July 16th, 2010
09:51 AM ET

Letter to the President #543: 'And now the airing of grievances'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/07/15/republicans.democrats.election/smlvid.obamawed.gi.jpg caption="President Obama must have plenty on his “To do” list every day, but I am writing my daily letter about another kind of list which might actually help him cut down on the problems that confront him." width=300 height=169]

Reporter's Note: President Obama must have plenty on his “To do” list every day, but I am writing my daily letter about another kind of list which might actually help him cut down on the problems that confront him.

Dear Mr. President,

My vacation continues to be lovely, thank you so much for asking, which I am sure you would do if we happened to speak. But since we haven’t, I guess I should also say thank you for not calling while I’m trying to unwind. Nothing ruins an afternoon nap more than hearing, “Oh Honey, the Leader of the Free World is on the phone. Something about Iran.” Don’t get me wrong. If you need to talk, feel free to dial me up, but if it can wait then I can too.

All of that said, with the news of the day on something of a back burner for me, I’m feeling rather philosophical and I wanted to tell you about an excellent idea I came up with a couple of years back, which often helps me through hard times even when vacation seems very far away. I call it the “listing of grievances.”

It happened like this. One of my daughters was having a teenage meltdown; an evening where everything in the world seemed to be going wrong. Friends, school, her hair, the weather, the color of her room, you name it. We had talked it all over for a while and the more I tried to tell her to put aside her concerns, the more she latched onto them like a tick on a hound. Suddenly inspiration struck.

“You’re right,” I said, “Your life is awful! It’s so bad I’m going to grab a piece of paper and let’s list all your grievances.” Which is precisely what we did. Nothing was too big or too small to leave out. In we had a list that went something like, “My clothing is not right. The teachers are unfair. I don’t like carrots in Jello. My favorite TV show is not on. It’s raining. My shoes are missing. The dog seems moody.”

On and on it went. No matter what she mentioned, I wrote it down and assured her that I too thought it was a travesty that she should have to put up with such things, periodically tossing in a “And those children in Darfur think they have problems! Ha!” In a very short while, the silliness of it all began to sink in. Her complaints took on the proper proportion, and while she was not utterly cured of the blues, she was considerably more subdued and thoughtful about her circumstances; ready to start working toward better feelings again, instead of just wallowing in the bad ones.

I have found it to be a useful tool many times since. When things appear to be going very badly for you, and you can’t just naturally lift yourself out of them, make a list. Give yourself five minutes to write down every gripe you might have, without regard for their legitimacy or weight. Then look at the list. Chances are, most of the items will look much less important in black in white, and the rest will then be lined up for you to tackle.

Hope it helps, and I hope your week is going well. Speaking of troubles, my brother and I were rained out of golfing again today! That makes three times in a row that we have been unable to finish a round. Hmmm. Maybe I should start making a list. Ha!


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Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Gustavo

    Airing of grievances? Seinfeld much? What about the feats of strength?

    July 16, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  2. Chi

    😀 Love your letter, Tom 😀

    July 16, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  3. Dulcie

    Hey Tom, long time, no comment!

    I loved this letter. I'm no teenager, but lately I've been getting dragged down by unemployment, housing issues, medical issues, family issues, etc. It's all unpleasant. Added to that, my ex-boyfriend moved back in with me on a platonic basis because he didn't have anywhere to go. Of course, he's *full* of advice on what I should do, where I should go, etc.

    So it helped to read this letter a lot. I'm torn between 'Life's a witch and then you die' to 'Life's a witch and then you become one'. Hah!

    July 16, 2010 at 11:13 am |

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