Sunday, August 20, 2006

Whine and dyin'?

So I was on the treadmill in my gym flipping TV channels when I paused at Diana Ser's show 'Get Rea!'. (No, it's not a typo, the word actually has an exclamation mark instead of an 'l'.) There are two reasons why I paused. Diana Ser is my super senior at NTU. Years ago, she'd done the same master's course that I am doing now. Though I have never met her, the professors often speak of her fondly, and her success is an inspiration to all of us. Secondly, Get Rea! is one of the very few shows worth watching on Singapore TV.

On the show, she was talking about the recent results from the Happy Planet Index, that ranked Singapore very low in the list of the 178 nations in the happiness index. Among the Asian nations, Singapore was ranked lowest at 131. (India, by the way, is at 62.)

Of course, how one can measure happiness in terms of numbers and ranks is subject to debate. You can't have a common one-size-fits-all test to measure happiness across so many different countries. More fundamentally, can happiness really be measured? Which is why I liked Diana Ser's show because she was not analysing the numbers in the happiness index. She was collating her own little set of results - going to people and asking them how they defined happiness and whether they would consider themselves to be happy.

One of the local RJs was a guest on the show, and she said something so interesting that I have been thinking about it for days now. I can't remember her exact words, but she said something to the effect that she often feels pressured into being unhappy because that's what's expected of her when someone asks her how she is.

The amount of truth in what she said is amazing.

The fact is - we're all screwed. Waat lagi hui hai sabki. In one way or the other, we all have our problems. Problems which we can't even categorise as 'big' or 'small' because they're all relative. What you consider as a small problem could be a big problem for me and vice versa. There is no one in the world who lives his life without facing a single problem.

So is it that complaing about our problems brings us together? Binds us in the same thread? Makes us like one another?

But at what cost?

Taking into account all kinds of views, I think we can all reach a unanimous conclusion. That being happy is better than being unhappy. I doubt if there is anyone who will say the reverse. Being happy is good for our home, heart, health and beyond. So why this indignation to be happy?

Is it that the person who's asking us how we are is so unhappy himself/herself that we push all our happiness into the background and pull forth our miseries just to connect with him/her? Or is it that we're competing on extremities of feelings - "You think you're unhappy, look at me!"? Or is it our traditional way of thinking that if we flaunt our happiness too much, nazar lag jayegi - it would be jinxed?

A few days ago, I was having lunch with my colleagues when one of them asked, "Since when has X been in the company?" (X is a colleague in the production department.)

"Since forever." I answered.

It's true. She's been here since for ages now, people have come and gone (textbook publishing in Singapore has one of the highest employee turnover rates, mainly due to the low pay and high stress), and she's still here sturdy as a rock. And the best part is that she's always cheerful. She's always smiling and laughing. Like a colleague mentioned, "Even when she's stressed and yelling, she's kinda cheerful." And it's true.

That statement stayed in my head the whole day. The fact that I was once exactly like that made me very restless. A few years ago, perhaps I was happier than I am now. The low pay and stress did not bother me. I was always cheerful, and I never had a complaint about anything. Today, even though I'm happy with my relationships, my job, my life, but sometimes I feel like one's gotta have some unhappiness somewhere to fit into this world, to relate with souls who seem happy being unhappy. And so in spite of the fact that I totally love my job, once in a while I find myself complaining about salary and stress. And admiring X.

Why are we content just admiring the kind of people that we very easily can be ourselves?

A couple of weeks ago, when I was appraising one of my editors, he mentioned that sometimes he gets sucked into a tornado of negativity. I know what he was talking about. I have myself experienced one of the aspects of the tornado he mentioned - lunchtime conversations, which invariably turn into bitching-about-the-company sessions. If you can't participate in that, you feel left out, on your own.

It saddened me. Has complaining become second nature to us? Do we find comfort in the fact that we're all screwed, some way or the other? Do we not allow happy people into our exclusive whiners club? Do we find some kinda sick joy out of making our lives seem pathetic and pitiable? Have we become okay with the idea of our epitaph reading "Here lies someone who whined and died."?

Maybe it's an Asian value. If someone comes to us and says, "My boss is a moron who gets double my salary for doing half my work!" we can't say, "Oh come on, he's not that bad!" or "Oh, my boss is the best! He inspires me and rewards me beyond my expectations." What we do is come up with something that will serve as an adequate reply that will validate the other person's feelings, such as "I can understand your situation. My boss is fine, but my colleagues are so bitchy and manipulative... and the salary is so low... and the work is so stressful..." blah blah. So just to supply a fitting reply, we actually hunt for something negative to talk about.

