A complaint-free Colleen

the author showing off her "complaint-free world" reminder bracelet

One of the more fascinating things about deciding to grant myself MORE ROOM this year, taking these few months off to catch up with the mountain of obligations I’d overcommitted to, taking time in the day to read and to practice Nei Kung and to write in the Google Wave with Daveâ„¢, taking the time while traveling to wander instead of cramming each trip with wall-to-wall everything, has been seeing what arises in the spaces that I’ve managed to create and not immediately fill up with some other “doing.”

Note, please, that I said “fascinating,” not “wonderful” or “cool” or “awesome,” (although I could possibly use that last in the more traditional, non-surfer-co-opted sense). Because quite often what floats into that space is not “pretty!” or “love!” or even “what?”, but some kind of slam. And far too often, the object of my scrutiny, adjudication and swift-and-merciless punishment is my own self-battered self. Which is not to say it would be better to find the rest of the world wanting instead; I’ve just been around long enough to know that shitty outward behavior tends to originate with shitty inward stuff.

So. What to do?

I’m already observing, which is great, because I’m of firm belief that nothing can change until you have some idea that there’s something you need to change in the first place, and that requires a certain amount of looking around.

I’m also already in talk therapy (which is probably how all this conscious observing started, come to think of it). I’ve got a few flavors of ongoing accountability support set up, as well, Success Team and the aforementioned Wave project and my semi-not-regular ladies’ meetup, where repeat sabotage cannot help but be brought to light.

I’m really, really not ready for meditation: seeding three big new habits of reading, Nei Kung-ing and SCD-ing are all I can handle.

Ditto for toting around some kind of “judgment journal” to note my slams on the fly, like one would pennies spent or calories consumed.

The answer came on a fishing expedition for a fresh moka pot gasket, a supply of which I keep on hand in the silverware drawer. After stabbing my fingers on various implements I’ve thrown in over time (note to self: declutter silverware drawer), I came across the complaint bracelet my friend Mary Ellen had given me a couple of years back.

Self, I asked, what is judging yourself if not a kind of complaining?

Whereupon I stuck that sucker on my wrist with a solemn vow to transfer it from one to the other with each noting of the negative. I did it, too, for a full week(ish). After which I took off that damned purple nuisance and hurled it back in the drawer with some excellent excuse or other, too loose on the wrist, too ugly with my outfit, and tried to forget about it.

But this morning, after a few rounds with my inner Judge Judy before breakfast left me feeling sad and weary, I pulled out the bracelet again and quietly slipped it on my wrist. Wasn’t gonna tell anyone, much less the blog world at large; was gonna make up some crazy thing about orphans in West Africa or widows in Afghanistan if anyone in real life asked.

Then I realized that not only is there no shame in working to relieve myself of a burden I am weary of carrying with me, there may be help available in the getting-rid-of if I’m really and truly game.

I will catch myself where I can. And if you see me out and about, sneaking a little one-two punch to my own jaw while I’m not looking, perhaps you will catch me where I cannot catch myself.

Gently, of course, and without judgment…



  1. When I had my sons (the bad-habit sponges) I had to break myself of my external habit of say ‘Way to go, idiot.’ or something of the sort when I did something wrong.

    I didn’t, however, break myself of the internal habit at the same time. That is taking a lot more work.

    I think your bracelet idea is a good one, and I wish you luck as you learn to be kinder to yourself.

    1. Ha! My first thought was, “Why? Would they mistakenly think you were referring to them?” and I had to re-read it a couple of times to get the whole picture. Which shows how deeply ingrained in me is this horseshit.

      Thanks for the encouragement, and the show of solidarity. May be both find the way out of being our own worst assholes (which, you know, is COMEDY, not SELF-BERATEMENT!)

  2. That photo is hilarious because I thought you were going to say that you were snapping the bracelet against your wrist as some sort of shock reminder/deterrent. A self-inflicted newspaper whap on the nose, if you will.

  3. Hi Colleen – I love the headline and enjoyed your blog. As you know by now from Seth and Pam Slim, your inner lizard is alive and kickin. I loved Judge Judy – is this the name for your inner lizard? We coaches suggest that you name yours. Mine is a blonde named Brandy – she is an approval Ho and a comparison freak. Anyway – enjoy your post. Noticing is the first step, be compassionate and just notice. Shifting to a better feeling thought is next, that will shift how you feel. Good luck. Keep it up.

    1. I love what Seth named it, and I certainly have a lizard brain like the rest of my mammalian brothers, but my own saboteurs and forces of darkness got parceled up and named during the Great Hypnotherapy Project of 2007.

      I rather like the more humanoid version of Resistance that Pressfield first named, only mine is called The Resistor (because your enemy needs a face if you’re gonna strategize against him, right?) and looks like Luke Skywalker’s dad.

      But yeah, many roads, right?

      (And how great is “approval ho”? Pretty great, yup-yup.)

  4. Hey Colleen
    I’m so with you in creating open space to allow what’s important to arise. Can get a bit bumpy and disorientating with those pesky airpockets, yes?

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