Steve Woods

How Not to Be a Grouch

In What Day is it? on October 15, 2009 at 8:53 pm
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.” – Ernest Hemingway
Reminds me of my first boss...

Reminds me of my first boss...

Simon Cowell. Dick Cheney. Walter Matthau. Oscar the Grouch. Burgess Meredith. Grumpy. Bill O’Reilly. Andy Rooney. And every other cat.  There are a variety of words for them:  Curmudgeons, grumps, old coots, bellyachers, faultfinders, grousers, malcontents, sourpusses, soreheads, moaners and grouches.  They are the walking, talking equivalent of rain clouds, dampening the spirits of all when they walk into a room.  They have the almost prescient ability to find and instantaneously utter the one phrase that drains the happiness from their mates.

You know one.  They sit across from you in the lunchroom, telling everyone within earshot why they can’t eat cheese anymore because they’re lactose intolerant, while you try to scup out your daily portion of last night’s chicken fettucini from that little Tupperware container.  If they give you a ride to work, they will give you a blow-by-blow as to why every other driver is rude, that the economy is in its last gasps, that their children are headed for a lifetime in jail, that their spouse never listens, etc.  And you refamiliarize yourself with childhood prayers, as you seek the strength to not brain him.

The Pessimist's Mug

The Pessimist's Mug

To be a grouch is to be a conoisseur of negativity, growing your own sustenance in dark, ugly places, drawing often from vast stores. I’ve known so many people who were down on their luck for a time, who fell out of belief with the goodness of others, consciously choosing to expect nothing from those they interact with.  This is not the one I speak of, temporarily dwelling in a bad place until circumstances change (or they change them); no, rather I am talking about the one who has been rendered incapable of digging their way out.  I’m talking about the hopeless one…


How Did National Grouch Day Come to Be?

National Grouch Day emerged many years ago on the pages of Sesame Street Magazine, as a celebration of the uniquely downward-leaning personality of the one and only Oscar the


Our favorite child-hood weirdo.

Our favorite child-hood weirdo.

Grouch.  We love Oscar.  Some of you have the t-shirt.  You know who you are.  As with many of the characters on Sesame Street, Oscar embodied a personality type that we were to be introduced to, so that we could see how other characters coped with him, and learn from their example.

What’s the Story behind Oscar the Grouch?

As the story goes, Jim Henson and a friend went to a restaurant in Manhattan, either called “Oscar’s Salt of the Sea” or “Oscar’s Tavern,” depending on who tells the story.  During their meal, they had the joy of being waited on by someone whose grumpiness was so extreme, that it was downright comical.  Return visits to the restaurant were performed as a form of “masochistic entertainment.” The part of this unpleasurable individual shall forever be embodied in trash-can dwelling Oscar the Grouch.

Is Grouchiness a Permanent Condition?

If you find yourself slowly sliding into a sea of pessimism, and cannot find a way to part from the undertow, here are 7 ways to lose the pessimism drawing you further from the happy shore, courtesy of LifeOptimizer.Org:

  1. Find something good you used to believe in and re-engage – Assess your life, starting with those naive, liberal-minded teen years.  Review diaries if you can.  What did you use to fight for in life? What causes did you once believe in helping before you gave up on your ability to change the World? Whether it is protecting endangered species, advocating for victims of domestic violence, or your local animal shelter, find one simple cause you still believe in, and look up ways to help locally, or even online.
  2. Focus your energies on what might work, not fail – Write down all of the possible things that might go right with you helping this new cause or organization.  Don’t write anything that could go wrong. Read daily.
  3. You, too, can sip from the goodness of Chicken Soup for the Soul – Purchase and keep around you books that will help lighten your spirits, remind you what others have overcome, and simply humble you enough to break your inner pain from being the center of how you identify.
  4. Become part of, and identify with a team – Form or become part of a group to be with, to hang around with, to work together in unison on projects, to go to coffee with.  Book clubs, social groups, Red Hat Ladies, Road-side Cleanup Crews, etc.  There are thousands with a variety of interests and level of involvement. Try one!
  5. Get spiritual – You found yourself in a grouchy place because you saw problems in your life that were insurmountable, larger than you.  If you are a spiritual person, or might become one, visit places of worship and find a way to connect to something even bigger than the problems…
  6. Identify your negative statements and squash them – Keep a notebook around and pay a little more attention to what you say or think during your daily routines. Write down the negative thoughts that cross your mind, the disencouraging words that you utter, even under your breath.  Spend some time once or twice a week thinking about the origins of these statements, and ask yourself if they are opinions or facts.  Critically examine them in the same manner you used to look at the World around you.
  7. Open up to the unexpected – Part of your grouchiness comes from a belief that you know how things will turn out, that you will not be surprised in being soon let down.  Often when we are down in life, we subconsciously turn away from and disengage from events that fall outside of these limited mental parameters, so as to stay where we are.  Begin to realize that you are incapable of seeing all that occurs around you, and that you may miss many positives in the situations you encounter.  Refocus your attentions during typical interactions with friends and coworkers, and perhaps you will find more positivity surrounding you than you knew…

Grouchiness is Dangerous

Ongoing, deepset pessimism is dangerous to your relationships, your career, your lovelife, and your body.  The stress of maintaining anger at the World around you will surely weaken your heart and shorten the very lifespan you need to overcome your problems and learn to love life again.  In short, grouchiness kills.

I provided a short quote at the beginning of this post, and will now share the entire quote, because I think it is highly appropriate for the subject.

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that it will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” – Ernest Hemingway

Our healed breaks can be our strongest points

Our healed breaks can be our strongest points

What Breaks Us Makes Us Stronger

It is said that the weld is stronger than the metal.  And good glue is stronger than the porcelain it holds together again.  You cannot prepare for the breaks in your life, but you do have to engage in life to be broken by it.  Failure to do so, and you will never learn to stitch together the breaks, never accept and move forward stronger.  You might as well die a slow but painless death…

Get out of the trash can. Celebrate who you are, and let the rest of us love you…and re-learn to love the rest of us back.

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