Grouches Have More Fun
I’m going to let you in on a little, no, a big big secret: You don’t have to do everything with a good attitude.
I recently had a “lightbulb” moment that will probably seem insignificant to most of you. I realized that I could do things and not be happy about it. Just that simple. All of the times I procrastinated (well, a lot of them) were not because I loathed the task so much, but because I could not summon the mental energy to be cheerful about it. Therefore, I “couldn’t” do the task correctly and didn’t even make the attempt. I know how that sounds, believe me. Silly goose! But the first time I let myself do dishes while cussing under my breath the entire time was a game changer.
I probably set a record with how many “quiet seat” prizes I won in Sunday School. When I say I was a model child…! One of the lessons that was constantly drilled into me was that I needed to have a “joyful heart” and “cheerful spirit” in everything I did, in order to “bring glory to God.” Cleaning my room? Do it with a smile. Schoolwork? Do it with a smile. Babysitting my siblings? Smile!
This was part of a larger pattern of emotional suppression — anger and doubt and (in my teen years) depression and anxiety were simply not allowed. Similarly, youthful exuberance and outbursts were generally discouraged. I can see how that all played a part in me seeking to become logical, almost robotic, revering stoic characters like Sherlock Holmes and Spock, distrusting or even denying my feelings whenever they arose, and always modulating my demeanor to please the people around me. Let me repeat that for emphasis: people pleasing. And to that I say: no more! And as for “bringing glory to God”? I find that problematic in many ways which I’ll save for another time, but regardless of what you believe, I doubt a deity will begrudge you the occasional bad attitude. No one can be happy and cheerful all the time. It’s part of being human!
Now, before we go all feral and start snarling, let me state the obvious and say that of course we should observe the “social norms” (though how I loathe the phrase) of being kind and polite and generally nice. Working in customer service, I know the difference that a friendly smile can make in someone’s day! But here’s the second secret: You can smile and be grouchy at the same time. I’m not talking about emotional masking, which can be harmful and cause greater pain later on. But we’re all divas here, right? (I doubt you’d be reading a blog about your inner villainess if you weren’t a little bit dramatic!) It’s just show business, baby. Give the people a smile, blow them a kiss, and don’t waste emotional energy being sincere about it. They won’t be able to tell the difference.
Some friends of mine do what they call “angry cleaning,” which means they are angry at something external and channel that energy into cleaning — which I am all for! But you don’t have to wait for someone to cut you off in traffic or for a snippy email to kill your buzz. Just be angry! Be angry that you live in an aging meat suit that requires physical activity to maintain a modicum of health (grumpy exercise was another game changer). Be angry at entropy and the mess it makes it your house. Be angry that capitalism makes us work 40 hour weeks (or more!). Be angry that you aren’t sitting on a throne, dripping in jewels, sipping champagne. If you can’t find any other motivation to tackle your to-do list, do it out of spite! You are a villain, after all. So storm about your lair, rage to your wicked heart’s content, and cross those yucky tasks like paying bills and vacuuming and exercising off your darn list.