My wife recently made the observation, with both honesty and concern, that I was becoming a grump.
With both reticence and reflection, I had to agree that she was 100% correct.
The evidence was undeniable. There are a growing number of things which I just find intolerable.
First and foremost is that Donald Trump continues to be President of the United States no matter how often I wake up and hope that I’ve just been having a bad dream. Sure, there is some satisfaction in watching him careen about from crisis to crisis, constantly showing off his incompetence and ignorance. But watching the horrifying damage he is causing to America’s reputation, his willful destruction of our environment, and his lack of concern for justice and human rights is almost as appalling as the fact that 30% of Americans still think he’s doing a good job, or at least are willing to “give him a chance.” The hypocrisy of his backers grates on me remembering that this same 30% along with 100% of Congressional Republicans never gave President Obama a moment of support even as he advanced initiatives that would improve the lives of all Americans.
I mean, that should be enough to justify four years of grumpiness. It is epic and bigly, and I have absolutely no control over it. So, I think that carrying around that angst has made me hyper sensitive to little things, like noise.
I always thought I lived on a quiet street until I retired and was home more hours of the day. Now it seems as though there is a mower or a blower or a chain saw in operation near my house (actually as I am writing, a chain saw just fired up somewhere nearby) from 7:30 AM on. I appreciate that people are keeping their houses and yards in good shape, I really do, but couldn’t we have some established “quiet hours” in the middle of the day when I like to take my nap? Is that really too much to ask?
And when did it become OK to carry on conversations in public places with your phone set on “speaker”? It seems that everywhere I go now, I run into people on their phones and have to listen to both sides of the conversation when I’d prefer not to hear either of them. I was taking my walk around a local lake and had to push myself hard to get past a lady who was negotiating with her bank, phone set on “speaker”, and I could hear her getting put on hold and bounced from person to person and telling and re-telling the story of her loan problems. I got anxious just listening to someone else getting the runaround!
I even feel my grouch level rising when I know someone with whom I am having a conversation has put me on speaker so that he or she can walk around the house or dust or do the dishes or god knows what. Can’t we stop a moment and actually talk to one another without feeling a need to multi-task?
I love my smartphone. I don’t want anyone to take it away from me. But I don’t want to listen to your conversations. I certainly don’t want to listen to your music (headphones, please!), and if you want to dust, or do the dishes rather than talk to me, call me back when you have time, for god’s sake.
See what I mean? Grouchy.
It can even come down to a scrubbing sponge, wet and soapy and full of germs, left in the bottom of the kitchen sink. I’m not a germaphobe, and I can’t even pinpoint when I started to obsess over this, but when I do the dishes, I’ve trained myself to always wring out the sponge and put it in a spot to dry. So when I find it sitting, soggy and gross in the bottom of the sink, there’s only one other person who could have left it there. We no longer have the kids at home to blame things on, and I think we both really miss that.
I tried to approach it in a lighthearted way since it was one of those issues that I can recognize as being both petty but increasingly critical at the same time. “Hey,” I told her, “you know, it’s the weirdest thing, for some reason I’ve developed this sponge obsession” which I went on to describe to her. You know, subtle, joking, not really a big deal. She just looked at me blankly. “I never do that,” she claimed. “Oh, ha ha! Guess it’s just me!” because, you know, it’s petty, inconsequential. So now, I’ve begun snapping photos of every time it happens, every time she leaves the damn sponge behind. Clearly, I need to come with evidence next time.
See what I mean? A Class-A grump.
I’m not actually taking pictures of every time she leaves the sponge in the sink. I’d like to continue to stay married. In truth, the root of my grumpiness is me. Sure, I need to read the news less and take whatever other medicine is available to combat the Trump-virus in my brain. But I came to realize as we talked about my moodiness that most of my unhappiness comes from the nagging anxiety that comes with being retired and a little unsure if I am still relevant in some way. It comes from being unhappy that I can’t lose the same 10 pounds that all Americans are trying to lose, no matter how many failed attempts that I make. It comes from every new ache, pain, and wrinkle that announces my advancing age. It comes from every time I look about me and see a project I haven’t finished or the list of projects that I haven’t even had the energy to begin.
But don’t cry for me, Argentina. I have discovered one powerfully curative potion. Within the past week, on a trip to visit my niece in Colorado Springs, in the space of 4 days, I went zip lining over beautiful Colorado canyons, something I’d been afraid to try on other occasions AND spent two glorious hours roaring down the Arkansas River through Class III and IV rapids, feeling an utter sense of calm and a pure rush of adrenaline coursing through me at the same time.
When I got home, suddenly everything seemed possible again. I came home younger than when I left, ready to let the little stuff go. Ready to look for the next chance to push the limits for myself. Turns out that that may be the cure-for-what-ails-you.