This time of year typically leads to epidemics of coughs, colds, flu, and, above all, whining.
Never have people had so much and seemed to appreciate it so little.
So here’s a one-question test to see how you’re getting through the holidays:
Are you whining more and enjoying life less?
If so, you aren’t alone.
We are a nation of whiners.
(Especially, on the left, since Election Day.)
But it’s not just whining about politics.
It’s whining about everything.
And yet -- when we compare ourselves to others, we only compare ourselves to those who appear to be doing better financially, live in bigger houses, take better vacations, and so on.
We seldom compare ourselves to people who are doing worse.
It’s not just you and me; it’s a perversity of human nature.
In other words, whining is a part of the human condition.
And the ultimate whine is the two-word mantra of the miserable: “Why me?”
A short answer is, “Why not you?”
Life isn’t fair, but if you’re reading this column, you’re part of the very small percentage of people who will spend more on a cup of coffee this morning than billions of people will spend, or earn, their entire day.
I remember reading that an earthquake in a far off country had caused yurts to collapse, and one man was rescued only because he was able to make a cell phone call from under the rubble of his yurt.
This led me to wonder, if you have a cell phone, why are you still living in a yurt?
Here we are in America, not living in yurts, and we’ve all got cell phones.
Is this a great country or what?
In 1979, I visited what was then the Soviet Union. Back then, shortages of everything were so endemic that if a guy stood on a street corner in the freezing cold selling size 6 women’s shoes, a massive line would form, full of people who would buy those shoes to trade them for something they really needed.
After that trip to the Soviet Union, my experience at American supermarkets changed forever.
To this day, even as recently as this past Sunday night in a crowded Trader Joe’s, I look around at all the choices and I think to myself, “This is incredible! I could buy…anything!”
I don’t have to stand in the freezing cold hoping that the pair of size 6 women’s shoes I buy will fit someone in my rundown, poorly heated Soviet apartment block.
Or consider that when we fly coach, we only compare ourselves to the people flying in first class.
Not to the thousands of homeless people over whose unprotected heads our flight path will take us.
As Joe Diffie sings in the greatest country song of all time, Ships That Don’t Come In, “We bitch about a dollar when there’s those without a dime.”
Everyone bemoans the holiday season, because of the short days, the cold weather, the overabundance of holiday parties, and, for some, unhappy childhood holiday memories.
But are your holidays really that bad?
You aren’t waiting for a bus to evacuate yourself and your family from the rubble that used to be Aleppo.
You aren’t homeless on a Boston winter night.
You must still have Internet, because you’re reading this story.
So the next time you find yourself comparing yourself to someone, note that you’re probably comparing yourself to someone who has more than you do.
Or at least it looks that way, since most of us judge other people’s outsides by our insides.
The next time you’re tempted to ask yourself, “Why me?”
Think about how much you have instead of how much you don’t have.
And if you’re tempted to whine out loud to another human being, consider what John Bowen writes in A Complaint-Free World.
People who vent their negative feelings ought to be the happiest people in the world, he says, because some therapists say that venting is “good for you.”
But by venting about their problems instead of solving them, Bowen points out, these people remain miserable.
So quit whining, America.
And enjoy your holidays, even if you’ve made up your mind to be unhappy.
There’s still time to be grateful.