Quitting My Complaining in Valle de Rocas

Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate what they have.
~ Author Unknown

It’s a humbling moment when you realize you’re being a total, whiny brat. A little voice in your head suddenly screams out from among all those grumbly mutterings of irritation and it rings out in a sharp, clear blast of truth. It snaps you to attention. “Are you kidding me?!” the voice cries out at me with an edge of disgust. “You’re complaining about WHAT?!”

That’s when I look around and take it all in. I’m in southwestern Bolivia, bouncing along in a Toyota 4Runner as distant volcanoes zigzag up and down along the horizon. I’ve spent a day with my family touring the stark mountain lakes to the south of the famous Salar de Uyuni. We watched flamingos gracefully step through marshy waters, we gazed across vast mountain deserts, and we climbed on red rocks twisted into bizarre shapes only Mother Nature could create.

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We’re in a remote area of the world most people never have the chance to see. And yet in my head, I’m being a little, whiny brat. I reply to that voice of reason. “Ummm, well, for one, it’s really cold. And uh, it’s gotten pretty cloudy. And you know what? This drive is getting a little long.” The ridiculousness of the words hit me as I say them…in my head…to another voice in my head. Yeah, I know, it’s getting a little scary.

“It’s COLD?!” the truth voice admonishes. “Too many clouds?! Too much time in this cush little SUV? Really, Tracey Carisch? Really?” Yeah, I know. My inner voice can be a little intense at times.

But she has a point. Throughout our day wandering along the volcanoes south of Uyuni, Bolivia I’d found myself saying things like “Oh man, if only we had some more blue sky, that would be absolutely gorgeous.”

Or “This would be awesome…if I weren’t freezing my butt off right now! I’m going back to the car.” It’s a sad attitude, because look at where we are! Look at what we’re seeing!

Why would I have anything but gratitude during this day with my family in such a unique place?

I’ll tell you why. We humans…we’re a strange species. We have a tendency to focus on what’s wrong in a situation rather than what’s right with it. Take 15 seconds and turn on any major news network and you’ll quickly realize how much we like to complain. We complain about the weather. We complain about politicians. Complain about our plumbing issues or car problems. Complain about what Molly said to Lindsey about Tiffany’s bean dip at Jennifer’s party.

Case in point, here I was in this beautiful, stark part of the world thinking about….what again? The uncomfortable temperature, the cloudy sky, the long car ride. At that moment, sitting in a dusty Toyota 4Runner with my family and a Bolivian man who understood very little of my Americanized Spanish, a thought occurred to me that  I will never forget.

I can choose to appreciate this day, in whatever form it may take.

I can make the choice to BE HAPPY.

It doesn’t matter what the weather does or a politician does or Molly at Jennifer’s party does. What matters is the choice I make. Today. In this moment. Right this second.

Two days after our family’s time in southwestern Bolivia we learned we’d lost an amazing friend and humanitarian in a tragic biking accident. The death of Reuben Summerlin crystallized an important reality for us. One that we need to remember every day of our lives, preferably with Reuben’s charming southern drawl accompanying it. And that important lesson is, “Quit your bitchin’.” The sad fact of the matter is, we don’t know what will come tomorrow so we’d better enjoy today while we have it.

So, I will stop complaining. I’ll look for the good instead of the bad. I want to be the one helping to find the solution rather than pointing out the problem. If we back up for a minute and look at the big picture we can realize that those clouds messing up our pretty photos actually have some beautiful silver linings. We just need the right perspective to see them.

About the Author

Mom, wife, friend and change agent traveling the world with my family to learn our place in it. After spending a career in organizational change management and community initiative implementation, I put my career on hold for our family's trip around the world. In April of 2014 we sold almost everything we own, put the rest in a storage container, and departed on this journey. While my husband continued his software development work to financially support our trip, I planned and documented our adventure, homeschooled our three daughters, and found volunteer work opportunities for us to do in the communities we visit. Now that we've returned to the U.S., I'm completing book about our family's adventure and our lessons learned.

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