If you try a venting fast and survive, you may find yourself heading in new, exciting directions. You may even decide to do what Minnie did: commit to an entire life without complaining. "I have a rule," says Minnie, smile and sequins flashing. "I'm not allowed to whine about anything I can change. And since I can always change my attitude, I don't expect to find a really hopeless situation in this lifetime."

I admire this position enormously, though I don't think I'm quite ready to emulate it. Recreational complaining, the sense of steam leaving those emotional vents, is still perversely enjoyable for me. Maybe someday I'll be like Minnie, who's more vibrant and successful in her seventh decade than most people are in their third. Maybe I'll go on a venting fast that lasts the rest of my life. Until then, my existence will fail to match its potential. But I'm not complaining.

At least that's a start.

Martha Beck is the author of The Four-Day Win (Rodale).

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