September 16, 2012

The Importance of Being Grumpy

The other day, Gretchen was in a foul mood. I’ll give her credit, she was open and honest about it stating her grumpiness from the start of the day giving us all fair warning that she wasn’t her usual, happy self. She hadn’t slept well and woke with a headache that no medication could touch. Later in the day, while helping a friend get ready to move into her new house, Gretchen was given a power-washer to use and that seemed to cheer her up a bit (nothing like spraying water at dirt and watching it disappear to lighten the mood), but still she was grumpy pretty much the entire day.

At first, I tried my best to provide some levity to her day, but clearly, she was going to have none of it. Reading my Facebook posts from my friends didn’t do much to lighten her spirit because most of them were positive platitudes and inspirational affirmations that made her grumble even more so I told her she was banned from the computer most of the day. In fact, I realized the best medicine was to just let her be grumpy and work through it herself.

Ironically, I learned this lesson from Gretchen because sometimes I’m Mr. Grumpy and she does her best to help me out, but often just let’s me have my foul mood and then we move on.

All of this, of course, has me pondering the importance of grumpiness. I know many people who would disagree with me, people who spend their lives in perpetual positiveness (or make that attempt), but I don’t think grumpiness is always the opposite of positive (or that it’s negative?). In fact, I’ll venture to say that without grumpiness, it’s really difficult to be positive.

Still the Industry of Positive is everywhere and so when grumpiness arrives, we really kick ourselves about it. And the more we kick ourselves, the worse we feel. That’s why I say we should just embrace grumpiness and know that without a little negative, it’s hard for the positives in our lives to be fully felt.

Hey Rubin?

Yes, Gretchen.

That’s pretty wise of you.

You think?

Well yes. I’ve been kind of thinking about it too and there are days when things just don’t go right. When they don’t go right it makes me mad, like the universe is conspiring against me, and so I fight it, which only makes me madder because as you know, we can’t really control how everything goes in our days.

True, but the other day you were just grumpy and I didn’t really see any reason for it other than your headache.

I know, but that day was important for me because I let myself (and you let me) sit in my grumpy mood. Instead of being afraid of it or angry at it for ruining my “positive” life, I just tried to make peace with it.

And in making peace with it (and my letting you) your mood improved.

Slowly, yes.

That day was important for me, too because sometimes I get really frustrated by people always expecting me to be Mr. Happy — my curly nature is always seen as friendly and inviting when some days I don’t want to be friendly or inviting. Sometimes that’s really exhausting.

Kind of like that song Snoopy sings in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown?”


Oh, it doesn’t matter, but Snoopy the dog sings, “I feel every now and then I gotta bite someone!”

Exactly! Not that I wanna bite anyone, but sometimes being pleasant and happy all the time can wear a guy out.

It wears me out too.

But on a deeper level…

I love it when you get philosophical!

On a deeper level, I don’t think it’s healthy to always be happy.

Why not?

Hm, how do I explain? Okay…here’s what I think. You know how you’re studying Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for you acupressure certification?


Well I’ve been looking over all your books and notes and stuff and it seems to me that our lives are exactly that concept of Yin and Yang.

Well, that is kind of the point…

I know, but in this instance, Yin and Yang are opposing sides of the same symbol — one can’t exist without the other. You can’t have light (Yang) without the dark (Yin). You can’t have daylight (Yang) without the night (Yin). You can’t have warmth (Yang) without Yin (cold). Right?

That’s the theory…

Then I say you can’t have happiness without some sadness. You can’t have joyfulness without some grumpiness. I mean, imagine if there were no grumpiness…how would you know you were joyful? What would you have to compare it to? There’d be no perspective. That’s how I feel about those people who are constantly promoting positiveness and happiness all the time — they don’t have any perspective.

Well, I think they’re just trying to counter the unhappiness and negativity in the world…

Okay, I know that, but sometimes I think they are trying to avoid pain and sometimes pain can be a good thing…though not unending pain and suffering. I mean, if you’d been grumpy for the whole week I might of had to pack my bags.


Our clients are perfect examples this week.

They are? They seem like a pretty happy bunch to me.

Yes, yes, yes, but each of them is having a rough go of it. Like Lulu. She’s been staying with us this week because her mom had to travel south to attend to some family business and as much as Lulu loves hanging out with us, she clearly misses her mom.

That’s true.

And just wait until her Mom comes home! The greetings are going to be wild! If Lulu hadn’t felt that deep longing for her Mom, she’s never feel the ultimate joy of being reunited with her.

What about Monty? He’s had some challenges this week, too!

Yep, his back has been bothering him and so he’s taking some medications to help him stay comfortable. He slowed down this week, but I think he’s on the mend.

He doesn’t really get grumpy though.

Nope he gets worried and it makes me feel bad because he’s one of my bestest friends and I don’t ever want him to be uncomfortable.

And Tyson, he’s had a rough week, too! Talk about uncomfortable!

Yep, he had to have eye surgery and while he’s recovering nicely, he’s uncomfortable when the pain medications wear off and his routine has really changed since he can’t go to the dog park or swimming or all the fun stuff he loves to do.

Well, he gets to go walking with you…

True, but he told me that when he’s all better he’s going to really enjoy being back to his normal routines and pain free. He’s really learned to value his health after this bout of eye trouble and he never would have really understood that without the pain and the discomfort.

What about Carter and Kali?

I have yet to meet them yet, but I can only speculate. Their Mom works in education, right?


Well, having gone through a number of Septembers with the two of you former teachers, it’s a huge adjustment from being the center of the summer universe to being the dogs who must take care of their tired and worn out family.

Good point.

And think of Woobie!

Yes, the arrival of the new baby, and now her Mom is home all the time and Woobie has so many important roles to fulfill!

Yep…she is so very attentive it’s even hard to get her to come with me on a walk!

She so wants to be with her baby and her mom, but she’s gotten better about taking some breaks.

I guess the only dog who hasn’t had significant Yin/Yang experiences of late is Roux though Roux had quite an adjustment to make when Lulu joined us on the walks.

Roux did well though…

…after a small altercation…

But both she and Lulu adjusted well, which also proves your point — we want balance in our lives and you can’t have balance if you don’t know where the boundaries of the extremes are.

Precisely! You can’t have happy if you don’t know grumpy and you can’t have grumpy if you’ve never known happy.

I’m glad that you’ve helped me understand all of this, Rubin. I won’t feel so bad when I have a grumpy day.

Nope, you need to fully embrace it. Wallow in it. Roll around in it and realize that all that grumpy on yourself is going to make for a whole lotta happy some day soon!

But one more question, buddy…


How about you…are you feeling balanced this week?

Well actually, I’ve had a hard week, too. First, Momma Ann has been gone all week staying with Aunt Sharon as she recovers from heart surgery. I know it’s important that Ann be with Aunt Sharon because we love her so and she’s been through major surgery, but still, it’s hard when my pack is divided.

Is that why you’ve been sitting by the front door so much?

Yep, I keep hoping that Momma Ann will be home for good and not just to visit us for short periods.

She will be home soon.

And then I got that stupid skin infection back again and it’s driving me crazy.

It’s driving me crazy too. I wish I could help you more.

I know, I know. At least we have me back on the medications and now know what’s causing the reactions, but still, it’s going to take awhile to get over it all.

And I know how much you hate taking the pills and getting your belly washed with the special spray so I appreciate the fact that you aren’t too grumpy about it all.

Oh, I have my moments, but I just want to feel better so I only allow myself to be grumpy for short spurts.

Until next week…

Next week starts tomorrow, you know that, right?

I know…but I’m trying not to think about how quickly September is flying by lest it make me grumpy.




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