Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The joy of curmudgeonry...

What the...Tom? Is that you?
Photo by teresatrimm via Flickr

Today was the day I was going to list thirty things I'm thankful for--as a tribute to Thanksgiving. Friends and acquaintances on Facebook have been listing things they're grateful for every day this month and I thought it would do us all a lot of good to see that I'm not grumpy all the time. I have joy, too.

But I changed my mind. For one thing, I couldn't come up with thirty things. And, frankly, it's just not in my nature to ooze happiness; it doesn't feel right. And to be perfectly honest, I think a blog post listing thirty wonderful things would be dreadfully boring.

Instead, I thought I'd examine the best part of me: curmudgeonry.

But let's just get it straight first that it's true that I am not always upset, angry, critical, or logical. Sometimes I'm downright happy. I love cats, and chocolate, my husband, my children, the stars and the moon, and mushrooms--in all their fanciful varieties, movies, and pizza, and food, and Zumba. I love stuff. Squirrels. Bunnies. Music! From metal to reggaeton to Pachelbel. I am absolutely mad about No. 1 Ticonderoga pencils. And books! All sorts of books. I have read Gone with the Wind more than sixteen times!

I love a lot of stuff.

But I do enjoy being critical.

For me, being critical is the best way to parse truth from fiction, to find reality amid the fantasy that permeates our culture. To me, being critical is life.

I like to cut through nonsense to discover fact. It makes me feel real; it makes me feel alive. Sure, it pisses me off sometimes; it has to, with all of the rampant crazy in our world. But I'd rather be upset that people's rights are being denied, or that religion is infiltrating government, or that stupidity is writing textbooks, than to just shrug and say something ridiculous, like, "Your truth is your truth and mine is mine."

Because, no. There is only one truth and it's the truth. And I love the mental exercise of finding and revealing it.

I love being critical of films, art, music, and books. I love hearing other people's opinions while forming my own--knowing that others' opinions often sway ours. I like that. Going from what I think, to what you think, back to what I think again, and around and around, to finally come to a conclusion of an opinion that will no doubt change over the years.

I love how Gone with the Wind grows less religious every time I read it and how my husband insists I'm only reading my own biases into it. I want to smack him. But I love it.

I love that I don't love everything I see or read. And I love that, as harsh as I am, my sons are increasingly more discerning.

You might think, how can you enjoy anything when you see so much to criticize, but that's just it! Inevitably, something comes along, like Pirates of the Caribbean (the first one, anyway) or Brave, to fill me with amazement about how good something can be, and I'm walking on a high knowing I've found another gem.

Not everything can be a gem, you know. Their value is in their rarity.

Another thing I love is grammar.

I love pointing out other people's bad grammar for no reason other than because it's fun.

Being critical of others helps me be a better writer, a better person. That's it! That's really it. Curmudgeonry, for me, is an exercise in self-improvement--a constant judging of how not to be, of what not to fall for, of what and who I am, and want to be.

It's almost as if I love that the world is crashing down around me and I'm happy just holding up one of those dainty drink umbrellas to keep the worst off me while nitpicking about the debris at my feet.

We're not meant to be happy all the time. The problem for me is that people think it's bad form to let anyone know we're not happy.

Well, to hell with that!

Why is complaining worse than gloating? Or talking about how wonderful everything is? Why is it okay to go on and on about how beautiful the rose is, but not okay to point out its thorns? Do the thorns make it less a rose? Are people so intent on ignoring the thorns that we're no longer allowed to speak of them? So, half the rose is sacrosanct and the other is shunned?

Yes. But, stop it!

Let's talk about all of it. The beauty and the horror, the joy and the sadness, the glory and the vile. It's all life, after all. It's all worthy of our attention. When you buy a dozen roses sans thorns, you're only getting half of what makes a rose a rose.

So, tomorrow, I suppose I will be no more thankful for the things I have, and the person I am, than any other day. Because, as I'm sure you know I must point out, it's just another day like any other.

Happy Thanksgiving.


  1. Why are there no comments here telling you how great your blog is? I just discovered it today. I'll be back.


  2. I've been pouring my heart out just waiting to be discovered...

  3. Amen and Amen and AMEN! You've nailed it, Big D!

  4. I spelled allowed like aloud. Jeez Louise. I'll fix it...