Agreed that sometimes complaining can be therapeutic. It can serve as a channel to vent our negative thoughts and give us peace of mind, help us identify the problem areas in our lives. It can be an ice-breaker for when you first meet someone and express the negativity you share about something or someone. It can help us connect to our friends. Once in a while, we all do want to sit down and vent it all out. We have little things in our lives we are not happy about, and talking about it with people around us is good.

But what if we're constantly complaining about the same old things, without doing anything about them? What if our complaining is catching on, and making whiners out of others too? What if it's become something of a daily routine - like brushing our teeth - so ingrained into our daily lives that we could do it in our sleep? Perhaps we need to do a little check - keep count of how many times we whine about the same damn thing? Or what percentage of our conversations constitutes whining?


The truth of the matter is that all the things that we whine about - a bad job, a bad relationship, a breaking marriage - are direct or indirect results of our own decisions. So instead of waking up and complaining about the same damn thing every day and believing that the world is out to get us, all we need to do is make a decision. Make a change. Quit that job, break up the relationship, get a divorce, instead of making yourself and others around you unhappy.

It's simple - quit or quit whining.


Seasons come and go, fashions change, trends change. Things go out of style. It becomes the 'in' thing to dislike a movie everyone liked and so on. But when did this happen exactly - this switch from 'It's hip to be happy!' to 'It's hip to be unhappy!'? And what the hell were we doing when it happened?

And is it not possible to turn things around? Instead of people connecting to each other because they're all unhappy about something or the other, is it not possible to connect to each other because we're all happy about something or the other?



47 comments:

Iday said...

GOLD :o
I can't believe it :O

renegadefade said...

hey
complaining abt the co u work in and the boss(es) is kinda therapeutic .. but then u always end up getting a bit depressed abt ur situation and the fact that u r unable to do much abt it.. quit? never been a quitter ..ha ha .. but seriously it'd take a lot of guts to do tht and then what if u end up in the same posn in ur next job? that is a risk u'll always run i guess..

(by u i mean i)

Iday said...

great post!!!

//is it not possible to connect to each other because we're all happy about something or the other?

Valid question! I think that being happy or unhappy is a contageous thing. Sometimes ppl dont realise the better parts of the work they do. And as u said, instead of being true, some ppl get sucked into being negative. Perhaps things will change if ppl start giving credit to the good things around them.

Rishit Jain said...

Hmmm, nice post. Though I have never faced this problem myself, this world would definitely be a better place if everybody stops whining.

And yeah, I paticularly liked the title of your post :)

neihal said...

I have read your post twice....but dont know what to write...maybe there's too much on my mind right now...I dont know what I feel about this post...maybe I should go without commenting....and come back later and write a bhari-bharkam comment....but I am here and I want to write....so there it is.

Kais said...

Wow..insightful post!

I don't think, that you need to talk about unhappy stuff in your life in order to connect to people who are in a unhappy mood. But it is also true that you can't be all smug and smiley and pleased with yourself while they are whining about something. The best way to connect is by reminding them of the positives in their lives. Most people (secretly) would rather that someone validated their lives for them, than if someone demonstrated that they too are in the same crappy situation. eg:

X: Being a nurse is so stressful. And the doctors are always blaming the nurses for the screw ups

You: But I bet there is a deep feeling of satisfaction everytime an operation goes successfully and you contribute to saving someones life. Few people have the chance to touch someone elses in such a real way!

..etc etc..

Cheers
Kais

Sayesha said...

#Iday,
:)

#Rene,
//but then u always end up getting a bit depressed abt ur situation and the fact that u r unable to do much abt it..

That's the thing. We are actually able to do something, but we jus take the easier way of staying and whining. :)

#Iday,
Yup, that's what I feel too. They're totally contagious! And we should use that to our advantage! :)

#Rishit,
Thanks :)

#Neihal,
Haha! I can understand... this is exactly what I felt after watching KANK... come back when you feel like it, ok? :)

#Kais,
Thanks :)

#Kais,
//Most people (secretly) would rather that someone validated their lives for them, than if someone demonstrated that they too are in the same crappy situation.

That's an interesting point. When people tell you their sob story, sometimes all they want is validation for their feelings, not their lives. And by validating their lives, you may be unknowingly invalidating their feelings and hurting them.

