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Complain to Me, not to Them

We carry so much. Where can we put it down? “Give it to Me and let them be.”

21 straight makes a perfect game – in softball

Author’s note: On the 8th of September our church began the Complaint Free For 21 Days Challenge. Several of my posts have referenced this effort. This post is an update of my latest attempts. If you’d like to know more about taking the challenge, check us out here or go to the website to get a band or track your progress online.

How hard could it to be get 21 straight batters? I’ve already got twelve outs. Four scoreless innings. Not only scoreless, but hitless. Not only hitless, but walkless and errorless, too. Wow, I have a perfect game going through 4 innings. Bear down. Work hard. Make every pitch count.

Then, I hang that curve ball right over the middle of the plate. I knew it the second it left my hand. Not the zip. Not the rotation. Not the spot that I intended. And there goes my perfect game, sailing right over the center field fence.

I’ve never pitched in the big leagues, but that’s how I imagine it when a pitcher has a perfect game going. Nothing remarkable in the first couple innings, but when the outs are recorded and as the scoreboard signifies the 3 ups, 3 downs, the pressure must build. Don’t blow it!

That’s what this purple band felt like last weekend. I had a perfect game going. Had tallied a number of days in a row. Feeling pretty daggone proud of just how perfect the game was that I was pitching. Also, the pressure was building. Don’t blow it now.

Oh, there had been a couple of questionable calls, but the perfect game was still intact. Until the soccer game. Caught me totally off guard. I mean, for crying out loud, I have coached for years, worked with athletes. My daughters are all certified referees. But “Geez! That ball was off white!!”

And there it was. The complaint. And the band switch, made even more humiliating by the pouring rain and the elasticized sleeve of my jacket on the wrist of the hand holding the umbrella. But that’s not the worst part. Once I had blown my perfect game, the motivation to maintain my streak had vanished. Why not toss in a few more comments now that you’ve already blown it?

Oh, little purple band of mine. You are an illusive perfect game.

So yep, I’m back on the mound again. Got my defenses up, especially in the danger zones. We’ve got the scouting report on the other team. We adjust accordingly for the lefty who usually pulls it or the righty who hits to the opposite field. I’m pretty sure I won’t strike out every batter. But I’ve got a capable defense behind me. And knowing that makes me a better pitcher.

What’s 21 straight batters? Ugh. That seemed so much easier in the dugout before the game. Before the world came to bat, dedicated to defeating my best attempts. I am better than this. Better than them. Perhaps a bit of rosin and a pause before the windup. We can do this. Batter up!

This band is cramping my style

Complaint free bandThis little purple band is a curious thing. We have been to challenged to wear it as a reminder of our commitment to the “No complaining for 21 days” effort.  We’re to switch wrists if we complain and then start again at Day 1. (for more read more here)

Friends tell me:

  • their kids refuse to wear them. Of course not! What kid would willingly give up the power they hold in complaining?
  • it is annoying! They don’t like anything on their hands. What is a reminder, if it doesn’t get your attention.
  • their grand kids have made it their mission to get them to complain, thus having to switch their band. Clever grand kids.
  • they have censored themselves on Facebook. No comment.
  • they handled a thrashing on the athletic field as “great opportunity to improve” and this spoken in halting words as they rolled up their sleeve to twang (but not switch) the band.

It’s a purple piece of rubber!

No one else in my family is wearing this band. As far as I know, no one else on my street is wearing this band. Now that the weather has turned cool and we have pulled on our sweatshirts and jackets who could tell? But I am and I know it, because the thing keeps slipping up and down my wrist and flopping in my way and getting caught on my sleeve and falling off when I take off my sweatshirt and sticking on my mouse pad when I try to type and obscuring my watch face when I look at the time and do you take it off in the shower and…well, you get the picture. It demands attention. That’s its job.

Who knew what power a wrist band could have? I’m not sure it’s the band. I think it may be the power behind the band. Our pastor has called the attention to a non-complaining lifestyle a spiritual discipline, and it seems to have claim each of us differently. Which sounds very like the Spirit to me.

For me, it’s a self editor. Not a “shut up and don’t say that” but more of a “check and see if this is what you want to say, how you want to say it and how you want them to hear it.” Now, there is  a learning curve, my family would assure you. I’ve had plenty of, ‘oops, that was a complaint’ moments. (switch) But increasingly they are, ‘I said that positively, right?’ or ‘lemme think how  best to phrase this’ or ‘perhaps this could wait’ or even ‘never mind, it’s not that big a deal’ moments.

Yep, ironically, there’s been a progression in the no complaining process. That band and its prohibition has got me stopping and thinking before speaking. Go figure. I think it even has me dismissing complaint-thoughts more quickly. “Can’t complain?…what’s the point in wasting the energy?”

Which makes me realize that my complaining may have been fueling the thoughts all along. My words igniting the thoughts, which were inciting the words, which were enabling the thoughts. A vicious feedback loop. Now that I’m not giving it the satisfaction. Poof, the whole energy sapper starts withering away. Which is just fine with me. Who’s got time and energy to waste?

I kidded with my friends that the bands were an outward sign of an inward dis-grace. But I fear it’s true. Nothing like a physical annoyance to remind us there is work to be done and it requires our attention.

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