Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Moaning v. Complaining, and Taking Control

"Visitors to Britain are rarely able to grasp - sometimes even after decades of residency - the vital distinction its inhabitants make between complaining and moaning.  The two activities seem similar, but there is a profound philosophical and practical difference.  To complain about something is to express dissatisfaction to someone whom you hold responsible for an unsatisfactory state of affairs; to moan is to express the same thing to someone other than the person responsible.  The British are powerfully embarrassed by complaining... They do love to moan, though... Moaning, a source of entertainment in its own right, is also an important psychic blanket, a way of venting resentment without taking responsibility for effecting change."
- John Lanchester, "Letter from London: Party Games," The New Yorker

The above excerpt is from a New Yorker article about the outcome of the recent British election, though I liked it mostly for this first paragraph.  Lanchester goes on to intimate that while moaning is a British thing, complaining is the default position for Americans, who are much more proactive than the British when they don't like something.

I don't know if this is fair as a universal statement, but for me it is true.  I don't like moaning.  I don't find it productive.  I complain plenty, but I like my complaining to have a purpose and, hopefully, an outcome.  That's partially why I'm finding this whole visa debacle so frustrating: I can't complain successfully.  I have tried to complain, but I have gotten nowhere.  I have failed at finding the parties responsible for my frustration and holding them to account.  Well, I found them, but they have been elusive and sneaky and not responsive and un-hold-accountable.  Yargh.  (Question: is this because they are British and therefore unused to complainers?  Or because they work in America and know how to avoid complainers?  Hm.)

Anway, I am definitely a type A girl.  I like to know what's going on, I like to know when things are going to happen, and I like to know why things happen as they do.  I like to be in control.  (You know this about me, friends, you do, and for that I am sorry!)  Clearly, none of these likes are being satisfied by the visa process that I am going through, which is part of the reason I'm so frustrated.  Patience has never been my forte - I am incapable of just sitting and waiting!

What then can I do?  It's pretty obvious that I can't do anything about the visa situation.  I need to find something I can control, like my emotional and physical well-being.  The past two months of visa stress have totally taken a toll on both.  Emotionally I've been a mess: I've been on the shortest fuse - apologies to anyone who has been around me when I've exploded - and I've had a hard time focusing on non-visa-related things, including my relationships.  Physically... well, I've gained ten pounds since this whole thing started at the beginning of May.  I've been eating junk (and too much of it) and have not been exercising.    Both of these things are going to change today!  (Or, well, I started trying to change them yesterday, but whatever.  "Today" sounds more emphatic.)

I'm going to be more relaxed - I'm going to breathe more and deeper - I'm going to focus on my friends and my family.  I'm going to eat better and exercise more.  I'm going to take care of myself.  This, my friends, I can control.  Consider this my complaint to myself - it is my fault I am dissatisfied with my emotional and physical well-being, and I am going to make a change!


  1. Loved the post. (Hope you aren't you getting tired of my frequent comments. Some might assume we've known each other for awhile now! It's just that I am only a couple of steps ahead of you so I can emphasize). Anyway, a British expat in America said something incredibly simple to me when we were in a similar boat back in February. We were waiting on the front-end of our visa application (i.e. before we mailed it to consulate) so that we could get the appropriate sponsorship certificate. It took almost a full month for our employer's finance office & a lawyer to complete it. So, while our visa application only took 2 days to approve at the consulate, it had been worked over by a lawyer for a month! Anyway, back to my friend. he told me something several other friends/family members told me, but coming from him as an expat made me believe it as more than a quick quip from someone else. He said, "if it were easy, everyone would do it."
    I've come to think sometimes things like this are frustrating by design.

  2. Great post. Sorry to hear you're having such troubles. Perseverance is the key - this too shall pass (as my Mother loves to quote). Now it feels frustrating but it will be fodder for conversations and laughter for years to come - once you have a visa and are far enough removed from the situation to smile about it. Take a break - I've tagged you over on my blog - come see and play.

  3. Georgia ChristakisJune 6, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    three years later and this is definitely resonating with me- thanks for sharing! I'd better stop complaining about my boards exams and start actually trying to study...you know, so I can match in a place where Peter can also work :) If you happen to know of anyone in need of a laser-builder on the East coast, kindly let me know! :-p


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