I Can't Complain

I learned early in life to suffer quietly and not burden others with my complaints. My dad had little patience for what he referred to as “whining.” (Being a congenital g-dropper, he always pronounced it, “whinin’”). Suppose I were to tell him, for example, “Dad, I have a compound fracture, I put out an eye with my BB gun, and at least two of my fingers seem to be missing—I can’t tell for sure with only one eye.” His best attempt at expressing sympathy would be to say, “Oh, quit yer whinin’.” Then he’d turn his attention back to the television, where the likes of Rambo, Charles Bronson and John Wayne would be doing manly things, amongst which “whinin’” was certainly not included.

The value of venting

Now, decades later, with Parkinson’s disease providing a prodigious daily supply of legitimate reasons to complain, I still pay careful attention to the amount of “whinin’” I do. My dad is long gone from this earth but, when I talk to family and friends, I instinctively try to protect them from long-winded monologues of self-pity.

This makes it difficult to reap the valuable emotional benefits provided by the process of venting, crying and otherwise purging oneself of negativity, i.e., “whinin’”. But I have discovered a healthy solution to the problem: I talk to myself.

Well, I don’t talk to myself, per se. Rather, I talk to an imaginary character. Using an exercise that mental health professionals refer to as “probably a bad idea,” I conjure up an image of Parkinson’s disease and assign it the attributes of an actual person. Then I engage that person in dialogue. I allow myself to say whatever I want to this entity that personifies the cause of my suffering, then I imagine how this embodiment of Parkinson’s disease would respond. I respond to the response, and continue the process until I feel better, or until it’s time to take more carbidopa-levodopa.

(Important note: If you decide to try this, it’s best to conduct the conversation silently, or in writing. If you actually speak out loud, people may conclude that you’re developing Parkinson’s dementia—or that you’re just plain nuts. Another important note: Do not attempt this activity if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or are descended from anyone who was pregnant before you were born.)

A recent "conversation"

For me, the exercise works pretty well, most of the time. I’ve discovered that Parkinson’s disease, when personified and given the ability to say anything imaginable, is kind of a jerk, which does not surprise me. My imaginary Parkinson’s character is not only a jerk; he’s an ugly jerk. For reasons I can only imagine, in most of our conversations, he looks like a blend of Salvador Dali, Satan, and Larry, from the Three Stooges. I’ve given him the temporary name, “Jerkface,” until I can come up with one that sounds sufficiently derogatory.

A snippet from a recent “conversation”:

Me: I feel terrible. Thanks a lot for ruining my life.

Jerkface: Is that sarcasm I hear in your voice? I guess that means you’re actually not thanking me for ruining your life. Why don’t you try to cheer up a little?

Me: Cheer up? Are you kidding? I have Parkinson’s disease, remember? Try to cheer me up. Go ahead, I dare you.

Jerkface: Well, there are many standard phrases, as I’m sure you’re well aware, that are intended to do just that. For instance: It’s better to light one candle than curse the darkness.

Me: One candle in the darkness only makes the darkness more evident. One candle in the darkness only pushes the darkness away so you can get a wider view of it. It also makes it harder to sleep, and it’s a fire hazard. No, if the choice is between lighting a candle and cursing the darkness, cursing the darkness is the way to go.

Jerkface: Fine. How about this: Everything happens for a reason.

Me: Golly, it makes me feel so much better to know that I’m suffering for a reason. And, yes, that’s sarcasm you hear in my voice.

Jerkface: Ok, how about this: The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Me: Why? Was there a day when the Lord said to him-or-her-self, “Ok, I’ll work—but I’m going to do it mysteriously.”? Why doesn’t the Lord just clue us into the method behind the madness? If the Lord’s way of working is the cause of my suffering, that’s not a mystery, that’s incompetence.

Jerkface: God never gives you more suffering than you can handle.

Me: Ha ha ha ha ha!

Jerkface: You seem even more cynical and acerbic than usual today. Haven’t you ever heard the phrase, “You can attract more flies with honey than you can with vinegar"?

Me: Flies are nasty. Some of them bite. Why would you want to attract flies?

Jerkface: Ok, I give up. Want some advice?

Me: From you? No.

Jerkface: Well, here it is anyway: Quit yer whinin’.

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