Complaining was a lot more fun before I read the book Unbroken.
If you’re not familiar with the book or movie, just know that Louis “Louie” Zamperini (a real person), had his Olympic track dreams cut short when, in 1941, he was drafted into the air corps to serve as a bombardier. Louis then proceeded to:
1. survive an airplane crash in the Pacific Ocean (after being trapped in its wires deep in the sea)
2. survive being stranded at sea for 47 days
3. survive a series of POW camps (despite being targeted by a sadistic guard named Mutsuhiro “the Bird” Watanabe)
4. survive multiple brutal beatings and canings (one time, the Bird ordered more than 200 other POWs to punch Louie in the face, one after the other)
5. survive losing 68 lbs at sea and arriving at the first POW camp weighing 87lbs (and then getting severe dysentery, while enduring extreme starvation)
Side Note: You need to know that the 47 days at sea, also included 47 NIGHTS at sea. I’m gonna give you a few moments to really go there in your mind. I don’t particularly want to be in my own home in the dark—and neither do you.
Before we get into why this story really cramped my style, you need a few more facts. Louie and the other survivor, Phil, had to deal with sharks circling their raft daily. The sharks made their presence felt by rubbing their backs along the bottom of the raft, and as they became more aggressive and intentional, Louie would have to punch them repeatedly in the snout. Again, I’ll give you a moment.
Also worth noting, the emergency raft contained ration-D bars—a bitter chocolate designed to replace their daily caloric intake. Louie woke up in the morning to find all the chocolate gone … one of the initial other survivors had woken up and eaten them all. This meant they had NO FOOD left whatsoever. Imagine how you feel when someone eats your chocolate—and you have a store just down the road. But wait! Louie and Phil did get a little something to eat … the raw liver of a shark and the raw meat of an albatross. Sit for a minute with this disturbing information. Whenever you’re ready, we’ll move on.
The story, while magnificent, is a real fun ruiner. I read it a year ago, but it still monopolizes my thoughts at every turn.
I think: I’ll never make it to the end of the day if *insert co-worker’s name* doesn’t get her loud ass off that personal phone call.
I hear Louie: So, now what is the problem? I’m confused. I’m really asking here, because regular canings didn’t stop me from making it to the end of my day, where I slept with rats.
I think: I really want to try on some new pants during lunch but, grrrrr, ugh, I don’t want to have to take my boots off.
I hear Louie: I wore the same clothes for over two years.
I think: I really want to go to LYFE Kitchen for lunch, but I never get totally full there.
I hear Louie: I ate raw bird parts while lost at sea.
I think: Ugh, I wish I had some lemon for this water.
I hear Louie: I was surrounded by nothing but salt water for 47 days and had to wait on rare rainfall to open up the hatch and grab a few drops.
I think: It’s FREEZING out here; this sucks.
I hear Louie: Oh, are you referring to the 3-minute walk from your heated car—that’s in covered parking—to your heated building? Yeah, your life is nearly impossible.
I think: I wonder if the mattress needs to be flipped? It seems to maaaaybe feel slightly more caved in right here by my torso.
I hear Louie: Your super plush mattress MIGHT need to be flipped? There MIGHT be a miniscule dip by your torso? Mine didn’t have that issues BECAUSE IT WAS A SLAB OF CONCRETE.
I think: Ugh, my sister won’t text me back—I texted her nearly 15 minutes ago.
I hear Louie: I had no contact with loved ones while imprisoned, and never knew anything. Never knew when someone got married, got sick, died, had a FUNERAL … and all you need to know is if your sister got the same weird friend request on Facebook?
I think: Sigh, I wish I didn’t have commitments this weekend.
I hear Louie: Yeah, it’s rough having plans with people you care about.
I think: You’ve got to be kidding me. Another meeting? For TWO HOURS????!
I hear Louie: You poor thing. Two hours in a temperature-regulated room, where they provide you with drinks and snacks—and pay you for your time—sounds downright dreadful.