You must have heard of the common phenomenon of guys trying to "solve the problem" when a girl is upset? Usually there is no problem to be "solved", all the girl wants is validation for her feelings. :)

Ah, complex life... :)

Shekhar said...

Your post remind me of some book that I read a long time ago which basically propagated the theory that if you cannot do something about a problem, then don't b**** about it. The whole idea was to be pro-active and not just waste a majority of your lifetime criticising the way your life is.

Anonymous said...

my 2 cents on this:

first, you like it or not, misery loves company. its amazing how easy it is to connect with someone when you both hate/dislike the same thing. like during exams students who barely know each other end up becoming friends, just cos both r so miserable about the same thing.

but i also feel that relationships or friendships that start out on a similar hate basis often ends up breeding too much negativity and after a point, breaks up cos the very reason they chose to be negative ceases to exist.

Not sure i made myself too clear, but anyway. an insightful post :)

Sayesha said...

#Shekhar,
Which book is it?

#Anonymous,
//but i also feel that relationships or friendships that start out on a similar hate basis often ends up breeding too much negativity and after a point, breaks up cos the very reason they chose to be negative ceases to exist.

Wow, that's a very interesting thought, and I find myself agreeing to it.

Care to identify yourself? :)

Lalit Singh said...

yeh batao ki sabse happiest kaunsa nation aaya tha???
hehehe

Sayesha said...

#Lalit,
It's Vanuatu. Yes, little Vanuatu :)

The Pirate said...

//It's simple - quit or quit whining.

Its human nature bhai... "Ninda Ras, param sukh"... :O

Desi log ke paas jyada option nai hota re... ;))

Anonymous said...

i can totally indentify with the post. well, as you might have come to know, i love whining too.

you are right. we all need to work on the problems.

i do things tht i dont want to do. and i believe that sumday i ll leave all of them behind and start a new life afresh. i need to get a little practical i guess.

i dunno why i am typing all this. i hope u wud understand.

and i had commented on ur previous posts too. actually had decided to be anon for rest of my life, but then, i dont want to miss out on the great pleasure that i get reading ur replies meant only for me.

satish

ggop said...

Did you notice the fact that the top 20 list consisted of exclusively "third world" countries? (in fact the first affluent country in the traditional sense was Austria at number 61)
-gg

Sakshi said...

Good post, Sayesha

qsg said...

Sash, very good post, indeed. Loved this:

is it not possible to connect to each other because we're all happy about something or the other?

I guess when you are happy, you don't feel the need to connect! You just go and party! I think there isn't much that partying cannot solve! ;)

PSV said...

whenever you write such long posts please also write a summary for the post so that idiots like me who don't have the patience/IQ to read such a long post can understand the jist of it all by reading the summary!
:-p

Shekhar said...

Trying really hard to remember, but can't. :((

Sayesha said...

#Pirate,
//Ninda Ras, param sukh

Hahahaa! :D

#Satish,
I think I understand what you're saying.
And I'm glad you decided not to stay anonymous. I feel better when I have a name (or even a nickname) to talk to, otherwise all anonymouses are the same.

#Ggop,
Yeah! Interesting, huh? :)

#Sakshi,
Thanks :)

#Gems,
//I think there isn't much that partying cannot solve! ;)

Hahahaha! Yeah right! To-talli! :P

#PSV,
Hahahaha! Okay, here's the summary of this post - quit or quit whining! :P

#Shekhar,
Hai raam! Kisi din tu mere blog se quote karega aur bolega source bhool gaya?! :O

Sumedh said...

hmm...but sometimes its not that simple to quite.Or to quit whining.You may want to quite but circumstances dont allow it.

On other thoughts, I don't like the idea of watching tv in a gym.I mean surely, you could do better things...like listen to music instead.

Shreemoyee said...

Being happy or not is a choice we all make. Sayesha, very nicely put.

Sumana said...

"It's simple - quit or quit whining."

Loved this line! Kind of says it all.

Complaining about everything comes so naturally to us. It is more because most of us only keep thinking about what we don’t have rather than counting what we have.

You might find it funny, after I read an article about something similar in Readers Digest I decided to follow some of the things they mentioned. It worked for me!(One of them is whenever I feel unhappy about things not working the way I would like them to be I immediately start thinking about everything else which is just the way I would want them to be)
As the saying goes: Happiness is a state of mind...

ciao,
Sumana

bellydancer said...

Hey I do feel the pressure to be unhappy too!!! ya sucked into the negativity at work. It was like when I first started work and everyone was just going like when are you gg to leave and I have to quit before you kinda thing. Truthfully I hated all that talk! Yesterday, before I was went to sleep, I was thinking about a few things and was feeling rather down. But I also realised that I had so many other things to be happy about.

