My husband, Mike, and I recently stopped by the biggest furniture store in Denver to price out a patio set. A couple of years back we had done the same thing and there was a plethora metal tables and cushioned chairs to choose from. This year options looked sparse.

Mike stayed back to measure tables while I went on a mission to track down a customer service rep. After a minute or two of searching and waiting around, I found a gentleman wearing a red vest. I asked him about their limited patio furniture selection this season, “Is it too early in the year to be shopping for outdoor tables and chairs?”

He looked at me, and without any hesitation responded, “I’ve only been here 6 months. I don’t know.” I waited. Nothing. He was ready to walk away. I asked him if one his team members might know. He pointed to a woman across the showroom floor and said, “You can go ask her.”

I thanked him, pivoted and made my way through the staged bedroom sets. Was that guy for real? About halfway there, I heard his voice boom from behind me, yelling across the store, “Hey Trudy, this lady wants to know if we’re getting anymore patio furniture.”

Upon reaching Trudy, she seemed to have taken my question personally. She was quick to be curt, “What you see is what we have.” I found myself trying to lighten the mood or fix whatever was making her short with me. I was overly nice with my, “That’s okay. I was just checking.” I wasn’t pleased until she sort of smiled when I thanked her for helping me.

Spring blossom I walked back to Mike kicking myself for not being more grounded. If I had been paying attention, I wouldn’t have fallen into my old routine of making the situation right for everyone else instead of myself. Upon arrival, I told Mike, “This furniture is it for the year.”

Hand-in-hand, we made our way back to the front of the store. This is the part where I could’ve bit my tongue, but instead I rehashed what just went down. When I paused to let him say something, I cut right back in, trying to justify my position, “I think I just have a thing with lousy customer service. It’s because all I’ve ever known is the service industry. My expectations are too high in retail and restaurants.”

On the drive home I kept my eyes on the road, deep in thought. The afternoon sunlight was making the roads sparkle. I was replaying the moment I chose to vent to Mike about what had happened. I didn’t have to go there. It could’ve been nothing, but I chose to weave that negativity it into my day. Complaining is suffering.

The truth is that sometimes I chose to suffer.

We have this one little life filled with days and moments. What we choose to create in them is up to us. I have a choice to live wholeheartedly or live life in judgment, anger and fear. It begins in me, not anyone else.

I’m not stuck in doom & gloom and I don’t think that being at peace is the “only” or “right” way to live.  I have to embrace all of it- the dark and the light. I’m learning to be curious with my inner critic and shadows instead of letting them become unmanageable. I know how quick and how far I can climb back into the comfort of being right instead of being aware.

I practice loving the emotions and actions that bring me down by taking inventory with how I’m feeling.  I pay attention to how I’ve been talking to myself and what I’ve been saying to others. Sometimes I discover that I’m in a bad spot. These are usually the days I haven’t created enough time for self-care, which for me generally means slowing down and relaxing my thoughts.

Back in the car I thought about how much complaining shows up for me when I’m not giving my body the TLC it needs around movement or food. These days if I overeat I normally let it go and move on to the next meal. Once I find myself hungry again, I reflect on why I was overeating in the first place. I forgive myself, choose to be mindful while I eat my next meal and #KeepGoing.

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There are other times where I latch on to feeling disappointed in myself. These are the times I forget to check myself. I choose to be swept away in the current. I might be a goner for a day or even four days.

This is when I’m caught up in my head. I hear self-doubt (you never follow through with anything), insecurities (I must be so annoying to people) worries (my level of writing competency is a joke) and overall nastiness (who do you think you are?).

My state of mind turns everyday moments sour, like deciding to complain about poor customer service in a retail store or speaking unkindly about someone I know. Sometimes my shadows show up angry when my expectations aren’t met or when I have a different story about how something is supposed to go. I nitpick my relationships and decide it’s everyone else’s fault.

I stayed in full-on complaining mode for years.

I wanted to be a writer and I was doing absolutely nothing to make that dream a reality.

For over a decade I used my commute or my time with family to vent about my days at the office. It was inevitable that I would be asked about work and I ran with it; the good, the bad and the ugly. I let all my jobs consume me. Even though it was exhausting to rehash the lows while trying to maintain the highs, it was more familiar to me than paying attention to how I was talking to myself on the inside.

I wasted so much time complaining when I could’ve been planting seeds to pursue my dreams. I didn’t know any better- I was stuck. I no longer saw silver linings because all that mattered was that I was fat and I couldn’t follow through with losing the weight. I was lost in my eating disorder. I complained to myself about why life was so hard instead of shifting my focus on all the possibilities.

I’m human. My state of mind can take a turn for the worst when I’m not taking care of myself.  When I’m practicing self-care, my world is filled with gratitude for daily celebrations for paying attention to those complaints. These negative voices are the gifts that remind me to move my body, eat food that serves as fuel and to keep my schedule simple, wide open and quiet.

What would my life looked like if I had given my dreams as much air time as all the complaining? I don’t know. I’m not interested in finding out.  I’m where I am in recovery today because I’m thankful for all my years of complaining.

Each complaint is a reminder for me to #chooselove.

Whitney Gale Signature