I sometimes wonder if being grumpy is a technique that gets easier with age. Is it just practice that makes perfect, or does too much familiarity with life make it easier to complain to customer service? Either way I had another grumpy moment this week that I’m not proud of, and I’m going to chalk it up to age. Next, I’m going to figure it out and see if I can make myself a little younger by decreasing my grump proficiency.
My wife and I had just left a particular art gallery on Friday night, when I asked her, “Are you thirsty?” I was thinking large fruit smoothie. I could tell that she, on the other hand, was thinking, “We just spent our month’s date budget on eating out tonight. I’m not sure I want to spend more on a splurge.” She responded that she was thirsty, but water would do. Without verbalizing anything, even to myself, my mood changed. For the moment, being grumpy seemed about as delicious as the smoothie.
Grumpalicious is a term a friend of mine coined years ago as a nick-name for one of her younger brothers. It is a term that seems to describe very well one who is grumpy and is happy being so. On occasion, I have become aware that I have a grownup way of pouting when I don’t get what I want. Am I spoiled? I hope not. But perhaps I have more in common with my young children in that regard. Having said that, I am waiting for the predictable one-liner, “Well, I wonder where they get that from?” followed by a parenthetical wink and text message emoticon.
I don’t think my attitude is what the Savior had in mind when He taught his disciples, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) His conversion, I believe, refers to the other half of the equation. I’ve noticed that my kids don’t harbor bad feelings for very long. In fact, an ice cream frosty or some other treat can fix most ill feelings. While we may have pouting in common, in whatever form we choose, I have to ask, “How am I doing in the other half of the comparison. Am I quick to turn my heart toward or away? Is the turn of my heart conditional?”
Moments later I said to my wife, “Liz, I’m not sure I like the new me. I tend to get grumpier easier than I used to.” As you can imagine, that led to a discussion on the subject of me for the next little while. I apologized and we moved on. I regret to say, however, that the turn of my heart took about 20 minutes. Can you imagine if you had to make a U-turn in your car on any given street that would take that long? If you saw another driver exerting that much effort, wouldn’t you question whether or not they actually knew how to drive? So when I am driving my own emotions, I wonder why it is so hard to steer. Hmmm. I think it’s time to review my driver’s manual.
It’s not that every circumstance to which I am inclined to be grumpy is that simple. Life is most often complicated. Complications are connected to expectations, exasperations, and other complicated words that end in t-i-o-n. Some of those “tions” are worth shunning. The simplest thing for me to remember is that I am in control, and if I am not in control of my emotions, I am at least responsible. I can choose how I react to any given circumstance.
One thing I remember pondering as I reviewed my personal driver’s manual is how I choose to define my choice. It’s not just what, it’s who. My choice was not just about a fruit smoothie, it was about my wife and how I feel about her. I had to ask myself, “Is the smoothie more important than my wife? Am I really going to place my feelings in front of hers, over a smoothie?” Suddenly I seemed, to myself, very small. My mistake was pretty small, too, but I had to fix it. I felt like I was groping my hands around a steering wheel where the power steering had gone out. It was all manual. I felt like I had to wrestle my feelings to the ground to make my U-turn back to my wife. See. I told you it was nothing to be proud of.
Feeling close to my wife again was a lot more delicious than being grumpy. Once I chose to consider what was really important, my difficult challenge became easier. It added power to my steering. Mind you, a good fruit smoothie has still been on my mind and I’m still thirsty, but it’s not worth being grumpalicious.
What I Believe…