while watching a movie, while reading a book at the same time…seriously. I’d play my game, while listening to the movie, and reading my book during load times.

Also, in my own defense, at least I know I’m being a spoiled, ignorant prick, and am quite rightly ashamed of myself.

Of course, when I thought all this, I got that tingle down my spine that tells me that there’s a ‘blog coming on’. Bloggers know that feeling. Your muse pays you a visit, and you think “Now there’s an idea for a post!”

You see, no matter how successful, rich or powerful we are, we can always find something to bitch about. The people above us on the social ladder will sympathize, while those below us will think: “Yeah, right, I just wish I had those problems!”

For example, I remember watching the interview with Jack Osbourne when he got back from rehab. He actually had the sheer brass nerve to say: “I got into drugs because my life was just so stressful.”

Whatever, Jack.

I mean, I understand the stress of being in the public eye and all, but I’m sure daddy’s millions make it a little more bearable. Living in that huge house, being able to afford pretty much anything you want. Not to mention that you’re getting women that are WAY out of your league, just because of your surname.

Yup, I wish I had your problems.

However, I once had the pleasure of listening to someone complain who had no earthly right to: Tamara Beckwith.

Now my readers in the USA will have no clue who that is. Well, think the British Paris Hilton, without the looks.

She’s a socialite ‘celebrity’. You know the type. Huge trust fund, and famous just for being famous. Enough cash to get into the big celebrity parties, and got photographed enough times to become well known.

Well, some bright spark decided it would be a good idea to follow her around with a camera, so people would get to ‘know her’. I can describe her with a single sentence. If you met her, it would be like talking to a lamp-post with a large bank account.

In an attempt to ‘relate’ to her adoring public, she attempted to show she had problems to. As if to say ‘I’m just a regular person to, my life isn’t easy!”

Instead, she managed to completely alienate about 99.9% of the nation.

What she actually said was:

“People think I’m just a party girl, but parties need organizing, then I have to decide what to wear! My schedule is jam packed!”

Wow. I’m convinced. It must be terrible to have to go to a high-profile party every night.

What she said next, however, made me shoot coffee right across the room (which is damn good distance through your nose):

“People think I’m rich and don’t have to worry about money, but I only get an allowance of 20,000 a month…and that’s not a lot!”

(Bear in mind that that’s 20,000GBP, roughly $40,000 USD).

Awww! You poor baby! I’m convinced you’re just a normal person with worries and cares. How do you manage?

You’d have thought that someone would have told her that complaining that you only receive 20,000 a month, more than a lot of people earn in a year, and get it free and clear, without actually having to work for it…will not win you a sympathy vote.

Note to any celebrities: When your wardrobe is worth more than a lot of people’s homes…you have sweet FA to complain about.

So this got me thinking.

Why do we always see ourselves as having problems? Why do we even seem to create imaginary problems when we don’t actually have any?

It’s an interesting thought. Are we, in the western world, so spoiled and insulated from the ‘real world’ that we consider the most minor things to be big problems?

I mean, even what I just wrote about Jack and Tamara. Basically, I said “You think you have problems? Try walking a mile in my shoes!”

When you think about it, there’s millions of people who could say the same thing about me.

We’re insulated. Plain and simple. We complain because we don’t like our jobs, we feel hard done by because our neighbors have an 80” Plasma screen TV, while we only have a 28” CRT. We complain because we have to make do with a crappy car, when we know we deserve a ’98 corvette.

Problems like that don’t seem so bad if you’re wondering where your next meal is coming from. We’re insulated from real problems. Starvation only happens to other people. We don’t have to worry about dying from a simple disease. What we consider ‘problems’ wouldn’t even be worth thinking twice about to a lot of people.

I don’t want to get preachy on this. I’m not shilling for charities, or calling anyone a bad person because they spend $40,000 on a new car when ‘there are people starving in the world’. My opinion is that, if you work for it, you can spend your money on anything you damn well please. Being successful is not a crime, and no one should feel guilty because they have more than someone else.

I just find that I feel a lot happier when I appreciate everything I have, and don’t dwell on what I want.

Back in the ‘90’s I read a book that I can honestly say changed my life. It wasn’t religious, it wasn’t a self-help book, it didn’t promise to give me a new outlook, or make me a millionaire in two years or less. It was the true story of a British SAS patrol during the Gulf War. It’s called Bravo Two Zero, and I highly recommend it.

Basically, an 8 man patrol went behind enemy lines in Iraq, and some of them got captured, including Andy McNabb, the book’s author. Of course, he got tortured. Broken bones, had some of his teeth pulled out, whipped with a hose…you name it, he took it.

At the end of the book, he talks about how his experience changed him. I may paraphrase a little:

“Nowadays, I don’t sweat the small stuff. A glass of red wine spilled on the white living room carpet, not being able to find my car keys, someone turning up late…those things don’t bother me nearly as much as they used to.”

Basically, it’s hard to get annoyed over spilled wine when you’ve had your teeth broken with the butt of a rifle, then twisted around with a pair of pliers. When you know how bad life can be, normal day to day annoyances don’t seem all that bad.

I read that book when I was in college. At the time, I was stressed, not sleeping and letting the stress of exams really get to me. I came close to leaving. I was certain I’d failed an exam, and swore that if it was a choice of re-sit or leave…I was going to leave. I just couldn’t face going through all the study, revising and all nighters again. After two years of study, I was willing to throw in the towel, and waste all the work I’d put in. I was just that stressed out. Luckily, I scraped a pass.

After reading that book, I changed my outlook.

Nowadays, I look at a problem and think: “Will this problem kill me, make me starve or leave me homeless? No? Then I’m not going to worry about it.”

It works.

I drove people nuts at University, they would be running around like headless chickens, and would always be surprised at how calm, collected and laid back I was.

“How can you be so calm? This exam is worth 70% of our final grade!”

My answer?

‘The more I worry, stress and get nervous, the more likely I am to make a stupid mistake and fail. I’ve studied and revised as hard as I can…I’ll do my best, and if I fail, I fail…worrying isn’t going to do me a damn bit of good.”

Long story short, I think everyone would be a whole lot happier if they had a good look around at what they have, and didn’t put as much stock in what they want and don’t have…and, especially didn’t sweat the small stuff.

Is someone cutting in front of you while you’re driving, really worth spoiling your whole day? Is not getting the promotion really worth losing sleep over?

I’m not saying ‘just be happy with what you have, and don’t bother trying to do better’, I’m simply saying don’t make what you don’t have your whole life.

Me? Right now, I have a beautiful wife that loves me, a roof over my head and food in the fridge.

Anything else is a bonus.


Kato said...

Well put, sir, very good observations.

I think complaining must be part of the human condition. I imagine in prehistoric days, Homo Erectus walked around complaining of back aches.

Chief Slacker said...

Gotta love how, "I'll have to remeber that, it'll be a good story somday" is now "I gotta go blog about that, it'll be great!" hehe

Miz S said...

I think in order to appreciate what you have, you have to go thru some REALLY hard times.

However, I've been there and STILL find myself grousing about the little things.

Road rage and moronic higher ups at work are my favs as you well know.

But I still haven't forgotten what REALLY hard times were like- and usually think like you- If it won't kill me or leave me hungy or homeless it's not worth worrying much over.

My mantra...

"What does not kill me will only make me stronger."

How True.

OzzyC said...

Dammit. I don't have any amusing, witty comments to add here. My life really sucks. <*/sarcasm>

Vicarious Living said...

I have a post saved in draft that says some similar things. Sometimes I just can't believe how petty I can be about little grievances. Maybe some day I'll grow into a better, more appreciative person.