Great post =)

Kais said...

You make a good point too. I guess ultimately these are generalizations. One calibrates the actual response based on the specific situation.

Cheers
Kais

Ravi said...

I dont know what the "in" thing or the trend these days is, but I for sure am not like that. I do not get into times when I am always happy or am always sad. In times when I am unhappy, eventually something inside me gets bored of being unhappy and even though I dont do much to bring happiness, it comes automatically. Again in times of too much happiness too, I guess I get bored of being happy all the time and I start feeling unhappy for whatever reason.

Its a continuous cycle of happiness and unhappiness for me. Maybe its meant to be this way. It may be something like the changing seasons, like the day and night. Because only after the chill of the winter do we enjoy the first rays of sunlight and we enjoy the first rains of the season only because they come immediately after the scorching heat of the summer.

Anonymous said...

Nice one!! One reason i connect with this is--
1) Its not very easy to always hear good things from your friend like when he say "he got a promotion and a 30% raise and got X as girlfriend" although u r happy, u also feel a wee bit jealous that these things are not happening to u. So Its very tough to share the good parts xcept with your very close friends. However when u whine or crib or unhappy abt. something, u can say it to any acquaintaince and he'll connect to u as if he was your dear friend coz he'll connect it with his miseries.....

U have put this well in the blog!!

Ekta said...

Well written sayesha..
guess ur right...somewhere down the line...if we need to connect with people we feel the need to get down to their level and speak their language!
And often we find ourselves looking for sources of unhappiness in our lives when really there are none...
Good food for thought!

neihal said...

The very first line reminds I have to get back in shape....as much as I love going to my mom's place I come back 5kgs heavier....not fair....and now its that time when I go shopping for new clothes.....but I dont want to buy a size or two bigger...bcoz eventually I lose the extra ...and then the clothes will not fit that well....
I just realised this is not " A moti-vational post"...actually I can write this comment there.(but then you ll not know)
I also realised this is the " Whine and dyin'?" post....and this is exactly what I should NOT be writing.
What is wrong with me :(

neihal said...

I think you have made an interesting observation....when we meet an unhappy person, we can do one of two things...either cheer up the person...or feel just as unhappy...to be able to connect...we often end up feeling unhappy...why?...coz I think cheering up the person would take more effort and positive energy on our part....and feeling low would take less effort...

Ha! finally the actual comment :D

Lalit Singh said...

I actually had this in mind
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/5224306.stm

Jeevan Baretto said...

Hey,
The complaining thingy is very much natural. They say, only when someone complains do we know that there is something wrong with someone. But that doesn't mean you can constantly keep cribbing about it.

Me and my room-mate have this habit of having bedside talk(yes we have our beds joined!!) before going to sleep. At that time, we keep discussing the daily-happenings and comment about people we met.

Mean Anonymous Commentator said...

Instead of getting on your high horse, putting on your holier-than-thou veneer and preaching from the pulpit, perhaps you can concentrate on finding the happier people around you and celebrating them in your post? Just the two cents of this MAC...

Sayesha said...

#Sumedh,
Yeah, there's no solution to this... these are just my random thoughts :)

//I don't like the idea of watching tv in a gym.I mean surely, you could do better things...like listen to music instead.

Arre yaar, the radio in my gym is broken down! :(

#Shreemoyee,
Thanks :)

#Sumana,
Hey, long time no see! :)

//One of them is whenever I feel unhappy about things not working the way I would like them to be I immediately start thinking about everything else which is just the way I would want them to be

Nice one! :)

#Bellydancer,
Hey, it's so rare to see you here! Thanks for dropping by! :)

#Kais,
//One calibrates the actual response based on the specific situation.

Yeah, totally. :)

#Ravi,
//In times when I am unhappy, eventually something inside me gets bored of being unhappy

Haha! This is so brilliant man! :)

#Anonymous,
Yeah, I guess you have a point there.

#Ekta,
//And often we find ourselves looking for sources of unhappiness in our lives when really there are none...

True. I think you put the gist of my post down in this one sentence :)

#Neihal,
Hey, you can comment on any post and I will reply. As long as it's a post from months ago, or your comment has no keywords that will help me find that post :P I get all comments in my email, so feel free to comment anything anywhere :)
ps: Good luck with the exercising! :)

//coz I think cheering up the person would take more effort and positive energy on our part....and feeling low would take less effort...

