The Grump

As a child, I had a great aunt who called me “Douglie.” I have never been enthusiastic about my name so the elaboration was unwelcomed. Early names tend to be terms of endearment. Others have to do with the incidents and accidents of fate. Another time some “friends” added “Pooh” to Dougie – wonderful! It even ended up on an apron I used for barbecuing, a gift from a friend. Occasionally someone looks at me as I am enveloped in a cloud of smoke and inquires, “Ah, what are we having tonight?” There was even a recent event where my partner of 40 years let slip “Poopsie”. Yep, other members of the couples fishing party let fly with, “Oh Poopsie. Would you please pass the bait?” or “Say Poopsie, let’s go try that spot over there.” Lately with the press of life events, I am now blessed with – – “Grumpy”.

Let no aspersions be cast, on one of the dwarves, being grumpy flows from the view you take of life events. Thinking impacts feeling and feeling speaks in how we act.

I was fortunate enough a few months ago to see Garrsion Keillor at the “World Theatre” in St. Paul. Part of Garrison’s monologue that show dealt with the impact of phrases like “pretty good” and “not bad”. These expressions articulate a lack of commitment to feeling much of anything. Thus a beautiful northern Minnesota morning with sun igniting hoarfrost on every tree into shimmering jewels becomes a “pretty good” morning. Likewise, a head-snapping brunette walking by on the street is “not bad”. We can find doom, gloom and muted enthusiasm for life’s events at every corner if we think that way.

Being grumpy comes from unfulfilled expectations. Let’s take kids for instance. In a perfect world kids always pick up their rooms and make their beds. They wouldn’t have to be periodically assailed about the virtue of cleanliness and order – – an adult requirement. There would be no drill sergeant then. On the other hand, whose need is this anyway?

Awhile back, I wrote about the car from hell. It’s getting old and needs fixing – frequently. That costs money, so I grump, to my secretary, to my business partner, to my wife, and to Brian at the gas station. I can’t do anything about it, but I can complain.

The weather is always something we can grumble about. Usually it’s cold, or maybe it’s too humid or too cloudy or if it’s too warm, the snow will be ruined if you’re a skier. If the wind is blowing too hard you can’t even run, sail or canoe!

Then there’s the credit card and money crunch. No matter how much you make, there’s never enough. Playing catch-up seems to be the rule. “Your reach should exceed your grasp.” I know the thought is meant for something else other than VISA or MasterCard, but inevitably the impulse purchase and “Wouldn’t that be nice etc., etc.” – leads to cursing and disgust at a lack of self-discipline at least once a month.

Taking a sour view grows out of a feeling of powerlessness. It is the half glass syndrome. I can either view the glass I have just taken a drink from as being half-empty or half full, with more to savor. Taking an event and turning it 180 degrees frequently gives it a different meaning. Failed expectations fade, possibilities emerge and being powerless in front of life’s events takes on a different color.

When I get grumpy, I retreat to the “Serenity Prayer” by Rheinhold Niebuhr , the Protestant theologian. It goes like this:

God, grant me the
Serenity to accept things
I cannot change:
Courage to change the things I can: and
Wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time:
Enjoying one moment at a time:
Accepting hardship
As the pathway to peace.


  1. Hi Dougie! (That’s who you will always be to me.) What a great blog! You’ve been doing this for a while! It’s going to take me a while to go through the archives to get caught up. I didn’t know you were a poet and a writer. I’m not surprised though…still waters run deep. I’m looking forward to reading your blog so put me on the reminder list. I always loved you and looked up to you. I couldn’t wait for that ONE MONTH we were the same age. Now I’m glad you’re older.

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