And just as I was recovering I got a crazy eye infection that landed me in the special eye A&E unit in London. Already having lost a week to the Nora Virus, Judy and I were determined not to loose any more time – and so we moved the writing of Rocketboy to the A&E ward where I had been sent. We have worked hard to create the space to write this screenplay, and we were going to fight for every hour we could get.
Judy and I began discussing how long the wait would be so that we could choose whether to work long hand on paper, or on the laptop. The couple next to us heard this and immediately leapt in with the ‘some people have been waiting five or six hours…it’s a disgraceful indictment of the NHS’.
And so I braced myself for a long long wait.
But something bugged me.
You see, they were way to eager to share this information with me, about how ‘terrible the system is, how it’s broken and shocking’. And both husband and wife kept engaging with us, attempting to seek our agreement, time after time. I could even see from the corner of my crusty eye, they kept looking over to engage with us both, to complain about the terrible, awful and shocking state of affairs. They wanted very much for me to nod and agree with what they were saying.
As it happens, they had been waiting about 45 minutes before her name was called out (certainly not the five hours they had been talking about), and even when she went in, numerous disparaging comments were made, along with eye rolling and ‘wish me luck’ mumblings… not luck about her eye mind, luck with her tackling ‘the system’.
All in all I waited about an hour before I was seen three times, given drugs and sent home. As I sat there I noticed nurses and doctors working very hard with people who were in discomfort, pain, some with clear mental issues, and some extremely old and uncommunicative. It made me realise that this was a real job – in comparison, what I do is childs play. I was pretty awed by their commitment.
From walking in, to walking out having seen nurses, doctors and been given a prescription, it was about two hours. And I don’t think I was unusual.
So why would this couple complain so much and why did they so aggressively seek my agreement?
They had a fixed world view that there were ‘very serious problems with the NHS’.
Agreeing with them merely strengthened their world view – and to disagree was very hard, so hard I suggest most people would probably just smile and get on with their day. I know I did, I had a script to write.
What was even more bothersome was that come the point when the woman went in to see doctors and nurses, she was all smiles, airs and graces with the hospital staff. No complaints to them it seems.
I really felt like saying to this woman, ‘if you feel so strongly, do something about it, or shut up…’
Complaining gets us nowhere. Worse, it’s poisons possibilities and relationships. To be clear, they didn’t make just one passing comment, this was a continuous dialogue with us, and anyone else they could get to listen.
For me, there was a deep and profound lesson in this experience as I saw this familiar human trait for what it really was… and it was nasty.
If I have a complaint, I try to do something about it, or accept that this the way it is and then let go (and not to complain). Act or don’t act. The middle ground, sitting on the fence, will get splinters up my arse. It’s hard to give up a deeply held position where I am ‘right’, even if it’s clear I am ‘wrong’.
Moreover, I try to have the courage to confront my world view or complaint, and to ask myself, is in fact what I am complaining about actually the way that it is?
I can tell you, in that NHS building I saw nothing but hard working doctors and nurses dealing with challenging people. And they did it with compassion, smiles, professionalism and perhaps most saliently, with great speed and efficiency.
If the complaining couple has actually looked and listened they would have seen what both Judy and I saw, which was something rather different and humbling. But they were to busy being ‘right’.
How often have you met a person who has said… Let me moan about something, let me try and draw you into my world where I am 100% right, and let me try and get you to support my world view… but goodness me, don’t ask me to do anything about it, I’d much rather complain about it and be ‘right’.
Now here’s the sucker punch. Where in your life are you making complaints like this?
I know in my life there have been many times when I have made complaints ad nauseam to others.
The challenge for me is to let go of that world view and attempt to see things how they really are… and if they REALLY are how I have been saying they are, I try to do something about it, or shut up and accept.
And here’s the second sucker punch – more often than not, when I do get involved and do something about my complaint, I discover I am wrong and a total ass… OR, I discover that I don’t care about the issue anywhere near as much as I cared about being right and complaining. Again, proving myself an ass.
So next time you find yourself complaining, or seeking agreement from others about your complaint, take a step back and ask, ‘do I care enough to do something about this? Or I am just bothered about being right?’
Onwards and upwards!