They’re My Words. So What?

I’m spending the afternoon with a couple in their late 80s, and I can’t help but notice the vast difference between them in their enjoyment of life. Both have health issues that slow them down and indeed sometimes stop them in their tracks, and those health issues, if you were to chart them out, would be almost equal, with maybe the greater burden on the wife’s side.

She’s excited about the latest park the city is building. As I listen to all the trees and paths and playgrounds planned for the park, I realize she may never get to this park. With her breathing and back issues, she’s really not going to walk more than a block at a time. But she’s talking about this park because, well, what a great thing this will be!

Her husband is not interested though. “It’s for the kids,” he says. “I’ll never go.”

“We might,” she says.

I think she’s still able in her mind’s eye. She does her best to enjoy the moment, admit to the health issues and pain but focus her attention on all that is happening around her. He, on the other hand, talks about what he can’t do. And the list is long. He wants to go golfing all day but, like her, he can only go a short distance on even ground before running out of steam and needing to sit, and that for just a couple of hours before a nap is due. “I’m bored,” he says, and he struggles.

Watch out for the joy-stealers: gossip, criticism, complaining, faultfinding, and a negative, judgmental attitude. ~ Joyce Meyer

I’m hit with a two-day bout of allergy brought on by dust from weed-whacking a hillside. I want to enjoy the days anyway, to sniffle and sneeze my way through them in good humor, and I’m reminded of this couple dealing with life-limiting health issues, of her joy and his challenges. I know that my minor allergies are no match to what my elderly friends are facing. And I’m not diminishing the pain or struggles of those times when life deals us a health blow or a loss. We’ve all been there, and for those times, the rules change, in my opinion.

I’m talking about the day-to-day life in our 60s. I want to enjoy this wild and precious life of mine, this third act. And I do not want to be the one who steals its joy, flattening it under a wet blanket of annoyances.

In yoga, we talk about the “monkey mind”, that chattering that goes on all the time just below our noticing. It tells us the same stories over and over, complains about the same issues, revisits old slights again and again, making those complaints sometimes more important than the moment we are in.

We Are What We Tell Ourselves

I came across an article by Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, recently in “Entrepreneur” online. Its basic message was that complaining begets more complaining. Our brains, in their amazing plasticity, form connections – neurons – that fire with information flow. There is a saying that we hear often today:  Neurons that fire together, wire together. We rewire our brains with what information we are shooting through them. Complaining strengthens our complaints’ connections, making it easier to complain the next time and the next and eventually making it difficult to do anything else.

It’s so easy to tell someone else that complaining begets more complaining, that attitude determines enjoyment.   But can we do that ourselves? I tried when those allergies flattened me and I don’t know that I succeeded, but I did deepen my compassion for that elderly couple, their struggles being so much greater than my own. This is tough stuff!

The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude. ~ Oprah Winfrey

For me, now in my 60s, it’s more important than ever to keep an ear open to what my inner voices are saying, and my outer ones, too. Am I opening conversations with a list of my physical complaints? With what Dr. Christiane Northrup calls the “organ recital”? Am I focusing on my itchy eyes and sneezing instead of enjoying the lake from my kayak? Am I waking up in the morning with a groan?

We need to be vigilant, or at least, I know I do. My 60s is bringing new adventures but these years are also challenging and sometimes frightening.

We all have more wisdom than at any earlier time in our lives.

Today, I want to add just this one extra tidbit to that wisdom: complaining begets more complaining and maybe then more things to complain about.

Jude (Judith) Harlan

Jude Harlan

Jude Harlan, founder of Me-At Last, Women On Purpose, is a publisher, editor and journalist.  She pursues her passion here at, empowering women in our search for inner strength, purpose and the power to be ourselves – to take our turn at the helm of our lives. Find out more about her on our About page.