The other morning I got up, and Jane said, “Good morning,” and I said, “What assures you of that?” And then I thought, “Whoa! I’m grumpy! How come?” And we talked about it.
It wasn’t always thus. Early in our marriage I’d come home from work, and sometimes after half-an-hour or so Jane would say, “Will, would you please stop grumping at me?” And I’d say, “Am I being grumpy?” And she’d give me a big nod.
It was weird. I hadn’t realized that I was being grumpy until Jane mentioned it. Now, mind you, I wasn’t usually griping about anything Jane was doing. It was more an attitude and a tone of voice, and Jane thought it was directed at her. And in fact, it almost never was. It wasn’t even necessarily because I was in a bad mood; some times I’d come home in a really good, energetic mood…and then relax, and all the energy would leak out, and I’d be tired, and then I’d get grumpy. And Jane would call me on it, and I’d explain that I wasn’t angry with her, or even really angry at all, and I’d try to stop grumping.
After a year or two (maybe less; the details grow hazy with time) I got better at it. I’d notice Jane’s expression and I’d say, “Am I being grumpy?” Big nod. Or I’d say, “I’m being grumpy.” Big nod.
The breakthrough came when I started listening to myself a little better. Sometimes I’d even notice I was being grumpy before I got any Significant Looks. And then I’d think about why I was grumpy, and I’d say, “Jane, I’m feeling grumpy. It’s not your fault. Don’t worry about it.” And Jane would say, “OK,” and treat me as though I weren’t being grumpy…and as often as not, because I’d noticed it and named it, I’d even be less grumpy.
That was a long time ago, and I don’t come home grumpy as often as I used to. I think some of that has to do with being a father: you learn not to sweat the small stuff, and most of it really is small stuff. But once in a while I’ll come home, uh, wake up on the wrong side of the bed and say, “What assures you of that?” to a completely reasonable “Good morning.” And we’ll get it dealt with before Jane is grumpy, too.
Because, frankly, a lifetime together is too long to be grumpy.
Copyright 2013 Will Duquette