I think: Ugh, I dread going to the store; we need so many things.
I hear Louie: Yeah, it’s hard having plenty of money to buy all the food you love most.
I think: I’m freezing!
I hear Louie: You’re in a home you love, that’s fully secure from drafts, with access to a thermostat, fireplace, a cord of wood, hot shower, hot bath and an endless amount of clothes, hot chocolate, hot tea and coffee. Shut your shameless noise hole.
I think: Groan, these thicker socks make my foot fall into the wrong grooves in my UGGs.
I hear Louie: I will strangle you with sheepskin.
If you want to be less ass’y and ridiculous, always consider what Louie Zamperini and the rest of the Greatest Generation would think.
Side Note: When I was younger, I’d tell people that the way I stayed out of trouble, was to imagine what my parents and coaches would say or think. It’s simple, but highly effective if you have a shred of pride. I obviously still did some really stupid stuff—but very few terrible things. Of course, as I grew up and got through grad school, I cared a little less about what some of those peripheral people thought, because I was a coach and teacher myself; but I still kept (and keep) the basic premise in tact.
I believe firmly that we can live less embarrassing, regretful lives if we simply consider the reactions of various people.
What Would Martha Stewart Think?
When you’re about to wad up a fitted sheet, stop for just two seconds and imagine Martha standing in the doorway, watching your every lazy move. I hope you’re imagining her arms crossed and the disgusted look she perfected way before she spent time in the clink.
What Would Your Future Child Think?
When you’re considering posting a pic that’s 75% cleavage and 25% duckface, tap the brake and imagine the look of confusion on your toddler’s face.
What Would Great Grandmother Esther Think?
When you’re about to purchase this:
Take a minute to imagine what your Great Grandmother would have to say. Hopefully you’re realistic in your mental inquisition, because Great Grandmother Esther is not going to be pleased.
What Would Your Guardian Angel Think?
When you have the opportunity to do some dirt, grab a little time from planning that mess, and figure out if it’s something that’s going to make your Guardian Angel look away. If it is—like if it’s something that’s gonna embarrass him among his Angel friends—back that truck up. *beep-beep-beep* This includes, but is not limited to, ALL THINGS SHADY.
What Would Oprah Think?
When you’re about to make a suspect life decision, ask yourself if it would jive with Oprah. Even if you’re one of those people who boldly claim to hate her, I bet you’d get your sorry act together if you met her.
Yeah, I know these things are just mental games—sort of like setting your alarm 14 minutes fast to trick yourself into getting up. Deep down, you know the score and know you have 14 free minutes; but shockingly, it still works the majority of the time.
It’s the same with this; because, of course there are times when you’ll just say, “Well guess what, the Greatest Generation ISN’T with me,” and you’ll go ahead and complain about your Keurig making piping hot coffee in less than a minute, but it being too hot to drink for another 10 minutes.” There will also be times when you say, “Eh, my Guardian Angels have seen it all,” and you’ll go ahead and throw your gum out on the sidewalk or create a fake account so you can do some cyber stalking.
What we’re shooting for here is not perfection. We’re just trying to live a life with less complaining and better decision-making—things that contribute to a harmonious world.
So let’s wrap up with some best practices.
First, run every complaint through the Louie Zamperini Filter—and imagine he’s in the room with you. Do this and you won’t be so quick to announce you’re freezing or famished or exhausted–when you know dang good and well you have access to all the things made to combat those issues. It might also keep you from claiming an inability to be civil before coffee or nice when you’re hungry.
As for the rest of your day, only you know who influences and motivates you. Only you know who makes you want to be better. Think of them. Consider their reaction. And if that person’s name rhymes with Dill Dosby, Dama Dune or Day Dice, then you’ve totally missed the point and upset me greatly. Run, don’t walk, to get a copy of Unbroken and consider doing a quick re-boot on the hard drive that is your life.
Shoot. I just imagined Joyce Meyers reading that last line, and felt her disappointment. Man, this stuff really works.