I write a lot about mindfulness and gratitude. These are survival skill for many of us. I’m all about being positive, but I like to kvetch as much as the next person. It’s cathartic, necessary, and downright fun as long as it’s done with good humor.
Witty bitching, expressed with some measure of sensitivity, is actually one of the many ways nonviolence works. It’s a creative way to ease tension. More importantly, it humanizes us to whoever is annoying us while not denigrating the annoying person.
Let’s start with the easiest method—swearing. Apparently swearing is a good idea. Studies show that it can help relieve pain, but only for those of us who don’t swear often. It can also reduce stress, elevate endorphins, even promote group solidarity.
I don’t swear often. I lean more toward creative cursing, you know, when you string together words that don’t usually go together for a specific-to-the-situation denunciation. Better yet are those phrases unique to your friends and family, memes within boundaries of shared experience, that are not only inside jokes but useful forms of communication. We have dozens of them. “You no see big thing like train?” is one. I’ll explain.
A friend drove a truck for a business started by an immigrant whose English wasn’t easy to understand. The business made money mostly because of the owner’s extreme frugality — he barely even maintained the truck. One day the friend was making a delivery when the truck’s brakes failed. Unfortunately they failed as he was approaching railroad tracks where a train was stopped. It was a heavily loaded truck and much as he tried he only managed to slow down. He crashed into the train. He was fine, the truck was not. He called his boss to explain. The boss yelled, “What, you no see big thing like train?” This line has proven itself handy in many circumstances, thankfully none involving real trains or failed brakes.
Then there are written forms of bitching. I indulge in it regularly. For example, a few years ago a publication that had asked me to submit an article didn’t respond. It’s hard to remonstrate the very people who are supposed to pay you. So this is what I emailed.
I can take rejection, really. But it’s nice to finally get rejected. I sent as requested _________ on ________. I know, I know, I should have given up by now but hope is a feisty creature, not easily strangled by silence.
In case the clarity and understated wit of my piece knocked an editor to the floor, unintentionally hurtling my submission under a desk, it is attached again for your perusal. Less dusty this way.
ever optimistically, Laura Weldon
They sent a very charming response that didn’t end up quite as I hoped. Turns out they were going out of business. (Story of what I call my writing career…)
Kvetch notes can be used to great effect on a neighbor’s door, the office coffeepot, and elsewhere.
Then there’s singing. In my family we tend to burst into spontaneous songs with made-up-in-the-moment lyrics. A mini opera about dog poo on the floor, a whining country-ish ditty when someone uses up the milk, a warbling ode to overflowing laundry baskets. Even Mozart wrote satirical tunes, including “Leck Mich Im Arsh” which, if you can’t tell, translates to something like “Lick my ass.”
The pinnacle of witty bitching? Complaint Choirs. The concept was dreamed up by Finnish artists Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen and Tellervo Kalleinen. Now people all over the world are putting their daily grievances to music. Their collaborative performances aren’t just hilarious, they build a sense of community.
It’s all too easy to get mired in life’s minor irritations. A little witty bitching helps us move through them. That’s a survival skill too.