Shifting Gears

This is a somewhat appropriate title for this blog post as we just purchased a new car. A new used car. I loved our zippy little Mazda 3. Unfortunately it will not take a double pram in the boot, nor will it happily house two car seats in the back (without a driver who has knees up to their elbows). So it was off to trawl Parramatta rd for a suitable alternative.
However this post isn’t about cars. Not at all. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we adapt, change, grow, delete, stretch and add as our life shifts. And it shifts often and always.
The way we live our lives depends on the tools we have to wade through the world, the vessels we have to carry us through it (our bodies), and the inclination and will we have to make it a happy ride.
In my mind there are two kinds of metaphorical tools we gather in life. The kind we gain with money – house, car, food, disposable income etc… and the cerebral abstract kind that build up in our toolbox as we travel: knowledge, understanding, compassion, friendship etc. Both are essential to survival and both will constantly change over time. Life can be a little easier if our toolbox is well stocked.
Our vessels (or our bodies), are essential for our life’s journey. So it’s important to be good to them. I’m not going to preach, carb free, sugar free, no caffeine, no alcohol blah blah blah. But as someone with a chronic illness who has seen the inside of far too many doctor’s offices, hospitals and has a good grasp on mortality, I am going to preach this: be kind to your body. Rest, relax and recharge when it tells you to. It will in turn to be good to your for longer. You never know when you will need to call on it for that extra smidge of energy stored in its deep dark depths. That’s it.
As life predictably ebbs and flows with complete unpredictability, it’s up to us to live in the moment, enjoy it and keep stress to a minimum. We never know what’s around the corner, or what we will need to pull out of our toolbox to cope with it. Relationships, babies, property, career, wellness…. These all have ups and downs, with varying extremity. Having the foresight to and understanding that you will need to shift gears often in life, may make it easier to move forwards, backwards, sideways or take great leaps when you need to. The knowledge that it’s normal and the comfort that the gears will shift again may soften the sound of the gears grinding. Having that tool box handy, full and ready to access will make each shift that little bit smoother.
Amidst the extended car and tool metaphors which are not usually something I’d throw into my writing, I guess all I am trying to say is, life can throw us curve balls. And it will. If we are self-aware and prepared, both physically and emotionally, we can meet them head on..or at least not get floored by them. And when life is rosy, we can sip tea, sit pretty and share the love. The gears are always shifting somewhere.

Venting Vs. Complaining

We all need a good vent every now and then. Sometimes daily. When the heavens bring on a hailstorm, sometimes it feels like all we need to do is sit and drink tea and talk and vent and shed a tear or two until we are too exhausted to take another sip or utter another word… or until the sun starts to shine again. And I think that’s ok if it helps us to get through the day/week/month/year… whatever it is. I also believe it is different to complaining.
I am no English dictionary and I haven’t consulted one in preparation for this outpour of thought. My personal thoughts on the difference between venting and complaining are as following:
Venting: A cathartic release of thought and emotion with no malice or harm intended to any other party. A venter does not wish to change the core of their world, merely express how it affects them at that point in time.
Complaining: A negative monologue regarding either the self or another, usually with the wish to alter some aspect of one or the other. A complainer may often be repetitive and resistant to positive feedback and the idea of change.
Without talking a moment to identify and separate these two acts it can be easy to confuse them and mislabel both the action and the people who are undertaking them. To be fair, it is usually the venter that is mislabelled as a complainer. When someone needs to vent, it is very important that they do. People are like pressure cookers. If we store all our sadness, anger, regret, fear or whatever hard emotions we have feeling inside, they will continue to intensify until they explode in one great mess. It’s far better to release the emotions as they come – fresh, fast and free. That way we are left whole, strong and ready to face whatever the world brings us whether it is storms or rainbows. We will all face both of them and all kinds of other uncharted whether. Expressing your feelings as the skies are changing is not complaining – it’s healthy.
Having done my fair share of venting I have bucket loads of compassion for those in need of a good vent, so always have an ear to share, a cup of tea to make and hands ready to do what I can to help those in need (sometimes it is not very much but we all work within our limits – just an ear is a lovely gift for a venter in need). As both venters and ventees (the people who listen to the venters – no idea what to call them/us so let’s use that term for now) it is important to understand that each single person can only take on so much emotion. As a venter, it is crucial not to be venting in one place too much. Our friends are not our therapists – so we can’t expect them to take on every piece of emotional baggage we want to offload. As a ventee, no matter how much we want to help alleviate our friends and help them through the cathartic process, it is wise not to be carrying too many emotional bags that weigh us down. While kindness is essential in friendship and venting is encouraged, balance is key to everyone’s sanity. It is smart to set limits for ourselves from both perspectives.
While I don’t want to delve too much into the topic of complaining, I feel as both a venter and ventee it is important to identify when what you are spouting or listening to becomes more than that. I.E. Complaints. When life has become something to complain about, it indicates that something needs to shift whether it is circumstance or reaction. This is first and foremost up to the person living the life. In my experience ventees usually have the best intentions, but when trying to assist a complainer find it extremely frustrating. This is because we cannot change anyone else, nor is it our responsibility to. Yes, we can encourage and help, but only if the person is open to it. The first step to change is acceptance and this comes from within. We are all so very different and will respond to complaining in our own way, however I feel that understanding its traits and differences to venting is a good basis for coping with it.
Today my lovely readers, I have nothing to vent or complain about. I have a gorgeous daughter who is fast asleep in her bed, a loving husband who is going to take her out for the morning while I have some ‘mama time’ and a fridge full of food from yesterday’s afternoon of cooking. I am thankful for all the people in my life who I know can be wonderful ventees whenever I need them and I am full of strength for any and all of these same people to return the favour should they ever need me. Life is good.