I used to be a ranter.
I thought that people were very confused, when it came to political issues, and I would frequently vent about the “wrongness” of the “other side.” The solution is so obvious–why doesn’t everybody see it?
I had my daughter, and I fell in love with the concept of attachment parenting. I couldn’t believe that people would raise their children any other way. What were they thinking? What parent in their right mind, would sleep train, feed their baby formula, and push their kid in a stroller, rather than wearing them? Parents who pushed their kids, who gave them flash cards and only bought educational toys, were stealing their children’s childhood. Parents who let their kids run free were not disciplining them enough. Parents who yelled at their kids were damaging them for life. And what about kids in day care? Oh, the horrors! I joined multiple message boards, where I ranted away.
Attachment parenting led to crunchy living. I couldn’t believe all the waste people created, when they used paper towels. And don’t get me started on fast food! What kind of a parent would feed their child that garbage? And television! Only idiots spend their days staring at that box. We were working toward getting off the grid, because we were somehow more virtuous.
Then we embraced minimalism. I could spend all day ranting about consumer culture. All the stuff! In fact, just a year ago, when I quit Facebook, most of my e-mail interactions consisted of rants. “How are you going to handle the upcoming high feast to materialism?” was the question I asked nearly everyone I wrote. We called it “xmas,” and we had all kinds of rants and complaints about it. Nothing but materialism.
I think ranting is a normal step, for anyone who is figuring out their identity. Before we can understand how similar all of our stories are, we need to clarify our values and choose the lifestyle that we want. For a long time, I viewed our family as “counter-cultural” as opposed to the “mainstream” people we knew. We were defining ourselves, and we were seeking validation from like-minded people. We were happy with the decisions we were making, so of course we thought everyone else would be.
Everyone else, made different decisions, and many of those decisions worked for them. So, of course, they thought the “mainstream” way would work better for us as well. Thus, the criticism, which led to more rants. We all think our way is “right,” because we are happy with it. And we want other people to be happy. So we criticize, and so we rant.
Ranting is a stage, and it’s important that it just remains a stage. Eventually, we need to understand that living the way we do, does not make us better than anyone else. And that it isn’t the way for everyone to live. There are people who need a home base, who are happiest when they are firmly entrenched in the community, in the home. It is the combination of homebodies and free spirits that makes the world a wonderful place. We need both. We need people who support the status quo, and we need people who live counter to mainstream culture.
I found myself most prone to ranting, when I encountered someone who was living in a way that was making them unhappy. I was angry, that they didn’t see that there was another way, a way that would work better for them. I would see people stressed out over money, when they were clearly living outside of their means. I would see people “stuck” in jobs they hated, because they did not realize that they had a choice. I would see people living in fear, due to the images they saw on television. My anger was out of concern for the other people, but anger was not what they needed.
And that’s why ranting needs to evolve into understanding. We need to let go of the anger, the need to seek validation, and the need to be “right.” We need to understand where other people are coming from, and accept that we all do things differently. We need to understand that we are all on a journey, we are all learning, and we are all changing. What we have to say, may not be what the other person is ready to hear, at this time. Our path may not be the path that is right for everyone else. We need to stop ranting and venting, because ranting is actually judgement. And judgement builds walls.
And yes, creating walls and seeing ourselves as “separate” may make us feel smug. It may make us feel important, but it does nothing to better the world. We need to be confident enough in ourselves, to see where other people are coming from. We need to learn the lessons we were meant to learn from each other, so that we may grow and change as well.