That too, and also because when someone is down, trying to cheer them up may look like you're invalidating their feelings...

#Jeevan,
That's so cool! My Dad and I used to sit down once in a while and have what he used to call sukh-dukh talks. He'd ask me "What's the sukh of your day and what's the dukh of your day?" Gosh, I wanna go home now! :(

#Mean Anonymous Commentator,
Whoa that's one looong nick you have! ;) Thanks for the advice. I'll give it a pass. Hope you don't mind. :)

Anonymous said...

Amazing thought provoking post.
Yeah we all want to be loved and cared and so how do u get that(even for a min)?
The easiest way to get that is by boasting how sad you really are.
Well the idea is to create and get sympathy.
But there r people in this world who no matter how much problems they have they never atleast try to get sympathy.
But there is no point in getting sympathy because its never a solution for the problem.

The Smiling Girl said...

Somehow I like this post.. tune apna saara dimag ise likhne mein hi lagaya darling..;):)

Kroopa Shah (Kr00pz) said...

I loved your post. Its made me feel a lot better coz its so too the point without any BS and makes a whole lot of sense. Thank you :-)

Sayesha said...

#Anonymous,
You're right. Getting sympathy can make one feel better in the short term, but later on, it can make them more miserable than before.

#Smiling Girl,
Haan, dimaag se aur dil se, dono se likha :)

#Kroopa,
Thanks dear :)

Sudeep said...

aila .. kya raapchik likha hain

i guess i will once again go thro the post sometime again.. coz it was thought provoking

we guys usually sit in the lab for lunch n do the same bitch-'bout-company routine coz no one comes there.. one day we had a client visit n had to sit in the canteen n all of us were quiet coz we couldnt talk tht there.. will copy paste the post to my colleagues

btw, Pune (city i live in) has been rated as the most happy city in india.. dont know why... but let me feel happy 'bout it :)

shub said...

absolutely....this post makes so much sense...being sad, cynical, whiny and generally unhappy about life is 'in'. BAH!

Shekhar said...

//source bhool gaya?!

Jab source 'guruvar' ho to bhoolna namumkin hai.. :D :D :D

saty said...

ekdum sahi baat bola bhidu!! your writing and selection of topics is amazing!! My admiration and envy to you for the same. happines is a state of mind,...if you are unhappy it is nobody but your own fault...a fault on which bard commented.." The fault dear Brutus lies not in the stars but within us, it is we who are the underling"...reading your posts is becoming a habit... like morning tea cuppa!!!

dharmu said...

haan bhai, apun aapse agree kartha hai. we are so busy being unhappy that we have no time for being happy.

iam wondering what the results whould show if it was conducted here? heard many people desi crowd say that they were not happy.

Restless Rain said...

Hey this post is really apt!

And I have to confess, I used to belong to the whiner category, esp. when i was studying u know wat in u know where, heh...

And i did bond with ppl then who shared the negativity but these bonds didn't really last.., the friendships that made it through were those tt shared both happiness and sadness, anxiety... the whole works.

I agree fully with the quit or quit whining maxim, it works. And i guess in friendships, have to take the good with the bad?.. Only time will tell... heh

Sayesha said...

#Sudeep,
Pune happiest in India? Sahi hai boss! :)

#Shub,
:)

#Shekhar,
Baal-baal bach gaya! :D

#Saty,
Thanks dear! Hope to see your blog up and running soon! :)

#Dharmu,
I guess depends on how each individual defines 'happiness', hai na? :)

#Restless Rain
//esp. when i was studying u know wat in u know where, heh...

Hahahaha! :D

//the friendships that made it through were those tt shared both happiness and sadness, anxiety... the whole works.

Well said! :)

Rebellion said...

How true Sash!! Your post has actually made me think. I don't really know what to say, I've suddenly become soo blank!

I think il get back to commenting on this later if possible coz I can't really think of anything except.. You've written it really really well, I agree with everything that you say and your post has got me into some real deeeep thinking!

I real a very nice sms which I'd like to share with you here..
"Wanna know who your real pals are??.....
......Screw up once & see who stays!"

I absolutely love those lines, they're sooo dam true :)

Kya yaar Sash, emotional serious post likh diya and its 3 in the night and am getting into this deep thinking process :(

But no doubts, awesome post, beautifully expressed :)

Take care,
Aarti

Sayesha said...

#Aarti,
Thanks, dear :)

//"Wanna know who your real pals are??...........Screw up once & see who stays!"

AMAZING! :D